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Pet Rats/Possible Pyometra and Pituitary Tumor?

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Question
Hi Debbie,
My little girl rat Kuku is about 2 years old. About a month ago she started having problems jumping and climbing up her ramps, she would often slip and fall off, very clumsy acting. She was also having difficulty holding food with her hands. Then one day I came home from work to find her acting very lethargic, just lying on her side in the bottom of her cage, and wasn't eating or drinking. I took her to my exotics vet and he wasn't sure what was wrong with her, maybe arthritis? He put her on .05 ml prednisolone twice a day. She started feeling better that first week, so he reduced it to once every other day. Then she started getting worse, she completely lost the ability to hold her food with her hands - she curls them into little fists and doesn't like to put pressure on them. She is very weak and slow, and we have to hand feed her baby food and Ensure, as she will not even drink apple juice anymore. She also can't eat hard food - she can't bite down hard enough. She does still like to come out of her cage and walk around the living room, but then she goes to her spot behind the sofa and lays there for a long while. I thought she may have a pituitary tumor (or maybe even a stroke), but he said he didn't think so. A few days ago I noticed some vaginal bleeding, along with some clear, stringy mucous. She also has been urinating alot on the floor/sofa etc., which is out of character for her. I took her back to the vet and he thinks she has uterine cancer. AT my insistence he put her on antibiotics - .15 ml baytril every twelve hours. After doing some research I thought it might be pyometra. She's been on the baytril for 3 days now and seems to be feeling a little better and has a bit more energy, but she always seems super sluggish after taking the steroids. Sorry this is so long, just trying to give all the info I can. I'm super worried about my baby. There were a couple of times in the past couple of weeks when I thought I was losing her. I know you are a wonderful rat expert and I would really appreciate your opinion on the matter. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Answer
Hi Amanda,
I think you are right and the vet is wrong about a pituitary tumor. Her symptoms are pretty classic, especially since the prednisone helped. she needed to stay on the prednisone twice a day for the rest of her life. In my experience, if you stop the treatment and then start it back again, it usually doesn't work as well the second time.

Pyometra is very rare in rats. Blood from the vagina is usually due to uterine bleeding caused by a mycoplasma infection. (A uterine tumor is also a possibility, but is quite rare.)  Treatment with enrofloxacin (Baytril) at 10 mg/lb twice a day for the rest of the rat’s life will usually keep the bleeding under control. (see below) Bleeding can also be caused by polyps or tumors of the uterus or vagina but these are much more rare.  

Liquid oral enrofloxacin (generic Baytril) can be ordered from Jedd’s Pigeon supply at 800-659-5928.  Ask for Greg. Jedds sells 100 ml of 10% enrofloxacin (brand name Enroxil) for $40 plus shipping.  This amount of enrofloxacin is 1000 doses for a 1-lb rat! Very cheap!  The dose is only 0.1 ml/lb twice a day.  I have had the best luck giving it in powdered soy baby formula or Ensure.  For the formula, you can mix some formula up ahead of time and add the dose of enrofloxacin to about a teaspoon or so, or you can mix the dose with about 1/8 teaspoon of the powder and mix into a thick paste. Most rats will gobble it up.  .  For the Ensure, use 5 to 9 parts of it mixed with the enrofloxacin.

The best supplement for rats who aren’t eating well or who are losing weight is powdered soy infant formula from the grocery store.  (The liquid form goes bad too fast.)  The brand doesn’t matter because they’re all about the same (Wal-mart's store brand is cheapest).  They contain pretty much all the nutrients a baby needs, and they are 50% fat, so they help put the weight back on them fast.

Mix a little of the powder in water, pedialyte, or juice.  You can mix it as thick or as thin as you need to.  Thick encourages intake of nutrients and can be fed off your finger, thin encourages intake of fluids.  Most rats love it and will lick it out of a little dish. You can also give it with an eyedropper or syringe. You can also soak or mix ground rat blocks in it.

The infant formula is nearly a complete diet for rats. The only nutrients the formula is short on for rats is the B vitamins.  When giving the formula longterm, add enough liquid vitamin B complex supplement to supply 1 mcg of B12 to each scoop of formula, or you can add ¼ Tablespoon of nutritional yeast (available at health food stores) per scoop of powder.  If your rat doesn’t like it, try adding a tiny drop of vanilla extract or other flavoring.  If that doesn’t work, try adding some whipped cream or ice cream.

If the formula is pretty much all your rat is eating, give one scoop of the powder in the morning and another scoop at night.  One scoop a day is enough if the rat is eating other foods.
Deb

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Debbie Ducommun

Expertise

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 www.ratfanclub.org/helpfinfo.html. 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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

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

Education/Credentials
BA in Animal Behavior

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