Laverne and Shirley entered the rescue approximately two weeks ago, with the help of our southern friends at Atlanta Metro Guinea Pig Rescue. They had been contacted about these guinea pigs and while they were desperately full, they wanted to help. Their owner had lost her job months earlier, and when the girls began to scratch, seize, and scream, she was unable to provide them with medical care.
Although the girls (especially Laverne) look as though they’re in dire straits and not long for this world, both of them are simply suffering from mange mites. Mange mites in guinea pigs are species specific and relatively common. So common, in fact, that we treat all guinea pigs entering our rescue as a preventative measure! Though they are communicable, they do also exist naturally on guinea pigs in minute numbers which cause no symptoms. Stress, illness, and other factors can cause ‘flare ups’ which may need help to be contained.
When left without treatment, the itching that mites cause will progress to serious hair loss, heavy wounds (as the poor guinea pigs scratch themselves desperately), and even seizures. Heartbreakingly, we sometimes get calls about these poor bald pigs where the owners inform us that the guinea pigs are on their backs “trying to scratch”. They are having painful convulsions. If left long enough, they can cause death. But this takes several months of neglect!
Mites are easily treated with ivermectin or Revolution (selamectin), and these girls are continuing their treatments with us. In a couple of more weeks we hope to be able to do a ‘before and after’ unveil of beautiful, sleek girls.
Greatest thanks go to our crack team of Cavy Couriers that helped us get these girls all the way from Georgia to North Carolina in one busy day! (As well as providing them with some of the lushest 3rd cut of KMs hay I’ve ever seen!)
Beatrice and Hero are our newest intakes. These two girls were left at a downtown library in Charlotte, NC. The two were tied into a plastic Wal-mart bag and left in front of the library! Luckily for these girls, the staff of the library kindly brought them in, and then bought them a cage and some provisions until they could find someone to take care of them.
We got a message about these girls, and Andrea, our Charlotte coordinator, was over there that afternoon. We had expected literally anything when we got there — elderly guinea pigs in need of significant medical care, terrified babies that were barely handle-able, guinea pigs who had suffered a heat stroke… and she arrived to two healthy, friendly girls who appeared to have been cherished family pets.
Their background is a mystery. We believe they are between two and three years of age, but they could be as young as one or as old as five or six! Although their nails were on the long side, they otherwise appeared to have suffered no neglect.
On that note, please never leave an animal outside in any location! Most animal shelters will accept small animals. Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Control does. The people at the animal shelter are good people and go out of their way to try and find a home for every animal. We watch the shelters routinely, and they call us when animals come in. Even if everyone is too full, and your pets end up euthanized, it is still a kinder death than the ones which happen outside.
Last year there were two guinea pigs abandoned in an office parking lot. They weren’t as lucky — it was too hot. One of the two died in my arms gagging and agonal about two hours after he arrived to the rescue (and that was with subcutaneous fluids, handfeeding, and a trip to the vet). It is a miserable way for an animal to die, and abandoning or releasing an animal into the ‘wild’ (or even in an urban area) is a recipe dooming them to die of exposure to the elements, of becoming a snack to a lucky predator, or even of becoming the victim of a terrible person who would find it a ‘kick’ to harm a helpless animal. Had these girls been a little less lucky or had someone not noticed them, they could have suffocated in the plastic bag they were abandoned in or died of heat stroke.
A domestic animal released outside does not live out a happy ever after. It lives a shortened, frightening life before it expires or becomes food for another animal.
Valor’s story, as so many, starts off with an email.
We have a young 4-5 m.o. male guinea pig we named Toffee (for his lovely color) we bought as a companion to our beloved Snuffy (also male). They get along OK, but Toffee and I (human owner!) don’t really get along. He is very restless, and squeaks constantly. He doesn’t seem to be very happy. I think he might need to be with a larger group or maybe a different owner. We looked at a list of local shelters offering guinea pigs and found one named LEAF from Morrisville. We thought Leaf might be a good companion for Snuffy and a nice pet for us. I’d like to offer an exchange. Would this be possible? I’m also open to other male guinea pigs if Leaf is taken.
We were pretty flabbergasted — Toffee was a young guinea pig. Young guinea pigs, by definition, are loud, restless, squeaky, and (dare I say it?) can be pretty obnoxious to deal with. It’s one of our primary educational points when people want baby guinea pigs. They will not be cuddly, friendly companions! They are like toddlers who have eaten an entire candy store worth of chocolate and will constantly run, scream, bounce, and squabble with each other until they mature into adults who are too lazy to bother with such antics.
It’s one thing to try another partner when your two pigs aren’t getting along, but realistically trading an even younger, more reactive, louder, and more restless guinea pig for one which was already causing dissatisfaction was unlikely to help the situation. We wrote to her, described the personality of young pigs, and recommended that she persevere with Toffee and he would (over time) become calmer and more affectionate as he became used to her and aged out of the terrible teens. This was especially important because the guinea pigs were bonded, and often reacted poorly to being torn apart from their herd.
