Mice/Treating self-eating mouse
QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
Thank you for all of your wonderful advise! I always turn to past posts for help because I think your information is more guided than anyone else. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the answers I need for my current problem.
I have a mouse that seemed to have a full body allergic reaction. She actually ate off her skin to the muscle and gave herself multiple scratch wounds. I took her to the vet, and they had to do surgery to stitch her up. They wrapped her up in a full body cast that she has to wear for two weeks.
I had to separate her from my other mouse because the other mouse was trying to eat the bandage.
But now I cannot get her to eat. She is having a lot of trouble moving around, and I think that one of the biggest reasons she won't eat is because she can't use her front paws to hold the food. I tried to give her oatmeal, peanut butter, and crackers, but she only licked the peanut butter once, and nibbled a little at the cracker while I held it. I think she is in a lot of pain. What should I do to get her to eat and make her more comfortable?
ANSWER: Dear Linda,
Your poor, poor little mousie. I can't even imagine.
For pain, give her a drop of children's Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours. Ask your vet if you can get metacam- I actually don't know if mice can have it, but rats do. It is a painkiller like ibuprofen (an NSAID) but stronger. I am actually furious that the vet did not give her painkillers. They thought having her skin chewed off and then stitched up wouldn't hurt? Some vets think rats and mice don't experience pain because as prey animals, they do not show it. It hurts them as much as it hurts us.
To feed her you may need to use a syringe. Her problem might be severe pain, which is why I feel terrible that I didn't answer this sooner :(
First, try butter, ripe avocado, buttered and salted popcorn, soft cheese... Those are pretty irresistible.
If you end up having to syringe feed, she should find flavored soy yogurt tasty. Or use a blender on avocado. Or something else that she likes. The danger is dehydration, but luckily, mice are pretty good at surviving dehydration for a few days.
But the question is-- what do you do when you remove the cast? How do you keep her from doing it immediately again? I would recommend immediate Benadryl and, well, Haldol. Her problem might very well be psychological. It happens. Giving Haldol to birds who pull out their feathers is done commonly. And I had one person writing me where we absolutely could not figure out why a mouse was scratching herself and causing severe injuries. We went through all the skin problems and allergies and the poor girl never stopped. So the vet gave her Haldol. And it worked. Just a thought.
Could you keep me informed-- and could you send me a photo of the body cast? I am impressed that your vet could do that. I run a mouse and rat group on Facebook and a lot of people would be interested.
If you are on Facebook you can join the group. The Facebook name is Rats are Awesome but the group is Rats and Mice are Awesome. Friend me and tell me who you are. Then you can post any photos that you have, it will be easy to keep up to date, and we have a lot of very knowledgable people who may have better answers than I do. In any case, 1400 heads is better than one.
I wish her the best. Please keep me informed. Besides being terribly concerned about the poor mouse, I am also very interested in her case. I may be able to help more mice with the information. And I know my vet tech friends would like to know how to body cast a mouse.
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QUESTION: Thank you Natalie!
The ibuprofen is helping a lot. I just took her back to the vet for a new bandage, and they made this one a lot smaller. Now she is free to move, and she seems much happier. First thing she did when I put her back in her cage was eat! So, hopefully everything will be okay.
I sent a picture with the new bandage. Sorry I couldn't get a photo with the full body bandage, but it didn't work out so well anyways. Right when we got to the vet, she somehow got out of it. . . as if she knew.
Anyways, thank you for all of your help!!!!
You are very welcome!
But how will you keep it from happening again?
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Uggggg. Ok. So, the bandage didn't work and fell off. She ate off her stitches twice, and started eating her stomach too. She is stable now, with a bandage that they SEWED on, and ones I put on her. She is eating and drinking, but. . . what do I do when the bandages come off? Should I put her on Haldol now before they come off? I have about a week and a half until the stitches come off. Do you know how long it takes to work?
Poor little girl, I just don't know what to do for her.
