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Calling the Podiatrist: Feebee’s Bumbled Foot

Published: 5/5/2017 | Author: HappyCavy | Updated: 9/15/2017

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Black guinea pig

Feebee reminds you that age is only a number

UPDATE 7/7/17: Several weeks after Feebee’s vet visit, it appeared that a second callous had formed on her foot. A few weeks later, it fell off on its own and hasn’t grown back since. After the second callous fell off, she immediately took a few short sprints around her floor time area.

The Humans switched some of her plush bedding to less-plush towels, in order to help her get a better “grip” on her cage floor. This seemed to help, and reduced her chances of losing balance and causing her foot pain.

With both callouses gone, she appears to be in high spirits. Here’s to footloose and fancy free Feebs!

Say “hi” to Feebee, the oldest guinea pig in the HappyCavy herd.

At about 7½ years old, Feebee has accomplished quite a bit in her many years with us. She’s experienced over five introductions to different guinea pigs, lived in several different cage configurations, and clocked over 52,000 hours on the guinea pig webcams.

Guinea pig “old age” can come with benefits (or disadvantages, depending on which guinea pig you’re asking). From extra kisses to extended floor time each day, Feebee has mellowed quite a bit in her older age. She smiles more often, enjoys lap time, and doesn’t mind the occasional ear scritch or two.

But along with these benefits comes a few challenges. First, she isn’t spayed – so it’s no surprise that, years ago, several small lumps were found on her ovaries. Cystic ovaries are common in unsprayed guinea pigs of a certain age. The cystic tumors haven’t grown, but she is showing the signs of aging: loss of weight, slower movement, and longer naps.

The Mystery Growth

Guinea pig back paw pad

Feebee’s back paw pad, days after the growth was removed. You can see her pad healing already.

Because of her age, the Humans are ever-vigilant when performing her weekly health checks.

During a health check last week, the Humans noticed that one of her back paws had a strange growth. A small lump, about the size of a very small pea, was growing on her left rear paw pad. Was it an infection? Or just a strange, old-age growth?

Without wanting to leave anything to chance – especially if it was an infection or worse – the Humans took her to the vet to get it checked out.

Feebee’s Vet Visit

Guinea pig cage on vet exam table

Waiting for the doctor.

We can’t state enough how much Feebee has mellowed in her older age. She was never fond of attention. She used to prefer the solitude of eating alone (unless joined by her “sister” Buttercup) and usually opted-out of the group playtimes in which Buttercup and Hammy would try to include her.

But now? Oh, now! Feebee wants all the attention, all the time. Without even the slightest sign of annoyance, Feebee seemed to really enjoy her trip to the vet – like a sweet, elderly lady who finally gets to leave the house for errands and appointments. She put on a show for the vet and anyone who would watch: Playfully nipping at people’s shirts and wrestling with her towel as the doctor tried to inspect her paw.

“She is quite thinner than last time,” noted Dr. Burgess. Even this didn’t phase Feebee’s good mood.

The Diagnosis: Early-Stage Bumblefoot

Guinea pig getting an exam by a vet

The doctor checks Feebee’s pitter-patter machine.

The diagnosis was somewhat of a shock: An early case of bumblefoot.

According to GuineaLynx, bumblefoot, or ulcerative pododermatitis, is, “an extremely painful infection of the footpad.” In bad cases, the footpad may swell and bleed and the guinea pig may be reluctant to move and may develop anorexia.

Certainly, Feebee doesn’t exhibit any of these symptoms. She’s a happy guinea pig, and, while she lives solo, the Humans provide her plenty of stimulation and attention to keep her active.

So what gives?

The good doc thinks that, due to cystic ovaries and an age-related change in hormones, she is losing muscle mass in her rear-end, which causes her to walk differently. The Humans have noticed that she has walked with a slightly clumsier gate in the last year, so this is a reasonable suggestion.

To be clear, Feebee does not have an infection. While GuineaLynx defines bumblefoot as an infection, the vet staff explained that “there are degrees of bumblefoot.” Feebee’s paw issue is caused by inflammation, not an infection. “Calloused foot pad” would probably be a more accurate way to refer to Feebee’s diagnosis.

To be absolutely certain there was no infection, the doctor was able to peel away (ew) the callous growing on her pad, exposing a soft layer of issue beneath (EW!). The exposed, pink pad did bleed a little. Feebee didn’t flinch, but she did begin to get annoyed with all the attention.

What was left was a soft, pinkish pad with no signs of pus (gross) or any other sign of infection.

What to Do: The Treatment

The prescribed treatment was relatively simple and fairly inexpensive. For any guinea pig owner who’s had to deal with guinea pig health problems, it seems like a miracle when you can leave the vet without spending $100.

X-ray of guinea pig rear

X-ray of Feebee’s hips, taken at an
unrelated visit several years ago.

The prescribed treatment was to apply betadine antiseptic (also called povidone-iodine or iodopovidone) to her troubled paw pad twice per day. This will help keep her now-exposed pinkish pad clear from infection while it heals.

The callous may grow back, or it may not. Only time will tell.

Fortunately, Feebee seems to be feeling fine, and there’s been no change in her mood (still happy) or appetite (still hungry like the fuzzy beast she is).

Health Checks to the Rescue!

Black guinea pig looking up

“See this fuzz? Give me scritches!”

If you aren’t performing weekly health checks for your guinea pig, START TODAY!

Without our weekly care routines of ear cleaning, weight recording, and health checks, we might not have noticed Feebee’s paw pad issue until it turned into a full-blown infection: bumblefoot.

Do You Have a Senior Pig Moment to Share?

Friends that care for senior pigs: What aging signs have you noticed in your older guinea pigs? Are they happier, friendlier…or just about the same?

What potentially dangerous issues have you caught early because of weekly health checks? Remind everyone how important it is to keep a consistent care schedule!

Please share your stories with us in the comment section below!

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HappyCavy is the Internet's only 4-webcam broadcast inside the lives of a female guinea pig herd from Portland, Oregon.

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About This Guinea Pig Website

HappyCavy has been online since June 2009 with Hammy and Piglet. In October of 2009, a sweet, fuzzy cavy named Bitsy joined the webcam broadcasts.

Feebee and Buttercup were welcomed to the HappyCavy Forever Home as friends and co-conspirators in January 2011. Dot joined us on July 2012, and Winnie and Rosie were the most recent addition on February 8, 2015 and June 6, 2015, respectively. Learn more about the guinea pigs here.

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