Educating Your Vet: Part 3 (2005)

2005 has been yet another successful year for Tilehurst Veterinary Centre in Reading.  Guinea pigs now come from all over the south of England (including some all the way from Cornwall!) to see James Brooks.  Many guineas have travelled long distances for treatment because of James’ excellent reputation, and in particular for his surgical skills.  BAR students Karen LeCras and Chrissie Slade have continued to work with James and also with new Vet Jenny Towers, and would like to thank them and the rest of the staff at the practice for all their help.

In The Beginning

…there was James, and then a new Vet appeared at the practice at the end of 2004, fresh out of Vet School.  Chrissie was first in to see Jenny.  One of her guineas had a bladder problem when James was on holiday.  Even though Jenny had only been at the practice for a short while, she already knew how to X-ray guineas without anaesthetic, and understood the importance of a decent dose of antibiotics plus pain relief for guineas with bladder problems.  Jenny is also very kind and caring, which is exactly what is required when you’re fretting over your sick guinea.  Discovering that Jenny was interested in guineas was very good news.  On subsequent visits, Chrissie was “interrogated” about all aspects of guinea pig care, and as a result, Jenny now has comprehensive notes on various topics to refer to, including the BAR Care Sheets.

In January 2005 when Karen took Heidi and Katie to be treated for mites, she made an appointment to see Jenny for the first time.  Heidi and Katie were from a neglect case brought in by the RSPCA and suffering badly from mites. After careful examination, Jenny too came to the conclusion it was probably mites but decided to take a Sellotape strip sample that she could look at under the microscope.  It was indeed mites!  A discussion about Seleen shampoo followed and Karen was quick to point out that Gorgeous Guineas were the only products she now used to treat her guineas.  Jenny expressed an interest, and Karen passed the message onto Chrissie who took in some samples to the surgery.  Unfortunately Jenny doesn’t have guineas (…yet, but it’s being worked on), but if she did they would most probably be Gorgeous Guineas.

Nibbles’ Story

When Nibbles, (a foster guinea), began to appear pregnant, Karen took her to visit James.  Although her belly felt hard, there was no movement and the dates said it was impossible anyway!  James diagnosed an Abdominal Tumour that stretched right across her abdomen.  James said that if she were a cat or dog he would remove the tumour, but the operation would be more intricate on a guinea.  Faced with a ‘try or die’ situation, Karen decided Nibbles should be given the opportunity to have the operation.  Her guts had been pushed to one side by the tumour, which was removed successfully, thanks to James’ surgical skills. Nibbles started to recover well but then went into Cardiac Arrest.

For half an hour or so, a battle ensued between science and nature.  Science won the day – eventually.  Nibbles came home wearing a neatly stitched hole in her side so the remainder of the abscess could be flushed.  Using a syringe and canula, Karen flushed the abscess several times a day until less pus came out.  During this time Nibbles went back to the surgery for regular check ups.  Nibbles was finally given the all clear by Jenny J.  Both James and Jenny always give a choice of treatments where possible, but will advise when they think surgery, for instance, is not a good option for the animal.

Osteodystrophy In Satin Guinea Pigs

When Karen became involved in the Osteodystrophy Study in Satin guinea pigs, a need for someone who was in frequent contact with Vets arose.  Karen printed out all the articles and information she had on Osteodystrophy (OD) in Satins and gave it to James and Jenny to read at their leisure.  James contacted Universities and people he thought might be interested.  After a lot of effort put in by James, London University is going to bear it mind should their final year students wish to do a study on guinea pigs.

James did the first X-ray to be submitted to the study and could see mild OD on Goldie. The X-ray was sent to the Netherlands who agreed that Goldie was showing signs of OD.  Not long after this, Goldie started to have mobility problems.  It was sometime later when Jenny got involved and offered to become a contact for other Vets who wanted to talk ‘Vetspeak’.  Jenny can probably claim to be one of the only people to have taught X-ray without anaesthetic by email!  This is beneficial for guineas who will no longer have to risk anaesthetic, and also for their owners who will find it done at a reduced cost.

Whilst X-raying Karen’s Satins, Jenny and James invented foot loops to put wriggly Caprice’s legs through.  The resulting X-rays gave a perfect image of the pelvis, unlike others that had been taken when the bones were overlapping other bones.  This made them easier to read.

Sharing Information

Desiree Riemersma-Soentjens has a rescue in the Netherlands and has been communicating with Karen regarding Osteodystrophy.  She often has sows brought to her that have Cystic Ovaries.  Desiree’s Vet, Krista Caers, would ordinarily perform an Ovariohysterectomy to remove them – at great cost to Desiree, and unecessary risk to the sow.  Karen was suprised that Krista didn’t use Chorulon injections in guineas, but was pleased when she decided to try them.  Now all Desiree’s guineas are given Chorulon injections, as opposed to the trauma and expense of an operation.

