Goodbye Avery.

Posted in Memorials at 8:46 am by Jenn

Avery was a beautiful satin abyssinian girl who was surrendered to us in August of 2008.avery She entered the rescue along with Alyse, Kevin, and Roger.  She lived with her partner, Alyse the entire time she was with us.  In June of this year, we added Gabriella to the pair after she gave birth to her adorable babies.  Though Avery was not very fond of Gabriella, she did tolerate her, and the three were adopted to their forever home.

Less than a month later, they were returned because they were “too much work”.  The trio came back to my house to await adoption again.  This Saturday, September 5th, we returned home in the evening after dinner to find that Avery had laid down and not gotten back up.  She had been fine during the morning feeding, and was fiesty and demanding as ever.   We’ll be consulting with our vet about a necropsy, which will be difficult because of the time elapsed (since it’s a holiday weekend).

Avery will be missed, and not only by her friends.  She was a bossy and enthusiastic pig, who frequently spent time scolding the cage next door for being too loud.  Her antics always brought a smile to our faces, and she will be greatly missed.  We’re only sorry that she never found a place to call her forever home.


Goodbye, Gypsy

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 12:10 am by ACR&S

Gypsy was found dead in her cage on the morning of August 21. She came to ACR&S in late 2008, surrendered by her owner with two other pigs. She was thought to be about 5 years old at that time, and was very aggressive with the owner’s other two pigs. As a result she lived alone until she arrived at the Sanctuary in December 2008 and was successfully paired with Stinky.

Gypsy showed no signs of illness at all prior to her death; her appetite was good and her weight had been stable. A necropsy revealed that the proximate cause of death was pericardial effusion, which is an abnormal buildup of fluid around the heart. However, the underlying cause of this was unable to be determined. There was no overt evidence of infection or lymphoma, which are the two most common causes of pericardial effusion.

She was a sweet girl and will certainly be missed by all who knew her.


Sad days

Posted in Memorials at 9:19 am by ACR&S

Sorry for the lack of updates – the last few weeks have been filled with unexpected goodbyes, and that always makes me want to avoid writing about things.

On June 11 we lost Honi. We first introduced her here – she was a rescue transfer from the Wisconsin Guinea Pig Rescue – she came to them in late 2007 with numerous health problems, stemming from having spent most of her life having babies in a 12″x12″ opaque tupperware container. After her health problems got under control, we took her in to be a partner to our Sanctuary guy Stinky. They got along great and she seemed to be doing well on her medicine – she loved to try to steal the syringe and run off with it!

On June 10 she was a little more listless than usual, but there was no change in her weight and we assumed it was just one of her usual bouts with gas. We scheduled a vet visit for June 11, but literally 4 minutes from the vet’s office she just lay down and died in her carrier.  Fortunately, she went very peacefully, and showed no signs of distress either before or during her passing.

We got a necropsy done and found that she had extensive lymphatic leukemia – cancer. Literally her only normal organs were her intestines and her thyroid, EVERYTHING else was affected. The vet even remarked that he’d never seen such an extensive metastasis. I like to think that cancer is a win for us; these diseases of old age are not well documented in pigs as they typically don’t live long enough to develop them. I also like to think it speaks well of our standards of care that she had no symptoms and no chance to suffer up to the very end.

Honi was a wonderfully sweet, friendly pig despite everything she went through before she was rescued, and while we miss her, we’re mostly grateful that we got to care for and know her for even this brief time.

On June 25 we got the notice from one of our adopters, Cyndi, that her adopted bunny Dutchess had passed in the night. Dutchess was rescued from the Orange County Animal Shelter in late 2004. On her surrender form, her original owner wrote that she was 7 years old, and had been housed outside in a wire-floor hutch her whole life! She had damage to her toes from the wire, and was also found to have a persistant case of snuffles (an infection of Pasturella in the sinuses). Because of this we figured she’d never be placed, until our friend Cyndi came along in 2005 and wanted to adopt her! She lived an absolutely spoiled life like the royalty she was. She would have been nearly 12 years old if our original information was correct! She is sorely missed by her mom and by everyone else who ever knew her.

