Tag Archives: Broadleys vets

How to Win Friends

1 May

Castration is a drastic measure, but for our six grumpy guinea pigs, the advantages have outweighed the risks. It all goes back to their adolescence, when they suddenly stopped being friends and started tearing chunks out of each other. Barry’s ear got bitten completely in two. This was a shock to us, because all the information we’d read declared that guinea pigs are social animals and MUST be kept together. Besides, other pet owners had told us dire tales of guinea pigs who had died of loneliness.

We took them en masse to Broadley’s vet hospital. There were seven of them then, as their dad was still alive. They were filthy from exploring the flowerbeds, and I hadn’t dared bathe them while they were hurting. The nurse on duty was Cath. I learned that day that Cath is passionate about guinea pigs (and rabbits), and has stacks of experience and knowledge about them. When we presented her with our sea of growling, dirt-blackened, bitten-up animals with patches of fur missing, she exchanged horrified glances with the vet. I felt sure they thought we had been systematically abusing them.

I described our set-up, and asked for advice. Cath’s first advice was, of course, to separate them. Then, to bloody well give them baths. She and the vet strongly advised against castration, as it doesn’t necessarily affect guinea pig behaviour, and general anaesthetic carries a higher death risk for little animals.

We duly fenced the garden off into territories and separated their tower block into apartments. The guinea pigs spent all summer patrolling the fences and rumbling at each other, and all winter growling at their ceilings and floors.

Winter tower

Horatio, awake before the others on Christmas Eve.

Then we had to neuter Colin, because he kept gumming up the rabbit’s eye. (Never mind how.) Afterwards, his territorial behaviour ceased, and all the other guinea pigs were nice to him. It was as though we had given him a social skeleton key. Was this a fluke?

When Twogoose and Horatio began furiously threatening each other, we decided to try neutering them too. We  felt confident that the skills and equipment at Broadley’s meant it wasn’t too much of a risk. Cath noticed them waiting there for the snip, and gave us a worried call to check that we were sure we wanted to go through with it. Our client money makes no difference to her: animal welfare is everything. We said we understood the risks – but we spent the rest of the day biting our nails, waiting for the call to say they were okay. They were. They have enjoyed each other’s company ever since.

How lovely it would be, we thought, if all the guinea pigs could live together again! Being all brothers, there was a chance they would all respond to neutering. We sent Clive, Barry and Orkney to be castrated too. Cath watched over them during their operation and recovery. She has taken a special interest in our guinea pigs since that first terrible day, and whenever she sees me, she asks, “how are the boys?” When I need guinea pig advice, she is the person I phone.

Here she is with her rabbit Ralph last month, just before she beat 11,000 contestants to become Veterinary Nurse of the Year. It is completely deserved.

Cath

[Photo from Broadleys Veterinary Hospital.]

The guinea pigs’ tender areas healed just in time for their annual exodus to live among the grass and daffodils. Here’s Orkney, lurking in his new bedroom. They usually lurk for three days before leaving their hutches to explore the garden.

Orkney lurking

This time, it took them just a few hours to step outside and start grazing. We have placed all the hutches together, and have been watching closely for signs of distress. We left most of the territory-fence up just in case, but  removed sections so they can explore the whole garden.

Summer setup

There was a brief squabble over who got to sleep in which hutch, but after that they settled in beautifully. Not one of them has got angry with the others – not even when there was a hailstorm to rattle them up. The change in them is remarkable! I never thought I’d see them daring to turn their backs on each other.

Long may the peace continue.

Among the daffs

Horatio, Clive, Orkney and Twogoose.

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Frankenstein’s Rabbit

18 Feb

We were going to get our rabbit Broccles a girlfriend for Christmas, but instead we had his eye removed. Broccles has a talent for suddenly needing the vet during national holidays, and the money set aside for his new companion had to be diverted – and some.

Helping with the Christmas wrapping

Helping with the Christmas wrapping

His blind eye had been  shrinking, and in December his eyelid folded under itself and started scraping against his eyeball. This led to an infection. The vet knew that Bunty feels horrified about eyeball removal and the sewing-together of eyelids, so he suggested eyelid surgery instead. Broccles’s eye has led to so many vet visits, though, that Bunty and I finally felt he would suffer less if it were removed.

I made a point of booking Alasdair the Rabbit Hypnotist. All the surgeons at Broadley’s vet hospital are of the highest calibre, but my faith in Alasdair borders on the religious. As far as I’m concerned, he is a superhero of the rabbit world and I feel safest leaving our bundles of fur in his hands.

