QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
You have helped me with my girl Luna in the past and I really hope you can help me again. Kind of long story here, forgive me.
Luna used to live with two sisters, Moo & Nimue. About two months ago she attacked Moo several times and left several bad wounds - I separated her to her own home (I use aquariums). She was alone for longer than I had wanted her to be, but she kept attacking Moo when I tried to reintroduce them. She started "chugging/chirping" a few weeks into being separated, so off to the vet we went - an exotic vet. This is the second vet's office she's been to - once to my regular vet as well - she's seen all 3 docs at the exotic clinic. All of these vets concur that it sounds like her issues are more in her nose/sinuses rather than her lungs. I tend to agree, I have those issues as well. This happened when I first got her, too, which is what you helped me with. Baytril didn't work then, so we put her on Zithromax this time. No change. Fearing a myco flare up, we switched to both baytril and doxycycline, and since she had started scratching a lot, we added Meloxicam for inflammation. After two weeks, the respiratory symptoms nearly all disappeared - only coming up when she gets excited - this is especially typical of Luna overall, it comes and goes. Sometimes it sounds awful though - with a sneeze/hiccup sound too, but it sounds like she's snorting out her nose. Anyway..the more pressing issue now:
The scratching. She has gone from irritated scratching to very, very intense scratching - and a couple of bad spots - one of which is horrifying. She has scratched the area around one eye raw, and a small area on her left front leg. She has another small area on the back of her neck but on her back - she has an open wound about the size of my fingerprint. She has dug this open so badly, it's through the skin - she is literally skinning herself. Her ears are scratched up as well. She scratched more when she seems stressed - like just before it's time to med her. She has been put back in with two sisters - Nimue & Gigi - Moo is separated now, for hurting Gigi quite badly. The three seem to be getting along great. :) But Luna...omg Natasha, she is terrifying me. Back to the vet yet again - and the meloxicam & doxy discontinued. She still has Baytril in her water, because we want to stave off infection. She was previously on Avix Soother spray, which helped a bit, but not enough. We tried a ringworm treatment - that did nothing - it burned like mad though - and made her dig more. So now she is on benadryl twice a day (children's liquid), getting Avix Booster in her food, and Avis Soother Cream. It is meant to cool and soothe wounds and help them heal. That does seem to help for hours - and she went two days without touching her wound - then overnight she was messing with it again.
She has tons of stuff to play on, climb, chew, etc.
She has been treated with Iver-On, and I remove all sunflower seeds, raisins, peanuts and corn from her food. For treats she gets cheerios, oats, seeds (like cantaloupe, pumpkin, only a few here and there) and freeze dried mealworms. I stopped the mealworms completely. I changed her bedding to just shredded paper towels and newspaper. I am going to pare down her food to just oats and/or rice (if that won't hurt her sisters to try, I don't want to separate her again).
Is it at all possible she is allergic to my cats? They occasionally go into the mouse room, and I have four. I can't help but wonder if it's something like that. I haven't used any new detergent, no air fresheners, no changes in environment that I can think of. I keep the temp in their room about 72 F, and humidity around 50% (any drier and she starts chugging).
I don't want to fail her, I don't want to give up unless I have no choice, but I also don't want her to suffer.
Help?? Any advice at all?
ANSWER: Hi Frankie,
I want to help. And I have medically-knowledgeable rat friends I can ask questions of-- Most things translate fine between rats and mice.
I am going to do this piece meal to get the info/questions out to you rather than spend ages trying to formulate it pretty :)
Baytril can cause itching. It is rare, but I knew I had heard of it so I looked it up. Just in case your vet is skeptical:
So if the itching started *after* the Baytril we very likely have the answer.
If the itching started *before* the Baytril it is more complicated.
I have much more to say but wanted to throw this question back at you before I start.
Poor, poor, poor little girl
To manage the self injury, the following (none of this is easy):
She needs her back claws clipped if at all possible, so she can't do as much damage. Maybe you and the vet can do it together? or at least use an emery board on her?
Another thing for right away is to try a body wrap. The idea is that you wrap her body (I know there is a site somewhere that shows how; I will try to locate it) so that she has no access to the wound on her back. You would use a a bit of antiseptic floss with neosporin on it to make a little bandage, and then put her, well, the idea is, in a sock. With a rat a baby sock works. I do not know if you can find a stretchy yet tight enough glove finger, or baby doll sock... This would protect the back wound.
To protect the eyes you can try to give her the "collar of shame" you know how they put a plastic cone over a dog or cat's head so it won't bite at a wound? Again, for a rat, you use a paper plate (made into a cone). I think a little piece of paper plate might work for her too, unless you can think of something stiff and a little more durable. Attach it with tape.
These are my first thoughts. If you let me know when the itching started I will be able to ask around more.
1. addition: There is a coating called Blu Kote which you can put on an open wound to close and soothe it. I recommend getting this.
2. addition: Are her friends grooming her at all? This could be a problem.
3. addition: I recommend one drop of Revolution on the back of her neck. The ivermectin does not always work. On the skin, not the fur.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
Thought I'd give you an update on Luna.
After discussing the Baytril, and how it may cause itching, we decided to stop using it. We also stopped all topicals, as we suspected that continually applying topicals only led her to groom/scratch/chew more, to be clean. You know how fastidious they can be - we believe she was just desperate to be clean, so the more we put on, the more she messed with her sores. She is also scratching when agitated - that took a lot of close monitoring to determine. Once I would take her out of her habitat to play or medicate, I would have to put her in a kritter keeper to take her into my bathroom - I have cats, any sort of mishap would be deadly, so I always be as careful as possible. Well as soon as I would close the kk, she'd start itching and scratching. At the same spots. Her eye would start to look as though it were starting to heal, but she'd immediately dig it open. It would also take her some time and distractions to stop after going back in her house. So I began a strict watch over her, distracting her by gently blowing on her, or putting my finger in the way of her foot. I have spent A LOT of time with her - needless to say.
