It’s not all bad

Posted in Memorials, Sanctuary Spotlight at 2:45 am by ACR&S

We had to euthanize Dora and Daphne last Friday. These are two rats who were pulled from the OCAS last summer. They had persistent illnesses and ended up never leaving foster care.

Sometimes it certainly seems like there’s more bad days than good in rescue. By and large that’s true – by the very nature of what we do, we see more negatives than positives. But overall, the good outweighs the bad – when that changes, you usually get out of rescue.

Partly, you keep the good on top because you’re constantly trying to make good out of the bad. Fr’instance: although Cinnamon died of lymphosarcoma last Monday, we were able to let the Pathology Club at the UW-Madison vet school use her body for a teaching session led by none other than Dr Steinberg, the author of the lymphoma article I cited a few weeks back. Hopefully some of the students will get interested in guinea pig medicine and down the road we’ll have a few new vets!

Sometimes the good is unexpected: This weekend our NC coordinator Jenn did a “Bunny Party” for a 5 year old girl who is rabbit crazy. The mom is one of those rare and wonderful people who are teaching all the right lessons at the right time. She knows that a child that age isn’t a good match for a bunny, but wanted to direct her daughter’s fascination into appropriate channels. So she arranged a bunny themed party where all the kids played HRS-inspired learning games, and Jenn visited with one of our adopted bunnies, Doc, for some supervised real-bunny interaction. Jenn was surprised at how quickly the birthday girl started repeating the important messages: don’t pick up bunnies to hold them, just pet them on the ground, etc. Personally, I wasn’t surprised at all. With a parent modeling the right behaviors that way, this girl is bound to be a perfect future adopter!

We also can make good by taking pleasure in what we do all the time. We had the good fortune to bring in two new piggies, one as a pet pig and one as a new Sanctuary resident. Honi came to us in the middle of February. She was going to make up a triple with our pet pigs Stinky and Cinnamon.

HoniHoni was an owner surrender to the WI-GPR. She had lived for over two years in a 12″x12″ rubbermaid container. Occasionally, she was let out to run around on the floor with the owner’s other pigs, allowing her to get pregnant. It was after the second pregnancy that she was surrendered.

Due to her confinement and her poor diet, Honi developed into a soft, blobby little pig. She feels like she’s made out of soap suds and would just ooze right out of your hands. She’s not at all athletic and doesn’t have the muscles for the cage sprinting that some of our piggies have. However, her activity level has definitely gone up since meeting Stinky! She also had a heart condition, and is on a permanent blood pressure medication to help this.

Honi & StinkyHoni & CinnamonStinky was immediately in love (both with Honi, and with the idea of having two girlfriends), but Cinnamon, who was just starting to show her lymphoma, wasn’t so sure.

Honi and Stinky are alone again, but hopefully we’ll find another needy girl and finally be able to get them back into a triple. But it’s really wonderful to see her blossoming and running and playing with Stinky. Her 3’x7′ is a far cry from that pathetic little box she spent her last two years in.

Our new Sanctuary resident is a little intact boar named Freddie. He was being advertised on Craigslist – “Free pig with aquarium”. Apparently that owner got him from Craigslist too, along with the same aquarium, but now that her son had learned to walk, she was afraid he’d stick his fingers in the aquarium and get bitten. Apparently a lid was a foreign concept. So we expect that Freddie is probably 3 or so yeas old, and he has lived all his life in an aquarium.

For all this, he’s in surprisingly good shape. He had a bit of an URI when he came in, but that was treated by WI-GPR before he came to us. He was put in a side-by-side cage with two other single boars, and this weekend, we introduced them. Freddie & CoThey get along surprisingly well! Gonzo, there in the back, is another intact male, and Aragorn (hogging the water bottle) is a neutered male, and we expected some problems because both have always been very dominant, and we had no idea how Freddie would react. However, he was ecstatic to finally have a friend. He sleeps and eates very close to Gonzo. Also surprisingly, Gonzo has ended up on the bottom of the pecking order – he never threatens or challenges anyone, and if challenged, always backs down. It’s Aragorn who has turned out to be the big cheese. Freddie mostly defers to him, but Aragorn is always trying to remind the other two that he’s the boss. Maybe he has a complex about being the only neutered boy in the cage!

We’re still keeping their 2×6 totally empty of toys, just until we’re sure that they won’t fight if two of them unexpectedly walk around a corner and come face to face, but Freddie doesn’t seem to mind. All three of these boys have been alone for a long time, and it’s wonderful to see them enjoying each other’s company. Thus we find the silver lining!

Friday: Pictures of the Sanctuary and of the Plush Pets. F’real, the post is already written!


