Pet Rats/Rat with tumors?
One of my rats has a few tumors on her, and I'm not sure what the best thing to do is to treat/manage them. The largest one is a mammary tumor on her neck area. It isn't that huge, it doesn't touch the ground or anything, but it is getting pretty big, more than anything I guess it just looks annoying at this point, but it doesn't seem to bother her. The one causing the most issues is a uterine tumor, about marble sized. She has been bleeding from it for about a coupe months and sometimes it causes her pain. The bleeding isn't that bad, for weeks I couldn't even figure out who was bleeding, it was very small drops, but at times it's a bit heavier, though it never seems to be enough to cause blood loss issues, it really only comes out when she is sleeping, it isn't around the cage at all or on her. Then she has another medium mammary tumor on her belly.
When I first noticed the bleeding I got her antibiotics (well all of the rats were put on since I didn't know it was her) to treat for a urinary or uterine infection. After about 2 weeks I knew it was her and nothing had changed, so she went to the vet and that is when they said they could feel the uterine tumor and that was probably the cause, though I kept her on antibiotics for a couple more weeks in case of infection.
I decided not to get it removed because of her age, it seemed like it would be a tough surgery, she is 2.5 years old. Obviously to get rid of the uterine tumor she would get spayed which is a pretty big procedure. The tumor on her belly is right in the middle, and would be where the incision would have to be, so obviously that would be removed as well. But I wouldn't want her to already be in surgery without having the largest one removed. I feel like putting her through that at her age isn't really worth it, if she only lives a few more months basically the rest of her life she will be recovering and healing, and that is if she made it through (and on top of that it would cost about $1000, not that I wouldn't be willing to pay if I thought it was the best thing).
But I'm not really sure what else to do for her. I have her on medicine for pain, and she seems to be fine with that. Before I knew it was the tumor causing bleeding she was doing the pain stretches a lot, so I put her on an NSAID, but then I switched to acetaminophen so it wouldn't make the bleeding worse. When she's on the meds she doesn't seem to be in any discomfort, no stretching and she doesn't have any problem getting around, she just doesn't like to jump anymore like when she was younger. She does sleep a lot, but she has been like that her entire life, she was always very lazy, so I can't really tell if it's affecting her activity. The vet told me that other than removal there isn't much they can do, but do you think there is anything else I could put her on that would help? Like something for inflammation of the tumor, would prednisone work? I know they use it for brain tumors but I've never heard of it being effective on these kinds. How will I know if she should be put down, or what will the tumor do to her being left alone? Or is there anything else you could recommend I do from your experience?
First I'd like to tell you how much I feel for you having to go through this terrible situation and facing having to make a very difficult decision. I myself just recently had a very similar situation where my own 2 1/2 year old girl had a rapidly growing tumor, which when examimated by my vet, turned out to be 4 tumors all in the same area.
I commend you for your level headedness in thinking through all of your options and I agree with you in the decision to not proceed with the surgery. She is at a very advanced age and may not make it, and like you said, if she did make it through, poor thing would have to deal with the stress and pain of having to heal likely the rest of her life.
It sounds like you have done all of the right things to this point. You are correct that Prednisone is used for treating pituitary tumors and there is no evidence it works on benign mammary tumors. However, there is a newer medication called Lupron that has been used with success in rats on benign tumors. Lupron helps stop production of estrogen in rats, thus in turn, helps to shrink the tumors or halt new growth. The injection is used once per month. I know one person who has had first hand experience with Lupron with great success. Some vets do not provide treatment with Lupron, so if yours does not, call around and hopefully you will find one who is willing.
I stand by your decision to allow your baby to live out her life. The benign tumors don't cause pain, but eventually, as they grow, they will slowly begin to inhibit her quality of life. Continue the pain medication for the uterine tumor as needed.
All that said, now to finish my story of my own girl Zoey. She'd already gone through 2 prior tumor surgeries at age 20 months and another at 24 months. When the final tumor showed itself at 26 months, I decided to let my poor old girl to live out her life as happily as possible. The tumor grew and after 2 months, Zoey was no longer able to hold her own food because it was in the way of her front paws but she could still eat with her mouth. A month later, the tumor was so large (bigger than a golf ball) that she could barely groom herself and her fur was getting dissheveled. She was no longer able to go up and down the cage ramps so I moved all the sleeping hammocks and food and water to the first level, and I made an appointment with my vet to have her anesthetized. I have so many photos and happy memories of my precious girl.
Speak with a vet about the Lupron...I don't know the cost of the injections though as I've never had experience personally with it. It's the only thing that might extend her life at this point. Other than that, love her, hold her, give her lots of yummy sweet fattening treats like chocolate and ice cream :) Do what you can to make her last months happy and make many lasting memories.
What you can expect without the Lupron is that from the time a tumor is grape-sized to when quality of life is gone is about 3 to 4 months. You will be able to tell when your girl is at a point where she is generally miserable and can't easy do normal things. Just get 100% assurance from your vet that humane euthanization is practiced. That would mean they would have to use full anesthesia so that your girl is completely asleep as if she were going into surgery and only then they would administer the lethal injection into the heart. Most vets don't allow you to be present but you can ask.
One last thing...you didn't say if you have one other rat or several. If it's just one more, then she will be left alone and may suffer depression. If you plan to continue with rats in your life, consider getting 2 baby girls at this point. Three rats (or more) is the ideal number because if you ever lose one suddenly to illnes, the remaining ones have each other.
I hope I was able to answer all of your questions. Please do not hesitate to write me again with anything at all, even if it's just for support or a shoulder to cry on.