1.5 year old male rat showing possible signs of PT? stressing out lots over this :(

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lystelle

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my 1.5 year old male rat puffin has recently been very greasy. i thought at first maybe i needed to clean better, but his brother moose is doing just fine. he grooms lots, and has been looking ruffled and very greasy for the last two months. i knew this was something really different for him when i gave him a bath last week and he was incredibly greasy and unkempt looking only two days later in a freshly cleaned cage. this grease got so bad that he actually developed a small sebaceous cyst on his back, which has never happened with him before because he's usually so clean. i removed it as i have with prior rats (sterile lance and gently squeezed out the sebum), and it's just a scab now, no lump. that's not really the issue, it was just a surprising sign of how greasy he's been.

on top of this, puffin has been seemingly less alert and seems sluggish. he responds well to food, but he seems like he's stuck in that sleepy state that a lot of older males show when they first wake up- except here it's pretty much all the time. his eyes seem narrowed a lot, more than usual (he's ruby-eyed so he naturally squints sometimes). he loves being pet and being held, but i really do feel like he's so sluggish all the time. he's been showing increased nesting behavior sometimes, like ripping up cage items and pushing them around restlessly like he seems uncomfy with his space.

puffin has always been prone to a bit of a red porphyrin nose upon waking, but it was minor and he never seemed ill. now he's having it excessively. nothing from his eyes, but his nose almost looks like he had a bit of a nosebleed sometimes. he's sleeping almost all day in the same spot, and will cuddle with moose but overall seems less interested in anything but sleeping and eating. his stools look normal and by the skin-pinch test he seems a little dehydrated, even though i try to offer him lots of water-rich vegetables to help. i'm not sure if it's just my mind playing tricks on me, but i feel like either he's gotten lighter or his brother has gotten heavier and makes him feel that way in comparison when i hold him. he's currently 600g/1.3lbs but feels a bit.... hollow? his skin seems to sag a bit between his limbs? his appearance doesn't really match his numerical weight it seems.

since 10 months ago, puffin seems to choke on foods easily. things that his brother can handle, he'll choke on immediately. he's had more than a few sessions of choking on a food he ate too quickly for hours (sticking tongue out, drooling but breathing okay etc) and i can't tell if it's happening more often now. the way he eats, however, is still normal and he's not showing any signs of failure to grasp food or holding it in only one paw at all. he hasn't fallen clumsily outside of a couple instances of him climbing outside the critter nation door to jump on my bed and slipping (something that doesn't strike me as unusual for him or his brother).

it wasn't until tonight that i was looking at photos on my phone and realized how much he's changed since two months ago. he was more bright eyed and well groomed in october, noticeably so. i just get a feeling in my heart that he's not feeling his best, knowing how he normally is. after thinking about this, i started checking him for any signs of any illnesses and i can't find anything pressing like abdominal breathing, blown pupils. or scabbing from ticks anywhere. it FEELS like he's just under the weather, like it's maybe a small infection like a UTI or an ear infection, but i dont see any red flags for those specific things either. no head tilt, no walking in circles, no lung/chest noises. he carries his tail high and walks normally, even if he doesnt run much. the only thing i took away from the extensive health check i did just now is that he does indeed seem to be doing the 'head bumping' that i hear about with PT. even though i havent kept track, i feel like he's been doing this behavior since he was younger, so i dont know if it's actually new and PT related.

i'm thinking about trying some easy ways to narrow it down, like ibuprofen for pain and children's benadyrl for inflammation- and see if he seems to feel better. then i was thinking of starting him on amoxicillin, then doxy, and then baytril if i see no improvement. if all else fails or he starts showing neurological damage like walking funny, i'm having him taken to the vet, but i'm stuck between feeling like i'm overanalyzing this or if i'm right and he's got PT. the symptoms are scaring me. is it possible that PT can develop over 10 months (i thought it killed a rat faster?) or could this be something else that just feels like PT?

i know this post is long, but i wanted to give as much detail as i could for time's sake. any advice would be much appreciated.

-lystelle
 

Rattdad

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It seems like you're really in touch with what's going on with him, which is great, but the actual symptoms don't seem to indicate a PT, at least to me. What you describe sounds almost hormonal. But the symptoms sound mild, and many of them could be explained by him being an aging male.