I discussed all of your suggestions with her vet. Her concerns were that fashioning an e-collar might prevent her from eating properly, since they eat with their hands. She did suggest that instead of a cone shape, I could try a sort of ring that would allow her to eat but at the same time prevent her from chewing - the problem - getting it on and keeping it on. Same with the wrap. I got telfa pads and some of the vet wrap that sticks to itself - again, getting it on and keeping it on. She doesn't even like to be medicated. I was not able to find blu-kote anywhere and my vet was also concerned it would just get her back to grooming to be clean again. She was treated with Revolution. Her tankmate, Gigi, does not appear to be grooming her, although she does seem like she goes up and kisses on her face when she comes back. It's cute - but I haven't seen any grooming from her.
So now, my vet has her on prednisone and believe it or not, Haldol. A very small dose, just enough to take the edge off. She'd never used it on a mouse before, but they do prescribe it for birds that feather-pick. She's used it with great success with sugar gliders that overgroom or get into a chronic scratching problem, and at this point, with little other options, we decided to try it. I am nervous to say this and have it then change - but it appears to be helping. She does sleep more - but she is still eating and sleeping, and running her her wheel. Still eager to climb all over me and play. The only concern is lack of antibiotic, along with pred. She did "chug" all day yesterday, but then after medding last night, she just boom, stopped. Completely. She does have white fluid in coming from the eye she is scratching at. I spoke with her vet just now, actually, and we're going to keep doing what we're doing. She suggested just a drop of saline for her eye if it is bothering her, and if it continues or gets worse - and if her chugging gets more than what's normal for her (periodic) - then we'll go back to antibiotics. She does not believe the Baytril played a part in the itching because taking her off of it did not change anything.
This is where we stand now. Hopefully her large wound will heal, and we can get her eye and neck to heal up. If I can just keep her from digging at them when she's anxious, it would be good - they do scab up but then she gets stressed and scratches the scab off. Medding her is becoming more difficult, she gets so so stressed out she is getting harder to hang on to, and I think she is also absorbing some of my stress from doing it - worried I will break open her boo boos.
I thank you soooo much for any and all advice and suggestions, because you always give me things that I would never think to try. I would love to come back and tell you that she is well - so think good thoughts for us - and please, if you have anything else to suggest, please please do.
Now...I also have to handle another of my girls, Moo - she has developed a very large, fast growing mammary tumour and has started making the same chugging noises - which I know could be the cancer spreading to her lungs. :(
Hi again Frankie,
Aww poor Luna. I had hoped taking her off the Baytril would help. I assume you tried the hypoallergenic cage- washed with no soap, oats to eat, paper towels as bedding? I am so sorry she is still having such a hard time.
I hadn't even thought about that with the "collar of shame." People do use it for rats, but rats are perfectly happy eating soft, lickable foods, where they do not need their hands. Still it should have occurred to me!
The blu-kote is specifically made not to itch on wounds; but if you can't find it, you can't find it. I think it was probably a good idea to stop putting things on her back.
I am glad that the Haldol seems to be helping some. That is also a good trick to have in my bag of tricks. Did you clip her back toenails to make them less dangerous to herself? Or was that impossible? I can't imagine doing it, but I know some people have. However, if she is getting less tame, that makes it harder. It is too bad- all this handling ought to make her tame as butter.
If she is absorbing your stress, then you have to try to be a bit zen about it. Before you handle her, sit on your bed comfortably, close your eyes, and calm yourself. Imagine yourself doing the meds just right and dealing with her issues well. Remember the possibility that it will be difficult, and accept that. Don't let it make you nervous, because that doesn't help. Tell yourself quietly that you are going to get it done. Then handle her as calmly as you can from the start, and try to project your zen onto her. Your extreme calm should make a difference.
The way to hold a difficult or scared mouse is to gently hold the base of her tail by her rump with the thumb and forefingers of your left hand, while the mouse sits on your right palm, your fingers closed gently over her until she is calm. Once she is calm, if no one is helping you, I have learned to hold her in one hand, keeping her on the palm of my right hand and still holding her tail with my pinky. You may be able to medicate her like this, if you tip your hand and have her upright. Depending on the mouse, she may not need to be scruffed, and my mice now, bred to incredible calmness by an excellent breeder, are much happier if I hold them upright (actually in my left hand) with my fingers closed over them, my thumb on their tummies, and put the meds in their mouths that way.
It is also a good trick to give her something irresistible afterwards, like a piece of cheese or buttered and salted popcorn. I had a little dwarf rat who needed three meds twice a day, and he hated it. He struggled like the dickens and every time I got better at it, he got better at struggling. I felt so guilty! Then I began to give him a little piece of cheddar cheese afterwards. Soon, although he never made it easy on me, he would jump into my lap when he saw me with the syringe! So I know, even though he struggled, that he was not the least bit stressed.
I am so sorry about little Moo too. These little critters can break your heart. Although mice are far more hardy than rats (surprise! No one told me that before I got my rats! But rats are awesome too), they are still very delicate. You have a great vet to be working with you like this. Be sure to put him on Angie's List so other people will know where to go!
I wish both girls the best of luck, and you as well. Do continue to keep in touch with me. Besides worrying about Luna, I also would really like to know if the Haldol continues to help. And let me know what dose of what concentration he is giving her.