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Abscesses in Guinea Pigs

By: Dr. Branson Ritchie

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Diagnosis In-depth

Your veterinarian may do routine diagnostic tests to evaluate the overall health status of a sick guinea pig.

  • Radiographs. The most common radiographic change associated with an abscess is a soft tissue mass in the affected tissue. Radiographs may be used to determine if the abscess is associated with an underlying bone, joint or internal organ or if the abscess is undergoing calcification. Radiographs may also be helpful in determining if a foreign body is the cause of an abscess. On an X-ray, cysts, tumors, hematomas, fibrous scars and granulomas can appear similar to an abscess. Ultrasound may be used to determine if a mass is fluid-filled or solid and to determine if a foreign body is present in the mass.

  • Complete blood count (CBC). If the abscess is completely walled-off by the immune response, then there may be no changes in the white blood cell count. If the abscess has recently formed or is leaking infectious agents to the general circulation, then there may be a substantial increase in the number of white blood cells (neutrophilia) with or without toxic changes in these cells. In animals that are septic, the white blood cell may be decreased (neutropenia) with a high proportion of immature cells and/or toxic changes. This finding is associated with a poorer prognosis.

  • Cytology and culture tests. Confirming the cause of an abscess is best achieved by combining tests: cytology or biopsy, which demonstrates the morphologic characteristics of an organism, and culture and antimicrobial sensitivity. Culture is usually necessary to identify the specific type of bacteria or fungus present in the organism, but cultures from abscesses are frequently negative. Cytology is important in helping to identify the presence of organisms that may be difficult to grow in the laboratory. Cytology and culture of fluid collected from the spinal canal (CSF tap), may be used in patients with suspected infections in the brain or nervous system.

    Therapy In-depth

    Complete surgical excision of an abscess is best if all of the affected tissue can be removed without causing problems in the animal. If excision is not possible, then as much affected tissue as possible is surgically removed and the wound is left open to facilitate flushing and healing. Depending on the location of the abscess, your veterinarian may or may not place a piece of tubing (called a drain) in your guinea pig.

    Additional treatments may include:

  • Both local and systemic antimicrobial agents will probably be prescribed for your guinea pig. Depending on ease of administration, your veterinarian may suggest an injectable or oral antimicrobial agent. Long term antimicrobial therapy may be necessary, particularly with fungal infections or when bone is involved.

  • Local abscesses are usually treated on an outpatient basis. Guinea pigs with septicemia or with abscesses involving internal organs will probably be hospitalized for the initial treatment period.

  • Spaying is recommended in a female with an abscess of the uterus. Castration is recommended if a testicle is abscessed. Abscessed teeth are removed. Amputation of a limb may be necessary when abscesses associated with the feet and legs progress to involve bones or joints.

  • Other therapies may include fluids to correct dehydration, vitamin C supplementation, and supportive nutrition if the guinea pig has not eaten for several days or has lost considerable weight.

  • Treatment is considered successful when a guinea pig is removed from antibiotics and remains clinically normal.

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