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Big love comes in small packages, too


When a young couple brought their guinea pig to see this doctor, she gave them another year with Daisy. And they reminded her that every pet?no matter how big or small?deserves high-quality care.

About a year after I graduated, a young married couple brought in their 3-year-old intact female guinea pig, Daisy, for an exam and third-opinion consultation. She had a history of chronic pododermatitis and had been unsuccessfully treated in the previous months with enrofloxacin and trimethoprim-sulfa.

The exam revealed a chubby, but otherwise healthy, animal. But Daisy's left rear paw had a firm, ulcerated swelling on the lateral aspect, and she was reluctant to bear weight on it.

"Well, we've got a couple of options," I said to the couple. "We can do a fine-needle aspiration of the lump and examine the cells to see if it's a tumor or abscess. We can also do a bacterial culture to determine the best antibiotic."

The female owner immediately broke into tears. "I'm sorry," she sobbed, "but I'm just so happy that you said things we can do. The other veterinarians said we may want to put her down, and we were afraid you'd say the same thing. She may be just a guinea pig, but we love her and want to do as much as we can for her."

The human-animal bond doesn't discriminate against size, breed, or species-a lesson that a young couple reinforced for Dr. Laura McLain Madsen when they visited her with their guinea pig, Daisy. Here she examines another much-loved rodent, Nelson.

The cytologic examination results were inconclusive so we decided to treat the problem as a chronic infectious process. I recommended soft bedding, good nutrition, daily cleaning, a daily warm compress on the paw, and antibiotics. Because of the lack of response to enrofloxacin and trimethoprim-sulfa, I prescribed an extended course of chloramphenicol. Daisy responded well to the treatment and enjoyed a good quality of life for another year, until she died of an unrelated problem.

This case reinforced to me that even these smallest of companion animals are dear to our clients. This young couple saw Daisy as another member of their family. They were dismayed because two veterinarians had referred to their beloved pet as "just a rodent."

Although she'd only cost $6, this guinea pig was no less deserving of high-quality, compassionate medical care than a $2,000 show dog. And the strength and purity of these owners' bond with Daisy proves that big love comes in small packages, too.

Dr. Laura McLain Madsen practices at Central Valley Veterinary Hospital in Salt Lake City. Send questions or comments to: ve@advanstar.com

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