I don't see why you'd give him either ibuprofen or benadryl. If you're going to give him a 'just in case' medicine, it seems like antibiotics 2-3 weeks would be the best bet. Wont' the benadryl just make him sleepier, in which case you'd be wondering still why he's acting so lethargic?

I'd recommend an antibiotics course if you're really concerned, but overall, the symptoms seem vague. You may very well be right--I just recently went through this myself, I feel like I have a good sense for when something's off, but I tend to misdiagnose--but I wonder if even a vet would be able to pinpoint a specific problem. Curious what Lilaspaz would say here...

Sorry for asking (since you sound like such a conscientious owner) but do you feel like he's properly engaged and stimulated? Is it possible he could be depressed? I do think the thing that sets rats apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is their curiosity and problem-solving abilities. Can you take him to a new area for outdoor time, hide treats, re-arrange the cage, etc? Just a thought. His diet sounds excellent!

** I just read over your post again... It sounds like you could very well be right that something's happening with him but it's not clear to me what that would be. The porphyrin is a definite sign that something's stressing him. I'd just continue to give him lots of love and support and see if things become more clear as time goes on.
 

lystelle

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It seems like you're really in touch with what's going on with him, which is great, but the actual symptoms don't seem to indicate a PT, at least to me. What you describe sounds almost hormonal. But the symptoms sound mild, and many of them could be explained by him being an aging male.

I don't see why you'd give him either ibuprofen or benadryl. If you're going to give him a 'just in case' medicine, it seems like antibiotics 2-3 weeks would be the best bet. Wont' the benadryl just make him sleepier, in which case you'd be wondering still why he's acting so lethargic?

I'd recommend an antibiotics course if you're really concerned, but overall, the symptoms seem vague. You may very well be right--I just recently went through this myself, I feel like I have a good sense for when something's off, but I tend to misdiagnose--but I wonder if even a vet would be able to pinpoint a specific problem. Curious what Lilaspaz would say here...

Sorry for asking (since you sound like such a conscientious owner) but do you feel like he's properly engaged and stimulated? Is it possible he could be depressed? I do think the thing that sets rats apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is their curiosity and problem-solving abilities. Can you take him to a new area for outdoor time, hide treats, re-arrange the cage, etc? Just a thought. His diet sounds excellent!

** I just read over your post again... It sounds like you could very well be right that something's happening with him but it's not clear to me what that would be. The porphyrin is a definite sign that something's stressing him. I'd just continue to give him lots of love and support and see if things become more clear as time goes on.
you're very right, at this point i think i wasn't in a good mental place when i wrote this post and was overanalyzing him. when i'm not feeling too good, my first thoughts are always that the rats are unhappy, sick, etc... looking at him today i feel like it could very well be that he's depressed. i think i'd like to rearrange the cage, maybe make him some more homemade hammocks (he likes the ones i've made before very much). maybe i'll get him some different kinds of veggies and fruits at dinner. out of my two boys, puffin is the lazier and sleepier one, so i sometimes feel bad for disturbing him when he looks comfy and only take moose out to play. i didn't think that maybe i should take him out regardless of whether he's comfy or not, he does need a change of scenery i'm sure.

i went through a lot of the symptoms and i feel like since having time to re-attribute them to a possible something else instead of a PT, i feel much less stressed. honestly, he's always had much more pophyrin production when he wakes up than moose has- and looking at him when he eats, he can hold food just fine with both hands. he hasn't fallen or been extremely clumsy lately. i think he might be losing weight because moose likes to snatch food right from him at dinner. i'm trying to take moose out and give him a head start lately, i hope he puts more weight on over time.

