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Pet Rats/Older Rat Having Lots of Issues


QUESTION: Hi! So I've never been one to actually ask questions on forums or anything, but I am running out of ideas. I've spent days googling and researching, calling vets, and having no luck. My boy Ralphie is I would say a little over 2 years old. I got him from a pet store and they couldn't tell me his age, but he seemed to be at an adult size. Anyway, for the past few months he has slowed down a bit and lost a little weight, but not enough to worry me. About a month ago he started getting a tilt. I read about inner ear infections and tried to do what I could from home, as I am about 3 hours from the nearest exotic vet. I had some Baytril ear drops that I had gotten from a vet for my cat and my mom, being a nurse, suggested I use it as it was the same thing. I tried the drops in his ears and nothing helped. I tried amoxicillin as well. Nothing. He has now gotten to the point that he can't keep his head stabilized and he can't really get around. I've been feeding him baby food, pedialyte, soft fruits, and as much water as he will tolerate. He virtually has no body heat and is breathing heavily and you can see it in his sides, which I've read isn't very good. In the past few months he has endured two abscesses, the tilting, rat lice, and extreme eye bulging. I clean my cage daily, and I don't understand how he could've declined so quickly with so many issues at once. I've called exotic vets even 3-4 hours away and they are all book for another week or so and emergency visits are for established customers only. My mom has suggested trying to find ways to humanely euthanize him at home, but I haven't found a way online that sounds humane or safe at all. I'm terrified of losing him, and I feel like this is all my fault, but I feel like a 3-4 hour trip back and forth is only going to stress him out and make things worse. That plus, I have limited transportation. I don't know if he's even able to be helped at this point. I just need someone to at least listen I guess and tell me I'm not an awful rat mom. Any help is incredibly appreciated. Thank you, in advance.

ANSWER: Hi Lauren,
I'm so sorry to hear Ralphie is sick, Along with his head tilt, does he have poor coordination?  If so, he probably has a pituitary tumor.  You can read more about this in the Tumors article on my website at You will also find a humane method of euthanasia at home on my website. You can also email me at

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QUESTION: Yes, he does. I've kind of noticed it for a while. It's been gradual, but this week has hit him really badly. I've read about PT, and everything seems to line up. I've noticed his limbs are becoming more stuff, especially his back legs. I can lift his his body, especially his head and arms and he seems completely lifeless. Every rat parent I've talked to has just told me to make him comfortable and keep him hydrated as possible and to prepare myself. Your take on it?

Rats with a PT usually do not seem to suffer. They eventually need to be hand fed. As long as he can still eat soft food or drink liquids with help (syringe or eyedropper)and appears to be comfortable, you can still let him keep going. Eventually they lose even the ability to swallow, and and that point, I recommend euthanasia rather than letting them die of dehydration. It can take a really long time for a rat with a PT to die on their own.

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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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