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From the Doctors Files Senior Rat Health Problems

From the Doctors Files Senior Rat Health Problems

By Shawn Finch, DVM

Banfield Pet Hospital of Papillion, NE


Ovariohysterectomy for a Senior Pet Rat
with Uterine Abnormalities

Fuzzy and Wuzzy are our two-year-old hairless Dumbo Rex Rats. Wuzzy had been bleeding for a couple of weeks and the bleeding had just been localized to her reproductive system. The next step in her diagnostic and treatment plan was abdominal exploratory surgery.

Diagnostics and Planning

Wuzzy is not at risk of contributing to pet overpopulation. Her only same-species friend is Fuzzy, and she, too, is female. I considered spaying Fuzzy and Wuzzy as babies. I would like to say that I decided against it for sound medical reasons. Most hormone-related mammary tumors in rats are benign, and other reproductive system-related illnesses are uncommon in rats. These issues did play into my decision, but truthfully, I was also scared. I knew intellectually that the risks of anesthesia were minimal, especially for young, healthy rats with no respiratory issues, but my fears won out, and they remained intact…until now.

We arrived at the hospital right on time for Wuzzy’s surgery. I prepared her fluids and pain medication. Angela and Dr. Wittler painstakingly rerouted the tubing of the anesthesia machine to ensure that Wuzzy Rat would inhale as little carbon dioxide as possible, and replaced the rebreathing bag with one made especially for the smallest of patients. The majority of our anesthetic patients are at least several pounds. Wuzzy is 242 grams, just barely over one half of a pound, which is small even for a rat

I, like other veterinarians, understand well the physiology and medicine of veterinary anesthesia, and that it can be done as safely as human pediatric anesthesia is done.

The Surgery

Wuzzy’s surgery went wonderfully, and she woke up smoothly. None of her very small abdominal organs appeared to be diseased except for her very small uterus, which I removed, along with her very small ovaries.

The uterine and ovarian tissues were sent to a veterinary pathologist for review. My big scare was cancer as Wuzzy had uterine abnormalities. I sent in the tissues and paperwork and waited.

I have sent many rats and other pets, for that matter, home with very detailed postoperative instructions. Rats do not keep E-collars on (the cone-shaped space collars most often associated with post-surgical dogs). They pull them forward and off in one fell swoop of their nimble little hands. So, I made a little belly wrap. Actually I made ten, and Wuzzy hula-danced out of 10. Wuzzy climbed the bars of her toy-less, set-up-for-resting kennel and laughed.

The two of us stayed up most of the night. Wuzzy got some licks in that night, but her abdominal incision remained intact. So we both won.

Six days later, I received Wuzzy’s two page pathology report, scanned it, and zoned in on the good part: a uterine infection that can be fatal if not treated. “Ovariohysterectomy should prove clinically beneficial; however, post-surgical monitoring and appropriate antibiotic therapy would be indicated also.” Surgery was diagnostic and healing. Another win for both of us.

*First published at http://www.omaha.net