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Pet Rats/elderly rat


My sweet girl is about 3.5 to 4yrs old. When we adopted her she was supposedly 10mos old, that was May 2011. I asked a more in depth question to one of the other ladies but I've been reading more of the posts & have more questions. Right now I'm sitting with Mrs.White on my lap. Her whole body is twitching. Mostly it's her legs but it seems it's getting worse. I couldn't sleep as I was worried about her. When I woke her up to come out of the cage she had a very hard time getting out. It was as if her legs wouldn't cooperate. She wanted to cuddle so bad, in fact as I pet her she started to grab my hand and cleaned me.I love her so much and hate seeing her in pain. I iust can't tell what is going on with her. She shakes her head and sneezes but not when she's laying on my lap. I have one hand resting on one side of her to keep her warm and just to let her feel my presence. I ended up giving her a dose of the pain meds the vet gave us but she hates it and so do we. She gets scary lethargic and not herself on them, barely drinking & not eating. I would put water in front of her but she'd lay her down almost drowning in the little bowl. I was so concerned that I brought her down to my bed to watch her hut she started moving around so I put her back in the cage. She went right for the yogurt I put in her cage & ate heartily.
I just can't figure out what has happened? She was totally fine until we brought a new rat home, even after her cage mate died back in May she was absolutely fine. Neither new rat is sick and their adjusting well. We've had them for about a month now. My baby is twitching and even experiences a quick jolt here & there. This smx doesn't seem to be doing anything. I don't know if it truly is an ear infection?  The vet said she looked great but I KNOW something is off. I asked him to give something for head shaking & her itching at her ears, that's why she has smx.Her sneezing isn't crazy but sometimes its more than what she's ever had before. Like I said she stops sneezing and the head shaking while laying.
Am I making her worse by forcing meds on her? We started the 1st dose on Thursday& because of our crazy lives 2 days she only got 1dose instead of 2. She's also impossible to get all the meds in her. The pain med was given just for the 2nd time but she can smell it & squeaked at me before I gave it to her.
Any ideas would be so appreciated!
I do have one idea but am not certain. Plus I posted a much more detailed description in my first question but here it is-while I was introducing the first new baby to her I used a squirt bottle. I read online it was a good distraction if they fought. Well I'm so protective of my baby everything seemed bad & I squirted them. Is it possible the water is in her ears? She digs at both but idk, its sometimes mostly one ear. Right now she's stretched one leg out and has her front paws clenched tight but not under her body-its to her side. Her body twitching has almost stopped completely now. She just yawned but kept her back leg stretched and tucked her front paw under her body but now the leg is twitching.
Ugh this is frustrating for me. I'm sorry for the play by play, I just want her to be OK.

It is common for the hind legs of elderly rats to twitch a lot. A common problem in older rats is spinal nerve root degeneration (SNRD), which is a deterioration of the motor nerves that go to the back legs. This can result in a slowly progressive paraplegia, and twitching of the muscles. Is it just her back legs that twitch?  A B vitamin complex supplement can help in some cases. See more info below.  Does she seem to have any problem with her front legs? Can she still hold food in her hands to eat?

Sounds like she is allergic or sensitive to the pain med you gave her, so don't give it to her any more. Chances are she is not in pain. The SNRD does not cause any pain.

This info is from my Rat Health Care booklet, which I highly recommend.

B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, are important to the proper functioning of the nerves, and a supplement has reversed or slowed the progression of SNRD in some of my rats. It could be that some rats have a higher need for this nutrient as they age. I recommend all rats over 1 to 2 years of age get a vitamin B complex supplement, and especially if you notice that a rat is walking funny with her back legs. B vitamins are also good for respiratory disease.
You can buy a human liquid vitamin B complex supplement from a health food store. Give the rat enough of the liquid to supply 10 mcg of vitamin B12 twice a day. The vitamins can be given plain or mixed with food, Ensure, baby formula or some other flavoring.
To figure out the dose, divide the amount of B12 in the human serving by 10 mcg to see how many rat doses are in the human serving.  For instance, if there are 50 mcg/ml, then 1 ml contains 5 rat doses, so the dose for a 1-lb rat is 0.2 ml. A more concentrated brand might have 1200 mcg/ml, which is 120 rat doses. A formula this concentrated needs to be diluted. If you add 14 ml of flavoring to 0.1 ml of this product, the 1-lb rat dose is then 0.3 ml.  

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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