Heartbreak from the Rescue Front

raindrops on the windowImage courtesy of iStock

It was a difficult choice, but it was the right one.

Usually when I write an article I try to have a happy ending or at least a lesson learned but in the rescue world, it isn’t always so neat and pretty. So is the case with a two year old piggy who lost her life this evening.

Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue received a call from a vet in Virginia with a situation. An owner had two female pigs that were happy and healthy for two years. For reasons we won’t understand, they decided to purchase a young guinea pig from the pet store. The new cavy had been improperly sexed and was in fact a male, not a female as the owner had thought. In time, the young male had made both females pregnant.

Guinea pigs can become pregnant at about four weeks old and when left to their own devices in situations with mixed genders, they readily do. They can get pregnant again as quickly as six hours after giving birth. However, when female guinea pigs pass about six months of age, their pelvic bones fuse making it difficult and often impossible for them to give birth on their own if they have never been pregnant. This is only one obstacle. Allowing a guinea pig to get pregnant for the first time as an adult is too often a death sentence for a number of reasons.

In the situation at hand, one of the two pregnant females had already died attempting to give birth. The second female was bleeding and had been in labor too long without the babies appearing. Probably a sign they were already dead. The owners wanted the situation addressed but declined the opportunity to pay for it themselves for whatever reason. The pregnant female needed to be put under anesthesia and have the babies surgically removed if she were to have any chance to making it. The owners were willing to sign over their pets to the rescue if the rescue were to front the money for the procedure to save her life.

What would you do?

Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue decided to go ahead with the procedure and pay the expenses. It may have been too late to save the babies but perhaps the mother could be saved. A few hours later, they got the call. She had passed away.

The vet said she was under general anesthesia so she went to sleep and didn’t wake up. This was better than going home and dying in agony over hours due to a strained birth after already seeing her cage mate and companion die of the same fate. She had made it through the procedure and the babies, which were already dead, had been removed. They were stitching her up when she went into cardiac arrest and was gone.

Had MGPR had more time, they may have had the ability to setup a better situation in general but because this was an emergency they had to make do with what they had. They will pay the costs for the vet, probably in the neighborhood of $600, and hope for the best. Should they have waited? Should they have saved the money for a guinea pig that had better chances? The price of uncertainty is paid in regret.

We can’t dwell on 20/20 hindsight. We did what we could. We made the right decisions and we need to have faith in that. In a universe that could possibly have an infinite number of realities and an infinite number of outcomes, the pregnant guinea pig could have died a thousand different ways. However, she may have lived in just one – JUST ONE – and it would have made all of those decisions worthwhile.

It was a difficult choice, but it was the right one.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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13 Responses to “Heartbreak from the Rescue Front”
  1. Melissa says:

    I’m so very sorry to read this, but hopefully others can learn from the information presented in this article. If even one guinea pig is saved through this, then that alone counts for something.

  2. Chana Meddin says:

    We lost our beloved Calvin the small on January 2, having to make difficult decisions due to his coming into our Sanctuary already a “hospice pig” from a rare bone condition resulting, most likely, from four years of starvation…the choices are Heartbreaking and we chose – after a lifetime of neglect which we still saw remnant of: he talked and chewed in his sleep – we chose not to prolong an agonizing, rapid, excruciatingly painful death by allowing him to pass before the suffering he was experiencing erased the exuber(ant joy, affection, love, endearment, and joie de vivre which burst forth from him to all once he arrived…our mission is for animals who have never known love or felt wanted and adored and fed nutritiously, interact with a herd of other injured piggies in this, their forever home, for however long they had left. We make the best choices we can, endure the heartbreak that would result from every single one of them, and pray we made the most loving, compassionate, selfless choice so no piggies living here would have their joy erased over prolonged days or weeks of suffering in terminal pain…We sympathize with the tragedy and the “wrong sexing” for although much could have been prevented, what was simply was leaving one to make the choice with love and faith that after we have done everything humanly and (if we are so inclined, and we are) Divinely possible, what ultimately culminates in our own heartbreak may have been the decision we made with profoundest love. We are grieving, too.

  3. SWD says:

    So sad for the poor piggies, I can’t believe the owners wouldn’t pay it could’ve saved her life if there wasn’t the stuffing around

  4. tammy says:

    This is so very sad. Thank you for beautifully sharing one of the most heart-wrenching and difficult things about guinea pigs – as “pocket pets,” they often lack sufficient care from their owners. 🙁 So very, very sad….

  5. Suzy says:

    Just a couple of points I would like to make –

    Female guinea pigs can be fertile from 4 weeks (not 4 months as stated in article). Males can be fertile from 3 weeks. The earliest documented pregnancy between siblings is 24 days which is why sexing and separating males at 21 days is so vital.

    The pelvic bones do not fuse at 6 months – the ligaments that soften and allow the pelvic opening to widen for the birth become less elastic as the pigs ages (from approx 12 months old) and older sows can have weaker contractions. It is these factor that make pregnancies in older females so very dangerous.


    Suzy xxx

  6. LaDonna says:

    This was heartbreaking to read. So sorry to hear it and so sad.

  7. Stephanie says:

    so heartbreaking! Way too many piggies suffer needlessly from human ignorance & apathy. Kudos to MPGR for stepping up to attempt to save the mama.

  8. Kimberley Oliver says:

    I recently had to have my 7-year-old male guinea pig Caramel Ramones Cuy, put down due a variety of illnesses; including a severe mouth infection, an large growth under his chin and the fact that he was very skinny, despite eating and drinking a lot. Before anyone judges me for poor piggie care…Caramel had a wonderful varied diet and even a vet check. It is just that I live on less than 800 dollars a month because I am disabled; should only middle and upper-class people own pets? He was also separated from the two females that I own who are in great health…the only people who would help me out without asking for hundreds of dollars for surgery or 100 dollars for euthanasia were the SPCA; they put my little guy out of his misery for a donation. Perhaps I should have seen the warning signs earlier and now I will take my two other piggies and my cat to the SPCA hospital BEFORE any need for euthanasia may come. Funny story–I once had a pig named Milkdud whom I had neutered so I could get him a friend…bought him a friend ( this is long before I learned only to adopt pets); who turned out to be PREGNANT! Everything went fine but just thought that was amusing…I am sorry to hear about your pig.

    • Hanh says:

      You should not have a pet that you cannot adequately afford to take care of, that includes at least basic, decent medical care. You should look into CareCredit or any other types of payment plans that a vet may offer.

  9. lilyhaugen says:

    Uggg so sad. I had a similar incident I adopted a 4th guinea pig for my herd from a shelter and it turned out it was a she and I had 3 males. She was only 3-4 months old when she delivered. She either delivered really early with normal sized babies or she was pregnant when I rescued her, I’ll never know. But she died a week after having the babies because I wasn’t observent enough and knowledgable enough to see things wern’t right. I DID provide her vet care as soon as Inoticed something wrong, spent nearly $700 on her and the 3 babies in 3 days and didn’t sleep those 3 days trying to handfeed them round the clock. It was a tragity that could have been avoided and I feel terrible. Mama and 2 of the babies died. Only the 1st born baby made it and its definately a boy so he got to join my herd. It was still a terrible and I feel very guilty but at least I tried to correct the problem and provide her with the best care I could…

  10. Monica CHiappetti says:

    I wish the owners had been better educated. I think the rescue addressed a CRITICAL need at the time. I will send a $100.00 to help defer the costs. As with any pet, more people need to understand that they are not toys. I see so many in need and wish i could house more. I have 3 girls and they are very special girls…all rescued.

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