This is where we have a hush, and put on a solemn expression for like the word Cancer, we are all expected to think deeply of mortality when these are mentioned. Why the veterinary and medical professions get so up tight about hearts is quite beyond me. Perhaps I am being unjust and it is the media that has hyped them up so much.
The heart is a pump, that can have problems, and yes, if it stops you are in deep trouble for it could be every so slightly terminal!. However there is much that can be done to treat heart conditions, and guinea pigs are particularly amenable to many of the medicines and therapies that are successful on human beings.
The one thing to always bear in mind is the link between heart and kidneys. Much of the workload of the heart is pumping the blood through the kidneys so if there is something amiss in the kidneys it can increase the workload of the heart so the root cause could be a kidney problem rather than heart.
I always say a good healthy heart beat is one that has a ‘full stop’ at the end of it, ‘ThuD, thuD, thuD.’ If it sounds ‘Thu, thu, thu,’ then all is not well. However this doesn’t mean that the animal is about to keel over and die, nor will it if sometimes when it is sounded the beat is uneven, some animals and human beings have this uneven beat but it has no ill effect whatsoever.
Murmurs of the heart are more serious because they could be indicative of heart valve problems. As there is not much that can be done for guinea pigs with this problem the only advice I can give if you are aware of the problem, is to try and keep them in the least stressful environments, preferably paired with one other. The rough and tumble of pack living would not be such a good idea.
If you are aware of anything irregular in the heart a good supplement is Potassium which is very necessary for a normal heart rate is recommended. Metatone, the well known ‘pick you up’ for humans is rich in potassium and 0.4 two or three time a week would be a good idea.
Guinea pigs can suffer heart attacks and strokes, see Strokes, and I think more so than many other animals. This could be diet related, too much protein perhaps, but I think it is more likely to have something to do with their nervous systems which are geared to keep them on high alert to flee from danger rather than fight it.
If you find an guinea pig very weak on it’s legs, or flat out on it’s side giving great heaving breaths which come from deep down in the diaphram accompanied by a weak or slow heart beat it has probably had a heart attack. If it is a light coated animal which means it has pink lips and nostrils, they will be cyanosed. There is sometimes nystagmus of the eyes, this is a flicking movement of the eyeballs, though this is more symptomatic in stroke cases, think heart attack!. Get the animal to a vet as quick as possible for it is in need of perhaps a heart stimulant and, or 0.2 of the diuretic Frusimde injected subcutaneously. Oxygen is also very beneficial in these cases.
The stimulant is not very often needed but the diuretic certainly is. Who ever was responsible for discovering Frusimide I humbly genuflect to for I, and many other owners of guinea pigs have healthy happy animals who’s lives have been saved by the timely administration of this drug.
In more cases than not, one injection does the job and there are no further problems. It takes about half to three-quarters of an hour to take effect and the transformation is usually quite rapid. To see the animal’s laboured gradually subside back to normal, and watch it getting shakily back onto it’s feet is very rewarding.
I have had two animals that had up to three heart attacks, and luckily I was there when it happened and treated it as described. In Sammy’s case I was only just there, arriving home to find him hardly breathing at all and it seemed that I waited for ages to wait for the second heart beat after the first one I had heard. I thought I was just going through the motions when I injected him with frusemide for I was certain I was going to lose him, he was, after all five and a half years old and had had two other heart attacks, one at about three years and one about eighteen months later.
I left him where he was, lying on the bottom of his pen in the kitchen and made myself busy, not wanting to watch him breath his last, there was nothing else I could give him to give him relief.
About an hour later I heard a rustling noise from the kitchen. When I went in, there he was, staggering about the pen like a drunk, but up and about!. Within about eight hours he was back to normal. He went on to live to seven and a half years of age!
The point I am trying to make is never give up, it is always worth a try, and incidentally, frusemide is one of the cheapest of all drugs!
Sometimes the recovery from a heart attack takes a little longer and the laboured breathing does not go all the way back to normal. Frusemide can be given orally but not for long because it depletes the very mineral that is important to the heart, potassium. In these cases switch to a herbal diuretic, and feed diuretic foods such as parsley, celery and banana until things stabilise. Dandelions are also an excellent diuretic, and clever old mother nature has made them rich in, guess what, potassium!