It was one of the worst cases of neglect my team had ever seen. In the decade Central Marin Cat and Exotic Hospital has served
the community of San Rafael, Calif., our veterinary team has cared for thousands of ailing animals that required urgent medical
attention and aged pets that needed assistance for a peaceful passing. But the pain a little guinea pig called Alfred experienced
still had the power to gall us.
Alfred's new owner brought him to our practice on a chilly fall day. She didn't have an appointment, but our front office
team only needed one look at Alfred's open sores and purulent eyes to realize he required immediate attention.
While guinea pigs can live up to eight years, at 2 years old, Alfred looked like a more antiquated specimen closer to death
than life. Alfred's new owner trembled and her eyes filled with tears as she shared Alfred's tale.
She had been friends with Alfred's previous owner. When she discovered Alfred's serious condition, she whisked him away and
told the previous owner the friendship was over. We blessed her for adopting a pet that would require extensive care—if he
survived the visit.
And it was clear Alfred was suffering. His body was hairless and limp, his skin was scabrous, and he emanated a rank odor.
We assured Alfred's new owner we'd care for Alfred the best we could.
The fight to live
The doctor opened Alfred's mouth and examined his mucus membranes. Then she checked Alfred's skin, eyes, and ears and found
a generalized mite infestation that had progressed into the ear cavity. Radiographs indicated Alfred didn't have any broken
bones or an infection of the bones. The doctor soaked Alfred's feet in antiseptic, the first of many soaks along his arduous
road to recovery. Then we administered antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and pain medication.
Alfred's new owner listened intently as the doctor shared a rigorous home treatment plan that included six soaks per day,
several medications, and force-feeding. The owner squared her shoulders and replied, "Whatever it takes." So we provided written
instructions for Alfred's home care and silently prayed the guinea pig would live the three days until his next scheduled
The healing begins
A flame too bright to extinguish burned in Alfred's damaged body. Over the next months, Alfred visited our practice regularly.
Our team patiently removed the scabs on his feet so the infectious serum could drain. We rejoiced as his protestations became
stronger and we struggled to hold his wiggling frame during exams and treatment. Alfred recovered more slowly from the mite
infestation, but eventually his hair began to grow again. Alfred's new owner never complained about the rigorous regimen,
and we witnessed her faithful care as Alfred gradually transformed from a painful animal to a healthy pet.
There are few rewards in our profession that compare to a victory fought well and hard. And no success story is sweeter and
no pet is more deserving than Alfred. Neglect brought Alfred to our practice and the power of love restored him.
Caitlin Amans/Photo by Ken Smith
Caitlin Amans lives in Lucas Valley, Calif. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org