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Living With A Paraplegic Guinea Pig

Updated on November 4, 2007
Sadly, guinea pigs can't use crutches.
Sadly, guinea pigs can't use crutches.

FootFoot was never the most active of guinea pigs, especially after her fourth year, but she still could scoot when needed to - especially if there was Romaine lettuce on the other side of the room. But one day, she would not move to run to the lettuce leaves. She sat in the open doorway of her cage and squeaked piercingly to be waited on. At first, I thought she was just being lazy.

It didn't take me too long to realize the awful truth. FootFoot, spurred on by her stomach, dragged herself by her forelegs over to the lettuce. Somehow, she had completely lost the use of her back legs.

What Happened?

I never found out for sure just why FootFoot suddenly became a paraplegic guinea pig. It was not due to a fall or any external injury, according to the vet. After she died at five and a half years old, the necropsy discovered that she had cirrhosis. Perhaps there was a connection. Taking her to the vet did not reveal any breaks or even proof that she was in any pain. She let us touch and move her back end without any wriggling or screaming. In fact, she seemed quite comfortable.

Guinea pigs are prey animals. They instinctively try to hide any behavior or signs to a predator that they would be an easy catch. It could be that FootFoot was gradually losing the mobility of her hind legs, but I never knew about it until they were completely paralyzed.

How Did FootFoot React?

FootFoot was very calm and accepting of her condition - much more so than her mistress. She retained her bright eyes clean nose and appetite up until the final week of her life. For over a year, she would be paraplegic. But she never wasted away or became incredibly stressed.

FootFoot lived with a few other guinea pigs in my bedroom. She had a lot of interaction with them and they probably kept her from getting overly scared or upset. One of the other guinea pigs, an older female named Gweeker, decided to become FootFoot's nurse. If FootFoot seemed to be in trouble or needed a bath, Gweeker would scream at the top of her lungs until I came to find out what was going on.

FootFoot still tried to be active, by dragging herself around with her forelegs. Occasionally, that meant she got stuck, so I had to gently extract her. If it wasn't for Gweeker, I'm not sure how long FootFoot would have survived. Gweeker groomed FootFoot as best as she could and cuddled together.

Guinea pigs need to eat a certain kind of pellet they excrete, or else they get very sick. TIf they can't groom their rear ends, they can't get to eat these pellets. I worried how FootFoot was going to get her vital nutrition. I needn't have worried. Gweeker gave FootFoot her own pellets to eat.

Quality Of Life

FootFoot always had a high quality of life. She had interactions with her friends, enjoyed food, was still able to get to the water bottle and enjoyed snuggling. She kept her front end clean by herself. Her back end was kept clean by Gweeker and a once or twice weekly bath by me.

Quality of life is very important for a paraplegic pet. Since FootFoot dragged herself around by her forefeet, I daily checked her belly for any sores. Fortunately, she never got any. I made her space softer and less abrasive by adding old towels and T-shirts to the guinea pig enclosure.

You also need to trim the nails of the hind feet more than the forefeet.

You need to make sure your paraplegic guinea pig can get to the water bottle. I was able to lower the spout, and so that was no problem.

I was extremely lucky to have a nurse in Gweeker. If your paraplegic guinea pig can't eat the soft pellets needed for digestion, then you have to hunt through any piles of poo and find them and offer them to him or her to eat.

You also need to interact and talk more to your paraplegic guinea pig, just so they don't waste away through boredom. FootFoot always enjoyed lap-time. She was always a sedentary kind of piggie, anyway, content to let others run around like nut cases.

Please don't use this article as a substitution for veterinary advice. If your guinea pig is limping or is paralyzed in any way, please take him or her to the vet at once.


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    Heidi Russell 6 years ago

    Your story brought me to tears! Animals are amazing. I love how Gweekers helped out Footfoot. Thank you for sharing this sweet story. Footfoot was lucky to have you! We got a friend for our guinea pig recently and she hates her. Hopefully, over time they will bond like yours did!

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    Wednesday 6 years ago

    I have a paraplegic guinea pig :( I was so so sad when I first found him like this, but wow he has personality and strength! It doesn't seem to bother him at all. Unfortunately I don't have a Gweeker to help nurse him, so it could be a long road for me to maintain his health- but I'm certainly going to try!

    Thank you for your article and for giving me hope that my guinea can still live like this, I was worried the vet would tell me he had to be put down :(

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    guinea fan 6 years ago

    my guinea pig Cookie just had her first litter monday of 4 and only 2 made it! the one today started draggin along its backlegs! your story has given me hope that it'll be ok!!!

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    ScribblingRaven 5 years ago

    I have five boars at home & one of them was injured by a previously abusive owner so he walks with a head tilt & is paralyzed on his right side. His name is Zinc. He has an AMAZING personality. He's just the happiest piggie! Gweeker & FootFoot reminded me of my Zinc & the strong will of G Pigs. :) I'm adopting another piggie tomorrow who is paralyzed from the waist down, so I found your article to be an amazing inspiration.

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    kasey 5 years ago

    hi my guinea pig had 3 babies 2 came out paralysed from the was it down i was so devastated but now i have hope thank you

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    Melissa 5 years ago

    I'm amazed how may guinea pigs are paralysed from the waste down. We just got two sister pigs a month ago and this week, my son dropped one getting her out of her cage. Her back legs immediately drug behind her. I took her to the vet and had x-rays to find she has a displaced vertebrae and will never regain use of her bag legs. She's only 5 months old and the vet said she can adapt if I can adapt. I have the sisters separated in their cage until the injury heals but then I hope her sister helps to take care of her. I wash her down 2x/day and clean her cage 2x day to keep her clean. She deserves a chance to live a good life.

A demand like Willow's can train any human, no matter if they can walk or not. Film by thatstar.

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