Belka's Misfortunes & A Letter From Truffle

Dear Belka,
How are you? I just wanted to tell you that I miss you lots. Even though I may deliver the occasional nip or chase you around for fun, you are still my beloved sister. Daily mealtime squabbles just aren't the same without you. Poof and Peaches are here of course, but they're not you. 

Our humans told us that you had gone downhill quickly after switching to a different antibiotic to treat your URI. Suspecting an antibiotic intolerance, they rushed you off to the vet, whom promptly decided to discontinue all medications until your tummy returned to normal. Now it is a week later and you still aren't pooping much or eating on your own, making the humans hand feed you every few hours. Why won't you eat or drink by yourself? Eating all the food by myself isn't half as fun as stealing yours, if I promise to share will you come back and start eating again like normal? I'll even give you a head start on my lettuce. And why won't you poop? Our humans are still force feeding you but you can't possibly be eating all of them...

Please get better soon. I miss you.

Love, your sister
Belka & Truffle
And now, a word from our sponsors - aka the humans, whom have more of the story than any of us piggies do.

Near the end of September, we heard a rasping noise coming from the piggies cage, as if a very small somebody was congested. Belka was quickly pinpointed as the culprit, and further inspection revealed small amounts of crusty discharge at the outer corners and middle of her right eye. Recognizing these as symptoms of an upper respiratory infection (URI), we brought her in to the vet, who confirmed this and prescribed her 0.3 mL of TMS (aka Bactrim or trimethoprim sulfa) twice daily for 14 days. She improved rapidly - no additional discharge or wheezing was noted within 24 hours.

Belka continued taking her medication for 10 days without a peep, remaining as active and hungry as usual. Seemingly out of the blue, she started rasping and wheezing again last Monday, so we hauled her off to the vet. Aside from the intermittent rasping, she looked normal - no discharge, lethargy, or loss of appetite. She checked out perfectly fine otherwise (and was not rasping while on the table, of course). The vet switched her to a different antibiotic, as it was possible the infection was resistant to TMS. She was prescribed 0.58 mL of Chloramphenicol twice daily for 14 days. Just in case, we asked for x rays to be taken - he did not see any fluid in her lungs, nor did he see any evidence of an enlarged heart.

Sleeping in her cozy

After only three doses of Chloramphenicol, Belka went completely off all food and water, becoming lethargic and ignoring even her most favorite veggie treats. Suspecting an antibiotic intolerance, we pored over the info on GuineaLynx. We made an emergency appointment at 9am the next day, but that was still more than 12 hours away, and the last time we had seen Belka eating was hours ago. Even more worrying, she had stopped pooping. Knowing that bloat (where the abdomen is filled with gas) and gastrointestinal stasis (where the digestive system begins shutting down) were a danger for pigs who refused to eat, we gave her 0.15 mL of Simethicone as a precaution against gas, then started force feeding her two tubes of Oxbow's Critical Care every three hours. Needless to say, Belka was not pleased.

Being force fed Critical Care makes for a very unhappy piggy

Luckily, our favorite cavy vet was finally back and able to look at Belka on Wednesday morning. After looking her over, he decided to stop all antibiotics for the URI and instead focus on getting her gastrointestinal (GI) tract back to normal. Ironically, he didn't hear any abnormal breathing at all, which confused us to no end - where did her supposed URI go? Anyways, the brave little Belka was given an injection of subcutaneous fluids, Metoclopramide (aka Reglan, for motility and digestion) and Banamine (pain medication as a precaution). We were sent home with a prescription to give her 0.06 mL of Propulsid (aka Cisapride) twice daily for 7 days. After a very long nap, she seemed to regain some of her appetite and began eating a little on her own while excreting poop.

However, the effects of the injection seemed to wear off by the end of the evening. Despite the hand feeding, medication and Critical Care we were administering to stimulate her digestive tract, she stopped pooping again. Since piggies are usually little bean popping machines, it was quite scary, especially because we kept force feeding her! The vet took a second look at Belka Friday morning, and verified that she didn't have an intestinal blockage. He didn't find anything else wrong with her other than her lack of appetite and poop, even after examining the set of x-rays the other vet had taken. Since she seemed to respond better to Metoclopramide, she was taken off Propulsid and prescribed 0.15 mL twice daily for 7 days. Apparently, some pigs take longer to return to normal after a GI upset. Regardless, he took a blood sample for testing, then gave another injection of subcutaneous fluids and Metoclopramide. Of course, having already suffered the indignity of having blood drawn, Belka was particularly miserable about the second needle.

Belka busy driving us insane by refusing to poop

The vet let us know that Belka's blood results came back normal, and that metabolically she checked out fine. In his opinion, she is one of those cavies that takes longer to recover from her antibiotic intolerance, namely, the Chloramphenicol upsetting her GI tract. Currently she still is not pooping normally nor motivated to eat on her own, so we have been hand feeding her Critical Care, grass, and whatever veggies she will concede to eat every few hours.

From URI to antibiotic intolerance to gastrointestinal upset, poor little Belka has had quite a tough week. Round the clock care is difficult on both piggies and owners, but as any cavy lover knows, every piggy is worth it. We love each and every one of our little piggies to pieces, and can't imagine being without any of them... so needless to say, we are very worried about her.

One week, three vet visits, two injections, one blood test, and a set of x-rays later, Belka is still nowhere near being back to her usual self... but we continue to do everything we can while desperately hoping that she will improve soon.


  1. Cali Collective this sounds like what happened to me but I had bloat. Mummy suggests a simple rememdy that wont hurt if its wrong give Belka 1ml of Olive oil this will break up any gas bubbles left in her tummy and help her pass them, also make her run around and move this moves the gas.

    I only needed 1ml of olive oil for 3 days and made full recovery it helped from 1st dose so worth trying, let us know how you get on


  2. Oh no, Boomer, Starbuck, Mr Woody and I have our paws and fingers crossed that Belka is recovering and soon back with her sister and friends.

    It is probably a bit late for this but I give the pigs probiotics when they have antibiotics as peegy guts are such delicate systems. One other thing we have read about (a rather grim idea) is to make a slurry with a pellet from a healthy pig and to fed her this. Yuk, but it is thought to give a dose of healthy bugs her gut will be lacking.

    Boomer says she hopes a big SNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRT from her will shock Belka into pooping.

  3. Ghost, thanks for the tip. We are not sure if Belka has bloat - her x-rays on 10/3 did not show any signs of it and our vet didn't feel it the last time he saw her either. Now she will occasionally nibble at small bits of hay, timothy pellets and veggies, but certainly not regularly or enough to sustain a pig so we're currently still syringe feeding her. Giving her ~10 mL of Pedialyte every few hours seems to have helped somewhat since she started pooping again, but when left to her own devices she doesn't drink water or do anything more than pick at food. Occasionally she will nibble hay but not as much as a healthy pig would eat. Would you still recommend the olive oil even if she doesn't have bloat? We are afraid of upsetting her GI tract again or putting her off whatever little food she is eating on her own...

    Mopsy, thanks for letting us know. Luckily, Belka will on occasion eat the other pigs poops when we let her play with them so we haven't tried this yet- however since she is due to go off motility meds soon we will probably be trying this out tonight. Say hello to Boomer and her minions for us!

  4. I would still give her 1ml of olive oil the problem with gas is it can be little bubbles like foam in her tummy that wont show up, the oil bursts the bubbles if you dont see any improvement after one dose you dont have to give another dose.

    PS I would only pick at food at well this is because the gas is telling the brain the tummy is full its worth a go.