Mice/Mouse lumps; mouseries near DC.
QUESTION: Hi Natasha, my name is Ryan and need some help with my mouse ginger. Today when I checked on her she was cold to the touch, and from the little rehab training I've had, alarm bells went off. I immediately started to warm her back up. She is in a DIY sick cage, with a heating pad underneath (I have to turn it off every so often because temp control is not working well) and a heat lamp above (my plants can cope without there light lol). She has become active again and also started eating and drinking. I was wondering what the problem could be.
Also I wanted your opinion on a cage mate. We got ginger last year while in Erie PA, we bought two mice and proceeded home on a 6 hour car ride. the came home safe and sound, but on the first night gingers friend escaped and was found dead in a drainage sink the next day. I've been her companion ever since, interacting with her most of the day and she's been doing well. I have been thinking of getting her a new cage mate for a long time but the mice in the pet stores in my area (northern VA)are not in good health (white mice with red eyes) and every mouse I've had before ginger were from local pet stores. those mice all ended up dieing from a grand-maul seizure (causing diaphragm paralysis). I know mice are very social creatures, but I'm worried about introducing a disease to ginger. This is not my first time taking a social role for another small animal. I had to help my guinea pig crumb cope (she helped me cope as well) with the loss of her mother cookie. I've used the same method with ginger and she doesn't seem to be unhappy, she comes running out of her house towards me waiting to be picked up.
ANSWER: Dear Ryan,
You did EXACTLY the right thing by keeping her warm. Usually a few towels between the heater and cage can help mediate the heat -- and only put it under half of the cage so she can move off of it.
If you think about how much surface area mice have to lose heat from, compared to the tiny volume that they have to create the heat, you will understand why, as soon as anything goes wrong, they are no longer able to stay warm. My theory is that they often die of the cold rather than the illness. I have saved mouse lives, even a serious poisoning, by holding the mouse in my hands, maybe against my skin or in a pocket, for 12-24 hours. It is not only the warmth, it is also the love that gives them the energy or wherewithal to fight off whatever is making them sick. So, if she seems not to mind the interruption, see if you can hold her for several hours at a time, very quietly.
If your question is, what is it that made her sick, I cannot tell. It could be anything, from poisoning to an illness to temperature change to stress... Mice are so delicate.
Since you say she is more active, I do have good hope for her. But let me help you to understand that, if she does not manage to get herself well, she may ask to be held when it is time to die. Mice often do. You should know that mice convulse at death, from a few kicks, to throwing themselves in the air. This is completely normal. Sorry to have to write that.
As for once she is well, getting a cage mate, it is a good idea but obviously not from any source that you have had any negative experience with. If you tell me where you live, I can give a shout out to see if anyone knows any private breeders near you. The best thing to do is to get two young mice. It is important to have three girls because if you have two, when one dies, the one left is not only bereaved because of the loss of a friend, but also depressed due to being alone. These conditions make the mouse far more susceptible to sickness, mites, or depression. Also, you are going to want to quarantine the new mice, and if it were only one mouse, it would be cruel to that mouse to make it live alone. You should quarantine even if you get a mouse from a breeder. The usual wisdom for a quarantine is to keep the animals in separate parts of the house, and wash everything on you between handling the separate mice. I think you could probably do almost as good a job if you kept the cages in the same room, and simply used hand cleaner on your skin surfaces, and one changed shirt, between cages-- only if you get the mouse from a private breeder. If you get a mouse from another source, you should keep the mice in different parts of the house, and again, clean everything on you between cages.
If you are unable to find a reliable source for new mice, and she must live alone, you are right to spend as much time with her as possible. You are her only mouse friend. It sounds like you are very devoted to your mice / mouse, and that makes me happy.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Ginger ended up recovering, and returned back to normal the next day. (Unfortunately my Guinea pig crumb, that I mentioned before, liver cancer progressed to the point that I had to put her to sleep 12/5.)
New problem: As of today ginger has 2 lumps one on her shoulder the other under her right leg. They were not there yesterday (I may not have felt them if they were small before). They feel similar to crumbs ovarian cyst, but I've read with mice tumors are common. Her behavior is normal and she is happily running around and is actively exploring while out of the cage. I'm really worried about this being cancer and things going down hill quickly. I may not be able to get her to a vet (I'll have to pay the bill myself, my parents will pay for guinea pigs but draw the line on mice. It will end up being a $70 dollar appointment and will go up with tests added on.) The earliest I may get her to a vet is Friday. What should I do until then? (also I'll try to get some pics for you, need to get some rest before an exam today.)
Also I live in northern Virginia (near DC), If you know any breeder in my area please let me know. If things don't go well I may get some more mice, but might not because losing ginger will be beyond devastating after the loss of crumb to cancer :(
I'm so glad Ginger recovered! You had exactly the right instincts and absolutely saved her life.
Mice do get tumors pretty often, especially poorly bred mice. It sounds like the pet stores around you go for the cheapest mill mouse breeders possible. If you can get anyone to care, it would be good to let upper management know how unhealthy their stock is. Of course you tell them you won't shop there till they change breeders...
Mice also get abscesses, and that is good news. Abscesses are easy to deal with - the vet lances it, expresses it, and gives her antibiotics. Cysts can be expressed as well.
Mouse tumors are usually cancerous, and so surgery is not necessarily the best option: mice die in surgery fairly often, and the tumors can reappear in less than a week. Sometimes you mght buy the mouse an extra month. You can treat them nutritionally with pau d'arco and goji berries. I used those two ingredients plus a few others to vastly slow down a cancerous tumor on a rat.
in any case, she should be fine till Friday.
When a mouse has a tumor, often the best thing to do is let her live out her life with it. She doesn't care if she is ugly or strange looking. The only thing that matters is whether she is happy, and many mice go through several months perfectly happy despite huge tumors. But if she seems depressed or lethargic, stops eating or drinking or pooping, is in pain, or otherwise shows you it is time to go, you will have to have her put to sleep.
My dwarf rat breeder has gone into mice as well recently, and she may have space for adopters. I don't know how many she is adopting out because I do not know if she is trying to improve lines before she starts. She lives about an hour from Baltimore, which is where I met her to get my awesome dwarfs. (I am petting one with my left hand next to me right now and one-finger typing). It was a day long trip for me and well worth it. So if her mouse lines are anything like her dwarf rat lines, they are great. I do know her source mice are good. How far can you travel? Can you take a bus or train? Mouseries are few and far between in this country.
In April there will be a Rodent Fest in Pennsylvania, where people will probably have cool mice. If my breeder goes, maybe you can have some of his mice who just sit in your hand and beg to be petted. :) Again I don't know how far your parents will let you travel.
As for paying for a guinea pig and not a mouse... Which one is smarter? More loving? More interesting? Is size really what matters? Something that I suggest to kids whose parents don't want to pay for mouse vet bills is that instead of asking/begging/pleading, you ask them what it is worth to them. What can you offer in return? Keeping the bathroom cleaned for a month? Painting something? Babysitting your kid sister? Cooking dinner for them? Whatever your age, your parents will see it as a sign of maturity if you don't expect something for nothing.
Would you like to meet my critters? Are you on Facebook?