More Mini-Sanctuary

Posted in Sanctuary Spotlight at 1:42 pm by Jenn

The next part of the “mini” Sanctuary in Morrisville are two of the boys belonging to the Jacksonville 48. I’ll leave the entirety of the Jacksonville Saga to Susan to tell, as it is largely her story, but I did end up with two of the boys from that group. Basically, a backyard breeder duped a fellow rescue into believing that they were a rescue and left her with 48 sick half-dead pigs.

I volunteered to foster, and I ended up with #20 (who became Picadilly) and #21 (who became Hobo).

One of Hobo\'s earliest intake pictures.Hobo’s tale is an illustrious one filled with humping and yearning after guinea pig women.  He was one of the less spectacularly marked of the 48, so Susan paired with him Picadilly (an agouti satin) to help move him into a home. He got his name because of his ragged ears… we speculate that this breeder must have crammed pig after pig on top of each other and that there must have been nearly constant fighting. At his intake, he was probably only 8-9 weeks old.

They fostered with me for a good six months without any solid adoption leads, and Christmas quickly approached. They got stockings, and they got presents, and we realized that it was not in us to make the two of them go elsewhere. Shortly after Christmas 2005, Hobo’s problems began.

It started out with a scream in the night. He was screaming painfully while urinating, and was obviously in distress. He was rushed to the our current rescue vet immediately the next morning. A round of x-rays, intensive care, urinalysis, and other diagnostics revealed…. nothing. He was absolutely completely healthy. Lacking any other option, he was given a round of antibiotics and sent home.

The problem seemed to go away, but another problem had arisen. Having been separated from Picadilly, Hobo would no longer accept him. After several days of trying to rebond the two, it was given up, and Picadilly moved in with my first two guinea pigs, Gizmo and Mogwai.

A couple of weeks later, the problems resurfaced, and we went back to the vet, came back with more Critical Care (which is really good stuff, keep some in your house, seriously), more fluids, more Reglan, and more antibiotics. After a good two weeks of fighting tooth and nail to feed this poor pig (who was actually quite obnoxious when it came to being fed), I finally found the cause of the problem. He had a lump in his left testicle.

Hobo has a bad life.So back to the vet, and Hobo was neutered to remove the lump, which turned out to be a tumor surrounding an abscess. Then the fun began. Hobo abscessed a total of 3 times for a total of 8 weeks of antibiotics. He also rejected the suturing materials, which I discovered one horrifying morning when I found a small plastic string poking out of one of his surgical wounds. This was not due to the vet, who has performed many successful neuters for us before. Hobo is a genetic Frankenstein.

Finally, we healed him, and integrated him in with two spayed sows adopted for the purpose of being his friends, Lethe and Mnemosyne. It was decided that he was never really going to be a good candidate for adoption, given his history of aggression to males, and his extreme allergies to surgical materials, AND the fact that at the age of 1 year, he had already had a tumor removed. So he stayed with me.

Since then, Hobo has gone into stasis 6 times. He has had 3 sets of x-rays, and 4 urinalysises. He has also had 3 penis infections, and tends to produce grit when dehydrated. Because of his aggressive obnoxiousness, he has had 2 abscesses removed. We finally figured out that he was pinning the girls inside of pigloos and then marking them constantly until they finally bit him to escape. We removed the pigloos. Today, Hobo is 3, and he has already had more surgeries than many other elderly pigs.

Picadilly, his counterpart, has had less problems, but is in worse shape.

Pica (as he’s known) is a satin pig. Satin is a coat type on guinea pigs (much like teddy pigs, who have curly fur, or peruvians, who have long fur). The hair shafts of a satin guinea pig are hollow, which makes the pig especially “shiny”. Unfortunately, the price of having a pretty, shiny pig is an unpleasant death for them, in many cases. The gene which causes pigs to have these hollow hairs is very frequently accompanied by a disorder known as osteodystrophy. When a guinea pig has osteodystrophy, their bones begin to lose calcium. Their joints can “collect” this calcium, and become thickened, and it is often painful for them to walk and/or eat.

At one year of age, Picadilly began showing symptoms of osteodystrophy. It has progressively worsened, but he is now managed with pain medication and calcium supplements. Today, Pica lives in relative happiness with the addition of daily pain medication. Without his medication, he painfully hops, and becomes lethargic, refusing to move from his cuddle cup, even for his favorite foods.

Many intentional breeders, even today, deny that their guinea pigs have problems with osteodystrophy, yet none that I have talked to do baseline x-rays or screen for it. I noticed Picadilly’s hopping one winter afternoon. At that point, he showed no signs of weight loss, and was still speeding around with excitement after food. But I knew he was a satin, and I knew what the hopping was a portent of. It wasn’t until nearly another year later that he began showing severe painful symptoms. Had I not already had my baseline x-ray, I wouldn’t have thought it was osteodystrophy. But comparisons showed severe bone loss.

Very limited studies have been done because of the specialty nature of both the disease and the species it occurs in, but what limited research that is available points to extremely high statistical occurrence of this disorder in satin guinea pigs. Even sadder, at least as his adopted mom, is the fact that Picadilly is such a sweet guinea pig. He has the personality of a feather bed, and gets along with everyone. He and Mogwai truly love each other, and they have ever been tolerant of newcomers. It’s heartbreaking to watch such a kind animal going through such suffering, and knowing that there is no end to it. Not only is there no end to it, but that the suffering was purposefully produced, just so that someone could have a pretty shiny guinea pig.

1 Comment

  1. Searching for happy endings » Meet Valor said,

    April 23, 2010 at 6:21 am

    […] and has an unusual sheen) is genetically linked to a condition known as osteodystrophy.  Our own Picadilly (also a satin) dealt with this problem.  Basically the bones of these guinea pigs can start […]