Here at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital Group (OCVH) we find that one of the most frustrating problems for rabbit and guinea pig owners is when a seemingly healthy pet develops an abscess – a pocket of infection and pus. Underlying dental disease is the most common reason these abscesses form. An abnormal tooth or malformation of the mouth will frequently lead to abscesses. Rabbit and guinea pig teeth continue to grow throughout the animal’s entire life, so it is important that they always have hay available. Chewing hay helps keep their teeth properly ground down. Unfortunately, genetics also plays a role, so even with a proper diet, acquired dental disease and abscesses are not always preventable.
There are some other ways for abscesses to occur in rabbits and guinea pigs. Trauma is a frequent underlying cause. This can be anything from a fall to a sharp piece of a cage abrading or puncturing the feet or body. And abscesses can occur anywhere in the body if the infection enters the blood stream and lymphatic system. Untreated, these lesions will many times be fatal.
Recently, a little guinea pig named Jack came to visit us at OCVH.. Jack, a 10-month old male, presented for two swellings under his chin. Upon examination, we found that the swellings were actually abscessed lymph nodes. We immediately took him to surgery to lance and drain the infected lesions. He recovered well and was placed on oral antibiotics to help fight the infection. With many guinea pigs and rabbits this relatively minor procedure alone is enough to cure the problem. Unfortunately, recurrence is not uncommon due to the huge load of bacteria in the system and other complicating factors.
Jack did happen to have a recurrence of the swellings about 2 weeks later. This time we needed to perform a more complex procedure to remove Jack’s lymph nodes “en bloc”- which means to completely cut out all of the infected lymph node intact. The surgical sites were packed with a blend of antibiotics and other natural ingredients to promote healing. Jack continued to take antibiotics and his owners were instructed how to flush the areas to keep them clean and promote healing. Jack did very well following this procedure, but unfortunately recurrence is still possible.
Early detection is the key to a successful outcome for these types of cases. By recognizing abscesses early we can remove small pockets of infection before they spread or become more invasive. It gives us the best chance at avoiding recurrence and reducing the pet’s discomfort. For this reason regular visits with your guinea pig and rabbit companions are highly recommended. During the examination, we can get a clear view of your pet’s teeth and oral cavity, as well as palpate for the presence of any abscesses that may be cropping up. We can also trim or file overgrown teeth before they cause pain or abscesses to form.
So remember, lots of hay, careful observation and rapid intervention whenever you suspect a problem.
Thanks for entrusting us with the care of your rabbit and guinea pig family members!
As veterinarians, we are frequently asked by clients about using over-the-counter human medications to manage their pet’s pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, the answer is almost always, “No, it is just not safe.” Many common human anti-inflammatory medications can cause serious gastrointestinal ulceration, bleeding, and even kidney failure. Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen are currently the most frequent medications requiring hospitalization of pets as result of well-intentioned pet owners not realizing how dangerous these drugs can be.
ASPIRIN (acetylsalicylic acid)
Aspirin is probably the most common human medication that we are asked about, and that owners go ahead and administer to their pets without consulting us first. Aspirin inhibits an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which is involved in the production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. Unfortunately there are lots of different cyclooxygenase enzymes that perform different functions in the body, and aspirin affects them all. Although administering aspirin to your dog (attempting to treat arthritis, for example) may result in mild pain relief, it is frequently associated with the following side effects:
Whether an aspirin is buffered or not makes no difference to the dog or cat. A study performed at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine published in 1999 compared the effects on the stomach and intestine between buffered aspirin and 2 veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, Rimadyl and Etogesic. Different dogs were given these three medications and then their stomachs and intestines were examined with an endoscope at certain intervals after administration. Of the dogs that received buffered aspirin, 100% experienced significant stomach and intestinal bleeding. Very few of the dogs that received the either of the two veterinary drugs sustained any bleeding, and when present it was mild compared to the aspirin group.
Aspirin was once believed to be an adequate OTC pain reliever for our canine companions, and so-called “dog aspirin” can still be found on the shelves at some pet stores. Unfortunately, it is not as effective in controlling pain as the veterinary approved drugs and certainly not as safe.
Cats are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of aspirin. Even small doses can cause fatal reactions.
IBUPROFEN (Advil, Motrin), NAPROXEN (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Available as a human pain-reliever in the US since 1974, Ibuprofen is one of the most common items found in the medicine cabinets across the country. Like aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase. Both of these medications are even MORE toxic than aspirin to dogs, and incredibly toxic to cats. The side effects of ibuprofen and naproxen include:
Treatment for Ibuprofen / Naproxen ingestion depends on the dosage received, species, timing of the event, and other factors, but can include: inducing vomiting, administering a compound called activated charcoal to prevent continued absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, hospitalization and IV fluid diuresis, as well as supportive care for vomiting, stomach and intestinal ulceration, and decreased appetite. Without prompt veterinary care, administration of Ibuprofen to your dog or cat could result in death.
It is so difficult to see our beloved pets in pain, and it is human nature to want to relieve them of any discomfort. The veterinary industry has seen tremendous advancements in different treatment modalities to combat pain control over the past 5-10 years and not all involve medications. (Ask us about K-Laser therapy). We have been able to greatly improve the quality of life of our patients. If you feel that your pet is in pain, please call one of our veterinarians to discuss the many treatment options or schedule an examination. Please always consult us before administering any human medications, or animal medications not previously prescribed specifically for your pet!
Billy Danowitz DVM