Guinea pigs, also referred to as cavies, have reproductive organs that can become infected, plagued with cancer, impregnated, cystic and develop other problems if not removed. The ovaries, just like those in human women, can develop cysts which can cause a number of issues in your pig but thankfully these cystic issues can be avoided.
What are Ovaries?
Ovaries are the egg excreting part of the reproductive tract. They are located on both ends of the uterus (guinea pig uteri are shaped like the letter "V") and are small glands that secrete hormones. These glands are very complicated and can develop not only normal follicles, corpus luteum from the empty follicle, and eggs but can create fluid filled cysts that cause problems for guinea pigs.
What are Cysts?
A cyst is simply a pocket in the tissue that is filled with some sort of material such as air, pus, or another fluid. Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled pockets inside your guinea pig's ovaries that develop when the follicles inside the ovaries don't release eggs. Humans also get many different kinds of ovarian cysts.
Why are Cystic Ovaries Problematic?
The biggest concern with cystic ovaries in guinea pigs is if they burst. Not only are bursting cysts extremely painful but they can also kill your pet. They are uncomfortable prior to bursting and since guinea pigs will stop eating and defecating when they experience discomfort or pain simply having cysts can be life threatening if your cavy develops ileus.
How Do I Know if My Guinea Pig Has Cystic Ovaries?
An obvious symptom of ovarian cysts is symmetrical alopecia (hair loss) on your guinea pig's abdomen. Many owners bring their pig into their exotics vet for hair loss thinking their pet has some sort of external parasite like lice and discover there is a much bigger reason for the alopecia.
Your exotics vet may be able to palpate a large cyst or pair of cysts along with abdominal discomfort. He may recommend a radiograph (x-ray) or abdominal ultrasound to confirm the presence or absence of cystic ovaries. He may also attempt to aspirate the cyst by inserting a needle into the abdomen and drawing out some fluid in the cyst.
What Can Be Done for Cystic Ovaries?
The only way to "fix" cystic ovaries it by removing them. Typically a full ovariohysterectomy (spay) is recommended as soon as possible. Your exotics vet will spay your guinea pig as he normally would which will get rid of your guinea pig's problems and prevent them from happening again.