Rat health deteriorating need to troubleshoot

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Megan Fleischman

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My poor rattie girls don’t seem to be doing as well as they used to! Two of the rats belong to my son: Nibbles (tan dumbo Rex) seems to be the only one out of the three that doesn’t show any signs of poor health except for porphyrin staining on the fur of her head, and Cocoa (standard husky) poor girl also has the porphyrin staining and although her energy levels and attitude are great, she has a quite large mammary tumor she has to haul around with her now. Last but not least is my dear rattie Rockie who has been sneezing for months now (we tried two separate courses of antibiotics to no avail) and who now is visibly thinner and today she peed blood!! I feel like I’m failing our little rattie girls because of their declining health. Rockie is the oldest at around 1 1/2 years old and the other girls are about 1 year old. They live together in a single critter nation cage with fleece bedding and eat oxbow adult rat with occasional treats of white rice, yogurt, peas, dry pasta, chicken bones, and Cheerios.

my husband recently took a pay cut, and until he finds a better paying job (which may be very soon thankfully!) we can’t really afford to spend hundreds of dollars on them .

The room they are in can get somewhat chilly, how important is temperature for rats?
 

SQ

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A temperature change more then 5 degrees in 24 hrs can stress rats and cause illness
Room Temperature 65°-79°F / 18°-28°C
Relative Humidity 30% - 70 %

They need a vet asap
I will message lilspaz68
Please post in the facebook group Real rat Lovers Want To Know as I believe one of their medical contributors is a vet

Please post pictures and videos of any you are worried about (post videos to youtube and post the link on here)
Keep an eye on them and their breathing, listen to each side of their chest to see what you can hear ….. watch to see if they are using more effort to breath
All of your ratties are young …. Rockie needs to see a good vet with the knowledge and experience to treat rats asap
 

Megan Fleischman

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I have to say I’m feeling reluctant to take them back to the vet, she sees rats but not often, and I don’t get the sense she is an expert. She never addressed why the rats could have the porphyrin staining, wasn’t concerned about it. I will post in the Facebook group, thank you!

our house definitely fluctuates temp a lot. We keep the thermostat around 67-69 during the day and turn it down 63-65 at night so the furnace doesn’t run constantly. It’s very hard to keep a consistent temp in 3,000 sqft with two levels.
 

SQ

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It sounds like you need to find another vet with the knowledge and experience to treat rats, or atleast the willingness t learn and to consult other vets

Is it possible to keep the room they are in at a consistent temperature?
Porphyrin can be a sign of stress, that they are not feeling well, illness etc http://ratguide.com/health/eyes/porphyrin_secretions_red_tears.php

re blood in urine: http://ratguide.com/health/urinary_renal/hematuria.php
It requires immediate vet care

If she is in otherwise the mammary tumor could be removed and your rattie spayed to prevent or slow down further tumors by a good vet with the knowledge and experience to do it safely. Meds to try to slow down further tumours could also be tried http://ratguide.com/health/neoplasia/mammary_tumor.php
 

Megan Fleischman

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Ok! So upon closer inspection, it is not bloody urine, rather it was blood from her uterus coming out the vagina . I am so thankful I found an EXCELLENT vet who has a ton of experience with rats to examine my rats. Unfortunately, the cost to spay her is $460, and the tumor removal for her cagemate Cocoa is $280. Oi. We just don’t have that kind of money right now and have 5 kids to feed. I will be calling the other vet to see if she can do the spay for less, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality care. Wish me luck! I am not ready to say goodby to my dear Rockie so soon (we’ve only had her for 10 months of her life) but We can’t come up with that kind of money out of nowhere!
 