On June 26 we had to euthanize Elmer, our oldest and most long-term Sanctuary resident. He was our very first Sanctuary resident, having come to us in early 2003. I blogged about him back in April, when he started having some health issues. We assumed it was his age catching up with him, but his problems resolved and he seemingly went back to normal. In the months since then, however, the effects of his age have been evident. His fur was less soft, he did not groom himself well, and he was much less active. He reminded me very strongly of our first geriatric pig Chuck. They just seem like very old men after a certain point!

Late on June 25 Elmer didn’t want to move at all for his dinner. Normally I put his veggies and pellets right in front of his favorite house, and he didn’t even want to take the few steps to eat. I put pepper right in front of him and he ate it willingly, but it seemed like he was having a lot of trouble with his hind end.  I really expected to lose him within the next few minutes. We gave him some metacam and when still wasn’t moving within a few hours, I was afraid he would linger on without being able to move or eat on his own, so we took him in and the vet helped him go.  Necropsy revealed nothing to cause his weakness, so it was probably just his time. He would have been 10 years old this coming December. I think I might miss him most of any of my recent losses, just because he’s been with me for so very long – it’s hard to think of ACR&S without him.

Unfortunately this is the unavoidable cost of doing rescue when the animals you care for have such limited life spans.  It’s sad, but I’m sad for me, not for them. At least they all were safe and loved.


Goodbye, Logan

Posted in Memorials at 12:03 am by ACR&S

We’re lost a great number of the Hamster Hoard this year, and the latest casualty was Logan. He was born in the rescue on September 8, 2008; one of three litters that came from pregnant females we pulled from the local shelter. He simply didn’t wake up this morning (June 8).

He didn’t really do much of anything – he was named for his preference for hiding in his oatmeal container all the time – but he deserves a memorial as yet another unwanted pet who never really had a home of his own.


Goodbye Harley: A warning about subtle symptoms

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 5:42 am by Jenn

We lost a foster pig yesterday, and I’m typing this up mainly so that other people might see if they see the signs that we did. We didn’t connect the dots in time, but someone else might, now, and be able to save their pig.

Harley came into our rescue about 2 months ago. He was huge. Over 3 lbs huge. His owner was a pretty good owner, and kept him in a C&C cage, did a good quality diet with lots of veggies, and was heartbroken to have to give him up. He came with a plethora of stuff, including a bottle of Selsun Blue shampoo.

She explained to us that he had a reoccurring spot on his back, and that once she washed it with the Selsun Blue, that it went away. Given the description, we figured he had some sort of active fungal infection, and didn’t think twice about it.

Sure enough, he had the spot when we picked him up. We dosed him with Revolution and started treating the area with a fungal cream, but it didn’t seem to have any ongoing infection or fungus. The skin was perfect, but bald. He’d just sat there and chewed himself bald. (You can see the bald spot in his earliest pictures.)

When it went away briefly, and then subsequently came back, we went to the vet’s to try more stuff. He gave us an oral antifungal and used scotch tape to look at the skin cells under the microscope (he hates doing skin scrapes on pigs and does that instead). He told us that the skin seemed healthy, but sent off for ringworm testing, and it came back negative.

We both, at that point, wrote the spot off as a neurosis reaction to being alone most of the time.  Susan has had animals start chewing their backs when they had bladder stones, but before they came painful enough to wail while they peed, and she’d caught several that way by doing x-rays. Since he was having no other symptoms, and his weight remained stable, that didn’t seem likely. After all, there are a number of animals that self mutilate from boredom, right? We went ahead and neutered him since we had a lot of available ladies, and sat back to wait.

The neuter was unremarkable and he healed with no problem.

