This article is from the WSSF 2012 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Lara Kordsiemon Vitale, Facebook
QMy little 8-month-old rat went in for a mammary tumor removal yesterday but the vet noticed a much larger mass in her genital area (was only detected when she was under and he decided it was in her best interest to remove this immediately and send out before getting the other tumors out and poking tons of holes in her). The vet said it seems different than basic mammary tumors, little harder, but was still just superficial. We’ll know early next week, but, does anyone have a simple trick to keep her from pulling her stitches out? I stayed up all night with her and she is now about 28 hours post op and doing great. Just want to prevent a mess or more importantly an injury.
Answer from Karen Robbins
AMy vet always hid the stitches so the rats never had anything to mess with. Other than your vet putting a cone on her head if she is tearing the stitches out and won’t leave them alone, there isn’t much you can do for that area (can’t use a bandage or body stocking). Perhaps your vet can tell you what he recommends. Instead of stitches, staples or surgical glue are often used depending on the surgery. You can read more in the online articles “Operations & Post Op Care” www.ratz.co.uk/postop.html, “Surgery in Rats” http://www.ratfanclub.org/surgery.html, and “Lumps (Tumors and Abscesses)” https://web.archive.org/web/20120318214201/http://www.ratinabox.com/ratablog/000497.html. You can also read the story on RatLoversOnly Facebook page to see what she had to do for her rat that had a tumor removed. Keep us posted on how she does.
Answer from Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D.
AWhen doing surgery on rodents, ask your veterinarian to do a subcutaneous, subcuticular suture pattern and then use surgical glue on the skin. Otherwise, you have to use surgical staples and as Karen mentioned, something to keep your rat from chewing out the sutures.
Update: Great article! Thank you for responding. It’s been hard finding correct information on rats on the Internet and the vets out here are not too familiar. Thanks for helping to point me in the right direction. The vet who did her surgery is a regular vet but on the side helps wildlife, etc., and had experience with tumor removal with rats. We are now at day 3 and she is the perfect patient. I stayed up all night the first night with her, telling her “noooo” and gently lifting her head away from her stitches. She finally caught on and each time she went for them I said “noooo” and she instantly responded. She sleeps next to me in her small cage at night so when I hear her I can quickly glance to make sure she’s not going at the stitches. She takes her meds too with no trouble. The wound looks great and almost healed. She will get her stitches out about Wednesday and we should know by then what this growth really is (fingers crossed very tight hoping it’s nothing serious). Thanks again for the information you have supplied!!! I think just working with her to help teach/train her to not go at the stitches was my success, but it cost me almost 2 days of sleep, but she’s worth it.
3 days later: Just got the call . . . it’s cancer. Vet says to make her comfortable and expect a month or two before decisions are made. I was researching and saw high protein and high fat diet and possibly a drug called Tamoxifen, but the vet wasn’t familiar. I wonder if anyone has any tips to help her with her quality (just want her to be comfortable as long as possible—she seems so happy and healthy right now).
So sorry to hear about the outcome of your rat. It’s always hard when the girls get tumors. Actually, you want a low-fat diet, as a high-fat one can help develop tumors (see ”Diet & Tumors in Rats” www.afrma.org/bc_diettumor.htm). We also have other articles on tumors “Tumors In Rats” www.afrma.org/med_tumorsinrats.htm, and there are several articles on our Health page www.afrma.org/rmindexhealth.htm#medtum. Debbie Ducommun’s web site has some articles related to surgery and tumors http://ratfanclub.org/helpinfo.html if you haven’t seen those. As long as she is eating and drinking, not losing weight, and doesn’t act like she is in pain (sitting with fur fluffed, eyes squinted, doesn’t want to be held/out with you, squeaks when touched, etc.) she is OK. Once any of these happen or the remaining tumor(s) ulcerate (open up), then it will be time to consider uthanasia. Sometimes they can go several more months without any problems (other than the tumor growing), whereas those with fast-growing tumors will only have a short time. Hopefully you will get a couple more months, so enjoy the time you have with her. Karen Robbins
Most tumors in rats are benign mammary gland fibroadenomas. Complete excision is usually sufficient. For the malignant mammary carcinomas, surgery can help prolong life if they are detected early. If the tumor has spread, when the time is appropriate for humane reasons, euthanasia is indicated. Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D.