Lethargy, weight loss, clumsy movement...

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rmn34

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18-24 month old female, she started losing weight a few months ago, went down from 292g in March to 271g on May 3rd. Then down to 252g on May 8th.

Right around then other symptoms appeared,

-wandering around the cage, as if confused
-trying to climb the cage and then losing her balance and falling backwards
-falling over while walking; almost as if her legs are not working right
-trouble holding food- if I give her a treat she cannot pick it up
-porphorin discharge

She will go over to the water bottle and then just stand there. I can't tell if she forgets what she is doing, or if she has trouble seeing the spout, or what.

She will come out of her hut, make a lap of the cage and then go back into the hut. I can't tell if she's in pain, and trying to get away from it, or if she's forgetting why she came out and then decides to go back.

Thinking it was an infection, I started her on baytril and amoxicillin right away as soon as I noticed the symptoms, last Thursday, and then the vet put her on metacam on Monday. He wasn't confident enough to give a diagnosis at that time. He said he didn't think it was respiratory.

She does not appear to be getting better. She is down to 235g yesterday.

She is still hungry, and will eat applesauce and yogurt when placed in the cage, and Ensure when I inject it into her mouth, but I don't think she is interested in eating her regular food (perhaps because she cant pick it up). She didn't seem interested in a piece of fried egg earlier.

Also, when I tried to give her a capful of ensure, she kept getting it in her nose and then would have to sneeze it back out. IDK if this is just her being unfamiliar with drinking from a bowl, or because she couldn't hold up her head. I am very worried.

How can I narrow in on what is wrong with her?
 
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Kye

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A video would be very helpful... It could be a few things from a PT to a really bad ear infection...
 

mufintherat

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I agree with Kye. It sounds like it could be a PT, especially with the difficulty holding food. My baby Poppy recently passed away from a PT, and she had identical symptoms that came on super fast and she passed within a week. However, it could be an ear infection too if there’s discharge in the ear or a weird smell?? Definitely worth eliminating that as an option before jumping to a PT. Good luck <3
 

SQ

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It sounds like pt
Hand her a small piece of food (like a cheerio). Can she can hold it in both hands and eat it
Does she have a head tilt?
Is she circling or rolling?
Does she head bump?
She is likely dehydrated. If so hopefully the info posted below will help, otherwise she may need to be given sub-Q fluids from a vet.
You can try the wheelbarrow test as described in the link below on pituitary tumors (pt)
Please post a video of her walking and also holding food to youtube and put the link on here


You need to help her eat. In addition to her regular food,
1. soak her rat blocks in cool water to make mush - this will be easier for her to eat and to get the nutrition she needs. It will also help to keep her hydrated.
2. Also 5 or more times a day, feed her organic or nonGMO soy infant formula (from grocery store, pharmacy, or Walmart - I buy it powdered and mix it up as I use it) thickened with a bit of baby cereal. If you can not get the soy infant formula then use ensure - she may be able to eat it out of a shallow dish, lick it off your finger and you may need to feed it carefully to her using a syringe to let her lick off or to put one drop at a time into the side of her mouth so it does not go into her lungs.
This will give her the nutrition she needs and also help to keep her hydrated........................ This is time consuming but is a special time you can share with her
Dehydration kills
* Also give her a variety of daily vegs like peas, cooked carrots, cooked sweet potato, cooked squash, baby kale, broccoli, mixed greens, and pieces of fruit, a bit of cooked oatmeal, a piece of watermelon etc
Some people also give baby cereal

Please modify her environment so that it is safe for her, she is on one level, and do not separate her from her friends

She needs to see a good vet with the knowledge and experience to treat rats asap so she can be started on medication
=====================================

The treatment for PT is a steroid (Predisone or Dexamethasone) from the vet plus Baytril orally twice a day. The steroid will reduce inflammation and if it is a slow growing brain tumour will give her some good quality time. She will need these for the remainder of her life.
- If she has the most common type of pt, then cabergoline or bromocriptine will help reduce the tumour for awhile. Cabergoline is more effective, rats tolerate it better, and it is given every 3 days, however it us more expensive the bromocriptine. This can usually be purchased from a pharmacy using a prescription from your vet

If it is pt and she develops breathing problems, seizures, or is slowly starving to death you will want to have her humanely put to sleep by your vet - most vets do not know how to do that properly.

I am very sorry that this is happening to both of you.
I hope you have a lot of good quality time left together

Please see our Reference Thread REFERENCE Thread - Read Only

Here is some information from a vet approved medical site for rat owners
 
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lilspaz68

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I have to concur with PT (pituitary tumor) being the issue here with your description of symptoms. The confusion, acting almost blind, inability to grasp with front paws, losing weight, wobbly movements are all very classic symptoms.

Others are excessive bruxxing, head bumping or lifting, pushing front legs out in front of themselves stiffly.

If you can get steroids initially it's a good start. She's not too old so you could get a good result with treatment.
 
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rmn34

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You can see in the video how she comes out of her house, as if to go to the water, and then forgets what to do.

