Mice/My mice. Are they sick from eating dead mouse?
QUESTION: Hi, here's an overview of what happened:
I noticed my mouse, Sky, had cancer a few months back. I researched and found that surgery can go wrong, and is very expensive. So we, after calling around to talk with all the vets, (who none of would even take a mouse!) decided to let her die naturally, but put her down if she was really suffering. We even tried turmeric, (a method proven to prevent cancer, we thought it might help HEAL it.) but to no avail. Sky died last night. She was very weak, and I think she died quickly and peacfully in her cage with her friends (3 other mice, Yatabow Starlight & Kiayflower). I was so tired last night, I left her in there over night (with her friends) and found her body in the morning. It was partially chewed. Her tumor had a hole in it, about the size of an almond. I hope this is OK, that her cagemates won't get sick from eating her (guess it's a ritual they have, like us burying our dead). They seem down, but of corse they are grieving her loss too; how could I tell if they are sick? And what do I do about it?
ANSWER: Hi Miriam,
Are you sure it was cancer? Mice can sometimes get abscesses, or closed off infections that swell up in one area and resemble a tumor, which can result in a system infection that can kill them suddenly. Both are unfortunate possibilities that would have needed vet care (so please don't feel bad for not being able to find a vet to help), but they can appear virtually identical.
I ask because sometimes an abscess can burst, either inward or outward, and can leave a large, open wound. Is it possible the wound could have opened outward on its own, causing the hole you can see now? Did you see any of the cagemates actively chewing at the wound? Mice do not usually eat their deceased unless they have been gone for a while, but it does happen every now and then. If they do, they usually begin cannibalizing at the head area and move downward from there, so depending on where you see damage, this information can tell us if they actually consumed tissue or if it occurred naturally.
If the wound was an abscess and they ate it, then they would have consumed a great deal of bacteria. If it was a tumor or just regular decaying tissue, they may become sick to their stomachs. In either case, a round of antibiotics and a thorough disinfecting of the cage might be wise. You should be able to find tetracycline at pet stores in the fish section, from vets if they will prescribe it to you even though they are not treating the mice, or from certain feed stores. It can be given in a foil-covered water bottle so that all mice can receive doses as they drink normally. Here is information from our other mouse expert explaining how to administer tetracycline:
"It either comes in powder, tablet, or capsule form. If it is a tablet, you will need to crush it into fine powder, which you can do with the back of one spoon against the front of another. If it is a capsule you will empty the powder out of the capsule. One capsule is the same as 1/4 flat teaspoon. (...) Put a capsule's worth in a large water bottle (10-12 oz), or half that in a small water bottle (4-6 oz), and that should be the only source of water for about 10 days. Shake it up well. Change it every other day. Cover the bottle with tin foil so no light can get in. Tetracycline reacts with light."
For the next few days, observe the mice for lethargy, loose stools, rough fur/dull eyes, or lack of appetite. These are signs they may be becoming ill, and might need a professional to look at them or prescribe a more targeted antibiotic. I don't really expect them to become terribly ill, especially if you can provide tetracycline starting as soon as you can, but better to keep a close eye on them for just in case!
I'm sorry for your loss, and please let me know if there is any other way I can help!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi again,
no, I'm not sure it was cancer, but assumed that it was because there were MULTIPLE lumps, about 2-3 of them. As far as eating her, I knew they were in that hideout with her, but did not see any of them chewing at her. I knew they were licking her, though. I saw that. I don't know if that's possible, that it burst, but I sure hope that is the case & that my mice won't get sick from it! And I'm glad to hear it's less common for them to eat them than I thought...
The hole was in the tumor/abscess, on her belly area. The mice seem fine for now, no signs that you mentioned, but one of them (especially) is just a tiny bit less active than usual...
But as I said, they had a death in the "family" so they are generally down about that. It's been about 3 days since Sky died, does that mean the need to concern is over or should I, when I can use the car, still go out and get tetracycline?
Yes, tetracycline is still a good bet to be on the safe side. It won't hurt them if they don't need it, so it's nice to have that safety net.
Best of luck, and let me know if you have any other questions, or how they are doing! Best of luck to them,