American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Jan./Feb. 1996 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Our Pets & Friends

Porkchop: A Rat with Epilepsy, part 3

By Pamela Sorrentino, Scituate, MA

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She Slows Down

Thursday she seemed to feel a little better, and in the afternoon I put her in her favorite place. As I said before, on top of a chest snuggled in my Grandmother’s blanket was her favorite place to snuggle. She had not been there for about a month to a month and a half because of the location. Behind the bed was another of her favorites so she had made do with that. Since she hadn’t had a seizure in a about 5 days, and because even though I was convinced she was going to pull through this, I think in my heart I knew she had to see everything just in case. So I put her up there and stayed right next to her for about 2 hours. You should have seen the look on her face, she was so happy to be there. She sniffed the air and you could almost see her smiling. It filled my heart to see the happiness and contentment.

By Friday morning she had slowed down once more, with only a little appetite. By Friday afternoon she had gone to the extreme. She could only walk a couple of steps before lying down to rest, and if she cleaned her face she would fall down. I put her on the chest again and let her walk the floor of the loft one last time. She was now suffering and I called the vet even as my heart began to break. I knew that she wouldn’t make it through the night but I didn’t want her to suffer. I loved her too much. The vet and I called each other a couple of times to be sure, but she didn’t get any better—only worse. The vet said she would be there as soon as she could.

I desperately tried to make her as happy as I could. I made all of her favorite foods, but she couldn’t do more than place them in her mouth. She didn’t even have the energy to chew. My husband didn’t want to be around so Porkchop and I laid down together to wait out the night with me trying to get her to take at least some chicken broth, which she did a little. I tried all night to keep a happy demeanor for her, as there is nothing worse than feeling as bad as she must have felt and having someone else be depressed. I remembered the Saturday before, when after bringing her home from the vet’s I had picked her up and she had stiffened. I wonder if she had been going then and my begging her to stay had kept her from going. I don’t know how successful I was at staying upbeat, but I tried. I concentrated on when the vet was going to come. I wasn’t going to cry while she left me. I was going to tell her how much I loved her and that I would see her again. At about 9:30 she started to really suffer. You could hear her breaths as they rattled in and out and I started begging for the vet to come.

She Says Goodbye

By 10:30 the vet still hadn’t come, but I thank God that my husband got home. She had been waiting for him. He came upstairs and I placed her against him. I don’t know why, it just seemed like what I was supposed to do. She raised her head up just a little tiny bit. He then went downstairs, and I brought her back over to me and laid her on my chest. She then passed away. She had waited so that she could say goodbye to him. I kept strong while it happened. I told her I loved her more than anything, that it was okay to say goodbye. I would see her again beneath the “rainbow bridge” (The Bridge is a story in a former Rat Report that I had read to her just a couple of days before), or if possibly sooner if she sent her spirit into another being.

When she left me my heart broke. I cried and cried. I held her and read the poem to her once, with my husband standing by. We both cried and stroked her poor little body. Dr. Hess called moments later to say she’d be there in a half an hour, to do what God and Porkchop had now taken out of our hands. I am now so very glad that Dr. Hess couldn’t get there sooner, as I would have taken from her the chance to say goodbye to my husband.

She lived 21 months, and in that time she captured my heart and soul. Those are 21 months which I will never forget for they were filled with such utter joy. I just loved her so, so much. I feel lost without her. I had a necropsy done and then had her cremated.

I found a little glass bottle in which I mixed some of her ashes with gold flakes. On the bottle is a small silver rat and a gold plate with her initials on it. This bottle is held against a silver plate on a white gold chain which reads:

My Life, Love, very best friend
Can’t wait till I see you again
I keep you close to my heart, you see
Thank you for sharing your life with me
Your life here was way too short
I’ll never get over that
You were then, are now, will always be
My most special rat
I’ll always love you
I’ll never forget you
Thank you for waiting to say Goodbye to us both
You’ll always be in our hearts

Epilepsy In Rats: Necropsy of Porkchop – Ed. Note

The Bantam Medical Dictionary definition: any one of a group of disorders of brain function characterized by recurrent attacks that have a sudden onset. Idiopathic epilepsy is not associated with structural damage to the brain. It includes *grand mal and *petit mal, which can be controlled by the use of different *anticonvulsant drugs.

