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Guinea pig owner grateful for care at Atlantic Veterinary College

Waffles the guinea pig may be small, but he’s a big part of Christine Gordon Manley’s family.
| Atlantic Veterinary College
Rachel Cutcliffe
Waffles the guinea pig
Waffles the guinea pig

Christine Gordon Manley knew something was seriously wrong with her 2.5-year-old guinea pig Waffles when he wouldn’t eat and appeared ‘flat’ in his cage.

“He went from being completely normal to an hour later being listless, barely moving, and uninterested in food,” explains Gordon Manley. “At first, I actually thought he had died, but then I saw that he was still breathing. I just knew we didn’t have much time.”

Waffles was rushed to the Atlantic Veterinary College’s (AVC) Veterinary Teaching Hospital, though Gordon Manley was not optimistic that his condition would improve.

“His head was flopping to the side, and he was so deflated. I didn’t think he would make the drive,” says Gordon Manley. “I can’t stress enough how close to death we thought he was.”

What Gordon Manley has since learned is that guinea pigs are good at hiding illness and pain because they are prey animals in the wild. This means that by the time an owner recognizes there might be something wrong with their guinea pig, they may have been sick for quite some time. Often owners don’t get a gradual warning of illness, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to get them to a clinic without emergency services being required.

The AVC has a Zoo, Exotics, and Wildlife (ZEW) service that is led by Dr. Lara Cusack, zoo, exotics, and wildlife veterinarian and assistant professor at AVC. This team provides primary care and specialty referral care on a fee-for-service basis for client-owned companion exotic pets such as rabbits, birds, reptiles, rodents, or pocket pets. When Waffles was admitted, the exotics team was dealing with another critical guinea pig, so Dr. Jenny Murphy, small animal emergency clinic, took over his initial care, in consultation with Dr. Cusack.

“Dr. Murphy and the ICU veterinary technicians handled his initial stabilization and then handed his evening and overnight care over to Dr. Jenny Baker, small animal veterinary intern,” says Dr. Cusack. “Under the expertise of Dr. Baker and the ICU veterinary technicians, Waffles became more active, started eating again, and made a remarkable improvement.”

In the morning, Waffles was transferred to Dr. Cusack and Dr. Rebecca Aldoretta, ZEW specialty veterinary intern, for further care and testing. He was provided with continued supportive care and had x-rays taken to assess for abnormalities such as bladder stones – a common illness in guinea pigs. Fortunately, Waffles did not have bladder stones, which meant he would not need surgery.

“We continued to watch him improve through to his discharge,” says Dr. Cusack. “Although he’s not out of the woods yet, he is feeling much better and was able to go home with several treatments and lots of instruction for supportive care until his re-check.”

Gordon Manley and her family are happy to have Waffles home. Under the guidance of the veterinarians at AVC, they have learned to administer an oral antibiotic and a painkiller and are seeing improvements every day. What caused Waffles to become so seriously ill? While many things have been ruled out, there is no conclusive diagnosis of any underlying causes - Gordon Manley and the rest of Waffles’ family have elected not to pursue further testing at this time.  

“The veterinarians and staff at the AVC are extraordinary humans, and we always know we’re getting something special when we take our animals there,” says Gordon Manley. “He received around the clock care, and they went above and beyond keeping my family updated on his condition.

Waffles will have a follow-up visit with the AVC in a week’s time to assess his progress and address any new concerns Gordon Manley might have. But Gordon Manley says that Waffles is doing so much better, running around his cage, eating regularly, and being his normal, charismatic self.

“Waffles may be small, but the doctors and staff at AVC treated him like he is a big part of our family. I am grateful that we have such a highly reputable and skilled animal hospital where we live.”

Media Contact

Rachel Cutcliffe
External Engagement Officer
Atlantic Veterinary College

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