The National Cavy Club and the Southern Cavy Club have issued a Joint Statement regarding unexplained deaths of cavies in winter 2011/2012.
We have a situation where we have fanciers from various areas of the country reporting significant losses within their studs of cavies. We can speculate as to the causes of these losses but at present we are unable to give any positive answers. The clubs are drawing together all interested parties. Rachael has put together a very comprehensive overview for which we are very thankful. I have enclosed a copy of the NCC disease control and prevention guidelines to reiterate our commitment to good bio-security at cavy shows. Most importantly is a questionnaire for people who have already experienced problems and for any subsequent problems – please fill in as accurately as possible – the more detail we have the more likely we are to be able to come to useful conclusions.
David Oulton (NCC Chairman)
Gerry Harvey (SCC Chairman)
This is my understanding of the facts so far (albeit as a vet) and some interpretations that are floating around. I am not aware of all the details as understandably there are some people who would rather not have their losses discussed on facebook or forums.
If you look back over time, it is not unusual for people to lose large numbers of animals in a short period. Usually this is due to a virus/bacteria entering a group of animals that they have not met before. In the vast majority of cases symptoms are obvious and deaths occur over a more prolonged period. This is where the current situation seems to differ.
Over the last month 3 people have lost large numbers of guinea pigs over a period of less than 48hrs and without symptoms. Remaining animals have (touch wood) shown no sign of illness (some seem to have died with food still in their mouths). The recent cases involve Bristol, Derbyshire and Hertfordshire and involve approaching 200 deaths in total.
There are yet more people who have lost large numbers since the summer of last year. Some of these have displayed brief symptoms including neurological signs/ gastro intestinsl signs shortly before death.
Post mortems have been conducted by vets in general practice, without sending samples for histology/bacteriology/virology and have been inconclusive. Some have sent samples of feed/forage for analysis with no results.
The husbandry of these animals is spot on. There are no heaters or sources of noxious gasses. The only link seems to be that most are fed on at least some mix and a dried grass product.
To me the main reasons for such sudden deaths could be:
As yet there is no diagnosis and any ideas are pure speculation.
In the case of further mass deaths I would recommend sending 3 cavies to Mark Stidworthy at the IVZG, a pathologist and exotics specialist. The cost for this is £260 (+ VAT). He will conduct gross post mortems on all 3 and take samples from the rest for further testing (histopathology and bacteriology). If virology/toxicology is needed then this will be additional.
Samples should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge (or equivalent eg cool box and icepacks, or outside if cold but NOT frozen) and reach the pathologist within 48hrs. Any submissions can be made through your vet who will have a same day courier service but may make a small charge for postage/packaging.
In addition keep samples of food/forage for analysis. I would notify the companies involved with the relevant batch numbers and it should also be possible to arrange this testing through the FSA and trading standards. Usually you need some idea of what to test for.
There is currently no indication of an infectious cause so no reason for the main cavy bodies (NCC/SCC) to cancel all shows. For now it remains up to the individual. In order to minimize any risk to animals at home it would seem sensible to, at the very least, quarantine any show animals/ bought in animals in a separate airspace. Feed these last each day and disinfect with virkon (or similar) between attending to the main shed and those in quarantine. Others may choose to not show, buy in animals or allow any visitors until the situation is clearer.
The Cavy Clubs are able to set guidelines but believe disease control and prevention is essentially each individual member’s responsibility. ALL CAVY KEEPERS SHOULD AT ALL TIMES BE VIGILANT FOR ANY SIGNS OF DISEASE IN THEIR ANIMALS IF ANY PROBLEM IS DETECTED STRICT BIO SECURITY SHOULD BE PRACTICED FOR THE PROTECTION OF OTHERS. IF THERE IS ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS DISEASE OF ANY SORT IN A STUD OF CAVIES PROFESSIONAL VETERINARY HELP SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY SOUGHT. THE OWNER OF THESE CAVIES SHOULD NOT TAKE THE ANIMALS TO SHOWS OR TO OTHER FANCIERS’ PREMISES NOR PUT THEMSELVES IN A POSITION WHERE THEY MAY BE A DANGER TO OTHERS.
If an animal is showing symptoms of ill health at a show this should be reported to the secretary or appointed veterinary officer if one is available. They will decide if the animal is to be excluded from the show. Any animal that is suspected of suffering from an infectious disease must to be removed from the show hall or moved to an isolation area. In no circumstances should the animal be returned to its show pen. Judges must disqualify and report to the secretary any cavy showing evidence of ill health such as obvious breathing difficulties, significant evidence of mucus or abnormal discharges from the eyes, nose, mouth or reproductive or intestinal openings. This applies to any animal that the judge suspects is suffering from any infectious condition.
During judging cavies should be physically kept apart as much as possible bearing in mind some contact may be necessary for essential comparison. Excrement etc should be cleared from the judging table as soon as is practical. Judges and stewards should have facilities to wash or be provided with and should use hand disinfectants certainly between classes.
Any sale stock must in accordance with NCC & SCC show regulations be sold through appointed sale stewards only. Pre-ordered stock being exchanged should remain in the sale pen area. Full names and addresses should be obtained from any prearranged sellers or buyers.
When fanciers import stock from abroad they should keep it in quarantine conditions for a month, this means not taking it to shows or selling on to other fanciers or in fact being handled by other fanciers during this quarantine period.
THIS IS A DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION OVERVIEW; THIS IS SUPPORTED BY A DETAILED AND MUCH LONGER FORMAL CODE OF PRACTICE PRODUCED BY CAROLINE SMITH FOR THE NATIONAL CAVY CLUB TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES. IN THE CASE OF A MAJOR DISEASE OUTBREAK THE NCC & SCC WILL ADVISE THE ORGANISERS OF SHOWS OF THE APPROPRIATE ACTION IF AT THE TIME THE CANCELLATION OF SHOWS WAS CONSIDERED NECESSARY.
Wash 2: Designed by Simon Neesam for the British Cavy Council © 2016