The following Monday, we were contacted by one of the local shelters who said they had a young male guinea pig. Not unusual — the shelters are full to bursting with all kinds of small animal right now. We said that we’d take him and arranged a pickup. They sent back pictures letting us know that his name was “Toffee”, and that he was five months old. His owner surrendered him because he didn’t get along with her guinea pig and he was a show pig. Toffee had been abandoned.
When Toffee arrived to foster, our hearts broke. Toffee wasn’t “restless” and “squeaky”. Toffee was terrified out of his little mind. He stood in his quarantine cage, legs trembling, as he cried softly to himself. I’d never seen such a scared guinea pig (and guinea pig owners will realize what a feat this is — they’re timid animals by nature!) Finally he gathered up all his courage and dashed into his hidey house, not to be seen for the rest of the night.
Over the past few days, Toffee (now Valor — we felt like he needed a little confidence boost!) has slowly come out of his shell. Though he is still very scared by the hands which enter the cage, he’s brave enough to come up to the side of the cage to see what’s going on, and has started begging us for veggies like a normal guinea pig. Still wiggly in laps, he’s slowly learning that people aren’t big scary monsters and that there’s really no need to skitter off and hide from them.
In addition to being a scaredy-pig, Valor has another obstacle to overcome. He is a satin guinea pig. The satin coat (which is especially shiny 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 breaking down from the inside. Typically, these guinea pigs will need to be monitored with x-rays (so that the bone loss is caught in a timely manner) and then afterward treated with calcium supplements and a special light to help them absorb it, and pain medication as needed since the pigs often become sore and almost “arthritic”.
Valor is available for adoption and is looking for the perfect home!
As the holidays approached, the local animal shelters swelled with homeless guinea pigs trying to find their forever homes.
Billie Jean was left at the local animal shelter two short weeks before Christmas. Her surrender card listed her name as “Billy” and her sex was marked as male. A short sexing later, and it was clear that she was not male, and she became “Billie Jean”. So far, she has shown herself to be a friendly young sow (estimated age right under one year) and finds particular delight in wallowing through massive piles of hay.
Amelia showed up at the same animal shelter less than a week later. A note was left with her that she was 5 years of age, and that her family could no longer provide for her, and to please find her a good home. Amelia has quickly become a favorite in the rescue — she is an absolute snuggler, loves sitting against your chest, and the first night she was at home with us went to sleep in my arms. She would be a fabulous addition to an established herd, or as a matron to a younger piggie!
A scant few days after we picked up Ms. Amelia, Frazier also showed up! He is a handsome young man, his age given at right under a year, and he is quite a character. He is a consummate beggar, and has perfected the art of dumping all his hay onto the ground so that you can see how truly starving he is and give him some more pellets.
Finally, two days before Christmas, these darlings showed up at Andrea’s local shelter. Abandoned, they had to spend Christmas at the animal shelter, waiting for their stray hold to expire. From top to bottom, they are Gloria, Ivy, Kris, and Noelle. Little Kris has a forever home to go to already, but the young ladies will be available once we can confirm that they are not pregnant (as they arrived in a box with Kris).
Happy New Year to all of our kind friends and supporters!
Often, at ACR&S, we walk a very fine line between educating our potential adopters and the public in general, and in coming across as unreasonable and unnecessarily “paranoid” about our requirements. One of the big things that we push to our adopters is that small animals require vet care, and generally when they need it, they need it fast. Because they are prey animals, they hide the true extent of their problems right up until they are sometimes literally on death’s door.
So, when I saw an ad for a guinea pig on Craigslist, I was so concerned that I immediately contacted the owner. Her guinea pig, she explained, had a malocclusion problem, but they just didn’t have the money to get him treated. I emailed her and gave her information on handfeeding, as well as contact information for our vet, whom I hoped would be more affordable. She emailed me back the next day that she had taken him to see a vet in Durham, who had confirmed that he had tooth problems, and that she had also contacted our vet, but that she couldn’t afford the treatment, and could she sign him over to us?
I agreed, because while tooth problems can initially be costly to treat, usually they can be controlled once they get back to “zero” (so to speak). When I met her to pick up her guinea pig, I was really taken aback. While this little animal clearly did have tooth problems (he was drooling uncontrollably and had thick wads of spit caked against his left cheek) he was clearly in bad shape, and probably not far from death. His left eye was cloudy and caked with pus. His head tilted sharply to the right, and he tracked back and forth incessantly with his head. His ears were filthy and he cried when they were touched.
