Posted: June 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: My guinea pig, Charlie, was diagnosed with a nonmalignant growth on his head several months ago via an in-house vet needle test of a tapioca-sized bump. It grew out into a horn between his eyes, and in February a portion of it fell out while grooming him. The remaining portion was removed over a period of a week, and the open wound was kept clean by me. The wound has continued to grow despite daily cleanings and antibiotic treatment. Charlie is not a good candidate for surgery, as he almost died when he was neutered in 2008. Because the wound is very close to his right eye, there is additional concern for removal. My guinea pig does not have outward signs of distress and is acting normally in all other respects. He does not like his head being wet nor does he like his picture taken, and it shows in the pictures. He is a punk otherwise!
I will document his progression at this website, if anyone is interested in following it. It’s definitely not for those with a weak stomach.
If you have any suggestions for what this might be, or a better way to treat it, please let me know. Please note that my guinea pig is not a candidate for surgery, and I cannot afford heroic methods right now.
A: Sadly, for you and Charlie, you are between a rock and a hard place. From looking at your pictures, this mass on your guinea pig continues to grow despite your best efforts to help Charlie. The term nonmalignant only means that this type of cancer will not spread to distant areas of the body. But nonmalignant tumors can spread locally and cause severe disease, as this tumor appears to be doing.
Your treatment with antibiotics will only help to prevent this open wound on your guinea pig from becoming infected but likely is not going to stop this mass from getting larger. Without surgery, you will not be able to stop this from growing nor from it eventually penetrating important structures, such as your guinea pig’s eye and possibly its ear.
In cases like this, we need to understand we are fighting a battle with an opponent that will eventually win. But what we try to do is to keep the damage to a minimum and to make sure the guinea pig is as pain-free as possible and is getting enough nutrition and fluids as is necessary.
When you speak with your veterinarian, discuss the options for pain relief for your guinea pig that can include both oral and topical medications. You can also discuss ways to make sure that your guinea pig is receiving as much nutrition and fluids as is possible.
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