Veteran Rats

Dublin Chillin'

Dublin Chillin'

I have quite sad news about Dublin, he is getting old now and his back legs arer just not working so well for him anymore. I’m pretty sure he’s got degenerate osteoarthritis. He doesn’t appear to be in any pain or discomfort at the moment but he has to waddle along and drag his back legs behind him to an extent :( I’m keeping a close supervision of his condition but I know too well there’s not much a vet will prescribe if anything for this type of illness since he is so small :( Jinx is still crazy and energetic, but he has lost a lot of weight recently and I’m desperately trying to keep both rats’ weight up by completey spoiling them! I’m adding small animal vitamins to their food and I’ve started with a few drops of echinacea to help with their immune systems. They are 2 and a half now which is getting on a bit for rats so I don’t think a few extra treats will harm, and I want to make their last weeks or months as comfortable and happy as possible. I’ve also split the cage in half and closed off the bottom half of it, so that Dublin doesn’t have to climb up and down ladders. It’s a good idea with elderly rats to check they can access food and drink easily and are kept warm during the colder months, because they cannot retain body heat so well in advanced age. On a lighter note, I just have to add, all this attention and dedication to these little guys is so rewarding, the other day Jinx and Dublin were snuggled up in my arms and Jinx closed his eyes and fell asleep :) Dublin gives me ratty kisses every day and he is just tooo cute!!! Here are some photos taken last month.

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Jinx loves his choc nom

Jinx loves his choc nom

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating all their favourites

Old Rat

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Baby Face

Shy-Shy looking deceptively youthful. Aaw my poor old-man rat is losing his appetite. He refuses his dry rat food mix. He can be coaxed to eat baby oat breakfast though. His breathing has become a little more shallow lately and after the loss of his brothers I think he’s slowing down. He has his routine though (just like an old man!) and watches the younger boys at play time from his box in the cage. It’s desperately sad really. I tried to put my (usually separated) three rats together but it looked like they were going to freak out, and I didn’t want to put any stress on Shy-Shy as his health is a bit iffy. I have a feeling it’s his last days now, poor old thing…

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating boring old rat food.

Poorly Stripe

I have some sad news, Stripe, my sweet affectionate little rat is not well at all. Over the last two days he has suddenly become very weak and is unable to get about the cage very much.
His breathing is quite shallow, and I think it is quite serious.

I’m feeding him soft food with Nutrical, keeping him warm, and monitoring his condition. He’s already on a course of the antibiotic Baytril for his Myco infection.

Get better Stripey.

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Sweet Stripe

Today my lovely rats are mostly eating yoghurt.

De-gloving

About a month ago I lifted Dublin out of his cage for his free range time and had a horrible shock – the skin on the tip of his tail was ripped almost right off and red raw. The skin had pulled off in a perfectly circular pattern, so I was quite certain that it had been “de-gloved”. De-gloving happens when a rat catches his tail or his tail is pulled to hard and the skin pulls of in one clean go. I wasn’t sure what caused it, but one of the rats in the cage below may have bitten him if his tail was dangling over, so I cordoned off the cage in such a way that it couldn’t happen again.

Poor Dublin was obviously in pain because his squeaked whenever anything went near his tail and he wanted to sit and rest more than normal. It was out of vet hours, so I gave him a tiny amount (0.3ml) of Calpol (liquid paracetamol for little kids). I wouldn’t advise anyone else doing that – but he suffered no ill effects, and I couldn’t leave him to suffer.

The following day I took Dublin to the vets and they booked him in for a small operation to nip off the end of his tail (wince!). The skin never grows back after de-gloving so it is best to remove the bone – which could catch or become infected and would take longer to heal. Dublin had to have an anaesthetic -which always carries a small risk with tiny animals. I was annoyed to discover that the vet viewed his injury so minor that “it wouldn’t bother him” when it obviously did. After a tense hour or so wait we returned to pick Dublin up and he was fine – a little groggy but okay. I wasn’t given any painkillers for Dublin, so I gave him a tiny amounts of Calpol for the next two days. Again, I wouldn’t advise this – too much paracetamol could be dangerous or fatal – always ask your vet first!

