Help with grieving the loss of a young dearly loved first pet rat

rowanberry

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Joined
Aug 6, 2021
Messages
9
Location
Hong Kong
Hi everyone,

This is my first post and unfortunately an exceptionally sad one. I am doing this as much for myself as for anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be going through the same. This site has helped and comforted me and I hope I can do the same for someone else.

So our darling, absolutely dearly beloved Dymka passed away at a heart-breaking age of just 9 months old. Her struggle was very brief making the outcome all the more shocking. We were playing and cuddling and having a lovely evening on Sunday, when on Monday evening she wouldn't move. She was curled up in her hammock and looked sleepy and didn't want to come out to play when normally, she'd be out of the cage in a flash, clambering up onto to us, licking, marking and running off for an explore. Of course, we got instantly concerned and took her to the only clinic attended by small pet vets in our city. Before we set off she just about managed an Oxbow triangle and only one slice of her favourite banana, she sort of licked the other licked and didn't touch the pears, which she'd normally destroy.

Just before she ate, her hind feet and tip of the tail seemed grey instead of the usual pink, but perhaps that was just the light. The colour seemed to return after eating. Still, there was no strength in her little body and I really needed to lift her out of the cage and into a travel box. She couldn't even pull her tail in when I began to close the lid.

She seemed to perk up a little on the way over to the vets as she was sniffing out of the breathing holes of the carrier, she has always found new smells exciting. But still her eyes were half-closed and all her movements seemed very slow and laboured.

There wasn't a specialist vet on duty that time of night and the guy who was there didn't want to put her under anesthesia for an X-ray and blood tests as he was worried he wouldn't do it right. He couldn't hear a heart murmur, which one would expect with congestive heart failure, nor any crackling in the lungs. So it was decided to wait until the morning for a small pet specialist. In the meantime, she was put in an oxygen box and they said they'd administer fluids and give her liquid food. The nurse offered that I'd go into their "ICU" to say goodbye to her, then quickly corrected herself to say goodnight instead, but I'd already started crying. To be honest, I already knew at home that this was probably game over.

She was in her little oxygen box under a white terry blanket and to be fair, she looked very comfortable and cozy. She picked up her head and sniffed in my general direction to acknowledge me, which I really appreciated. And that was the last time I saw her alive.

I got a call in the morning saying things weren't looking good. She was put on antibiotics, but had stopped swallowing. They were trying to stabilise her before they would do the X-ray and the blood tests. A few hours later I got a call from a specialist vet to tell she'd passed away. They couldn't say for sure why, but most likely a respiratory condition.

I went in to say goodbye and stroked her little rigid lifeless body, but the soft short grey fluff still felt just as sweet.

I loved her so very much.

What followed after was bad. I decided to do a thorough clean of our two interconnected cages, now only inhabited by Dymka's sister, Mira, so it wouldn't be so sad for her to still smell her sister and not know where she is. I asked the vet and their breeder whether we should take Dymka's body home to show it to Mira to give her some closure, but they advised against it saying it could traumatise her too much.

When cleaning the cage and everything inside I noticed lots of blood/porphyrin spotting in a sneeze pattern inside their Sputnik and then in the hammock. I felt awful for not being more vigilant. I felt like my darling Dymka died through my neglect, like she could be alive had I bothered to check sooner. ...But even if I did see it, with her breathing pretty much normal save for a tiny barely perceptible wheeze, which sounded like nothing at all compared to all of their previous raspy, gnarly coughs, and her being playful the night before, would I have really rushed her to the hospital?.. Probably not.

Finally, I am getting to the advice part. I have read the Health & General Care and Memorials forums at length these past few days looking for answers and comfort, but in particular trying to find out: do rats ever die this young?.. I read with extreme envy reports of deaths at the ripe old age of 3 years and read with remorse of deaths at 2 years old, just wishing I could keep Dymka alive this long. But there were also a few memorials dedicated to pets lost around the same age as ours or, sadly, even younger. I hope you will understand when I say this made me feel somewhat less awful about Dymka's death. It is incredibly sad, but sometimes, young rats die too. They're not guaranteed the 2 years we're hoping for. One memorial, in particular, seemed very similar to what happened to Dymka: a young male rat died of pneumonia that just "hit quick and hard". It happens, so please don't blame yourself and don't think of a thousand ways you could have prevented it. Sometimes you just can't.

