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Pet Rats/Euthanasia or wait??


QUESTION: Hi Debbie,

I have it to a little over two-year-old rat named Buddy.  He has recently gotten sick with I what the vet says an ear polyp. He has been on tresaderm drops for over a week now and doxycycline and baytril for about five days.  He can't feed himself or stand to move around he just flops.  He is lethargic all the time and wasting away I am wondering whether to consider euthanasia at this point.  His quality-of-life is dramatically dropped he's no longer the rack used to be.  We are feeding him food recommended by the vet and fluids with the syringe at this point a few times a day he seems to perk up but is still very lethargic and seems as though he is in pain all the time.  I am questioning whether this is a pituitary tumor as it seems to fit all the symptoms along with no use of his front paws.  Do I bring him to the vet again and hope for the best or is this it?  As I have heard about steroids and other options to treat and prolong this but I do not want him to suffer any longer.....
Thank you,

ANSWER: Hi Shannon,
I'm so sorry Buddy is so sick. Can you see the polyp in his ear?  Certainly if he is in pain, he should either be given pain killers, or euthanized.  Does he still enjoy being petted?  What food did the vet recommend? Is Buddy eager to eat or do you have to coax him?

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QUESTION: Thank you for your prompt response Debbie,
I cannot see the polyp the vet said it was very tiny and it's only visible within otoscope.  He still has Whitepost draining from his ear and I clean it out as it comes and seems to be uncomfortable with the eardrops.  the food that the vet prescribed is called prescription diet A/D cat food critical care and we mix it with some warm water and feed it to him via syringe. also we have been feeding him Pedialyte both by a syringe and yes he does seem to need coaxing. He has a blank glazed over stare and looks at us as though he is in pain. I am giving him meta-cam 0.1 mL at this point and am questioning euthanasia as stated before. We are feeding him about three times a day maybe a whole syringe and he still fails to gain weight even though we are feeding him this much I do believe he has a tumor that is taking all of his nutrients.  He has burst of energy and will move around on the couch are few minutes kind of calling and dragging his back legs and I don't believe that is comfortable for him. He does still enjoy being par by us and loves when we hold them but has an awful look about him.
Thank you again Debbie,

I don't understand your reference to "Whitepost draining" from his ear. What does that mean?

You absolutely do not want to be giving him cat food!  It is too high in protein. See below for the best thing to feed him instead. I'm really questioning your vet's knowledge of rats!

His symptoms would not be caused by a polyp in the ear. He might have a small polyp, but it is not causing these symptoms. It does sound like he might have a pituitary tumor.  You either need to start treating the PT or you should probably euthanize him. You'll find info on treating a PT on my website at in the article about Tumors.

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 the powder with water,  juice or even Ensure.  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 long-term, 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.

I highly recommend my Rat Health Care booklet which includes this and a lot more helpful info.  You can find more info about the booklet on my website on the Books page.

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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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