Inner ear infection or pituitary tumor????

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planetaryfun

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Feb 2, 2020
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Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Hello, rat community. I've been lurking on this site for awhile but have never posted. Now I'm desperate for some kind of reassurance.

I'm just wondering if it's at all possible for an inner ear infection to cause clubbing/clenched hands. My rat Ganon (AkA Squishy Bean) just turned one year old a week ago. He hasn't been himself for about a week: showing some signs of pain (occasionally stopping play to grind his teeth, more lethargic/less playful) and is scratching and shaking his head a bit :( I brought him to the vet on Saturday and he has been prescribed Baytril, Doxy, and Metacam that I have given him for 3 full days so far. Today, I noticed he is clubbing his hands a bit (while lying down following dinner and meds), and everything I have read says that that is a classic pituitary tumor symptom (I've seen him do this before, I think? but it has never been a concern because of his age and the complete lack of any other concerns, but in this new context it's terrifying)... but he is male and a little bit on the young side so I am really, really, really hoping it's just an ear infection.

About a month ago he was sneezing and chirping a bit so I treated him with Doxycycline that I had leftover from a month earlier (it was still good/not expired). I had enough for 10 days and I know that's not usually long enough but his respiratory symptoms had cleared up after a few days so I thought he was better/fine and didn't get a refill. So, that could have lead to an inner ear infection, I'm realizing in retrospect (I will never do that again; lesson learned; I feel like ****)... but I am concerned about the clubbing because I haven't read anything about that being caused by an inner ear infection :(

Am I understanding that correctly? Is this definitely a PT because of that alone?? He is not showing any loss of coordination and not having any trouble eating/holding his food, and there hasn't been any head tilt or circling... so could the clubbing/fist-clenching be from pain?? I'm so worried right now, stressed beyond belief, and hoping someone has had experience with a rat clubbing their hand as a sign of pain for something that turned out to NOT be a PT.

Is it possible for a rat to clench their fist and it mean nothing bad?? Does a closed/clenched hand always indicate a problem??

I don't want to lose him and I don't want his brother Vaati to lose him. I'm just so scared :(

P.S. I don't know how to change my name. Planetaryfun is my email address and nothing about this is fun so I hate that I can't find where to change it :(
 
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Dena

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Texas
OK. So if you rub his ears, do you get the same clubbing? I have a female rat who has NEVER had ear issues, just discover getting ear rubs, and she clenches her fist then proceeds to slobber on me while furiously grooming my arm. Another of my girls did this when I rubbed her ears, or a particularly itchy spot. Are you sure he doesn't have lice, or mites?

Have you tried the cheerio test? I know if you go to Pituitary Tumour - Failing the Cheerio Test that will give you info. If you can get the fist clench on video, post it on YouTube, then copy and paste the link on here, lilspaz can help you better.

Hope this helps. Hope your boy gets better.
 

planetaryfun

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Feb 2, 2020
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Location
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Thank you so much for responding, Dena.

I've only noticed him clenching his fist when lying down after eating and getting medication, when he appears to be a bit uncomfortable. I think the antibiotics might be making him feel a bit of stomach upset?

I've wondered about mites etc. but the itching seems related to ear infection symptoms, and his brother isn't itching at all, and the one time we dealt with mites in the past if was his brother who was itching nonstop (Vaati is my more sensitive rat and tends to stress easier). So, I don't think it's very likely but I will treat for that if it starts looking that way.

He has no problem holding food (we've done many Cheerio tests) and has no other symptoms of a PT tumor other than general pain and the occasional fist-clenching. I'm just super scared because people on the rat forums keep saying that is a classic symptom for a brain tumor.

I suspect that there must be other reasons for clenching hands (like in other mammals) but I'm not a rat expert (have only had 4 over 4 years) so I'm going by the posts/responses, primarily from admins (Lilspaz68 and Jorats) on his website.

He's definitely doing better after 4.5 days on meds. He's acting more like himself during free-range playtime, so I'm leaning towards an ear infection based on the scratching of his ears, the previous pain symptoms, his out-of-character behaviour and the recent response to the antibiotics and the anti-inflammatory... but I'm still kind of worried because he supposedly has this "classic symptom of a pituitary tumor".
 
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SQ

Senior Member - Vegan for the animals
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central New Brunswick Canada
Ganon is young for pt so most likely an inner ear infections, esp since he is responding to the meds.
respiratory issues needed to be treated for at least 4 weeks and I find that mine always need to be treated for at least 6 weeks in order to be well.
Inner ear infections are difficult to treat and rats usually need to be treated for a month, sometimes for several months.
Clenching fists is a classic sign of pt but it does not necessarily mean pt .... not being able to hold food (ie the cheerio test), head bumping and confusion are also signs, and like fist clenching can also have other causes.
Did/does Ganon have a head tilt?
Metacam is an anti inflammatory so it can reduce symptoms of pt by reducing inflammation in surrounding tissue (although a steroid is better for treating pt).
Personally, I would assume inner ear infection and treat for that ..... if he has pt then other symptoms will appear and meds can be altered

Please check out our Reference Thread REFERENCE Thread - Read Only | The Rat Shack (ratshackforum.com) and also these links Otitis Media, Otitis Interna / Labyrinthitis – Rat Guide , Pituitary Tumor – Rat Guide
Please let us know how Ganon does
 
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planetaryfun

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Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Thank you for your reply, SQ.