it could go either way at this point, but i know that i tend to fixate on rats having symptoms of stress because it just brings up trauma from past rats getting rapid-onset pneumonia and such.... makes me start panicking. i'm definitely going to try and improve his happiness and give him lots of love until things become more clear. thank you :)
 

lystelle

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I advise you to take him out, even if he seems snoozy! Otherwise I really hope he's okay. Sure sounds to me as if you're doing everything right!
Updating this, not sure if I should make a new thread. It seems like Puffin is rapidly degenerating. I had him taken to the only vet in the entire area that will treat rats this morning, he said he can't diagnose a PT and give cabergoline without a $3000 CT scan done by someone else that has to be scheduled out. He warned against it because he doesnt even know if the specialist would be willing to sedate a rat for it. Gave me dexamethasone and baytril injectable, plus nutri-cal. I'm just devastated, I have been the last two days. He's struggling to hold food for more than a second now, he keeps forgetting he has it in his hands. Not dragging his tail or legs yet, but he's so floppy and confused. Starting to knuckle slightly on one hand, sleeping lots. I don't know how other rat owners have even gotten this med..... seems impossible. It could save his life but it seems completely out of reach. I'm keeping him comfortable for the meantime and taking it day by day. He's still very eager to eat but so spacey...
 

lilspaz68

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The dex should give him a reprieve from symptoms but the vet is VERY wrong on the diagnosis of PT. They do not do scans, they diagnose off of symptoms, so he should've given you cabergoline or a prescription for bromocriptine to fill at a pharmacy. Do you want to go over the dex dosing? Vets usually massively underdose steroids.
 

lystelle

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The dex should give him a reprieve from symptoms but the vet is VERY wrong on the diagnosis of PT. They do not do scans, they diagnose off of symptoms, so he should've given you cabergoline or a prescription for bromocriptine to fill at a pharmacy. Do you want to go over the dex dosing? Vets usually massively underdose steroids.
that makes so much sense. i thought i was going crazy because i swear everyone else in the rat community are able to get this med without a $3000 CT..... i’m taking him to another vet in the morning but things are getting really close. i really really hope this vet listens to me this time. if not, he’s gonna need to be put to sleep asap, which i really don’t want to do. should i say a specific thing to the new vet to get them to understand? there’s really hardly any rat vets near me, even though i live in california. it’s really difficult. do you know if bromocriptine is specifically better in some way or is cabergoline the best bet for him?

and yes i might up the dex at his next dose. he prescribed this mix of injectable baytril, b vitamins and dex and do the actual dose is a little unclear. the liquid i’m drawing from is 0.3ml every 24hrs.
 
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lystelle

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Give the dex 24 hrs to see if there's any improvement.

Depending on where you are bromocriptine can be less expensive and easier to get. Cabergoline is a bit better though for prolactinomas.
You were completely right, I called through about 20 vets in my area and finally found a single one who sees rats. It's a bit far but I took him- and the vet said I was right about PT and they were going to diagnose by symptoms. He prescribed Cabergoline and seems well educated on rats, which is a first for me since there's hardly any vets in my area like that. It's a newer animal hospital, and I'm gonna be going here from now on. He said he wanted to skip the attempt to grind up pills and mix with things and just have a special liquid suspension of it made for me. I placed the order with the pharmacy he sent it to immediately and paid for overnight shipping- I dont know how long the non-transit part will take them but he seems to think that Puffin will be able to make it to the date of the delivery so long as I keep him on the dex. For me, as long as he's eating and drinking with the excitement he is right now, I think he'll make it until it's delivered.

It was expensive, but that's what happens when you cant get discounts for regular pharmacies with the pill form. I just want to get him situated with this and then we can worry about money haha. I was so thankful that this vet finally actually knew what he was doing and treated Puffin like he really cared. I'm hoping for the quickest delivery and, when I get it, a quick turnaround for my boy. I'll update here if anything starts to go awry.

I thought I'd also ask, the first vet at the walk-in clinic prescribed him baytril/dex/vitamin b injectable and I've been trying to give him the injection the best I can, do you have tips on how to make sure it's done okay? I've never had to use a subQ medication on my rats before this. Just want to make sure he's getting all the dex to calm his swelling until the delivery.
 

lystelle

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Update, Puffin seems to be getting very pale, which stresses me out because that's one of the big signs my past rat had shown before he passed. Is there a way I can help this? He's on Nutri-Cal and I'm offering him plenty of water, liquid ensure, soft foods etc. Is it anemia or a heart issue? I'm thinking of calling the vet at 8am to request it to be filled in pill form so that I can force it until I get the oral suspension (apparently cabergoline tastes really bad) so I can start him on it until I get the actual prescription in the mail.
 

lilspaz68

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Ok did they give you needles or butterfly infusion sets for the subcutaneous injections?

