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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 32759
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Our guinea pig,(approx. five years old) is showing weakness

Customer Question

Our guinea pig,(approx. five years old) is showing weakness in his right rear leg. He seems to drag it and will lose his balance on uneven ground. He does not appear to be in pain and is eating and drinking as usual. What is your opinion? Thank you. Lorna Collins
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
Lorna, there are quite a few possible etiologies for Charlie's right rear leg paresis (weakness)/paralysis. Nutritional, metabolic, degenerative, and neoplasic disorders can be present.

1) A pathological fracture due to scurvy - usually seen in young, growing pigs however. Ensure adequte intake of vitamin C.
2) Osteoarthritis and osteoarthrosis - spontaneous osteoarthritis is clinically seen in pigs but can also be seen secondary to ulcerative pododermatitis. Obesity and improper exercise and/or substrate are predipsosing factors. Treatment is palliative: soft clean bedding, pain management, increased exercise and/or physical therapy of the limbs to increase range of motion, and prevention of obesity.
3) Fibrous osteodystrophy - this is being reported in pigs with increasing frequency. It's caused by primary or secondary hyperparathyroidism and results in increased osteoclasic resorption of bone and replacement by fibrous tissue. In essence, we suspect an imbalanced calcium/phosphorus ratio. The etiology (cause) hasn't been clarified. Pathological fractures are seen.
4) Metastatic mineralization - calcium deposits in muscle. The etiology is unclear but, once again, an imbalance in the calcium/phosphorus ratio - perhaps due to renal disease - is suspected.
5) Nutritional muscular dystrophy. Myopathies (muscle disorders) have been reported to be associated with vitamin E/selenium deficiencies. Provide vitamin/mineral supplementation.
6) Degenerative/neoplastic disorders of the spine. Osteoarthritic changes or cancers in or around the spine can cause limb paresis/paralysis as will as ataxia ("drunken sailor"). Treatment with antiinflammatory medications is palliative.

As you can imagine, clarifying which of the above can be a challenge. Charlie's vet would need to perform a thorough physical exam and advise. I'm sorry for the delay in responding to you. We don't have many laboratory animal vets on our UK site. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.