By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
I just lost my 10-month-old guinea pig Rosie after she got spayed. I was informed it was necessary to spay my two girls to prevent health issues. Now I am learning that I received incomplete information and that spaying isn’t necessary if the girls are separated from males. The only health risk happens after they become pregnant. So on the vet’s advice I took my girl Rosie in and had her spayed. Twice I took her back to the vet after her surgery due to her crying. They said it was normal and she was just stressed from the surgery, but 8 hours later she died from a blood clot to the lung as a result of the surgery. Do NOT get your girls spayed! If you house them with boys, get the boys fixed because the surgery is less complicated and less risky. I’m kicking myself for this because I lost my baby.
I am very sorry for your loss. You may be slightly comforted in knowing that disease of the reproductive tract of female guinea pigs can occur whether or not they are exposed to a male guinea pig. You did get correct advice in that there are health benefits to spaying a guinea pig.
Numerous diseases can cause a decrease in the quality of life in unspayed guinea pigs. They are prone to cystic disease of the ovaries. This can cause hair loss, dermatitis, abdominal discomfort and even peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the abdomen). Unspayed females can develop mammary gland and uterine cancer. Abscess of the uterus (pyometra) can also occur. Some of these diseases are life-threatening and all decrease the quality of life. So please do not be too hard on yourself; you actually did the right thing.
Unfortunately the procedure to spay a guinea pig is technically much more difficult than other species. Combine the surgical difficulty with the fact that anesthesia in guinea pigs is so challenging, and I am not surprised to hear a story such as yours.
I am not sure exactly how best to help you going forward. If you decide to have any other guinea pigs spayed, always make sure your vet has done this procedure before, is a member of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and understands the unique needs of guinea pig patients. No surgery has a guaranteed outcome, however.