He was prescribed antibiotics for two weeks and I already got another refill for an additional 2 weeks. My vet usually prescribes for only 2 weeks with the option to refill if necessary. I will do 4-6 weeks depending on his progress and our vet's recommendation.

I am 99.9% sure it's an inner ear infection. He's doing so much better :D: back to his normal playful self, no more grinding his teeth or squinting his eyes. He's still shaking his head occasionally but not scratching very much anymore.

There was never head tilt (though I have been through that with a bunny many years ago).

I'm pretty certain that he clenches his fist as a general sign of discomfort because it only/always happens about 5-10 minutes after eating and taking his antibiotics which appear to make him feel a bit of gastrointestinal upset. It's like clockwork: he eats, then a short while later he wants to lie down. He looks uncomfortable for about 30 mins or so then appears to feel better again. Antibiotics can be hard on the stomach for humans, too, so I think he may just be sensitive to them. They don't appear to affect his brother in the same way but the timing and consistency of his reaction to them seems pretty clear to me.

I stopped the Metacam after a week because he wasn't showing signs of pain anymore, and it can be hard on the kidneys.

Thank you for the links. I think I've already read almost everything that is available on the internet with regards to rat URIs, ear infections, PTs, etc., probably twice :p However, I'd never come across Joinrats.com before and I'm having so much fun watching the videos of rat play and enrichment! ^.^
 
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planetaryfun

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Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Well, it's looking more like a pituitary tumor, now :( I'd been giving antibiotics and metacam but stopped the metacam after a week because he had improved so much... but then he went downhill again so the vet thinks the metacam was making him feel better as opposed to the antibiotics. She is now going to contact the pharmacy about Cabergoline and we will probably be starting that soon, but I've started back on the metacam and the vet wants to stop the antibiotics (which I'm not really comfortable with yet, just in case it could still be an infection). I asked about steroids, too, but she said that would be a last resort because they can cause stomach ulcers. He has also been more aggressive/hormonal the past couple of days, sidling and picking fights with his brother whereas he used to be chill and not like drama.

I don't understand how he could have a PT when he is only a year old. It's beyond heartbreaking :(
 
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planetaryfun

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Location
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
He is slightly improved now that I've started back on the Metacam.

One of the vets from my clinic admitted to not having much experience with inner ear infections in rats (even though they treat exotics). They said they mostly only see that in rabbits. I mentioned using steroids, something like Prednisone, and they said that wouldn't be appropriate for rats. When I mentioned other rat owners' experiences on rat forums, the receptionist was rude, saying "are these people vets?" over and over. I stated that I was talking about other rat owners who got their prescriptions FROM vets. They don't seem to take anything seriously unless its from another vet.

Anyway. I have a few questions since I don't know if I'm getting good info from my local veterinary clinic:

1. Can pain from inner ear infection last this long (we've been treating for 10 days and he seems to still need the Metacam). Vet thinks the fact that he is in pain after stopping the Metacam and continuing antibiotics probably means tumor... but could it just be that the ear infection needs longer time to heal?

2. How long can I safely continue Metacam? Have given for 6 days, then stopped for 3 days, then started again (so 7 days total so far).

3. Can it be inner ear infection if there is no head tilt? Ganon hasn't had a head tilt and vet says that indicates its probably not an ear infection (but their experience is primarily bunnies).

4. Could it be a pituitary tumor if there absolutely no loss of coordination and he is able to hold food? The only symptoms have been signs of pain (lying down squinting eye and clenching fist (but no clubbing while standing/walking)) and scratching/shaking his head. He is eating and playing like normal.

5. Could the brief display of hormonal aggression I saw yesterday (gone away today, no aggression at all) have been because of general pain from an ear infection as opposed to a behavioural change caused by a tumor? Could it have also been because I created a new extension of their playroom that they were super excited about which could have make them territorial and amped up?


I'm back to thinking (read: hoping) this is an ear infection again.
 
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Dena

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If you can post a video of this, that would be extremely helpful. Post it on YouTube and then copy and paste the link on here. Also, the antibiotics may not be strong enough, or the wrong dosages. You may need to add one. Metacam is good for pain and swelling, but you may need prednisone instead. There's a waiting period when you stop the metacam, before you can give the prednisone. After you've posted a video, message lilspaz and have her read this thread. She can better help you.

Hope your boys get better soon!
 
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