Darling Clementine

Posted in Day-to-day at 7:26 am by Jenn

In addition to the absolutely adorable babies that I talked about in my last post, ACR&S has been growing with other intakes looking for homes as well. Our household has become pretty inured to new, itchy, complaining, antibiotic-taking animals coming into our home, in a very strange way. So when I drove to Greensboro on May 31st to pick up our newest intake, it was more of the “same old, same old”. In fact, I was actually pretty happy since it was only an hour drive to pick up this guinea pig (if that gives you any idea how much driving I actually do).

We had been contacted by the kind vet that took Clementine in, asking if we had room for a guinea pig. They’re primarily a dog and cat practice, and like most vets, don’t necessarily have the facilities to care for adoptable animals long term, especially animals which need recovery time. When I called and talked to the vet, he told me that she had a case of mites, but that they were treating her with ivermectin and she was in the middle of a course of antibiotics. I was cheered by this news — this meant that the guinea pig I was picking up was already on her road to recovery, and shouldn’t need a ton of care, just followup on Revolution.

Clementine's Right SideWhen I arrived, the staff was very nice, and loaded her into the carrier for me from their quarantine area. I peeked in, and saw a ball of fluff, with some balding, and didn’t think there would be any problem. They gave me a letter detailing their treatment, and thanked me profusely for agreeing to take her. According to them, she was a surrender from a classroom (which is not unusual, there is a history of classroom animals arriving with severe health problems, so I didn’t find that surprising). He suggested she may have a fungal problem, because the ivermectin treatments had only improved her a bit.

So I loaded up into the car, and headed back home. When I stopped to get gas, I took a moment to open the carrier and visit with our (then unnamed) pig. I was horrified. What I had taken as a mild case of mites was the worst case of mites, fungus, open wounds, and infection I’d ever seen. Her skin felt like a reptile’s because of all the scabs and open wounds. She was almost completely bald on both sides, although the left side looked better because her fur was black and she hadn’t scratched as much. Her face was covered with fungal lesions, and her ears were stiff with scabs, wax, and inflammation. Her chest was an untouchable knot of scabs, scratched and healed, scratched and healed. “Oh, darling”, I said to her, really wanting to cry, and she gave a little sigh and laid her head down on my arm.

I knew I had a big job ahead of me.

On the way home, I was listening to the radio, and they happened to play a clip from the song “O My Darling Clementine”. As soon as it started, I heard a raspy “wheep wheep wheep!” from the carrier. I knew that we hadn’t had a pig named Clementine, and it seemed like she really wanted that to be her name. She was certainly a darling. And so Clementine she remained.

Clementine's Left SideI called and consulted with Susan on the way home to formulate a game plan. Revolution for the mites, Nizoral and Monistat for the fungal lesions, Metacam to help her deal with the pain. I got home, made an emergency run to our grocery store to pick up supplies, and started “operating”. She was so very good for her bath, which must have been terribly painful. Bathing her only uncovered more and more knots of scabs, but I was glad to be able to get her clean.

Unfortunately, she was still apparently carrying quite a large mite population, in spite of her long treatment with ivermectin. Her bath triggered a huge set of seizures as the mites burrowed into her already sensitive skin.

For those that are unfamiliar with guinea pigs, their mite infestations, when left unchecked, can become horrific. They start out itching, much like a dog with fleas. Soon they’re losing hair, and have scratched themselves raw. In the last stages, they start seizing from the extreme pain of their infestation. I cannot count the number of times that people have told me their guinea pigs were “scratching their backs” only for me to inform them (to their horror) that the pigs were really having convulsions from pain. Though I had taken in pigs who were seizing before, never had I seen one as bad off as Clementine.

That night remains one that will stick with me. Anthony and I were frantic to keep her from doing damage to herself. She gashed open several of her scabs while seizing, and I finally held her with both hands and talked softly to her as she seized so that she couldn’t scratch herself (though she did scratch up my hands quite badly). As I was doing this, Anthony leapt into action, and quickly jury-rigged a small “sweater” for her out of a sock, so that she couldn’t scratch herself. This didn’t stay on for very long, but it did give me enough time to pull a dose of pain medication for her and give it to her. I kept her in my lap, holding her and helping stop her bleeding until her pain medication kicked in, and she once again relaxed. Again, she put her head on my arm and gave me this look which seemed to say “It’s been a heck of a day, hasn’t it?”

When she dried, she was treated with Revolution, at the higher ferret dosage of 18 mg/kg (as opposed to the more typical guinea pig dosage of 10 mg/kg). At the recommendation of several people on GuineaLynx, I went out and bought some coconut oil, and massaged it into her skin and ears. She seemed so grateful. With the oil, her skin was no longer scaly and brittle, and when she did itch, she didn’t tear big gashes into her skin because it was supple. Her ears were also flexible again, instead of stiff little flaps of scabs.

Her treatment has continued in this vein. Pain medicine and antibiotics in the AM, and then veggies, come home, more pain medicine, more antibiotics, and then her coconut oil massage. Today we’re adding an oral antifungal so that we can avoid the baths. Once she’s over the worst of it, we may also add a soothing oatmeal bath for her poor skin.

But for Clementine, hope remains. I found it surprising that an animal in so much pain could trust anyone at all, much less the crazy person who makes her smell like a tanning booth once a day, and makes her take the gross medicines. But Clementine is learning to love life. Sunday night, she heard me giving the babies from the previous post some alfalfa hay, and I heard her querulous, uncertain, raspy wheek (sounding for all the world like she had never used it before) lift over the other din in the house, asking for her share. In the end (at least for guinea pigs), where there is hunger, there is hope.

When I name the animals who I take in, I like for their names to have a meaning. Some are silly (Rincewind is named after a cowardly wizard, because he too is a coward), some are superficial (Kassidy, for example, means “curly”), and some are a right-time, right-place type of name (Kismet got her name by showing up exactly on time to catch 3 rides north). Clementine is my first pig to pick her own name. I wondered if she was expressing her love of folk music, for NPR, for documentary radio, or for the singer’s voice. Or if she was trying to state something, or even ask for something. So I looked it up.

Clementine means “mercy”.

Clementine enjoys breakfast.


  1. Anthony said,

    June 4, 2008 at 10:29 am

    We’ll sure keep working with Clementine. She certainly deserves the best care we can give her.
    I think she would be very happy with your post, Jennifer (well, you know, if piggies could read and all).

  2. lisa said,

    December 30, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I have a guinea pig that has been itching herself horribly to the point of bleeding. She has been to the vet 3 times, has had several shots of ivermectin, 1 round of antibiotics for 6 days, we bathed her in dermazole, and she does not seem any better. I feel so bad for her. Any suggestions?

  3. Jenn said,

    December 31, 2008 at 5:59 am

    How far apart are these injections?