Changes in older rat... Should I be concerned?

RattoPazzo

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Hi, I have a few questions about my 26 month old rat.

Since a month ago more or less she has had a big porphyrin stain on her side. It's only there, and I do not see an excess near eyes or nose. I've also been rat phoning her regularly and can't hear any unusual sounds. Could it be that she simply can't reach her sides as well as before? or could it be something else?

she also has been shaking her had more than usual... she almost never used to shake her head but now she dose it a few times a day. Nothing excessive but I was wondering if it could mean something.

Last thin is she sometimes has a bit of a protruding eye. She can close it no problem so I'm not too concerned, but for a full picture I thought I would mention it.

Other than this few thing she is perfectly healthy, still very active, jumping and climbing around, eating and drinking well.
Thanks for any advice/suggestion and hope you have a happy new year!
 

lilspaz68

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The porphyrin stain could be trransference from grooming.
The shaking head may be a buildup of wax in her ears, being an older rat she may be having trouble cleaning her own ears. Try rubbing her ears with a finger inside. Start off gently and increase pressure. She may press or grind on your finger as you help her itchies. The wax will soften then stick to your finger, just wipe your finger off when helping her out then wash your hands after. See if this resolves the shaking head.
 

RattoPazzo

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Hi, sorry for the late reply.
I've tried to clean her ears as you said and she seams to have reduced the frequency of her head shakes, even if nothing much came out.
I've also been offering her a chamomile tea bath during freeroam so she can clean herself and get some of the porphyrin off her eyes. this seams to help with the stain on her side.
Thanks for the advice with the ear!
 

Rattdad

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Sorry for the thread jack, but do you mind telling me what you use for 'rat phoning'? I bought a well-reviewed but inexpensive stethoscope from Jeff Bezos and I wasn't able to hear any respiratory sounds. I poked around a bit on the web and found info saying that one has to buy an animal stethoscope to hear a rat's breathing (but this could be inaccurate).
 

RattoPazzo

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Sorry for the thread jack, but do you mind telling me what you use for 'rat phoning'? I bought a well-reviewed but inexpensive stethoscope from Jeff Bezos and I wasn't able to hear any respiratory sounds. I poked around a bit on the web and found info saying that one has to buy an animal stethoscope to hear a rat's breathing (but this could be inaccurate).
No worries! 😁
I just hold the rat to my ear, one side and then the other. if she is calm enough I also do it from the front and the back. I do this every once I a while just as a precaution and like twice a day if I suspect that something might be going on. If there is a serious RI you will hear strange sounds even with on stethoscope (with witch I have no experience).
But I also had times where neither me nor the vet, with a proper medical stethoscope, could hear anything but the rat was still sick. 2 weeks on ab. and she was back to normal though.
Hope this helps!
 

lilspaz68

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TBH I have used stethoscopes and my ears and your ears are actually better since we aren't medical professionals. The only time I use a stetho now is when I have a rat that doesn't like being picked up, because I can press it against them when they are standing.
 

RattoPazzo

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I have another question about my oldy. 😅
I noticed Tamira has gained some weight since turning 2. Before she was 350/360 grams and now she is 375/382g. Is she very overweight? I've made some attempts at getting her to loose a bit but she seams to get it all back after some time. Given her age I'm also wondering if it's jus a metabolism thing. She seams pretty stable in her new weight, still active and very agile for her age, so maybe I should just live her like this?
She also seams to self regulate, eating some of the food I give and stashing the rest to eat later.
Thanks in advance!
 

Ela

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Hi, I have a few questions about my 26 month old rat.

Since a month ago more or less she has had a big porphyrin stain on her side. It's only there, and I do not see an excess near eyes or nose. I've also been rat phoning her regularly and can't hear any unusual sounds. Could it be that she simply can't reach her sides as well as before? or could it be something else?

she also has been shaking her had more than usual... she almost never used to shake her head but now she dose it a few times a day. Nothing excessive but I was wondering if it could mean something.

Last thin is she sometimes has a bit of a protruding eye. She can close it no problem so I'm not too concerned, but for a full picture I thought I would mention it.

