Calcified Bulla Syndrome (CBS)
After years of research and endless Xrays I put the many pieces together that make up CBS and discovered a brand new syndrome. I knew, just had a gut feeling that a head tilt was not simply an ear infection. The funny thing was that it was always both ears that were affected, not just one. And then after relentless researched and the assistance of of Dr Nenn I had a breakthrough. I also discovered that a head tilt is present in only 25% of the cases. Here is what I learned so far.
This is the article I wrote for Guinea Pig Magazine but since the letters are a little small I published the written article as well.
Calcified Bulla Syndrome (CBS) in Guinea Pigs
by Saskia Chiesa
Not all these symptoms have to present for the syndrome to be diagnosed.
One or two symptoms are often enough to create a suspicion and a simple head x-ray will confirm diagnosis. The more symptoms your guinea pigs identifies with the higher the chance the animal will be a special needs patient.
Frequent and Chronic Upper Respiratory Infections AND Pneumonia (seemingly antibiotic resistant)
Runny Nose - One or Both Nostrils
Leaky Eye one or both eyes
Drooping lips on one side
Missing Blink Reflex (usually one eye)
Partial or full paralysis of the tongue making swallowing impossible
Holding the head up high
Head Bobbing (some pigs do this to sense their way around and the bobbing stops when you pig is eating, proving that not neurological)
Blindness one or both eyes
Deafness one or both ears do the clap test right behind your pig so he cannot see you do it
Going in Circles
Weak Bite Strength often characterized by the inability to put food in the mouth despite trying
Leaky Eye one or both
Molar Issues – Recurring dental work
Loose stool from recurring antibiotic use including permanent damage
It appears likely that the cause is untreated URI’s or URI’s not treated on time.
A lot of babies for instance purchased from one of the big name pet stores suffer from URI that do not always get immediate treatment or receive treatment when it is too late. Owners may think the URI symptoms are an allergy for instance.
The nose throat and ears are all connected and in an animal that does not receive timely antibiotic treatment the bacteria that causes CBS are free to travel and make their way to the middle ear to settle in the Bulla. Once there, antibiotics will not be able to reach and the bulla responds to the invaders by creating a wall of Calcium that is very easy to make out on an xray.
How does this affect the infected guinea pig.
These symptoms happen because the antibiotics are never quite able to kill the bacteria as they hide in the bulla where they multiply and circulate freely through the nose and throat area. I believe that this is why we see an antibiotic work for just a few months at most before a URI returns.
The raging infection will attack the ears mimicking an ear infection I say mimicking because a key symptom of a “real” ear infection is not present, the smelly pus coming from the ear and often a head tilt is missing. Also a “regular” ear infection usually will respond to medication and CBS does not.
The calcium build up in the ear can cause a head tilt. Some tilts more severe than others. These cause vertigo in some cases where the animal loses balance, sways, goes in circles and fall over. This is often misdiagnosed as a neurological issue. They often learn to live with these symptoms so the severity may decrease in time. Sometimes an animal is observed wobbling its head in an up and down manner and or side to side and also holding its head up high. This is caused by blindness and deafness and the pig’s attempt to compensate and cope with the disability.
Eating – Teeth
In extremely severe cases, the facial nerve on the side the head is tilting towards becomes affected and this causes dry eye as the blink reflex is no longer there. An inability to eat properly as it would appear that the jaw muscle is also affected. Hay is likely the first thing the pig will stop eating as the jaw strength needed to grind the rough hay has been is absent. The pig will likely gravitate to softer foods and will have a hard time chewing food and steadily lose weight. Observe your pig eating. Is he just chewing endlessly or swallowing the food and dipping down for the second bite fairly fast?
What can you do to fix this?
As of right now there is no cure. The best thing we can do is to support the symptoms when they appear. Antibiotics if the URI is bad or pneumonia develops. I have a Facebook called Wheekers. You can ask questions there and I am often there myself to ansswer them. hugs saskia WHEEKERS OUR FACEBOOK GROUP FOR SUPPORT