SQ

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Ok! So upon closer inspection, it is not bloody urine, rather it was blood from her uterus coming out the vagina . I am so thankful I found an EXCELLENT vet who has a ton of experience with rats to examine my rats. Unfortunately, the cost to spay her is $460, and the tumor removal for her cagemate Cocoa is $280. Oi. We just don’t have that kind of money right now and have 5 kids to feed. I will be calling the other vet to see if she can do the spay for less, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality care. Wish me luck! I am not ready to say goodby to my dear Rockie so soon (we’ve only had her for 10 months of her life) but We can’t come up with that kind of money out of nowhere!
The most important thing is to make sure that you find a good vet with the knowledge and experience to do the surgeries safely …. did the vet put your girl on antibiotics?
You can also see if a good rat rescue will take them, provide them with the necessary vet care and find them good homes
 

Megan Fleischman

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Yes, the vet has called in a script for all three of the girls. The pharmacy didn’t call today, which I expected them to do, but I will follow up tomorrow and hopefully get them going on the medication. The vet said in his experience when there is an enlarged uterus and bleeding it’s nearly always a precancerous uterus or a cancerous uterus so the treatment is to spay.

Interestingly, he said there are some small newer studies that show spaying your rat before 6 months drastically reduces incidence of mammary tumors. Current research suggests spaying as an adult rat doesn’t improve the rats odds of getting mammary tumors.

there is one rat rescue Im aware of but the lady who runs the rescue barely has money to feed the rats let alone herself, and won’t take any rats over a year old. My only options are 1) pony up the cash to do whatever it takes 2) supportive meds until Rockies health takes a worse turn then put her down . I still need to call her previous vet to see if she is experienced with spaying rats and what she would charge.
 

SQ

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Yes, the vet has called in a script for all three of the girls. The pharmacy didn’t call today, which I expected them to do, but I will follow up tomorrow and hopefully get them going on the medication. The vet said in his experience when there is an enlarged uterus and bleeding it’s nearly always a precancerous uterus or a cancerous uterus so the treatment is to spay.

Interestingly, he said there are some small newer studies that show spaying your rat before 6 months drastically reduces incidence of mammary tumors. Current research suggests spaying as an adult rat doesn’t improve the rats odds of getting mammary tumors.

there is one rat rescue Im aware of but the lady who runs the rescue barely has money to feed the rats let alone herself, and won’t take any rats over a year old. My only options are 1) pony up the cash to do whatever it takes 2) supportive meds until Rockies health takes a worse turn then put her down . I still need to call her previous vet to see if she is experienced with spaying rats and what she would charge.
Jorats and I - both experienced rat owners involved in rescue (and I am taking about hundreds of rats)
have found that rats spayed by 4 months of age do not develop mammary tumours and it is beneficial to spay rats at any age, even after having one or more mammary tumours removed, because it prevents or helps to prevent and slow the growth of more mammary tumours.

She needs to be spayed asap so hopefully you can have it done by a vet who is able to do it safely - nothing by injection until a Metacam injection after the surgery is over
Contact Mainely Rat Rescue and see if they will take your rats or know of someone who can …… they are down through the New England states and there are transport groups that will help to transport rats
 

Fidget

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Personally, I wouldn't give them up due to this. Not everyone can do Everything for every pet. I've had rats for 21 years, I always take them to the vet when needed and always get them any needed medications. But mammary tumors are So common in unspayed girls, and spaying cost & tumor removal is out of my financial ability.
I agonized years ago about taking them when I can't afford spays or tumor removals.. I even quit having them for a short time. After much thought and advice from others I decided that I'm able to give them wonderful lives in every way apart from surgeries or very expensive tests. When I consider all the kids I've taken in and given great lives I know very few would have gone to homes that spayed them or removed tumors if I hadn't adopted them, and a great percentage of them would have gone to homes where children got tired of them, or much worse.
So I do everything I Can for them. Financially I've sacrificed for them if it's something I can do, and in every other way I give them what I believe is the best.
If you can spay & remove tumors then certainly you do it. If you can't, you realize this is nature, these are your babies and you will do whatever to can to see them thru comfortably. If you're willing to provide extra hands-on outing enrichment for a kid with tumors or hind-end degeneration, extra cleaning so they're kept dry, re-structing their environment so they are safe, then they Belong with you, not getting sent to a Rescue!
Rockie certainly needs her bleeding issue dealt with, hopefully meds will clear it up. If not then you make that decision we all have to make for every pet we outlive - Find that balance between them enjoying life & not - and make a decision for them, not us.