Other than this few thing she is perfectly healthy, still very active, jumping and climbing around, eating and drinking well.
Thanks for any advice/suggestion and hope you have a happy new year!
Not to alarm, but this sounds an awfully lot like it could be the beginning symptoms of a Pituitary Tumor to me. I noted very very similar symptoms with one of our girls and wasn't able to come across the right advice until it was too late. Especially with the protruding eye. PT's can take months, even years to cause major problems... but the symptoms almost always start w/ head shaking and protruding eyes... then leading to other symptoms later. Head "bumping" is another indicator. But you'll find lots of info on this online I'm sure.

I would try and get her to a good exotic vet to have them evaluate and get your options ahead of time, so there's a plan in place if things decline.
 

RattoPazzo

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Not to alarm, but this sounds an awfully lot like it could be the beginning symptoms of a Pituitary Tumor to me.
It did cross my mind but for now it could also really be just old age, I think.
I recently lost her sister to PT so, unfortunately I know the prognosis and some of the symptoms.
I'm still keeping her under close observation and taking notes of anything significant. For example, I've noticed that the eye protrusions are worst in the evening and almost none in the morning. The head shaking has significantly diminished since I started rubbing her ears, like lilsapaz suggested.
About the head bumping I'm not sure as my other girl never had that. Tamira has always done some head bumping so, in her case, I'm not too concerned.
the only thing that is a bit out of place with her usual behaviors is the fact that she is starting to produce a bit more porphyrin (or maybe she just is not cleaning it all off as efficiently as before as she is also starting to have some HLD problems)
Last time my Vet diagnosed Nifti, Tamis sister, by doing an x-ray. She had to be gassed and just a week later she died. I've read that anesthesia can worsen or accelerate the growth of the tumor and with Tamira being now over 2 years, I'm not sure I want to risk that happening. If you have any suggestions on ho to diagnose PT without anesthesia, I'd be very grateful.
 

Ela

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That can be true about anesthesia. I've read that and unfortunately had a similar tragedy. A good exotic vet experienced with rats can diagnose/advise wthout using it. I've had vets tell me that x-rays aren't at all advised to diagnose PT's... but I haven't looked deeper into it.

I thought my 2.2 yo precious girl had the beginnings of HDL. She had also been doing some head shaking (no tilt as often described)... it came and went... she had excess porphyrin (for a long time), and one eye that started bulging a little once and a while. I let it go and monitored, and by the time her symptoms progressed and I got her to a vet she was diagnosed with a PT. I lost her before her medication was processed... She had recently undergone mammary surgery and I suspect it sped it's growth. But that was just my experence.

Her 2.5 yo sister started showing similar symptoms about 3 months later. She has always head bumped since basically birth btw. When she had started the head shaking, eye buldge, porphyrin, and showed a little difficulty gripping food we rushed her to the vet. They diagnosed a PT. While she too got MUCH worse quickly, Cabergoline reversed almost all symptoms and she's still going strong.

Thankfully there is a lot of info online available, so hopefully you're able to deduce whats best... and also find a vet wary of anesthesia who can advise. I think you are right to be cautious. ISAMU Rats has a lot of info online that is useful according to diet aswell.
 

RattoPazzo

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Thanks for all the valuable info.
I thought my 2.2 yo precious girl had the beginnings of HDL.
This is very interesting as Nifti also had something that looked like HLD, but was too young to have that. I wonder if it is more common than we thing and why you never hear of it in connection to PT.
She had recently undergone mammary surgery and I suspect it sped it's growth. But that was just my experence.
Tamira has undergone two mammary tumor removal last September. she turned 2 in November and a few weeks later started to show her old age. At the time I attributed it to all the changes in her life, loosing her sister and after a failed intro adjusting to living alone (I unfortunately will no longer be able to keep rats after her). despite all of that she is as strong an independent as ever, so I never worried too much.

Can I ask how your vet went about diagnosing her? did they go off the symptoms you observed at home or did they do some tests?
 