This week (4 weeks after the neuter), while preparing for his pending adoption, I did his weekly weighing and noticed that he’d dropped 4 oz. I was concerned, but not too concerned. He was a huge pig. I felt like having pigs around him (he was sharing a grid wall with my herd) was probably making him more active, but I still gave him a once over looking for anything out of the ordinary, and I found a lump above his penis.

I swore, and figured he had an abscess (even though it didn’t feel like one) and took him in yesterday to have it drained. I got a call at work from our vet who had him open on the table. The lump was just the bottom end of an enormous (presumed) abdominal tumor, bigger than a golf ball, that was extremely invasive, and had even wrapped partially around his penis. He hadn’t cut it yet, because he wanted to talk to me beforehand.

I told them to try and remove it if at all possible (and to check and make sure it wasn’t some bizarre abscess) but that if he felt he couldn’t, not to wake him up.

I got a call about an hour and a half later. The tumor (it was definitely a tumor) was too big. It had multiple blood supplies going to it, and he couldn’t get it disentangled from his penis. He said that even on the highest gas he was using, Harley was still flinching to him trying to remove it while sedated. After trying as gently and persistently as possible, Harley started to visibly struggle with the anesthesia, and we made the decision to let him go.

He was kind enough to snap some photos with his phone during the surgery as well, and I’m linking to them (as they’re pretty graphic) just to give an idea of how huge this thing was:

Surgery 1
Surgery 2

(For orientation purposes, the penis is on the left in both pictures)

Initially, we thought that somehow the neuter had triggered the growth somehow, but when we started going back over his symptoms, I think he probably had at least the beginnings of the tumor when we got him.

Now we believe the following behaviors to have been subtle symptoms associated with the tumor:

  • the bald spot. It was directly over his spine, and lined up perfectly with the tumor. We guess that he was having pain issues with it, and would chew there trying to get at it (much like neuter pigs will sometimes chew their legs). Once he got to the skin, it probably hurt more to chew than the tumor did (or perhaps the tumor pain came and went). If picked up and turned upside down, he would also sometimes chew his front paw, but so many pigs hate it that I didn’t pay attention to it until afterward.
  • distinct dislike of being touched on the rump. Harley actually liked being petted, and would run up to the front of the cage with no fear to have his head scratched, but if I tried to pet his back or sides, he would try to bite. Again, enough pigs did this that I didn’t think it hugely out of the ordinary.

Since he’d been chewing at the site for several months (according to his mama), we believe him now to have developed the tumor sometime in 2008.

So if you have a pig with a bald spot like this, who is otherwise healthy, and mites, fungal, etc, have all been ruled out, it may be worth pursuing an x-ray, if only for peace of mind. I wish now that we had caught Harley’s problem earlier, so that we could have given him pain medication at least, and made his life a little easier. But he was such a happy go lucky pig. Always had his head in the hayrack, eating like a horse, and otherwise healthy.

Goodbye Harley, you were a good pig.


Sad news from old friends.

Posted in Memorials at 8:26 am by Jenn

We’ve received some very sad updates from old friends in the past week.

Mia HammWe first heard from Michael and Carrie last week, letting us know that our beloved Mia Hamm had passed away.  A couple of months ago, Mia began bleeding from beneath her tail, and after multiple rounds of antibiotics, and an x-ray was done that revealed a serious tumor.  She passed her final days surrounded by her family and in comfort.  Hers was a happy tail from beginning to end — she found her family and lived a full and cherished life with them.

We then heard a followup from Twoflower the guinea pig. Twoflower He as adopted by Chris to be friends with his strong-willed ladypig Stealth.  They lived together in harmony and happiness for many months.  Unfortunately, early last week Twoflower passed in the wee hours of the morning as his heroic dad tried valiantly to get him into the emergency vet.

While we are always saddened to hear that our friends have gone over to the bridge, we are always heartened to know what good little lives our friends have had, and how dearly bought having a happy ending is.  Thank you again, to our wonderful adopters, who give so much to these little guys.