You don't feel confident about that 1st vet. Don't let a vet you feel that way about - or one without Successful experience - operate on your pets no matter the price. If something goes wrong with a vet you trust you'll agonize but know it can happen. If something goes wrong with a vet you had bad feelings about you'll Always feel it was Your fault. You'll think of that kid when they're gone and you don't want your thoughts to be pain & regret, they deserve you to warm your heart and make you smile when you remember them.
 
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Megan Fleischman

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Thanks for all your feedback everyone! It’s been a couple weeks and my girls are stable on their medication. The best news is that my husband got a new job with better pay and we’ve decided to move forward with surgery for the rats! I’m really hoping Rockie will recover from this. The doctor said never knows what he will find in situation like this: could be only her uterus is effected, but could be she has cancer that has spread to other organs. If he finds cancer has spread he recommends not waking her up from anesthesia. So, I need to be prepared for the worst. Send your love and prayers for Rockie! I think Cocoa will do well with mammary tumor removal, she is as feisty as ever even though she’s got to haul around a massive tumor.
 
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Megan Fleischman

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Ok, the vet that I wanted to go with can’t operate for 7 weeks! Since Rockie is already quite thin and still bleeding off and on, this amount of time to wait is unacceptable. So, I called their usual vet (who sees exotics) and they can do both the spay for Rockie to remove her (likely) precancerous uterus, and Cocoa’s big mammary tumor TOMORROW, and both surgeries will be less than the amount quoted me for spay only at the other place. this could be really great, but the difference in cost makes me wonder if they do the surgeries differently.

Tomorrow morning I will consult with the vet before leaving them for surgery. What are the most important things to ask regarding surgery? Pain medication is necessarily included, but I’m concerned about the way they put the rats under anesthesia. What is the least stressful way for a vet to do that? Is masking them super scary?
 

Fidget

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I think they go under pretty quick so it's not real stressful.. Is Cocoa being spayed at the same time? I believe that lessens the chances of further tumors if none have started already.
 

Megan Fleischman

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It seems the best advantage of spaying is before sexual maturity, and the older the rat is the less reduction in mammary tumors. I’m reluctant to do both surgeries at the same time as her little body will be stressed as it is.
 

SQ

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In terms of surgery - make sure only gas anesthetic will be given and nothing by injection until an injection of Metacam is given after the surgery - it will be good for pain control - ask the vet what time it was given and how long it will be good for, (usually 24 hours) and get pain meds to give orally for after the injection wears off. Do not fast rats before surgery. (Some trained, experienced exotic vets are able to use injectable anesthetic but for most vets if they use injectable anesthetic then the rat will probably die during or after surgery)

Spaying is beneficial at any age but the largest benefit is if done by 4 months …..
and I would not have a rat undergo 2 surgeries at the same time either because of the danger of being under anesthetic for so long …. but I would get her spayed in a month or so in order to help prevent serious health issues (ask your vet and ask Lilspaz68 how soon after having surgery it is safe for rats to have a second surgery re anesthetic)

You could ask your vet about their experience doing these surgeries on rats, how it turned out, if the rats survived etc
 
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Megan Fleischman

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The girls have had their surgeries and are recovering!! Cocoa was alert like nothing ever happened. It was pretty bad for Rockie, she wasn’t coming out of the anesthesia. Her temp was low and she was in and out of responsiveness. I didn’t think she was going to survive the night. Her uterus was in really bad shape. The right horn of the uterus was as big as a thumb and dark purple. The left horn had a tumor attached. The vet didn’t see any metastasis nearby. I took her home and kept them both near a heat source to stay warm that evening I was able to get her meds and some rice milk to her which she licked readily. I was hopeful, then she started wretching and dragging her face on the floor of the cage with fluid leaking out of her mouth. It was awful to watch! We went to bed and I prayed she would live! A couple hours later when I woke in the night, Rockie was on her feet with bright eyes and perked ears! What an amazing sign. By morning she was moving around and munching on her food and I’m sure she will make a full recovery! 😍
 
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Fidget

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Great news, but a terrible time for you & Rockie for a while.. I hope she's feeling All better and both girls continue doing well.
 

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