Something New

Dickens had a kidney problem and although death was inevitable, it wasn’t time for him to go yet.  Jenny suggested giving him an intraosseous injection, something she had used in cats, to make him more comfortable.

When Rimadyl stopped giving Phoebe pain relief from her arthritis, Karen took her to see Jenny.  She gave her some Buprenorphine (trade name Vetergesic) by injection with a view to Karen continuing administering it if it had the desired effect.  Although Phoebe was definitely out of pain, she was definitely ‘out of it’ too, which is no life for a guinea, and too painful for their human.  When Phoebe was put to sleep, Jenny showed she is very much a human-friendly person as well as guinea-friendly.  Taking rescue guineas to be treated can be quite different from having your own pets treated, and it is easily forgotten that people skills are important too.


New Challenges For Jenny

One of Jenny’s areas of special interest is dentistry, and she had already watched James doing guinea pig dentals.  After discovering this, Chrissie arranged a time to go and show Jenny the ropes, accompanied by some rather unwilling “little volunteers” and a full set of dental lecture notes. Jenny soon got the hang of towel wrapping, putting separators in, and also had a go at a bit of snipping and rasping.  Chrissie also took along a piggy with only 3 incisors that happened to be staying with her at the time, so Jenny also got to see what to do in this situation.  Since then, there has been no stopping Jenny, and she regularly does dental work on guineas as part of her consultations.

In August, Chrissie’s favourite piggy Marbles was showing signs of having a bladder stone – peeing blood and crying.  Jenny took a perfect X-ray without anaesthetic, and a stone was clearly visible.  Chrissie knew that Jenny hadn’t done a Cystotomy on a guinea pig, but decided to let her operate on Marbles, provided it was done under James’ supervision.  Marbles was operated on the next day and was happily eating cucumber just 5 minutes after coming out of the anaesthetic.  Jenny said she had never seen a guinea come round so quickly.

Marbles recovered quickly, and Jenny’s stitching was very neat, so congratulations go to her for this success.   Jenny also understands the importance of getting pigs eating after operations, and is good at giving advice about post-op care and syringe feeding.

More Dental Training

Jo, one of the Vets at another practice within the Active Vetcare Group has always been interested in guineas.  Karen persuaded her to do a dental training session with Chrissie.  This was arranged in September, so yet another Vet can now do dental work on guineas without anaesthetic.

The Vet’s View

Jenny Towers has kindly taken the time to write the following article for us.  We would like to thank Jenny for her enthusiasm and for helping so many guineas over the past year.  Like James, Jenny is always willing to try new things to improve the care of guineas, and applies her knowledge of cats and dogs to guinea pigs where applicable.

Being educated…

Chrissie Slade and Karen LeCras asked me to write this, so I thought I’d better start with a confession: when I left university my main aim was to work with cats (and maybe the occasional dog).  Guinea pigs were not exactly high on my list of desired patients (ok so they were above cows, sheep and horses!).  We had an excellent exotics department at university, but I don’t actually remember seeing a guinea pig during the final year (I do remember the lectures – mainly for the breakneck pace, notes typed incredibly small and the large volumes of coffee needed to survive them).  On the bright side, I had 10 years of part time work at a pet shop to fall back on, so at least I knew what they looked like…

Having taken the job at Tilehurst Veterinary Centre, I noticed the large number of guinea pigs who came from far and wide to see James Brooks (oh well, I thought – at least they don’t want to see me!).  Then, while James was away, I met Chrissie, Karen and a variety of their guinea pigs.  They brought me in guinea pigs with all those conditions in small print in my lecture notes, which certainly made me think (and get out the magnifying glass!).  I discovered that slowly I was becoming a bit more confident treating guinea pigs and actually enjoying it as well!  James showed me how to X-ray guinea pigs without anaesthetic, and then Chrissie kindly gave up her time and provided a range of small “volunteers” to demonstrate the art of conscious teeth clipping (definitely not in our lectures!).  She also regularly brings me printed information on all aspects of guinea pig care, from diet to common diseases (all in much bigger type then my lecture notes!).

Chrissie amazed me by being trusting enough to request that I did a Cystotomy on her favourite guinea pig Marbles, to remove a bladder stone (with James’ help).  This really boosted my confidence and since then I have found treating guinea pigs to be a challenge, but thoroughly enjoyable.  I have even sent drawings of how to do X-rays without anaesthetic to many of my friends from university; spreading the knowledge (we can’t always rely on the clients to educate us!).  The latest challenge has been getting involved in the study into Osteodystrophy in Satin guinea pigs, as well as regularly seeing guinea pigs with a variety of diseases.  I now think life would be dull without them!

Jenny Towers, BSc, BVM&S, MRCVS