Day 16 update

We’re a little more than 2 weeks into the clavamox and baytril treatment. It’s been slow progress so far, but last night I had them on the couch with me for a little under an hour and I didn’t hear any sneezes! They’ve been sneezy throughout the treatment otherwise, especially Quiz.

I haven’t seen any new blood/porphyrin on Quiz’s tail, so I really hope that whatever was going on there has cleared up.

Despite the sneezes not going away, Quiz seems so much better. Much brighter and happier and more interested in things. She’s still really mellow and spends most of her time napping in her favorite hammock, but I guess that’s just her style.

I’ve discovered that Quiz really enjoys getting rub downs. She can’t scratch herself very well now that her HED has gotten so bad. I start with her face–especially the ears!) and then do her sides. She just melts. And when I scratch her ears, she sticks her tongue out. It’s so cute.


New antibiotic treatment

Quiz and Erebus have been a little sneezy all summer–partly due to their chronic condition, but also due to environmental factors, I think. This summer was miserably humid and my house developed a bit of a mold problem. I was also using the “natural” version of Carefresh for their litter, which was just too dusty. The cooler and drier weather so far this month, and switching back to the less dusty (but also less compostable) Carefresh Ultra, means the sneezes have subsided a little. But, they were well overdue for a treatment. I feel bad for delaying so long, but it was an incredibly hectic summer for me.

My trusty combination of doxy and zithromax did not seem to work quite as well the last time, so I’m trying a new thing. Baytril and doxy has never done anything for them, so I went with something a little weird: baytril and clavamox. Since this is a less common combination (and a totally new one for me) I’m going to try to document their progress on it. I’m going to be treating them for a month.

Today is day two of treatment (so they’ve just had their third dose). It could be all in my head (due to no longer feeling so guilty about not treating them) but Quiz already seems brighter! Quiz s the sicker of the pair–Erebus has been sneezing sporadically but hasn’t seemed bothered by it, while Quiz has been a little sluggish and one of her eyes has been a little runny for a while. Quiz is also just way more mellow than Erebus, and has HED, but I’ve learned to recognize the difference between her normal mellowness and signs that she’s not feeling her best. Sneeze-count hasn’t changed yet for either of them, but Quiz’s runny eye looks a little drier this morning…

Another thing I’m keeping an eye on is some spot bleeding or excess porphyrin that I’ve noticed on Quiz and on the hammocks she’s been sleeping on. There is some light brownish-red staining on her hammocks and on her tail. It’s really hard to tell if it’s blood or porphyrin. I’ve seen this before when the rats have gone a little too long without treatment. If it’s blood, it would be from a urinary tract infection (which the clavamox should take care of easily) or possibly genital myco. But it could also just be porphyrin from her nose thats getting on her tail and on her hammocks when she curls up sleeping. Since she’s spayed, I fortunately don’t have to worry about all the other scary things that could cause bleeding. But it’s definitely something I need to keep an eye on.

General Update

It’s been a while. I’ve been busy with my garden and summer is always a hectic time here.

Erebus and Quiz are doing well, although they’re not so crazy about all this hear and humidity. I had both of them spayed back in May! Doctor E was uncertain at first, having never done a rat spay before, but she told me that the procedure was actually much easier than she expected. Recovery was a little rough for both of them, especially for Quiz–spays hurt more because they requite deeper cuts, and Quiz had two small inguinal tumors removed at the same time…triple ouch. But both girls healed up nicely and have been tumor-free ever since! I thought I felt one on Erebus but it had vanished the next day. I’m maintaining a cautious optimism. Even if they do go on to grow more tumors, though, I’m very happy with the decision to spay them. It’s given me a great piece of mind, and is just healthier for them in general.

Quiz’s HED has gotten worse, although I’d still say it qualifies as moderate. Her back legs are weak enough that she can’t stand on them (she washes her face with one front paw at a time so she can balance on the other one) but she’s not at full paralysis with the legs just dragging behind her. She seems to get around inside the cage just fine, but has a little trouble climbing in or out of it during free range time.

BT and I haven’t had time to play with the Dudes every day since the summer started, which is really sad but kind of just how it goes. Like I said, summer is hectic. But this makes Erebus really anxious–the less playtime and socialization she gets in a given week, the more nervous and jumpy she is when she does come out. I’ve been thinking of trying to train her a little–just easy stuff like coming to her name or a sound, maybe fetching if she’s into it. I think the extra time working with her would help calm her a little.

That’s all for now!

