Appa’s Pneumonia

A guinea pig being sick is never fun since even the smallest thing like ringworm could be fatal if ignored. Guinea pigs are prey animals and they are professionals when it comes to hiding pain, no matter how much time you spend with them. By the time they show your pain, it’s typically too late to really help them. This is what happened to Appa, the youngest of the herd.

Appa on one of his off days.

I adopted Appa on October 3rd, 2020. He was a few weeks old and was changing every day, physically and his personality. He was originally very shy and didn’t like to be pet or picked up. He hung out with Sugar Bear, was afraid of new food, and just a pretty quiet guy. In November, he started to have off days. I would wake up and he would just be passed out in his igloo but by the next day, he would be fine. The off days started becoming more and more common to a point where I told my fiancé that I would be seeing when my next day off would be and I would take him to the vet for a checkup. That checkup never happened.

December 15th, 2020. I woke up around 11 am (I had lost my job several days prior) and went to tend to the pigs. I was checking water, refilling hay, all of the usual stuff. I looked into the cage and I saw Appa laying on his side. I lifted the lid of the cage and went to pet him. He didn’t even flinch, which was unusual considering he had always run in fear of me. I grabbed him to pick him up and he still didn’t move. I started to panic. I fully lifted him up and he had gone completely downhill over night. He had lost over half of his body weight, he hadn’t eaten all night, he hadn’t drank all night, and he didn’t even have the strength to lift his head up. I quickly started calling every exotic vet in the area only to find out that there was no way they could see him today. I found one 45 minutes south of me that specialized in rodents that said they could see me in 4 hours. I thanked them and went to a guinea pig Facebook group to ask for advice on what I could do until the appointment.

Everyone said to force my way into the vet earlier. He could literally die in my arms at any moment and time was of the essence. I called the vet back, apologized profusely, but told them I was on my way and they would need to see him the second I got there. I guess they could hear the fear in my voice because they agreed. The 45 minute drive was one of the most stressful one we have had in a long time. My fiancé was driving like a madman while I was keeping my hand on Appa to make sure he was still alive and breathing. We drove there in complete silence, listening to the wheezy breaths of the youngest pig of the heard.

Appa on his throne waiting for medication.

When we arrived, we had to call and let them know we were there. Due to Covid-19, we weren’t allowed to go inside the office. They had to come get him from us while we waited in the car. Appa was inside of a ferret carrier that also had a little pink, fluffy sleeping bag stuffed inside of it since it had been very cold out. The receptionist took the carrier and said we would receive a call in about an hour. We grabbed some food and sure enough, got a call 15 minutes later. The vet admitted that if we had waited until the actual appointment time, Appa most likely would be dead. The vet said he had pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death in guinea pigs. He was in a tiny plastic container on oxygen with medication and tubes and monitors. The vet originally wanted to do an X-Ray and a chem profile and do a whole ton of stuff. We went back to the vet and we were given an estimate. We didn’t want to be cheap with his life but with me just losing my job, we were forced to pay for just enough to get him better. The lowest amount we would have to pay would be $287 while the max was $811. We met in the middle and picked what we wanted done and it ended up being about $450 in total. I paid a $100 deposit and they kept Appa overnight for 2 nights.

On the first night, I cried myself to sleep. He was in such bad shape when we left him, I was trying to prepare myself for the worst in the morning when they would inevitably call me to update. Sure enough, they called at 9am and told me that he was hanging in there. They were syringe feeding him critical care and had been giving him injections that were fast acting. He was still wheezy and on oxygen but he was alive and fighting. I cried in relief and then they said that they wanted to keep him an additional night. I wanted to say “no, I want him home” but I knew he needed to stay so I gave the okay. I spent the first full day without him deep cleaning his and Sugar Bear’s cage with white vinegar and hot water. Their bedding was double washed and new bedding was put in. Everything was scrubbed clean for his arrival, even Sugar Bear got a bath (he was furious). December 17th, I got another call with an update. He pooped in the night! He hadn’t pooped in two days so they were thrilled he finally pooped. That meant his gut was still working, which they were worried about. They laughed and said it looked like dog poop but it was enough to make them let out a sigh of relief. They told me that they would call later to let me know when he could come home. I ended up calling them around 3pm because I was worried and they said he could come home only if I was okay with syringe feeding him medication for 2 weeks. I agreed and we brought him home.

Appa’s first night home from the vet.

He was still so skinny when we got him but he was fighting it with everything he had. He was maybe 3 months old at this point and had a low chance of kicking it but he was. He was in a small quarantine cage so that he didn’t risk getting Sugar Bear sick and so he wasn’t overly stressed out and so he could be in my room with me if he needed me. I didn’t sleep much for the first 3 days because I was wide awake any time he made a sound. I was strict about his medication schedule and his entire personality changed once he started recovering from pneumonia. Through his doses and even a road trip to visit my mom for Christmas, he pulled through. His personality completely changed. No longer was he the timid baby I brought home originally but a fearless, compassionate little creature that loves and trusts me. He demands attention any time he hears my voice, he loves exploring the apartment, and runs up to his cage for pets.

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