She is one miserable mouse :( :(
My first question is this: Does she want to live? Does she enjoy life? I am just afraid the pain and possible severe itching might be too much for her. Is she still happy and runs around and does happy mouse stuff? It is possible that saving her might not be worth it for her. Hopefully we can make it worth it.
You are still giving her pain killers, right? The vet should give you metacam. Here are dosing instructions you can print and show them if they are not used to giving it to mice. (I am furious that a vet would still believe the old idea that because mice don't show pain, they don't feel it :( ):
Second, I know very little of the background of the situation. The vet had said 'full body allergic reaction,' but to what? Have you figured it out and removed it from her environment? What have you tried/tested/etc? If she is allergic to something, the Haldol will not keep her from her self-destructive behavior. That is only if it is a mental illness. If it might be an allergy, the allergen absolutely has to be eliminated or she is going to kill herself in this very painful way.
Third, did the vet treat for mites; did they try to eliminate any skin problem? Could there be ringworm or some other fungus making her itch like crazy? If so, she is in complete misery right now as it still itches.
And fourth, if we are thinking of mental illness here, usually OCD, her environment may be a factor. A bored mouse without much to do can develop OCD-like behavior. She does have a friend, which is good.
In a very severe situation like this when a mouse is miserable, I like to cover all bases at once. That does mean that when the situation is ameliorated, you don't know what the problem was. But that is a lot less important than stopping the misery of the mouse. After it works you can slowly bring things back to normal and figure out what it was. There are a lot of bases to cover here.
1. I would start the Haldol 6 days early unless your vet has a better idea. I have contacted the other person I know whose mouse was on Haldol to find out exactly what her vet did, so when you write back I may be able to give you more details.
The side effects of too much Haldol are acting like a zombie (which would be ok for a very short time, to get her habits changed) and not eating. The dose usually has to be played with to get it right.
2. I would treat for parasites with Revolution. It is such a harmless treatment that it just makes sense to do it. One small drop on the back of her neck, directly on the skin, and don't let her wash for ten minutes. The cat, kitten, and puppy ones are the same strength. The dog one is too strong. If your vet doesn't know it can be used on mice-- well, if they are open enough to consider Haldol on my advice, they should be fine with Revolution :) it is completely accepted in the rat community, including vets and vet techs. It is not dangerous.
3. I would test and treat for allergies by doing two things. First, three days before she has the bandage removed, I would completely change her environment to a basic, almost hypoallergenic one. Wash her cage and her toys with plain water. Give her paper towels and kleenex for bedding. You can cut up something soft like fleece for bedding, but make sure it has been washed with no fragrances, etc. Give her dried oatmeal and cooked brown rice and a few vegetables to eat. I hope her cage mate can be with her. And second, pre-treat her with Benadryl.
So my idea is this. The day of the bandage removal, she has been on Haldol for 6 days and is still on metacam (or ibuprofen if the vet didn't give her metacam). She has been in a hypoallergenic cage for three days and was already treated with Revolution. And that morning, she had her first dose of Benadryl. I will try to find that dose for you too; otherwise "a small drop" of the liquid will have to do.
She gets the bandage off, and after being handled for a little while so she is distracted (maybe someone can hold her in the car), she goes in the cage with her friend. And you watch.
Hopefully, with all of these precautions she does not hurt herself. Then your job will be to gradually undo all the the strange things you have done to her life. After two days of no problems, stop the Benadryl. Give her another two days, then start adding things back into her life. Only when she is in a completely normal environment should you stop the Haldol. Maybe she will be absolutely fine, for whatever reason-- it was mites, or her mental pattern was broken.
Please keep in touch and if you like, you can send me a private question and I can give you contact information so it is easier for me to help you at the time, if there are issues.
Now that I have asked some of my rat and mouse friends in my Facebook group for their opinions, they all want to be kept up to date. Hundreds of people now care about Athena! So let us know-- keep me informed.
Best of luck to Athena (which is also my middle name),