The woman explained to me that when they adopted him a year ago, his eye had started watering. They had treated it at home, and it had gotten better, and then would come back, and they would treat it again, and so on and so on. Over a year, the eye got progressively worse, becoming more and more infected. The infection from the eye spread back into the ear canals. The ear infection caused his head to tilt sharply to the side. The pain from infection caused him to stop eating — his molars and incisors overgrew, and then he couldn’t. The eye continued to worsen. The infection robbed him of most of his vision, and of his hearing.
In short, Pinball (as he is now known) is blind, deaf, has bad teeth, a head tilt, and can’t walk straight because of a simple eye infection that was likely started by an innocuous hay poke.
Pinball visited Dr. Munn on 12/10/2009 to begin his long treatment. His radiographs showed extensive bone-loss, indicative that he’d been having problems eating for a long time and probably had not had a good quality pellet before that. He was anesthetized and the points on his molars were trimmed down (Dr. Munn reported that some were bigger than a pencil lead!). Once the teeth were in better shape, he turned to the eye. The eye seemed to have suffered some sort of minor trauma initially (as mentioned, hay pokes are not unheard of), but untreated it became infected. The top layer of cornea could not get hold of the eye and it wrinkled and continuously ulcerated. So he cleaned out all the dead issue on the eye (you can see it originally here – though be warned, it is pretty gross looking), and then gently used a q-tip to slightly abraid the underlayer to give the top something to grow onto. We added a strong antibiotic regiment, pain medication, and an eye ointment, and waited. Days later, the eye looked better and had improved, but stalled there.
Pinball is back at the vet again today for a re-evaluation of his eye, and a new plan. He may eventually lose the affected eye, but we at ACR&S are committed to giving him a high quality of life as long as it is possible. Blind and deaf guinea pigs can and do adapt remarkably well (like our own Andrea’s Maddie) but to get him there, we need to get him healthy. If this is possible, he will be able to live out the rest of his life as a sanctuary animal with ACR&S to ensure that his likely ongoing treatments and tooth trims will be accomplished.
It is because of situations like this that we so strongly push preventative and timely vet care. Had the initial problem been addressed when it occurred, Pinball likely would have had to endure 2-3 weeks of eyedrops and a recheck and would be perfectly healthy right now. Instead, over a year, he developed an infection that literally has made him special needs for the rest of his life.
But, he has found things to enjoy. He loves Critical Care, and begs for it endlessly. He also really loves parsley and has become something of a diva (if you’ll notice in his picture above, a wilty piece of ignored lettuce is on the ground while he dives into a pile of parsley). Adding to his diva status is his love of cuddle cups. If they’re out to be washed, he whines, and when they come back he dives in and does his little circle dance in them. And his will to fight has not waned. Every night when I pick him up to put in his eye ointment, he rumblestruts at me, and headbutts me when I try to pet him on his forehead. He took such joy in his last batch of parsley that I had to get a video:
It is because of animals like Pinball that we are so adamant about educating to care standards and making sure that our animals go to homes where their needs will be met. Because Pinball is not an isolated incident. With small animals like guinea pigs, the most serious cases that we see are often due to owner ignorance. Animals starving to death with overgrown teeth, seizing to death with parasites, slowly dying from untreated, yet operable tumors. And most of it happening in a living room while a loving owner pets their head. The blog is full of animals who often could have been spared a tremendous amount of pain and suffering with vet care at the beginning of their illness, instead of reaching a point where something so simple and stupid as a piece of hay poking you in the eye literally made you blind, deaf, and physically challenged.
Meet Homer. Homer is a homing pigeon. Homer is apparently not a very good homing pigeon, though, because he ended up at the local animal shelter.
Homer has a band on his leg, and when the shelter contacted his owner, they were told that he’d been released on a homing mission sometime in 2008, and had never returned. The owner refused to pay a $10 impound fee on a bird that couldn’t home, and Homer was left at the shelter to await his fate.
Unluckily for him, pigeons are not a very common pet, and he did not catch anyone’s fancy. His euthanasia time inched closer and closer, and soon ACR&S was notified about him. So we pulled him and installed him in a large flight cage, and so far he seems happy as a clam. He is really unsure about all the crazy people who want to pet his feathers, but he’s very tolerate and only stalks off with offended dignity.
If you, or a pigeon afficiando that you know, would like to adopt Homer, please contact us for more information!
In early October, right in the midst of my own thrilling move, ACR&S took in five bunnies that were originally inmates at a local prison. These rabbits were part of a rehabilitation program for the inmates, which focused on them helping animals which, like they, had been down on their luck. Thanks to the wonderful SPCA of the Triad, these bunnies’ plight was brought to our attention, and we took in a group of five.
These bunnies are all spayed or neutered, and are reported to be around six years of age. All of them have clearly been well loved, and beg for attention and treats (mostly treats — they are still rabbits!) Their litterbox manners are not the best, but we’re working on it, and Bonnie and Clydette are doing particularly well.
