Mona has gone to join Isis at the Rainbow Bridge, leaving Mimi as our sole remaining Guinea Goddess.
She turned 6 years old in November, and her health had been in slow decline for the past year. I suppose her age was catching up to her a bit. In July we took her to Banfield because it seemed that her right eye was no longer functional; she had a noticeable head tilt, the eye itself was glazed and a bit sunken, and there was no blink reflex. She was diagnosed with an ear infection that had likely caused pressure or damage to her optic nerve, and we were told that she may or may not regain sight in that eye. She was perfectly ok with that, going about her happy guinea pig life much as she had been. She really perked up and even gained a little weight.
The weight didn’t stay on, unfortunately, and we’d noticed that she was wheezing a little when she breathed a couple weeks ago, so we took her in to Banfield again on December 18th. She was put on antibiotics for a respiratory infection, and she got through alright until her follow-up appointment on the 30th.
I’d been asking that they check her teeth since I first brought her in, and this time I insisted that they do it, since I had a niggling feeling that something was off there. I left her with them for the afternoon, since she had to be sedated for them to really have a good look, and picked her up a few hours later. She was still groggy from the anesthesia, but I could tell right away that something was very wrong. Her right hind leg was sticking out straight behind her, very stiff and unresponsive, right down to her toes. She had also started to list her entire body to the right, instead of just tilting her head.
When Banfield called to check on her New Year’s Day, I let them know she had this strange new symptom, and the vet, Dr. O’Connell, was flummoxed. She recommended that I take her to a specialist at Avian and Exotic Animal Care (which, in hindsight, we really should have done the very first time she fell ill). They were able to get me in on January 2nd, and the news was not good.
Mona’s bloodwork came back surprisingly normal, but her x-rays showed several problems.
The first issue was that she had overgrown molar roots. It’s an age thing, and there’s really not much that can be done about this in guinea pigs. The specialist figured that the roots growing up into her sinus cavity and down through her jawbone had caused the ear infection. In turn, this destroyed her right inner ear and damaged one of her facial nerves, resulting in paralysis on the right side of her face. Instead of feeling that she was blind in her right eye, the vet was certain that it still worked, but she couldn’t blink to keep it hydrated and healthy. Horrifying thought, right?
The second issue was arthritis in her knees. That would explain why she hadn’t jumped up on top of her house to rattle her cage bars in months. There was almost no cartilage in her knee joints anymore.
The third, and most concerning, was actually a lack of evidence explaining the lopsidedness and rigidity of her hind leg. The vet felt that there was a real possibility she had a brain tumor; if it was particularly aggressive, it would explain her incredibly fast downward spiral.
The specialist had to anesthetize her again in order to take another look at her teeth. When she woke up, Mona was even worse off than before. After I brought her home, along with a handful of medications and a resolve to see her through this, I realized she wasn’t even tilting over anymore — she was laying entirely on her right side and could hardly move. She ate baby food from a syringe when I fed it to her, and she tucked into lettuce leaves every time they were placed in her reach, but beyond that, she just lay there, occasionally waving her front legs around as if she were trying to move around but was too weak.
I gave the medications a couple of days to work, but in the end, I had to face the facts. This was no way for her to live, and she showed no improvement. I could tell she wanted to keep fighting, but she was just so tired.
I cuddled her and kissed her and asked her to say hello to Isis for me, and then I got on the phone to make arrangements.
Pomona, Mona, Monamona Mischief Pig, Mona Bologna, Bologna Head, Booper…you will be missed, sweet girl.