Dublin recovered remarkably quickly, and his tail has now completely healed! Yeah!

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Dublin post-operation

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating cereal and grapes.

Rocky Shock

I took Rocky to the vets yesterday, because over the last few days he appeared to be losing condition. His fur looked odd (kind of fluffed up and messy) and three days ago I noticed he was an odd pear shape. When I picked him up he felt really bloated around his abdomin and he was dirty under his tail (he had had diarrhoea). Also, the most worrying aspect of all – he felt bony around his upper body and that’s unusual for Rocky – he’s normally quite rounded.

I thought it might be that he was constipated or something, but the vet’s diagnosis was much worse – he felt around Rocky’s body and said that he could feel a hard mass which was most probably a tumour, connected to his bowel (the reason for the diarrhoea). It was such a shock.
It was only a week or so ago that he appeared completely fine. The vet said that he could do an exploratory operation, but that it would be risky and stressful for Rocky, and that if the tumour was attached to an organ there would be little they could do, as it would grow back.
He advised me to let him be for now, and to make him as comfortable as possible and give him his favourite treats etc. He said the fact that he’s lost weight so quickly is not a good sign, and that I should take him back when he stops eating or appears to be suffering. I don’t want to put him through an operation if it’s unlikely to work, but he’s not even two yet. It’s so upsetting.

On the upside Rocky has still got a healthy appetite, and is still doing all his normal ratty things, and cuddling up with his brothers!

Sighhh.

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Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating humble pie.

Rat Foofing and Fur Coats

The latest events in the Rat House:-

1The boys have had yet another bout of Myco with Shy-Shy suffering the worst. I’ve no idea what set it off this time. Shy was making the dreaded “foofing” noise again and all of the rats were sneezing. All the boys were treated with 0.3ml per day of Baytril and all have responded well to the antibiotic.

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The first day I gave the rats their medicine, I sat down on a chair and gave one rat at a time some yoghurt (with Baytril) on a spoon. The following day they had already learnt the equation: chair=food, and as I finished mixing the first spoonful of medicine and yoghurt, I turned around to see Shy-Shy sat on the chair waiting for his treat! I continued with the next batch, and as soon as it was done I went to sit down, and Pip was sitting there on my chair looking expectantly at me! Then guess what? With the following spoonful Stripe was there by himself on the chair as if to say “It’s my turn!” Rocky is not one to come running (he’s far too laid back), but as I sat down and called him, he sauntered up towards me and flopped onto my knee like a blob of custard, and soon lapped up his yoghurt too. The same sequence of events happened every evening almost without exception, if they weren’t in the chair when I reached for it, they were there the instant I sat down, individually, which was all the more astonishing. Why didn’t they all converge onto the chair at once? The usual behaviour when treats are offered is for all four rats to pile up as near to the food as rattily possible (including standing right up on tippy-paws as far as they can stretch; arm-swatting a brother out of the way; grabbing for it or jumping advantageously onto my hand to get to the treat!

All I can conclude from this is that either:
1/ Rats are very fast learners
2/ Rats are habit-forming animals
3/ Rats are able to change behaviour quickly to suit their changing environment
4/ Rats are ruled by their bellies
or another suspicion: 5/ Rats are tiny people in fur coats!

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Rocky and brothers: Part Custard, Part Meringue

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating strawberries from our very own garden!

Healthy Rats

My four boys have come through another battle with myco, and I’m doing all I can to build up their immune systems, by adding vitamin drops to their water and garlic powder to their dry food mix. The dry food is replaced every so often so that there is a constant supply in their cage. I use half Burgess Super Rat Excel and half my own mix which is based on the Shumanite diet (see links below). They get fresh food every day, including green leafy veg (not too much as this may cause diarrhoea) and I try to vary their fresh food every day. They can eat nearly everything we do, except that they mustn’t have too much protein (from nuts, eggs and meat) as this can cause skin problems. Too much fat or sugars in a rat’s diet can have the same effect as it does with us, the rat can become overweight and may suffer ailments associated with this including diabetes. The odd sprinkle of sunflower seeds between a few rats always goes down well though!

