Ovarian cysts are a potentially life-threatening condition in guinea pigs. These cysts occur when the follicles in the guinea pig's ovaries do not burst and release an egg during ovulation. Instead, fluid-filled cysts grow at the site of the follicles, and both ovaries tend to be affected. If left untreated, the cysts can grow and eventually burst, which would cause a serious infection known as sepsis that can be fatal. It's not always possible to determine the cause of ovarian cysts, and many are simply a case of a hormone imbalance that leads to your guinea pig producing too much oestrogen. In rare cases there is an underlying uterine condition, such as uterine cancer, that causes cysts to develop. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for ovarian cysts in guinea pigs:
Symptoms of ovarian cysts include lethargy and abdominal pain, which may present as your guinea pig being unwilling to be picked up or flinching when being stroked. Loss of appetite is also common, which can lead to rapid weight loss and social withdrawal. Additionally, due to hormone levels being out of balance, hair loss is typical in this condition. This can occur on any part of your guinea pig's body, but it tends to be particularly prominent around the abdomen.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose your guinea pig by taking details of their symptoms and carrying out an abdominal exam. They are typically able to feel the cysts when pressure is applied to the abdomen, but to confirm diagnosis and ensure there are no additional concerns, your guinea pig will undergo an abdominal ultrasound or X-ray. Additionally, blood samples will be taken to check hormone levels and determine whether your guinea pig's inflammatory markers are raised, which is indicative of an infection.
Spaying is the treatment of choice for ovarian cysts. This involves the surgical removal of all of your guinea pig's reproductive organs. Spaying is a common surgical procedure that is considered low-risk, but you should always discuss the potential risks of the surgery with your vet. In cases where surgery is deemed high-risk due to the presence of certain underlying health conditions, the vet may suggest hormone therapy with the goal of preventing the cysts from growing. Hormone therapy does not have a high success rate, so it's generally only an option for guinea pigs whose life would be at risk if they underwent surgery. Additionally, if your guinea pig is dehydrated or malnourished, they will receive nutritional support, and antibiotics will be prescribed if your vet thinks an infection could be present.
If your guinea pig has symptoms associated with ovarian cysts, or if you have any concerns about their reproductive health, schedule an appointment with your vet immediately to prevent unnecessary suffering. Contact a local vet to learn more about vet surgery options.