Below, from left to right, are Dillinger, Sundance, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie & Clydette. Each picture links to their Petfinder profile for more information about them!
ACR&S welcome in it’s newest intake with a flurry. Last Thursday, we were contacted by a local shelter about a guinea pig who had been surrendered by his owner. His name was Buddy, and he was 2 years old. He was by himself, and seemed to be in good health and very friendly. When we received him yesterday evening, it was quickly apparent that Buddy was a very sick little guy.
Buddy weighed in at a skeletal 1 lb. He was only 50 grams bigger than Cookie, a neglected pig from the Jax breeder dump who was missing all four front teeth, had a respiratory infection, and suffered throughout his life from a chronic condition similar to volvulus in humans. In addition, he was nearly bald on his underside (most likely from scurvy or poor living conditions) and his teeth were in bad condition (most likely causing his starvation).
We made a hard decision for Buddy. Without dental surgery, he would be unable to eat properly and unlikely to recover. But without gaining more weight, surgery in his emaciated state was risky. We decided to try and have his teeth corrected in a desperate gamble to give him a second chance.
Miraculously, this little guy came through his surgery with flying colors. His front incisors were out of alignment in addition to his back molars have multiple points on them preventing him from eating.
He’s recovering and bulking up now, and on a regiment of antibiotics, liquid vitamin C, probiotics, Critical Care, and metacam to help with any pain he may be experiencing. Buddy may need ongoing dental surgeries and/or x-rays if he does not continue to recover at the same rate, any donations are welcome and appreciated.
A sad welcome to our newest friends, Icarus and Leda.
These two piggies were taken into our rescue on June 11th after we received a frantic call from their original owner. She had taken in a dog and a cat on their way to the euthanasia chamber for various behavioral problems several months ago, and thought there would be no problem. However, both animals continued to harass their guinea pigs, and they became concerned for their safety. She opted to rehome them because they were healthy and did not have behavioral problems, whereas the dog and cat would be virtually unadoptable.
A child in her son’s class expressed interest in the male pair, and she travelled over to their house, spoke with the parents, educated them on care, and felt very comfortable with the adoption, even going over on holidays and vacations to petsit for the family when they were out of town. She received a call out of the blue yesterday informing her that the child was no longer interested in the pigs, and could she come over today and get them. Oh, and by the way, one of the original two pair had died earlier that month when the child threw him to see if he could fly.
Their original owner was shocked and frightened for the remaining pig, and she contacted us as soon as she could to get the pig out of that situation! Imagine her surprise when she arrived and the remaining male pig had a female friend sitting in the cage with him! Apparently the child had just brought this female home and placed them together. She took them both and drove them out a substantial portion of the way to meet me, and was very grateful and thankful that the pigs had somewhere to go and where she could be sure they were safe.
Thankfully both pigs appear to be in excellent physical health, and have already been preventatively dosed with Revolution in the case of mites. They will be having their vet checkup early next week, and we anticipate that poor Leda is probably already pregnant, though we have separated the pair in hopes that she may not have been receptive to romantic advances in such a stressful situation. Both pigs have been named in memory of the lost piggie who paid so dearly; Icarus after the mythological figure who flew too close to the sun, and Leda meaning “winged one”.
Sadly, we hear stories like this time and again. Guinea pigs are exceedingly fragile animals, and they are often injured by children’s rough-housing play. A drop which would not phase a cat or a dog can literally cripple a guinea pig for life. One of our own board members dropped a struggling guinea pig from a distance less than 12 inches high by accident one day, and it resulted in a severely broken leg. After immediate emergency care, that was pig fine, but it illustrates just how easily damaged they can be.
Gabriella, a big chocolate abyssinian sow that we rescued from the local shelter a few scant weeks ago, already obviously pregnant, has graced us with five babies! She was dumped off by her previous owner with a litter already suckling! The shelter has a strict policy of not adopting out pregnant animals, so they called us. Gabby’s first litter had already been adopted by the time we got there for Gabby, so we took her and said a little prayer — back to back pregnancies are tough on piggies! Poor Gabby was so huge she couldn’t even go through the pigloo door. As each day passed, she got bigger and bigger and we began taking bets that she might actually physically explode!
Finally, on May 28, 2009, she gave birth to a total of seven babies, although two were stillborn. That left us with a prodigious litter of five, four little girls, and one little boy. Without further adieu, bring on the cute!
Andrea, their foster mom, writes of them with particular fondness, and loves telling us all about their differences! Nina, the firstborn, she says, is the first to do everything! “She was the first one to eat pellets, the first one to use the pigloo, and the first one to try to use the water bottle (which ended up with her soaking herself while looking aggravated!)”.
Ah, but Bia was the first one to learn the ancient piggie art of sleeping on food so nobody else can eat it!