Goodbye, Bandit

This hurts so much to say. Bandit is gone. We had her put to sleep on Tuesday morning, April 10th. It’s been a week now since we lost her and while the pain is slowly easing, replaced by happy memories of her life, I still miss her like crazy.

After she fought so hard for so long, Bandit’s body finally failed her. I knew we were nearing the end, but I was worried that I wouldn’t know when it was time to help her pass. But on monday night, she let me know–she lost interest in food and water, and was becoming lethargic. BT and I brought her to the vet first thing tuesday morning to have her euthanized. We held her, all wrapped up in blankets, and kissed her and petted her and said our goodbyes while she gently fell asleep. It was very peaceful.

She was at least two and a half years old, possibly closer to three.

I am completely heartbroken. I’ve cried every day since she went. Everything reminds me of her, reminds me that she’s gone. She was my first rat, my heart rat, my best friend. It’s so hard to go into the rat room, knowing that I’m not going to see her sweet little raccoon face looking out at me from some comfy spot.

Bandit had a rough beginning. She was born a feeder rat in a dingy basement–part of a nasty BYB set up that was going on in the house BT was renting a room in at the time (these people were not friends of ours!) She was part of a big group of baby rats that were brought up from the basement to live in a huge glass tank in the living room of the house–because the housemates thought the rats would be fun to look at. They were no one’s pets though–every rat in that house was meant to be snake food.

We had originally had no intention of falling in love with any rats, but Bandit, with her little mask, caught our attention right away. These rats had no socialization at all, and it took us weeks to get little Bandit to trust us enough that she wouldn’t run and hide when we reached into the tank. She became “our” rat long before we were actually able to get her out of that situation–I would take her out of the tank whenever I was at the house and carry her around on my shoulder or in a hood. The whole house knew that her name was Bandit, and that there was no way she was going to be snake food. BT and I began the process of making room for a rat in our lives, so we could get her out of that awful tank. We adopted her, her daughter Janus–for Bandit had sadly become a momma much too young before we could get her out of there–and Appa, another girl from a different litter born in the house.

Despite her poor socialization and traumatic beginnings, Bandit was always sweet, patient, and gentle, if shy. She never liked to start trouble. She really grew with us as we stumbled our way through learning how to properly care for rats. She took it all in stride.

Bandit lost one friend, her daughter, much too soon, and lost Appa a year after–one generation removed from her, they were even more prone to poor health from the terrible way they had been bred. She made new friends when Erebus and Quiz joined the group. The middle of her life was filled with romps around our (rat-proofed) living room, building fantastic nests under our furniture, box castles, pea fishing, dig boxes, new foods to try, a new homemade cage which ultimately failed, a shiny new Martin’s R695 and her very first hammocks, which she determined to be some of the greatest things ever invented.

Bandit developed her first mammary tumor in April of 2011 and she just never stopped. She went through four or five tumor removal surgeries in her life, and most were to remove multiple tumors at a time. Each time she grew a new lump I would cry and despair, thinking I was going to lose her, but she just kept fighting. She also developed HED that summer and had a recurring mild URI that we could never quite beat. She just couldn’t catch a break. But she adapted so well to everything that happened to her. It seemed there was nothing that could dampen her spirit–she was just happy to be here.

In fact, Bandit just seemed to grow happier as she aged, even though her body was failing her. I’m sure she missed running and climbing, and was sometimes a little overwhelmed by the antics of her younger cagemates, but there was always this look in her eyes of contentment. It was so gratifying to see how happy she was with where life had brought her. It always felt like she was thanking me, the way she looked at me with those bright eyes and bruxed.

It may sound odd, but I grew so much closer to Bandit during her last year, and especially in her final five months when her really serious health issues began. As she grew older and less able-bodied, she shed whatever uncertainty and shyness that still remained from her unpleasant beginnings. She was just the loveliest creature to be a around. As she came to rely on BT and I more for care, she sought us out. She would brux whenever we held her, she would cuddle beside us and fall asleep while we read or watched a movie. She was extremely empathetic, helping us through sad moments and sick days, cuddling up in our shirts and bruxing away until we felt better. Even when climbing in or out of a hammock was a huge chore, she would always come to the door of the cage to greet us, wanting to come out. Up until the very end, she was still so vibrant and excited about things. I hope that some day, if I grow old and my body fails me, I’ll still remember the way Bandit accepted aging with such grace, and the way she still found so much joy in life.

She was threadbare by the end of her life, her fur thin and patchy and her body all skin and bones. Her back legs didn’t work at all anymore. But she was still beautiful.