I’ve found the following sites to be very useful for information on many aspects of rat care:-

Ratz
Shumanite Rats
The Dapper Rat

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Beautiful Rocky

Today my lovely rats have been mostly eating rocket salad and cooked beans.

The Dreaded Myco

It’s been a while since I posted, what with home decorating, kids’ birthdays and a weekend visit to London (ie. Camden Lock). As we only went away for two nights, I put in enough provisions for the rats (extra food just in case and a large water bottle). When we got back, the rats were so happy to see us! They were chattering and hopping about all over me, and all seemed well – there was still plenty of dried food left over and half a bottle of water. Then I noticed that Shy-Shy had a bump on his back which I could feel when I picked him up for a cuddle. It turned out to be a scab, probably caused by a scuffle with one of his cage mates (most likely Pip, since he is asserting his dominance at the moment) or possibly from a scratch from his own sharp claw. I haven’t plucked up the courage to clip them yet (I’m too scared of hurting him). The scab looked clean, so I left it alone, and decided that it would probably heal by itself.
The following evening Shy-Shy still looked okay, but Rocky was making weird “foofing” noises through his nose. It was quite comical at first, until it dawned on me that it might be murine Mycoplasmosis again. Myco is an insidious disease affecting rats and mice (we can’t catch it), which is carried by virtually all pet rats. See my post Sneezing for a brief list of the symptoms of mycoplasma pulmonis. The next evening my guess was almost confirmed when I heard Rocky sneezing. I made an appointment with the vet the same week and she prescribed 0.3ml of Baytril per rat for all of the rats for 10 days. The course of antibiotics is nearly finished now, and Rocky is much better, and I haven’t heard any more “foofing” or sneezing from him or the other boys, thank goodness.

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Pip and Rocky With Healthy Appetites!

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All the Boys Tucking In

Today my rats have been mostly eating raspberries in yoghurt

Sneezing Shy-Shy

Oh dear, Shy-Shy was sneezing again. I made another appointment for him at the vets’. He may be one of those ratties that is prone to Myco infections. The vet prescribed seven days of Baytril (0.1 ml a day). The dose your rat gets depends on his size. Average dose for an adult female rat is approx. 0.2ml and an adult male might get about 0.25 to 0.3mls.

This time I took Shy-Shy to the vets on his own in a plastic carrier tank. The poor thing was petrified because there were a couple of load yappy dogs there. I tried to console him by stroking him gently, but made a mental note to bring his brothers as company next time. Rats seem to be far less threatened when they have their cage mates to snuggle up to – or hide under as Pip does!

The vet picked Shy-Shy up by the scruff of the neck to show me how to administer the Baytril via a small syringe. Shy-Shy didn’t struggle but I think he was too scared to move, but anyway, it didn’t look very comfortable to me and I suspect that holding a rat in this way probably hurts it a little. I thought Shy-Shy would prefer the Baytril-in-yummy-yoghurt method better!

Shy-Shy feigns illness then sneaks off with banana chunk

I have since found much better ways to hold your poorly rat, if he refuses to eat, and you need to get the medicine in him. One easy way is to hold your rat firmly wrapped in a towel, so that his movement is restricted.

Today my rats are mostly eating apple slices.

Baytril

Shy-Shy was still sneezing last night when he had play-time. I rang the vets’ surgery and the vet has prescribed more Baytril for him alone. One good thing has come out of this – feeding the rats medicine in some food on a spoon has definitely made them tamer. They will seek me out now when they come out of the cage. Shy-Shy and Rocky will eat from the spoon on my hand or lap, and last night Stripe climbed inside my glasses and stood on them! Pip is still a bit reticent though.

Stripe demonstrating that young rats sleep a lot!

Baytril is the most commonly used drug for mycoplasma infections, and I have read that it can be used as a long term treatment with few if any ill-effects. It’s not advisable for pregnant or lactating ratty mums, or young rat kittens.

Today my rats have been mostly eating chopped up sprouts and scrambled egg.