Goodbye to Nimue and Lilith

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 8:00 am by Jenn

NimueGoodbye to Lilith and Nimue, two baby ratties who have left us with so much unfulfilled potential.  The sisters arrived in a trio, along with their sister Morrigan, abandoned at a local animal shelter.  Their owner had said that they were moving, and did not have room for the tiny rats.

ACR&S took them in in order to find them homes with high hopes!  They were playful, bold, and daring, and absolutely loved people.  After only a few days in foster, Lilith started limping quite badly on her back leg.  She was rushed to the vet, who did x-rays, and confirmed that there were no bone breaks and no congentical abnormalities.  Sweet Lilith was prescribed pain medication and cage rest.

3 days later, on a Sunday morning, I got up early and made the rounds, checking everyone, refilling water bottles, and refilling food and giving treats along the way.  I greeted the trio of babies and played a gentle game of tag with them before returning to bed to “sleep in”.  When I woke up a few hours later, Nimue (left)had passed quietly in her sleep.  My husband and I were heartbroken, and we took her body in to see if we could find anything on necropsy.  Necropsy showed no apparent signs of death.

Meanwhile, Lilith continued to limp.  Even in a smaller, one level cage with no ramps and precious little to do besides snooze, her problems intensified.


Soon, she was beginning to have difficulties with her front legs as well.  She kept her front paws curled up and had poor balanced, seemingly out of nowhere and with no reasonable cause.  Several people, including our vet, suggested that she may have a pituitary tumor (although such a thing is relatively unheard of in such a tiny rat), and we began an aggressive steroid treatment to try and delay the inevitable.

Only a few days later, she crossed the bridge after I had gone to work for the day.   She had taken her steroids that morning with gusto (having been compounded by the lovely people at Carolina Compounding Pharmacy to be a delicious tutti fruitti).  She chittered her teeth and boggled at me (all signs of a happy rat) as I held her that morning.  She was a real cuddle-bug, and seemed to genuinely enjoy snuggling up to “her” people.

Their sister, Morrigan, continues to stay with ACR&S, and has bonded to another pair of rats named Mischa and Persia, and so far has shown none of the frightening symptoms of her sisters.    Rest in peace, little rats.  We’re glad you had a time with people that loved and cared for you.


Goodbye Freddie

Posted in Memorials at 2:48 am by ACR&S


Aragorn, Gonzo, and Freddie

On May 15 we lost Freddie, a lovely older man who came to us from the Wisconsin Guinea Pig Rescue. WIGPR rescued Freddie in January 2008. He was being advertised for free on Craigslist, and his former owner reported that she got him on Freecycle from another lady who also got him on Freecycle. He was living alone in a 50 gallon aquarium. They guessed he was an older pig – at least 5, possibly older – so he was sent to ACR&S to retire. We successfully bonded him with two of our other Sanctuary residents, Aragorn and Gonzo, and he lived happily with them, and then just with Aragorn after Gonzo died in September 2008.

Freddie has been slowly losing weight over the last 9 months, down to around 650 grams from around 950 last summer. We assumed he was just getting older, because his appetite and attitude were still marvelous, and none of his vet visits have shown any abnormalities.

On May 7 Freddie developed a crusty, squinty eye. ANY head problems in guinea pigs can potentially result from dentail problems, but his teeth looked good on a normal oral exam, so the vet diagnosed it as a simple eye infection. A week later, his eye was still not better and I noticed he was turning his head to the left when he chewed anything. I took him back in on May 14, and  x-rays revealed that he had two hidden problems: a fairly advanced inner ear infection on the left, and deeply elongated molar roots on both sides. The vet planed the teeth down to help reduce the root elongation, and we put him on TMZ for the inner ear infection, but the vet said the infection may be a sign that the roots are impinging on the inner ear or the even the socket of the eye itself.

Freddie never really recovered from the procedure. He just continued to get weaker and weaker throughout the day Friday, taking less and less critical care, and finally at 10pm he laid down and never got up. The vet was incredibly apologetic, because I insisted that we shouldn’t put him through this if he was too weak to survive it, yet the bloodwork revealed no contraindications for surgery and the vet felt it was more than safe to go ahead. Fortunately he was on strong pain control so I know he went painlessly and peacefully, and his buddy Aragorn was with him.

