Our pet rat is ill, any suggestions?

Gloria is a full-grown rat. She was grown (maybe a year or so old) when I got her nearly two years ago.

We just got back from the vet. He gave her amox and advised me to try to get an ounce of water per day down her, and to bring her back tomorrow if she hasn’t improved. He also told me to give her some veggies that contain Vitamin K (see the eye-crud note below).

Her symptoms: Some wheezing, eye crud (it was mostly dried blood?!), diahhrea, lethargy, dehydration. Occasionally she has a “spell” in which she sort of chews her teeth (not really chittering, more of a tooth-grinding thing), either grasps or extends her claws, and then gets limp for a few seconds. Then she gets up and moves around and seems more normal again. To my untrained eye, it looks like a seizure.

I’ll give her another dose of medicine this evening, and I think I’ll make a follow-up visit with my usual vet for tomorrow, but any other advice would be so helpful. My son is just devastated.


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I’m very sorry. One of my rat (my favorite) had pretty much the same symptoms last September a couple months shy of her 2nd B-day. IANA Vet but everything I read about rat illnesses pointed to a brain tumor. It is possible that your rat also has a stroke (which is actually a good thing compared to a tumor).

She started off moving very slowly one day and was covered in eye crusties. She would grind her teeth a whole lot and began to loose control of her body functions. With-in the span of three days she became weaker and weaker until she could bairly lift her head to chew her food or drink water. She looked so sad, like she was trapped in a body she didnt want to be in. The next day (9-11 and my B-day) I made an appointment to have her examined and probibly euthanized, there is little that can be done for a brain tumor in rats. I couldn’t stand having to watch her starve to death. Sadly she died an hour before the appointment.

If its a stroke (which by your description seems possible), your rat might still have many months even years of happy but less mobile living.

My wife’s rat Scabbers (don’t know how he got that name) died on Christmas morning, he was almost 3 years old. We have had 5 rats over the past 10 years or so and 3 years was about how long any of them lived. From what I have read that is the lifespan of a healthy domestic rat.

Just to add to you comment, I’ve seen a bar chart of life expectancy of rats (over 200) and you are right. The graph looked like a normal distribution with a mean of around 26 months. Very few rats lived passed three, although the Guiness book I beleive claimed a rat lived till 7, but that seems rather doubtful.

Sadly right after I made my last post I discovered that my rat that died’s sister just started suffering from the same thing. Strange.

Smokey, my rat, died to night. RIP :frowning: . Lets hope I never answer a question about a sick person on SDMB.

I’ve heard that the 2-3 year lifespan of rats is due to their genetic manipulation during years of use as lab test specimens. All of the rats I’ve had have ended up with cancer around 2 years old, and didn’t live past 3. There is a pet store here in Chicago that claims to have bred the cancer traits out of their rats, and that they live 4-5 years, which is the normal lifespan.

I really don’t know much about pocket pets, unfortunately. But what you’re describing doesn’t really sound like a seizure, exactly. With a seizure, it’s normal for there to be a refractory period called the post-ictal phase, where the patient is either unconscious, or seems dazed, groggy, and confused and has poor motor control. It’s common for post-ictal animals to be unable to stand up, or to be very wobbly and weak, to not seem to recognize their surroundings, and this can be very frightening if you’re not expecting it. This slowly wears off over a period of five minutes to an hour or two, depending on the animal and the severity of the seizure. If she’s having partial seizures (as opposed to full-blown tonic-clonic seizures where there’s major convulsions), she shouldn’t be up and moving pretty normally within seconds. She should seem out of it for at least a couple of minutes.

I don’t know if this can happen with rats or not, but dogs and cats can have conditions where other health problems cause a sudden temporary drop in blood pressure and the animal passes out. The problem corrects itself, and the animal bounces right up, seeming pretty normal immediately. That fits with what you’re describing better than seizure activity does.

disclaimer: IANAV.

I think you need to get yourself to a more rat-friendly vet. The red crusty “blood” around her eyes (and I’m guessing there’s some on her nose as well) is not blood, but porphyrin, which is a red substance found in rat snot/tears. Large amounts of it are a sign of stress.
It sounds very much like she has an upper respriatory infection, which are extremely common, and she would need much stronger antibiotics - the standard is a combination of doxycycline and baytril. And, of course, she sounds dehydrated, which can happen quickly when rats become ill.

I have seen the “seizure” behavior you describe in very sick rats, ie, close to death. Since your rat is quite old already, if I were you, I would just try to make her comfortable for as long as I could. Stronger antibiotics can buy you some more time but do take her age into consideration as well.
relevant link: mycoplasma in rats

Tito, I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. :frowning:
Br’er Lappin, thanks for the link. I found that same site yesterday after posting, and came to the same conclusion you did–wrong meds, non-rat-oriented doc.

The real issue is that NOW, my regular vet (who, according to the secretary is rat-oriented), is refusing to see her because I’ve been to another vet. And I can’t find anyone else around here who specializes in rodents. I’ll try the cat care clinic again tomorrow to see if the rabbit specialist might be able to help.

She isn’t having the what-looks-sorta-like-seizures anymore, but she’s very weak. She has been taking water prettty well when we offer it to her from a dropper, and she ate a bit of peanut butter today.

The secretary at the regular vet is going to talk to him again to see if he’ll have a change of heart–otherwise I guess I’ll start calling Indianapolis vets.

And to top it all of, I do SO not have the money for vet bills right now. :frowning:

Thanks for all your input. It means a lot.

There is a vet in Indianapolis listed here, as well as a couple here which are in some part of Indiana which may or may not be near you since I know nothing about the state.

I am glad your rat has stop the “seizing”; I have never see one come back from that state so I very much expected you to post telling us she’s gone. I’m glad she made a recovery, even if she is still weak - rats have the amazing ability to bounce back when you really don’t think they will.
Most vets have some sort of payment plan where you can pay a little bit over time, you might want to inquire about that.
Also, the vet not seeing you because you cheated on him is really quite strange. Maybe you need to send him flowers at the office?
good luck to you.

Well, Ratleigh is still kicking, and possible a bit improved–when I looked at her last, she was actually resting in a more normal rat-position instead of lying on her side. She’s still taking water and a bit of food, although she doesn’t seem interested in anything but peanut butter. She’s not pooping at all, but maybe just because she isn’t eating much. And she doesn’t appear to be paralyzed, just very weak.
The vet is supposed to see her at 4:30. I’m still pissed about the whole thing, but if I can get the right combo of antibiotics out of him, it’ll save me a trip to Indy.
Poor girl. Keep your fingers crossed, if ya wanna.