I was shocked. The young lady closed her eyes and lowered her head as I took her guinea pig to the operating room. This young lady was extremely upset as she did not accept my explanation that her guinea pig would not die on the operating table under gas anaesthesia. Her other 2-year-old guinea pig who was following her mum around every day had died despite treatment by Vet 1. The guinea pig was not eating and just died. Some causes of death are unknown unless autopsies are carried out and this was not done. So, she imagined the worst for this guinea pig.
She had heard so many stories of anaesthetic deaths and this 2.5-year-old guinea pig needed some gas anaesthesia. "The guinea pig always bite the BBQ wire fencing every morning to ask for her breakfast. Today, a loud banging noise frightened her and her teeth was broken when she tried to run off."
"Isoflurane gas anaesthesia is very safe for guinea pigs," I explained to her. She would not accept my explanation and wanted to be present. "No," I said. "You will stress yourself and everybody by being present at the operating room. I have to focus on the anaesthesia and you will be a great distraction."
So, the young lady had to wait in the waiting area. The guinea pig squealed when I touched her. My assistant took out the face mask as this was the standard procedure. He was on auto-pilot. "No face mask," I said. "The guinea pig has two loose front teeth and they are loose and bleeding. The usual small face mask will cause pain as it will touch the teeth. The best method is to use a bag and put the guinea pig inside this bag. Go and get a bag" Teaching my Myanamr vet assistant is part of my contribution to society. Once he is good, he will be in great demand and goes away. This can't be helped. In fact, competitors have tried to lure him away from my practice as he has 2 years of experience at Toa Payoh Vets. I accept that he needs to secure for himself a better future. No employee works long in a place and two years were great. What he needs is another 2 years and he can open his own vet practice in Myanmar, after learning the tricks of the trade from me and my assistant Dr Jason Teo. He could also learn by job-hopping. Maybe.
I made my assistant think. He went to look for a plastic bag. "Take this narrow vertical plastic corner and put the guinea pig inside," I showed him the gadget which was wide enough to fit the small guinea pig. It was slightly longer than the length of this little pig and was open at the top. I found this narrow transparent plastic container shop and knew it would be useful as an anasthetic chamber for the anaesthesia of guinea pigs and rabbits. Plastic bags are poor alternatives.
"What to do with the open top?" I asked my assistant. He got some towel tissue, made a central hole and taped the tissue at the sides, thereby covering the open top. It was OK. The hole would be where the endotracheal tube would be inserted to pipe in the isoflurane gas. This was what we do for hamster anaesthesia.
I was thinking too. Is there an alternative to this paper-top cover up which appeared flimsy? "Just get a thick white towel to cover the top," I said. At the side, put in the gas.
We did that. The guinea pig turned her head away from the incoming gas. But since the whole container was covered, she breathed the 5% isoflurane gas. Suddenly, the whole floor of this transparent container had a milky white discharge. She had peed. Within 5 mintues, she was dazed. I took her out, examined the front teeth. They were loose. I just extracted them and presented them to the happy lady.
Since I was free, I gave her a ride to Agnes' pet shop where she had bought her guinea pig and wanted to buy some hay or "emergency diet for guinea pigs". I don't sell pet food and so I drove her to Agnes and at the same time, see the new pet shop set up by Agnes.
Agnes had not told me about her new pet shop. Since she had no more rabbit scabies problems for the past 6 months, I did not have any referrals from her. I thought she had closed her half-shop in Ang Mo Kio as I just can't figure how she could survive.
This new pet shop set up one month ago was bright and pretty. Guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits were sold here. In clean plastic containers. No puppies or kittens. I was glad that Agnes had prospered as I know that the pet shop business is a cut throat underpricing business in Singapore.
"The guinea pig's teeth will grow back in two weeks," Agnes said. "Use a file to file the lower teeth every day." This filing system was what I advised the guinea pig owner now that the two upper front teeth was broken at the gum level and the lower front teeth would grow and grow. I was told that the guinea pig's tooth grows 1 mm per day. In 14 days, it should be 1.4 cm if what I was told was correct.
"You don't think that guinea pigs are dumb creatures," Agnes implied to me when I told her that the dead guinea pig of the lady owner used to follow the mum around every day and was said to be more intelligent than the one with the loose front teeth. "I have a client who spends a lot of time with her guinea pig. When my client says 'bang' and points her forefinger and thumb, the guinea pig falls to the side and plays dead." Certainly, Agnes is an authority on guinea pig behaviour.
I was admiring the new pet shop. Suddenly, a mother and daughter came in with a scratching rabbit. The story continues