We’re very grateful to WIGPR for giving us the opportunity to care for Freddie this last year – he was really one of the friendliest pigs we’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Bye little man.


Goodbye, Roo

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 12:37 am by ACR&S

On November 2, we lost the first rabbit we ever rescued.

It was the summer of 2002 when I first saw Roo. He was a giant white fuzzball in a too-small cage at the local shelter. He was a New Zealand White, a rabbit bred as a meat producer, weighing in at an astonishing 10 lbs. His cage was barely 2’x3′, and too short for him to fully stand upright. He was probably around two years old, and had, not surprisingly, been surrendered because he “got too big”.

For nine months, I visited Roo whenever I came to the shelter for other reasons, and gave him as much exercise and attention as possible. Finally, in February 2003, I couldn’t take it any more, and I brought Roo home. I knew he was probably unadoptable due to his size, but I just couldn’t leave him to huddle in that tiny cage until he was euthanized.

Although an avid fan of Watership Down, I had never even spent time with rabbits before. I had him neutered (curbing his sock-raping tendencies) and was amazed to find that he was a delightful and engaging pet. He LOVED to be petted, unlike most rabbits I have met since then. His huge size made him all the more entertaining – it’s really something else to see 10 lbs of rabbit throw himself joyously into the air, or try to sneak up on you to steal a box of treats.

Roo was also one of the most easy-going rabbits I’ve ever met. He had multiple cage mates and partners during his stay with me, and he accepted all of them with friendliness and affection. His first partner, Lily, died only two weeks after coming to live with us (she had been attacked by a dog several months before we got her, and had liver damage). His second partner, Karma, suffered from a bout of stasis and megacolon after just a few months together, and although he was happy to visit her in the hospital, she never recovered enough that they could continue living together.

Finally, in late 2004, I introduced Roo to BunBun, an 8 year old male who had come to us from a terrible neglect situation. Surprisingly, the two boys got along wonderfully. Rather than risk separating BunBun from his new friend, I finally decided that Roo and BunBun would both remain as Sanctuary residents.

These two big boys had three and a half years together, and were so entertaining to watch. They were so affectionate with one another, and seemed so content. As BunBun started showing his age, I brought in another large rabbit, Gracie, to make a triple, and ensure that Roo wouldn’t end up alone again once BunBun died.

BunBun crossed the Bridge in July 2008, but Gracie was definitely a comfort to Roo. She was much more independent than him, and he would spend hours with his nose tucked under her chin, eyes blissfully closed, patiently waiting for her to deign to kiss him.

Despite all of these losses, Roo remained good-natured and robust. As a rule, the meat rabbits such as New Zealands are less prone to health problems than rabbits who have been bred only for beauty. He never had any illnesses or even needed a tooth trim in all the time he was with me.

However, time moves on inexorably. Over the last six months or so, Roo has been slowly losing weight, which I attributed to old age. He had been with me for five and a half years, and was at least 7.5 years old, probably older. Shortly after Gracie joined us, he had a minor upper respiratory infection, which passed with no apparant lingering effects. I wonder now if it was a harbinger of what was to come.

On Saturday evening I went to distribute veggies, and Roo did not run and dance as usual. I could immediately tell that he had labored breathing, so we rushed to the emergency vet.

I was hoping that he had swallowed wrong and just had a partly obstructed airway, but by the time we got the vet, his lips were cyanotic – a sign that his lungs were having trouble getting enough oxygen. The vet placed him in the oxygen tent at 40% O2, and he perked up considerably.

X-rays showed diffuse mottling on the lungs, and the left lung was less inflated than the right. However, there was no sign of obstruction or collapse of any of the lung tissue. The differential diagnosis was infection (bacterial or fungal), or cancer (a tumor elsewhere in the body, which had metastasized to the lungs, would show similar mottling to what the X-rays showed) .