She was head bumping when I would kiss her on her head. But my other guy does that too sometimes and he's fine. She is bruxing more than usual. No head tilt I can notice. Also no liquid or bad odor in her ears. No circling, unless you count the entire cage.

I have been trying to get her to eat baby food. She ate some turkey and gravy yesterday (I had no idea human babies eat that stuff). She did not seem to like the banana baby food - she made a mess, I think she's having more trouble holding her head up. She also did not seem to like orange flavored pedialite.

I can't tell if she's dehydrated; I have been doing the skin pinch test and it seems normal. I got IV fluids but I don't want to start sticking her until absolutely necessary. She is urinating, and the urine is not super pungent, which I think is a good sign, but I don't see her drinking from the water bottle much. I setup a motion alert for the lower right corner of the cage, but she may be moving too slowly, idk.

She is also much less mobile now; she won't pick up any food, but will sit quietly in my hand and hungrily lick up chocolate Ensure Max protein and regular vanilla Ensure from a syringe. She will drink 4-6 ml at a time.

I can't be sure, but it appears that one eye may be slightly bulging (but I don't have any top view shots from before to make a comparison with). There is significant porphorin every day that I must wipe away.


- So regarding the medications, Prednisone and Cabergoline can be taken together?

- Is prednisone effective against all tumors? And Cabergoline only against some?

- Which of the two is most important?

- What are the chances either medication will reverse the effects?

- How long will it take to know if they are working?

- If left untreated, how long until the tumor effects autonomic functions?



I am worried that I waited too long to see if the last medications would work. The vet said to give it a week.

Thank you; I really appreciate the help!
 
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SQ

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a steroid such as pred will reduce the inflammation in the tissue around the tumour, thus reducing the symptoms. Thus it will help with all brain tumours if they are slow growing. An antibiotic (baytril is the best choice) must be given with a steroid because a steroid will reduce lower the immune system. You can not just stop a steroid as it needs to be gradually reduced over weeks as the dose is repeatedly cut in half - but rats with pt usualy stay on it for the rest of their life.

Cabergoline only helps with the most common type of pt. It will reduce the symptoms but may take a few weeks before you notice a difference. I always know when it is helping because the symptoms will become worse when it is close to the time to give the next dose. It has a cumulative effect so you can not give it sooner then every 3 days.

Yes, they can be give together. Start with a steroid + baytril and then decide if you want to add cabergoline or bromocriptine.
I believe that some people stop giving the steroid when they see the cabergoline helping but I always continue giving the steriod + baytril

Try the foods i mentioned above. Give her the support she needs. She would likely find a water dish that can not be upset to be easier to use but will likely get her water through the food she eats, including the nonGMO soy infant formula (or ensure) thickened with baby cereal.
Please read the inks I previously posted

If a all possible put the girls in a larger cage as that will give you room to add food dishes etc
It looks like you worked hard to make that cage, but unfortunately it is way too tiny for rats
 
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mwp051699

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18-24 month old female, she started losing weight a few months ago, went down from 292g in March to 271g on May 3rd. Then down to 252g on May 8th.

Right around then other symptoms appeared,

-wandering around the cage, as if confused
-trying to climb the cage and then losing her balance and falling backwards
-falling over while walking; almost as if her legs are not working right
-trouble holding food- if I give her a treat she cannot pick it up
-porphorin discharge

She will go over to the water bottle and then just stand there. I can't tell if she forgets what she is doing, or if she has trouble seeing the spout, or what.

She will come out of her hut, make a lap of the cage and then go back into the hut. I can't tell if she's in pain, and trying to get away from it, or if she's forgetting why she came out and then decides to go back.

Thinking it was an infection, I started her on baytril and amoxicillin right away as soon as I noticed the symptoms, last Thursday, and then the vet put her on metacam on Monday. He wasn't confident enough to give a diagnosis at that time. He said he didn't think it was respiratory.

She does not appear to be getting better. She is down to 235g yesterday.

She is still hungry, and will eat applesauce and yogurt when placed in the cage, and Ensure when I inject it into her mouth, but I don't think she is interested in eating her regular food (perhaps because she cant pick it up). She didn't seem interested in a piece of fried egg earlier.

Also, when I tried to give her a capful of ensure, she kept getting it in her nose and then would have to sneeze it back out. IDK if this is just her being unfamiliar with drinking from a bowl, or because she couldn't hold up her head. I am very worried.

How can I narrow in on what is wrong with her?
Sounds like Pituitary gland tumor.
 

lilspaz68

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The video definitely shows PT.

I usually start with steroids then add in bromocriptine. It's a slightly less effective drug than cabergoline but much less expensive and easier to find. A vet can write a prescription for you to fill for 2.5 mg tablets. A little lass like her would get half a tab once a day with food. I've never used cabergoline but had many successful results with bromo. Steroid is a definite must and you'll need to syringe feed until she has stabilized. If she doesn't stabilize then you'll have to let her go :(
 

rmn34

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Thank you so much for the replies.

