Ovarian cysts in Guinea Pigs
Ovarian cysts in Guinea Pigs
Did you know that Ovarian cysts are a common condition that both humans and guinea pigs can suffer from?
Veterinarians suggest that ovarian cysts most commonly start to occur in entire female guinea pigs between the ages of 2 and 4 years and several studies have identified that up to 76% of female guinea pigs between 2 and 5 years of age have cystic changes present on their ovaries!
What are ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts are nonfunctional, fluid-filled cysts that can develop when a follicle in the ovaries doesn’t rupture to release an egg, which results in the development of a cyst that can form either in the ovary or on its surface.
Female guinea pigs have two ovaries. One located on either side of the uterus, generally cysts will develop in both ovaries but only one ovary can be affected and in this case, it is usually the right one to be affected.
What are some common symptoms?
- Crusting of the skin around the nipples
- Bilateral symmetric hair loss in the flank/abdomen area
- A pear-shape appearance of the body
- Uncomfortable in their abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- New vocalization when handled
- Change in behavior - mounting, aggression, and other sexual behaviors
It is important to seek Veterinarian care from a Cavy friendly Vet for any Guinea pig showing any signs of ovarian cysts so that the appropriate diagnostic steps are taken for your guinea pig
Diagnostics may look like
- Palpation of the abdomen (Care must be taken when doing this so that any cysts are not ruptured in the process)
- Abdominal ultrasound and/or radiographs (x-rays).
What are the treatment options?
There are a few treatment options for ovarian cysts, which include either surgical, medical, or conservative management
This involves an exploratory abdominal surgery to fully examine the ovaries and cysts.
A Spay procedure is performed at the same time, which is another word for ovariohysterectomy, this involves the complete surgical removal of both ovaries as well as the uterus.
In some cases, your Veterinarian may choose to do an ovariectomy, which involves the removal of both ovaries whilst the uterus is retained.
This is often the treatment of choice and is considered to be the best option as the removal of the ovaries eliminants the reoccurrence of the cysts.
If surgery is not an option for your guinea pig your Veterinarian may suggest that an ultrasound-guided aspiration of the cysts is performed.
This procedure is done while your guinea pig is under sedation and involves draining the fluid from the cyst, while this will help to reduce discomfort and pain, it is only a temporary solution as the fluid drained from the cysts will over time reoccur.
This procedure also carries some risks, which should be discussed with your Veterinarian.
In some cases, your Veterinarian may recommend medical management in the form of a hormonal implant, which will last 4 to 6 months before needing to be redone but this is unfortunately not always successful.
If left untreated ovarian cysts will often continue to increase in size over time. As the cyst continues to grow in size it can start to put pressure on other organs causing pain, which can result in other health concerns, such as gut stasis.
There is also the risk of the cyst rupturing, which can be extremely painful and life-threatening for your guinea pig and can also cause adhesions to form within the body, which could cause further health problems.
There have also been some cases where ovarian cysts had been associated with uterine disease as well.
The prevention of ovarian cysts involves a surgical procedure to have your guinea pig de-sexed before the development of any cysts.
What causes ovarian cysts in guinea pigs?
The main cause of ovarian cysts is a disturbance in hormone levels or as mentioned above, if a follicle in the ovaries doesn’t rupture to release an egg, this can result in the development of a cyst.
Recovery after treatment of ovarian cysts
If you and your Veterinarian decide that surgery is the best option for your guinea pig then it is important to take measures to ensure that the recovery process is as smooth and comfortable as possible.
Here are some tips to help with your Guinea pig's recovery
- Ensure your guinea pig is kept in a calm and stress-free environment
- Use soft and absorbent bedding, which can be cleaned easily such as Vetbed
- Avoid bedding that may stick to the surgical site such as wood shavings or shredded paper
- Ensure to keep the bedding as clean as possible to avoid the risk of infection. Changing the bedding daily and spot cleaning can help
- Ensure your guinea pig is eating well and toileting normally, your Veterinarian may even recommend you supplement feed with something like our Burgess Excel Duel Care Recovery for additional nutritional support
- Using a hay manager is an ideal way to ensure your guinea pig continues to receive vital nutrition while simultaneously keeping the cage clean and in return minimizing the risk of infection
- Ensure to follow any medical advice from your Veterinarian and schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure they are recovering well
- You should monitor your Guinea pig's behavior closely and if you have any concerns you should always speak to your Veterinarian