Ela

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They just went off all off the symptoms listed above (ran no tests) and said those are always telltale signs of pituitary. They examined her and noticed a few things I didn't...like she had a slight "tilt". They suggested we try her on Cabergoline if we could handle the expense. And in our case it worked. They absolutely didn't want to do x-rays. I first suggested them, doubting the diagnosis. I'm always wary of strong medicine! But they see rats all the time there and were right.

PTs and HLD share similar symptoms so it can be tricky... I think it's combining all the symptoms really that determines the liklihood of which one it is. Another sign for PT is a rapid increase in benign mammary tumors, as prolactin effects them. I've been told that if you're seeing a lot of them, PT is almost always the root cause. BUT not until too late for my first baby. I would have never put her through that last surgery had I known.

That said, I guess some rats (and people for that matter) can live their whole lives with them going undetected. Unfortunately with rats though it's very common for them to create issue in older unspayed females.
 

RattoPazzo

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Ok, thankyou very much for the very precious information.
I'll try to get a few different vets opinions to get her assessed now. As of now she could fool everyone in thinking she is fine, but going off your very detailed description she really could be in the beginning stages of PT. I'll keep the thread updated if any new info comes out.
@Ela if I notice any new symptoms could I private message you?
 

Ela

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Of course. Like I said I wish I knew more for our previous girl. And def message me if you want any more input. Obviously I hope my hunch isn't correct... but I've been through this twice personally and have connected with a lot of different vets throughout. It's something to be on the look out for. And NOT necessarily a death sentence. Especially if she's already 2yrs, with proper care she could live a good healthy while even with one.

IF indeed it's a PT, symptoms can start out mild for quite a while... and there's the chance they may not even progress much. BUT... if I were you I'd avoid any optional surgeries for now (obviously not life saving), and avoid prolactin increasing foods which you can find via google search. And of course lots of exercise, leafy greens/fresh veggies and love... to keep the weight down/ at a healthy level.

And yeah, def find an experienced ratty vet who can properly guide. It's hard because many places see exotics, but I've gotten bad rat specific advice from some of them. Too many times.

Best of luck to you and your girl!!!!
 

mwp051699

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Not to alarm, but this sounds an awfully lot like it could be the beginning symptoms of a Pituitary Tumor to me. I noted very very similar symptoms with one of our girls and wasn't able to come across the right advice until it was too late. Especially with the protruding eye. PT's can take months, even years to cause major problems... but the symptoms almost always start w/ head shaking and protruding eyes... then leading to other symptoms later. Head "bumping" is another indicator. But you'll find lots of info on this online I'm sure.

I would try and get her to a good exotic vet to have them evaluate and get your options ahead of time, so there's a plan in place if things decline.
Agree
 

RattoPazzo

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I'm planning to take her to the vet next Wednesday and in the mine time I'll try to read up as much as I can.
I've been trying to find some articles or something where it talks about the relation between anesthesia and PT growth to show the vet, if necessary, but I can't find any. I'm sure I read something about it... does anyone have any links?
Thanks
 

Ela

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I'm planning to take her to the vet next Wednesday and in the mine time I'll try to read up as much as I can.
I've been trying to find some articles or something where it talks about the relation between anesthesia and PT growth to show the vet, if necessary, but I can't find any. I'm sure I read something about it... does anyone have any links?
Thanks
I've only found research regarding humans... after seeing a few postings from rat owners claiming the coorelation. I believe it true tho, because two of my girls had rapid growing PT's around 1mo after surgery. I dn't believe it causes them, but could certainly accelerate.

The vet might not want to do much if your girl is healthy minus those symptoms... but having someone you trust is crucial. Someone familiar with the drug Cabergoline and PT's if she worsens... because it can work if caught early. It saved our girl's life. Prednisone is also often used.

PT's are inoperable for rats anyway, so anesthesia wouldn't be a risk. I just wouldn't schedule elective mammary surgeries if it were me.
 

RattoPazzo

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Ok, thanks.
well, given her age I don't even think the vet would recommend an elective surgery. My concern is just the anesthesia, if they need to do an x-ray.
I agree that most likely they won't do much now, but at least if something changes in the next few weeks we have a plan in place.
 

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