The next diagnostic would be to do a tracheal wash (to check for bacteria or fungus) and possibly a needle biopsy (to check the lung tissue for cancerous cells). However, before either of these, we needed to see if Roo could be stabilized enough to get out of the oxygen tent. The vet tried repeatedly throughout the night, but every time the O2 was reduced to below 30%, he started struggling to breathe again. His lungs were too weakfor diagnostics, much less for 14 days or more of treatment. We had no choice but to allow him to be euthanized. He died around 5am Sunday morning.

Initial necropsy showed considerable damage to the lung tissue, but the visual inspection wasn’t able to confirm if it was cancer or infection. We had samples sent out for lab analysis and are still waiting for the results.

I’m just glad that I saw his illness when I did. He must have only JUST started breathing heavily – he wouldn’t have lived out the night if I hadn’t noticed it, and he would have died gasping for air, instead of safely and painlessly anesthetized.

I love you, you silly goose. There will never be another like you. Give some bunny kisses to BunBun and Karma for me.


Guest Blog: How to Say Goodbye

Posted in Memorials at 4:08 am by ACR&S

Guest blogger Jhondra returns with a sad update…

Last Thursday, I said goodbye to the oldest friendship I’ve ever had, to a entity I saw every day for over a decade. I euthanized Seaby, my 11 year old rabbit. Back in 1997, when I was significantly less jaded about pet store animals, my mother bought me a pair of boy bunnies. They were a pair of eight-week-old chocolate Dutch bunnies whom I dubbed “Seaby” and “Split”. After neutering, I paired them with a little Netherland Dwarf mix named “SF” whom my mother also bought me. Obviously, my mother is a key violator of the “no pets as presents” rule.

If I knew then what I knew now. Those rabbits changed my life.

These three were the first pets I had as an adult (as much of an adult as an undergrad can be) and I knew nothing about good bunny care. They didn’t get timothy hay or veggies until they were 3 years old. For the first three years, they lived in a tiny cage in my living room. SF wasn’t spayed until she was 4 years old, much longer than any good rabbit owner would ever wait, given the risk of uterine and ovarian carcinomas in intact females. I hasn’t even heard the words “bunny-savvy vet” until 2000. As years went on, I learned more. I built bigger and better cages, started yearly bunny wellness exams, and bought high-end veggies at Whole Foods. It was a labor of love—I was enamored by them and their antics. I loved the love they felt for each other. They only wanted each other; my attention was tolerated, at best.

In 2005, SF developed a middle ear infection. In 24 hours, she went from normal to ataxic with a severe head tilt and stopped eating or drinking. For 6 weeks, I completely ran my life into the ground giving her what she needed: force feeding her, giving her fluids, rotating her in her cage. She eventually recovered. In 2006, I decided to go to vet school to practice companion exotic medicine. I can’t say that my decision was BECAUSE she got ill, but I know her illness played some role in my career change.

Then, the difficult decisions started. I said goodbye to Split in 2006 (renal failure) and SF in 2007 (advanced pulmonary neoplasia). Even after 12 months, losing SF still breaks my heart. Finally, last week, it was Seaby’s time. He had been sick with a chronic upper respiratory infection that was untreatable. I tried to make him comfortable for over two years with low dust hay and humidifiers. This summer, it was clear that he wasn’t as comfortable. Still, I held out, waiting for him to tell me he needed to go. He kept eating and drinking; I kept waiting. Finally, it came to me two weeks ago. So, I said goodbye to a huge chapter of my life.

Losing Seaby was actually easy. I prepared myself, since I knew it was coming for two weeks before it came. I had to delay Seaby’s appointment until after my Farm Animal Medicine exam. Honestly, the hardest part about vet school is having to rearrange the rest of your life around it.

But, I am back in the saddle again. Several days later, I picked up two new (rescued) rabbits from a rescuer in IL. I have a lot to learn about the new buns—I’ll keep you updated.

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