Still No Friday Post

Posted in Day-to-day, Memorials at 3:18 pm by ACR&S

Scrambling to write a grant application that I found out about on Tuesday, and it’s due Monday. Maybe next week!

I got my wish, though – just after I wrote my last blog post, I found Cinnamon had died in her sleep. Sweet dreams, little girl.


A Goodbye to Thor; and A Medical Mystery

Posted in Medical, Memorials at 1:20 am by ACR&S

ThorWe’ve had a busy couple of weeks at the Sanctuary, so we’re not yet ready to show you the pictures I’ve been promising.

About two weeks ago, we lost Thor, our oldest Sanctuary pig. Thor was one of the first four pigs ever rescued by ACR&S. In Summer 2001, the Orange County APS had seized 13 pigs which were being sold out of a trash can at a flea market. Some had broken legs, others had bite injuries or skin infections, and most were ill. They were rescued, neutered, and placed up for adoption through APS.

After about half of the thirteen were adopted, APS contacted ACR&S and asked if we could take the remaining six or seven. At the time we did not have a foster setup to allow for such a large surrender, but we promised that we’d make arrangements, and if any were left at APS after one month, we would take them. Four pigs were left, and we named them Freya, Odin, Loki, and Thor.

Time took its natural course with Freya, Odin, and Loki; and for the last two years Thor has lived alone with another elderly boar, Brownie. Thor was found dead in his cage on the morning of February 17, 2008. He had shown no signs of acute illness and was his normal elderly self on the previous evening. We estimate he was about 7 and a half years old. Goodbye, little fighter – I miss you.

There are two more health crises ongoing in the Sanctuary. The first is our poor boy Pudge.

History and Symptoms
Pudge is a 7 or 8 year old neutered boar who came to us from a divorcing foster parent in 2005. We had known him since 2003 and he was probably 2-3 years old at that time.PudgeIn the first two weeks of February, Pudge developed some weakness in his hind legs. He was also barbering the fur on his knees, a sign he was uncomfortable. We put him on Metacam for pain, and a vet visit and X-ray confirmed fairly severe arthritis in both hips. PudgeBetween February 21 and February 24, he continued barbering and scratching himself to the point that parts of his sides are totally denuded. The skin is irritated and swollen; compare the picture above to this one:

However, his appetite and fecal output are both normal and he is maintaining weight.

Differential Diagnosis and Treatments
Typically, displacement activity like barbering and scratching is seen in animals who are in severe pain. Sows with ovarian cysts and pigs with bladder stones or arthritis often barber their legs and sides, trying to attack a pain they cannot reach. The vet re-reviewed the X-rays and confirmed that there were no stones or obvious masses or spinal injury that could be causing a more severe pain than predicted from the arthritis diagnosis. So we have to treat the pain directly until we know what’s causing it: Pudge was already on Metacam, but we increased the dose to .75mL twice per day. He seems somewhat more comfortable.

However, the extent of scratching and skin irritation Pudge displays is usually a sign of severe mite infection. The Sanctuary residents get regular preventative mite treatment (Revolution), the last treatment was only about 2 months ago, and we haven’t had any un-treated animals come in. It’s possible that one of the human caretakers was a vector but this is fairly unlikely. Regardless, we repeated Pudge’s Revolution treatment on 2/26 just in case. We have also changed his bedding (from wood shavings to Carefresh), and put him on an antihistamines, just in case this is some sort of allergic reaction (and to make him more comfortable). He’s definitely not scratching as much but we don’t yet know which treatment is helping more.

Joint pain, and hair loss/skin sensitivity, are two of the symptoms of scurvy. We feed a diet rich in Vitamin C, but it is possible that at his advanced age, Pudge is losing his ability to process nutrients effectively, and has not been getting enough. This is an unlikely diagnosis, because he shows no anorexia or diarrhea, which typically accompany scurvy. However, extra Vitamin C can also strengthen the system of a pig in any illness situation, so we are giving liquid C by subcue injection once per day. We are also increasing his dietary C to over 100mg per day via extra oranges and green peppers. He is going through the extra veggies like a buzzsaw; appetite is certainly not a problem!

Pudge’s vets are mystified but he’s a little trooper and I’m hopeful that we can pull him through this. At the very least, we know that we have done everything possible to make him comfortable. Right now, he’s snoozing in his cuddle cup with no obvious signs of distress. I’ll post an update when we see a change one way or the other.

Next Tuesday, I’ll discuss our second medical crisis: Lymphosarcoma in guinea pigs. And Friday, at long last, pictures of the Sanctuary and of the Plush Pet Adoption Kits!

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