You would want to pull up the loose skin on the back of the neck/shoulders tight then insert the needle until you feel a "pop" and that means you are through the skin into the subcutaneous space, then express the syringe as slow as you can (fast if he's struggling). Massage the area for a moment and you are done.
 

lystelle

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Ok did they give you needles or butterfly infusion sets for the subcutaneous injections?

You would want to pull up the loose skin on the back of the neck/shoulders tight then insert the needle until you feel a "pop" and that means you are through the skin into the subcutaneous space, then express the syringe as slow as you can (fast if he's struggling). Massage the area for a moment and you are done.
Perfect, I’ve been trying to do it gently but swiftly to get it in. I think the first time was just a bit confusing. They gave me regular single use needles. I just put in a request to get a callback from the vet today on another prescription to a regular vet or whatever he thinks is best. I just want him to make it until the prepared solution is shipped.
 

lystelle

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Puffin has suddenly become lethargic. He's more limp than he's ever been. I was told the vet would call me back but it's been a while. I regret having not asked him for an immediate prescription even if it's hard to get him to eat it. I'm holding him now and I don't know what else to do. He got his dex shot at just a bit ago like he's supposed to.
 

lystelle

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My guess is the dex is too low a dose :(. I'm sorry. If you can get the proper dose they can sometimes come back from almost immobility. Is he collapsed on his chest or curled up on his side?
He's mainly flat on his chest, wont hold up his head. Class lethargy "limp" feeling, but the rest of his body is almost normal. The second I offer him water, liquid ensure, or nutri-cal, he immediately holds his head up to take it. He keeps wanting it. It's so confusing, leading me to almost think he had some sort of stroke and he's actually just normal somewhat but trapped in a very weak body. I'm continuting to give him the dex as prescribed but I'm gonna attempt to do all I can to contact a vet on a Sunday, even if it's not much. They never called back today as they said they would try to. He just seems... peaceful somewhat? He's not gasping or struggling. Occasionally he jumps up to try and walk around. He seems to WANT to act normally. Am I right about a stroke? He just keeps going.

Update;

03945D4A-9BB7-4164-B042-FABC50948C47.jpeg

This is what the first clinic vet put him on (the one who wouldn’t give him cabergoline, he doesn’t know much about rats imo) could I safely increase this dose a bit? I don’t know if you can easily overdose on a bit more baytril and vitamin b :/
 
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lystelle

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I would increase it.

PT has frightening symptoms but the rat seems to be confused but peaceful.
You’re right, I’ll try to up it to maybe .35 or maybe .4 to see if it helps. At noon tomorrow for his next dose I’ll choose which one based on how he’s doing. I do think he had a minor bleed earlier today because his new lethargy seems to be stroke-like. He’s actually improved since he got lethargic so I’m assuming that’s what happened.

Do you know if dexamethasone can cause paleness? He wasn’t pale until after I started him on it.
 

lystelle

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No, the paleness is not from the dex. It's because his condition is progressing. You might need to syringe feed or make sure he gets liquids as dehydration is much more worrying than starvation
As of this morning he is surprisingly much better. I think he genuinely had a hemorrhage yesterday and has been recovering since. He isn’t lethargic and limp anymore, he actually reacts and responds to me and moves his head to sniff and eat and such. I’m really happy. Yesterday I gave him lots of water based drinks like ensure, etc and nutrical plus applesauce and some rice pudding after meds. He takes them through a syringe so well. I’m aiming for 30ml of water and water based drinks a day, and I’m making sure he’s cleaned up and comfortable always.

He seems much more alert and bright eyed than yesterday by far. I just gave him his dex/baytril/b complex compound shot a few minutes ago and he took it like a champ! Even if he doesn’t make it, I’m just grateful I have more time to contact the vet tomorrow morning. Since it’s sunday, I can’t do much, but I’m gonna keep him hydrated and comfortable as much as possible. I’m alternating him between hammock rest with his brother and being held/pet in a blanket and syringe fed by me. He might just make it out of this and get his meds.

Will update this if anything major happens :)
 

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