Regarding the cage, it is much bigger than what you can see there; it is very tall, and has an upper hammock level to either sides of the camera's view. It was designed to give them exercise climbing, while keeping the footprint smaller which allows me to replace the bedding twice as often, which was intended to keep them from getting respiratory issues from breathing urine.
How many cubic feet do you have for each occupant?

Regarding the Cabergoline, can I just use the generic? Google says "Dostiniex"... Which is apparently much cheaper?

And IIRC, Metacam also targets inflammation, is that the same kind of inflammation the Prednisone targets? Should the Metacam be discontinued at that time?

Thank you
 
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SQ

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You will need to see a good vet and get her started on new meds immediately
The steroid is much stronger then the Metacam re reducing inflammation, so yes discontinue the metacam .... there is also a waiting period between stopping the metacam and starting the steriod + baytril

Yes as far as I know, you can use the generic drug if it is available

Two rats need a min of 4 cubic feet but bigger is better
Rats need a lot of horizontal space .... a min is 30 inches by 18 inches but bigger is better.
Horizontal space is much more important then height, although both are important
This is even more true now as your girl can not be climbing or going up high .... so she would need her hammock on the floor so that she can crawl into it and everything she needs on that level for easy access

Please read the links I provided
and make sure she is getting the nutrition and food she needs as she is not able to eat or drink by herself without your support .... hopefully this will improve once she is on the medication she needs.
You can show the links I provided to your vet
 
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rmn34

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I am hopeful. She is always hungry and will eat most kinds of baby food when I put it in a spoon in front of her.

I started her on Cabergoline today. She gobbled up the first drop, and then realized that it was not Ensure!

I will start on Prednisone in a few days; the vet said it takes 5 days for metacam to leave the body.

How do you usually compound the Cabergoline pills?

I have read that you can use a lipid base- which will keep for a while, or if an aqueous base is used- it should be administered quickly or else it will degrade in storage.
 

SQ

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When I have had a rat on cabergoline my rattie needed half a pill every 3 days.
I used a pill cutter to cut the pill in half, ground it up, mixed it in sweetener and a drop of water, and gave it to the rattie orally by syringe. …. so I did not compound it
 

rmn34

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Ok cool. I got it in Almond oil with flavoring this time, but if I have to get more I will definitely get the pills as they are much cheaper.

So... two of the side effects say diarrhea and loss of appetite.

She is definitely having diarrhea.

She also doesn't seem to want to drink the Ensure starting today. Before I gave her the cabergoline she would take 4-6ml at a time but now its difficult to get her to take any.

She will still eat from a spoon full of baby food left in the cage however.

I don't know if it's the side effect of the medicine or the fact that she is no longer on the metacam and might be in pain?

In your experience will the side effects go away?
 

lilspaz68

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It's best to wait 48 hrs between Metacam and a steroid. In this case I would start her now as it will take a couple of days to build up in her system and they can go down so fast with PT
 

rmn34

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Just gave her the second dose of both Cabergoline and Prednisone.

I noticed she is doing much better today.

Her ears are perked up, she is once again able to get on top of her hut, and climb out of the open cage into my hand. She is falling over much less.

Also there is much less porphorin- one eye is completely clear and the other is only minimally affected.

The diarrhea seems to have stopped as well.

The only issue that remains is the weight loss. The diarrhea brought her down to 215, but now she is back up to 224 just now.

She seems to have got her appetite back.

It would seem that she is responding to the meds.

What should I look for next?

Also, thank you all for the help thus far.
 
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SQ

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Is she also on baytril or another antibiotic? because rats must be on an antibiotic when they are taking prednisone.

Make the changes previously suggested for her environment.
In addition to her regular food, make sure she is offered soft foods as previously suggested, and also hand feel to make sure she is getting what she needs .... so continue to support her so that she is getting enough food, nutrition, and fluids

Hopefully she will continue to improve on the medication. It will not cure her but will hopefully give her a lot of good quality time. Depending on the tumour and how fast it is growing, she will eventually deteriorate.
 

rmn34

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Yes I have been giving her baytril daily as you recommended.

She still has trouble picking up food in her front paws. So I have been giving her baby food daily.

She loves the turkey & gravy by gerber. I realize that is not the best choice but I was more concerned with her putting on weight then I was with giving her a balanced diet, since she lost so much weight from the tumor. She will not eat the vegetable or fruit nearly as veraciously as she will the turkey. When I give her carrot, pea or apple baby food she just sorta pushes it around the spoon and picks at it, ultimately leaving a lot behind. The turkey she will eat completely.

I am trying to ween her off that but I also want her to eat as much as possible. I am hoping she has now reached the trough of her weight loss.
 
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lilspaz68

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She may plateau at this stage but the grasping ability is one of the last things to improve so it sounds like she's doing well. Can you offer her porridge with Ensure in it? Or flavoured baby cereal.
 
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rmn34

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I saw her eating normally again from her bowl. She can once again pick up food in her front paws! Also I think she is starting to gain weight back. She can climb up to the upper hammock again too.

At this point is it normal to keep her on all 3 medications indefinitely?
 
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