We buried her in our yard, above one of our gardens, and planted a forsythia bush over her, so that her body can become part of the plant… so we can still feel like some part of her is with us.

Rest well, Bandit. I’m so happy you shared your life with me. Thank you for all you taught me about how beautiful the world is. I miss you so much.  ❤

Quiz–Early HED?

Quiz may be showing very early signs of hind end degeneration. Lately, I’ve seen her stumble occassionally when trying to stand up on her hind legs–like when she tries to climb back into the cage. It looks almost like one of her legs gives out for a second, and she tumbles. It’s no big deal for her, she bounces right back.

I was watching her move around the rat room yesterday and she seems to waddle more than normal when she walks–it could almost be a limp, like she’s favoring one leg, but it’s very subtle. She just seems slightly unsteady on her feet. She also holds her body noticeably lower to the ground than Erebus when walking, and sometimes (but not always!) drags her tail.

I have checked out her feet and legs and can’t find any signs of injury, and she’s not acting like she’s in pain.

All of this reminds me very much of Bandit when she first started developing HED. It was a very gradual process for her, barely noticeable at first.

What’s shocking about this for me i that it means Quiz and Erebus are around two years old, because apparently it’s rare for HED to srt in, especially in lady rats, before two years of age. I never knew their exact birth date, but I had been assuming they were no more than a year and a half old now. They were probably between six and eight months when we got them.

Two just seems impossibly old for my little dudes. They have always been young to me. And they don’t act old at all! Hopefully that means they have at least another good year left in them.

But between Erebus’s tumors and Quiz’s hind leg issues, I’m reminded that this is the time in their lives that their bodies begin to break down. Imagining Quiz no longer able to climb and bunny-hop all over the place and carry ridiculously large pieces of paper across the floor breaks my heart. Thankfully, rats seem to be much better at adapting and living in the moment than humans often are.

Erebus Update

Mushybus decided that she was all done having stitches, thank you very much. She had pulled one out the day after surgery, but the incision held just fine. Over the course of the week, it looked like she may have pulled out one or two more.

On Tuesday, a week after her surgery, we woke up to find that she had taken out all but one or two stitches at the edge of the incision, and it was slightly open. It wasn’t bleeding, though, and wasn’t open all the way to the body wall. I’m pretty sure what we saw was just new skin forming, still red and raw. I decided it would be a good idea to pack it with sugar to stave off any infection and help it to heal faster. My main worry was that she would bother it further, because it was clearly hurting. So we started giving her infant’s ibuprofen again, did a sugar pack that evening, and waited to see if she would need to go back to the vet or not.

It healed up well over the past two days, and is now almost completely healed! She must have heard Doctor E. say that she would have to come back in two weeks to have the stitches removed and decided she wanted no part in that.

While I’m so glad Erebus healed up that fast, this experience does make me a little nervous for how she’s going to handle her spay incision.

I’ve also discovered another tumor forming on the other side of Erebus’s body. It’s so small that I’m hoping Doctor E. will feel comfortable removing it during the spay this time, or that the spay will cause it to shrink and go away. Three tumors in two months does not bode well for Mushybus… I really hope the spay will help.

Erebus’s First Tumor Removal

Last Tuesday, Erebus finally went in to have two medium-sized mammary tumors removed. I don’t even know if I ever mentioned that she had them–yikes. They were perfectly normal, encapsulated axillary tumors–one at her shoulder, one at her armpit, on her right side. Doctor E. was able to remove them both through one incision. I was a miserable, nervous wreck waiting to get the call that she had woken up, but she did great!

I had forgotten how tumor removal surgery is kinda, like, no big deal for healthy, youngish rats. Erebus was sulky and disinterested while isolated–which I only did because I had to clean the cage!–but as soon as I moved her back in with Bandit and Quiz that night, she was back to herself, climbing and bounding around. She licked at the stitches a little the first few days and it looks like she loosened one, but the incision really doesn’t seem to bother her at all and she’s well on her way to healing. I just hope her fur grows back…

We’ve been giving her ibuprofen for pain management, which we stopped after the fourth day, and clavamox to combat post-op infection.

One drawback is that Erebus has been a nervous wreck since then. She’s always neurotic, but she has been especially jumpy. I think the whole experience has been somewhat worldview-shattering for her–“you mean this is a real thing that can happen to me? What??” Poor dear.

We were going to have her spayed at the same time (to reduce risk of future tumors developing, among other benefits) but the tumors had gotten a bit too large and Doctor E wanted to have a good, long window to work with since it will be her first rat spay. We’re going to schedule that in about a month. Nervous as heck about it, of course!