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Pet Rats/Rat peeing red?


I have several pet rats and recently my beloved Lyra has seem to have fallen ill. Her change in behavior came on very suddenly though, and she is not coughing or wheezing like a normal sick rat, so it was suggested to me that she may have had a stroke. I do not have the extra money though to take her to the vet to be sure, so I was hoping I could get an opinion from you.
Lyra will be two in February and lives with her sister Luna. They are pink-eyed whites. One day I noticed that my Lyra was not opening her eyes all of the way and seemed very wobbly. She is very weak and can hardly climb, occasionally falling over. It also came to my attention last night that her weakness has gotten to the point that she can no longer hold food steady to eat it; her hands can not really grip anything anymore.
Several days ago I placed a water bowl in her pen, as opposed to her usual water bottle, and change/clean it twice a day and she seems to be able to get water out of that just fine. However, I am not sure what to do about helping her eat. Even when I try holding food for her (even softer food) she does not quite seem to be able to chew it up and eat it. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could give her? I saw on another site that baby food might be a good idea, as well as something like Pedialyte or Ensure. Would this be enough though to keep her strong?  I love my Lyra and do not want her life to end prematurely...although she is weak, she is still curious and alert and loving.
Also she and Luna currently live in a two-story pen that they've been in for over a year, but I have been considering moving her to a similar size, one-story pen over fear of her falling down. Would this be wise to do, or do you think it would just stress her out more? The pen I would be changing her to is currently occupied by a male rat and I would just switch them to the different cages, obviously keeping them separated.
Please respond to me when you get a chance, I would appreciate it so much, I really need some advice. Thank you in advance, and happy new year!

ANSWER: Dear Stacee,

Your rat could definitely have had a stroke. I don't have medical training to know if that is the only possibility, but that does sound very typical.

One thing you can do to feed her is purée some of her favorite foods. You can certainly soften her blocks or pellets in Ensure or soy or rice milk and liquefy it; and you can use other yummy things as well. Assuming she is not fat, you don't have to worry too much about giving her too many treats; you don't want to give her a lot of sugar, but fatty foods are fine. One absolute favorite- and you don't even need a food processor- is avocado. Every rat loves avocado. Another very easy favorite is soy yogurt; my guys love blueberry. Apple sauce is easy too. And whatever else she likes. If she likes peas she may be able to eat them if you take them out of their little skins yourself; or purée them. It isn't easy to purée a tiny amount of several foods every day; my suggestion is that you purée, say, peas; pour it into an ice cube tray (pretty shallow) and when it freezes, put each cube in a little ziplock bag; then do another food, etc.; then every day you can take one cube of each of several foods and feed them to her. You can use an eye dropper or syringe (no needle of course) if she can't get the food into herself.

Do take her out of the multi level cage. It is very dangerous; and if she were to fall, she would have absolutely no way or reflexes to land safely. Scrub the cage very, very well, with white vinegar to get the male's smell out. Then put her *old, smelly* bedding and hammocks in it so it smells like home. Make sure she can access everything she needs and there are no obstacles to her getting where she wants to go.

Why does your male live alone? Male rats need companionship too. If you get him a friend he should be between 6 weeks (NOT younger or he may kill him) and maybe ten weeks old.

Much luck and health to your ratty kids.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for the advice, it was very helpful! Directly after sending my initial question I actually went out and bought some baby food to try out...Lyra really liked it but I could tell she was having trouble even just eating it off of the spoon. She made a huge mess, but I'll be sure to get a dropper for next time, as well as some of the foods you suggested. She is definitely not a fat rat, very thin now actually because she cannot eat, so I'll be sure to get some more fatty foods (at first) to help her weight. I will also change the cages tomorrow.
Also there is a reason my male rat lives alone...I know most people think low of this (I do as well) but if you met my rat you might understand. I know they really need companions so I have tried since I first got him over a year ago to introduce him to other rats but he honestly just seems socially awkward (that's the best way I can describe it). I tried introducing him in a neutral environment, to one rat at a time, maybe two, and a total of several different males but he just acts very oddly, and I have tried many many times. Sometimes he even acts very frightened and hides in a corner until I remove him and put him back in his own cage. I've tried many different techniques but nothing's worked =[. He is still the happiest rat I have though...the most loving thing I could ever have gotten! I take him out frequently and try giving him more attention than the others since he does live alone and I think he can see that. If you do have advice for introducing him to other males though that would be very welcoming, though I have tried so many things already.
Again thank you so much for your advice about my Lyra, hopefully she will start looking better soon! Much appreciated!

ANSWER: Hi again,

Thank you for the response. I forgot one of the very most yummy and fattening things in the world: commercial peanut butter (Jif, Skippy; not health food type) mixed with rice milk (or soy) to the consistency of ensure, or even more liquid. Very fattening and absolutely delicious.

Oh - when mixing- you will go nuts if you don't do it like making gravy: one drop of rice milk mixed with the PB; then two drops; then 4... In other words, if you try to throw PB with liquid right away it will just turn into peanut butter clod soup!

That's OK about the male; you have certainly tried. I have a lone male right now because his two brothers died of heart attacks- and considering one died because he was freaked out because I dipped his bottom in warm water, I know an intro would kill the one left (who had a heart attack when he saw his dead brother, but survived). These triplets just have weak hearts. I have another in the middle of intros where I am not sure if it will work in the end, but the lone rat who also just lost his brother (rotten Christmas here) definitely wants friends. I just wanted to make sure you knew about males. In mice, males have to live alone; I wanted to make sure you knew that is not true of rats. Especially if he is super happy, it is no problem.

Talk about socially awkward, one of the boys I am trying to intro to my lone rat screams his head off like he is being killed  when he is about 8" away from him!



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Do you think almond milk would also be okay instead of rice or soy? It's just that I'm vegan so I already use almond milk, though of course I would not object to buying something different if almond would not work for my rattie.

I'm so sorry to hear of what happened to your boys! I have not lost any of my rats yet so I cannot even imagine the pain. Hopefully your lone rat will be able to get along with another boy soon!

Also I have another question I didn't think about originally that I need help with. For almost a year, I had several boys from the same litter living in one very large cage...but of course there were so many that it was not quite big enough once they got older. For Christmas, I got a new cage of similar size and split them up equally, so now the cage size is more appropriate for the number living in each. However, I noticed that one of my boys Lino has been peeing red ever since I moved him. I only ever noticed him do this one time before when I brought him out to play; though every time I brought him out he would get nervous at first so I figured he was probably just stressed at that time and that's what caused it. It's been over a week though since he has moved into this cage with three more of his brothers (the ones he most got along with) and he is still peeing red all over the place. He is not displaying any symptoms of being sick otherwise though, so I figured this may also be stress related. Do you have any advice you could give to me about this? Should I perhaps move him back into his original cage with his other brothers? He seems fine otherwise and he still has the same diet so I'm not quite sure what is wrong. Thanks in advance for any help you can give to me!

Dear Stacee,

Almond milk is fine. Just not "real" milk.

Blood in the urine (hematuria) can be a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stone, bladder stone, tumor, or hematoma. Not good. He must go to the vet. The vet should know that stones are too small to palpate on a rat and he will probably need to X-ray. Hematuria can be from stress, but not likely for a week.

I certainly hope it is just a UTI and easily curable with antibiotics. He may be in pain (have you ever had a UTI? Ouch!) so it should be quick.



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Natasha Millikan


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