Alasdair called us after lunch to say the operation had been a success, even though the shrunken state of the eyeball had complicated it. He called again when Broccles came round, reassured us that the bunny was fine, and warned us that his face might look a bit shocking. We collected Broccles once the post-op team was satisfied that he was safe to come home. His good eye was much wider than usual, and as as soon as we got back, he made a beeline for his Safe Place on the hearthstone.

He looked a bit Frankenrabbit, but we thought Alasdair had done a fine job. Don’t you?

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”

I was given oral painkillers for Broccles – a disappointment, as he has a pathological terror of things shoved in his mouth. I’m always offered oral meds for him. I suspect this is because most pet owners are scared of giving injections and have no idea how much easier they are. Alasdair  suggested wetting Broccles’s teeth with a drop at a time, and letting him lick it off – it was honey flavoured, and tasty to rabbits. I loved this idea.

Unfortunately, Broccles wasn’t hungry after his ordeal, and he let the stuff drip onto the floor. He dug at the tiles in the way he does when he wants to be left alone, thankyouverymuch. I decided to have a go at hypnotising him into taking the medicine. Alasdair had once explained his method to me, and some of you readers have posted extra tips. I knelt down and lay Broccles on his back in my lap. His feet were braced against my tummy and his head and neck were secure in my hand. I murmured soothingly and stroked his forehead until he relaxed and went floppy. I slowly squirted the medicine into his mouth, and he drank it down calmly. Amazing! Thanks to everyone who helped me to master this new skill.

A mere 36 hours later, Broccles was eating everything in sight, dancing around the cats, and showing no signs of pain. He demanded to be let outside, so against the advice of his nurse, I opened the door. He enjoyed himself following Bunty around the winter vegetable beds. Then he seemed to lose his bearings. He got stuck in this tree for half an hour, until I came and guided him back into the house.

Call the fire brigade!

For the next few days, he kept losing his way and bumping into things, and he needed encouragement to follow his usual routes around the place. He seemed much blinder than before his eye removal, even though several vets had assured us that his blind eye was completely blind. I had often had the peculiar feeling that he was looking through it, but this should not have been possible. When vets examined the eye with ophthalmoscopes, there was no sign of the retina at all. No retina means no vision.

Broccles spent January relearning his way around. He has taken to following walls for guidance, and whenever he comes to a corner or doorway, he turns his head this way and that to examine the full layout with his single eye. He has been getting faster and more adept at this. He has come on, I may say, in leaps and bounds.

His fur grew back rapidly, and it’s now difficult to notice that he has an eye missing. He is as handsome as ever, and in fine fettle for meeting a new girl.

Eye, me hearties!

The Case of the Midnight Rabbit

5 Aug

Bunty and I have been exploring the joys and agonies of detective work, using an undercover camera. It came about because our rabbit Broccles suddenly started peeing about four times more than usual. The vets thought he may have a kidney infection. (Bear with me; this is relevant.)

“How much is he drinking?” asked Alasdair (of Rabbit Hypnotist fame).

I had no idea. Alasdair explained that if he’s not drinking lots, his urinary system is likely fine and he is probably eating more juicy food than usual. I was instructed to measure the water level drop in his drinking bottle. I explained that Broccles shares a water fountain with the cats, making it hard to judge how much he drinks. I said I’d keep him indoors and watch his drinking habits closely.

Bunty had a better idea. He stuck an infra-red webcam near the fountain, and set it to email us a series of snapshots every time its motion detector was triggered. The computer also sounded a noisy alarm every time the fountain was approached by an animal. This meant we could check the screen and watch the animal without having to walk through to the living room.

Broccles and the cats snoozed the long day away without having any drinks. In the evening, the alarm blared frantically over our TV show as a cat turned up for a drink. Ten minutes later, the other cat set it off. We couldn’t turn the sound off without muting our TV, which is Bunty’s computer. Ten minutes later, HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! Broccles turned up, took a few sips of water and groomed his bib for a while. We paused our show and watched him benevolently.

Ten minutes later, HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! He set it off again. We carried on watching TV. We knew what a drinking rabbit looked like by now.

Ten minutes later, HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK!

Every ten minutes through the evening and night, he set the damn thing off. I felt sure his kidneys must be disintegrating.

It took a long time to trawl through the emails the next morning. The vast majority were of him taunting us:

Most of the rest showed him taking the odd sip of water and then grooming his bib:

Turns out he really likes to groom his bib. I called Alasdair and gave him the run-down. Alasdair said that, from my description, it sounds like he’s fine. He referred to the sipping and bib-licking as “wetting his cloth to use it”. We will continue to keep an eye on his drinking habits, but this time with less of the whole HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! HOOONK! I have had it with sleuthing.