And the other thing that I read on here that brought some comfort is that our ratties live their lives day by day a lot more than we do and have no idea how much longer they have to look forward to. So if you're sitting here bawling your eyes out, like me, just wishing you would have those extra 12-18 months together, it really won't be weighing heavy on your rattie's mind in their final hours. It will just be nice for them to not be in pain.

Please comfort yourself with the thought that your darling rattie has had the best life with you and cherish your memories of them.

To those whose ratties are alive and well - love them, cuddle them, give them some exercise every day, feed them food especially designed for rats with some occasional healthy treats and take lots of videos and photos!

And to myself... I guess first cut is the deepest. You have really left a mark, Dymka.
 

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lilspaz68

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Aww I'm sorry you lost your youngster, those are awful to deal with. Pneumonia can hit hard and fast and often is called the "silent killer" as you may not hear overt respiratory sounds but they have constricted breathing, You might have seen laboured breathing. The grey extremities makes me think it really might have been heart related, or a stroke. These can happen to youngsters around a year. You leave home in the morning with a bouncing happy alert young rat come home to them just gone. Doesn't happen often but does happen. The porphyrin spray stains can be normal for some rats and doesn't mean you missed anything.
 

Pepper_rat

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Joined
May 9, 2020
Messages
106
Location
New York
of all the rats I’ve lost, every single one was sudden and without more than 24 hours of warning. It is jarring to have a seemingly healthy rat one second and lose them less than a day later. I’ve learned not to blame myself or think too much about what could have been and instead enjoy every second I have with them and try to think about the great life I gave them. It’s still very hard though to not think of the what if’s and out of fear of losing more I do health checks every morning evening and night. I also think that free roam is a great way to gauge their health and see little signs before they get too big. That being said I am currently at the vet with my sweet girl blossom. I’m certain it’s pneumonia and she already is lethargic and struggling to breathe so I’m going to ask the vet to humanely euthanize. I’ve never been able to save a rat from pneumonia after it’s gotten too far and it’s almost impossible to notice the signs before it’s too late. Also if you notice subtle signs you may not be able to get a vet appointment until many days later at which time it’s too late. It breaks my heart to see her suffer as I know there’s no way back. She is around a year and a half which is too short in my mind but at least I know she was happy for the time she had. Owning rats is so hard sometimes but so worth it for the love and even the short time we get with them.
 

rowanberry

Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2021
Messages
9
Location
Hong Kong
of all the rats I’ve lost, every single one was sudden and without more than 24 hours of warning. It is jarring to have a seemingly healthy rat one second and lose them less than a day later. I’ve learned not to blame myself or think too much about what could have been and instead enjoy every second I have with them and try to think about the great life I gave them. It’s still very hard though to not think of the what if’s and out of fear of losing more I do health checks every morning evening and night. I also think that free roam is a great way to gauge their health and see little signs before they get too big. That being said I am currently at the vet with my sweet girl blossom. I’m certain it’s pneumonia and she already is lethargic and struggling to breathe so I’m going to ask the vet to humanely euthanize. I’ve never been able to save a rat from pneumonia after it’s gotten too far and it’s almost impossible to notice the signs before it’s too late. Also if you notice subtle signs you may not be able to get a vet appointment until many days later at which time it’s too late. It breaks my heart to see her suffer as I know there’s no way back. She is around a year and a half which is too short in my mind but at least I know she was happy for the time she had. Owning rats is so hard sometimes but so worth it for the love and even the short time we get with them.
Dear Pepper,

Thank you for taking the time to respond even though your own circumstances are very sad at the moment. Courage and take care.
 

Rat_gurl5

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Joined
Aug 21, 2021
Messages
1
Location
Scotland
I’m so sorry for your loss. :(

I lost my rat spice on Tuesday due to complications and I was giving her lots medicine, having to wash her, groom her and feed her every 2hrs during the day and night. For 2 weeks. Before she passed away.

now I am concerned about her sister as they were very close and really loved each other. But now her sister sugar is all alone is quite a large cage. We are trying to find a cage mate for her but it’s proving to be difficult because she’s a year in a half old and because of where I live.

she has been moving all her bedding to her hammock where her sister spice would usually sleep and she never used to do that before. So we have been giving her more attention and a few more treats and I know that doesn’t make up for a sister. But we have to try and get her thought this too.

I really needed to read a post like yours, so thank you :)
 

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