Focal (or symptomatic) epilepsy is a symptom of structural disease of the brain, and the nature of the seizure depends upon the location of the disease in the brain. In jacksonian epilepsy the epileptic discharge spreads over the cerebral cortex, with the resulting manifestations spreading throughout the body. In a Jacksonian motor seizure, the convulsive movements might spread from the thumb to the hand, arm, and face (this spread of symptoms is called the march). Temporal lobe (or psychomotor) epilepsy is caused by disease in the cortex in the temporal lobe or the adjacent parietal lobe of the brain. Its symptoms include *hallucinations of smell, taste, sight, and hearing, paroxysmal disorders of memory, and *automatism. Throughout an attack, the patient is in a state of clouded awareness and afterward he may have no recollection of the event.

*grand mal (major epilepsy), an epileptic seizure, sometimes called the tonic-clonic seizure. At the onset the patient falls to the ground unconscious with his muscles in a state of spasm. The lack of any respiratory movement results in a bluish discoloration of the skin and lips (cyanosis). This—the tonic phase—is replaced by convulsive movements, when the tongue may be bitten and urinary incontinence may occur (the clonic phase). Movements die away and the patient may rouse in a state of confusion, complaining of headache, or he may fall asleep.

*petit mal, a form of idiopathic epilepsy in which there are brief spells of unconsciousness, lasting for a few seconds, during which posture and balance are maintained. The eyes stare blankly and there may be fluttering movements of the lids and momentary twitching of the fingers and mouth. The electroencephalogram characteristically shows bisynchronous wave and spike discharges (3 per second) during the attacks and at other times. Attacks are sometimes provoked by overbreathing or intermittent photic stimulation. Because the stream of thought is completely interrupted, children with frequent episodes of petit mal may have learning difficulties. Petit mal seldom appears before the age of three years or after adolescence. Drug treatment (with sodium valproate or ethosuximide) is usually effective. Petit mal often subsides spontaneously in adult life. It may be accompanied or followed by grand mal.

*anticonvulsant, a drug that prevents or reduces the severity of seizures (convulsions) in various types of epilepsy.

*hallucination, a false perception of something that is not really there.

*automatism, one of the symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy, in which the patient performs well-organized movements. These movements may be simple and repetitive, such as hand clapping, or they may be so complex as to mimic a person’s normal conscious activities.

Necropsy results are as follows:

From Pamela Sorrentino, Sciutate, MA

Gross Necropsy

Lungs okay—mycoplasma was kept out of the lungs due to the intensive antibiotic therapy. There was a mass around the pituitary and middle ear (this was what was causing the seizures). The liver was enlarged and yellow, internal tissues yellowed. The adrenal glands had a fatty area around them.

Pathological Necropsy

Liver: Section of liver characterized by extensive peripheralobular (pertaining to/located on lobes) and sinusoidal (curvatious) infiltrates (accumulation) of broad sheets of a population of large, highly pleomorphic (many structural forms) round cells. These contained irregular round to oval to clefted heterochromatic (different colored) nuclei with a high mitotic (division) rate and variable amounts of eosinophilic (easily accepts eosin dye) cytoplasm. Many cells contained giant often bizarre and multiple nuclei. There was an extensive effacement (obliteration) of hepatocellular parenchyma (liver tissue cells).

Other organs: Similar populations of neoplastic round cells diffusely infiltrate the spleen, peribronchiolar (around lung bronchi) and interalveolar (between/among lung alveoli) interstitium of the lung, adrenal glands, meninges and neurpil of the cerebral cortex and tympanic bulla.

** Note that the tissue necropsy showed that organs that looked completely normal in the gross necropsy, were actually diseased. This goes to show that a gross necropsy is just not enough if you really want to know what happened; tissue necropsies are necessary to truly diagnose.

Diagnosis: Liver, spleen, lung, adrenal, brain, bulla: Histiocytic Sarcoma.
Kidneys were normal.

Pathologist comment: This variant of myeloproliferative disease in rodents is considered spontaneous and not thought to be associated with any of the mouse oncogenic viruses.

Neoplasms of this nature most often found in animals over 12 months of age with no obvious sex predisposition. The cell of origin in histiocytic sarcoma is thought to be a component of the mononuclear phagocyte system (bacterial defense system), possibly the tissue macrophage. One of the major products secreted by these macrophages is lysozyme (destroys the bacteria). In the rat lysozyme has been identified in the cells of the histiocytic sarcomas and the enzyme has been proposed as a reliable and specific tumor marker for this tumor type.

The liver involvement is typical of histiocytic sarcoma and provides impetus to select that diagnosis over others. Histiocytic sarcomas are most commonly localized to the uterus and/or ovaries of female mice, and/or the liver of both sexes. In mice, Histiocytic sarcomas has been found in high incidence in mice subjected to prolonged antigenic stimulation (the antigen or bacteria. In Porkchop’s case this would have been the mycoplasma. The constant presence of the bacteria would have caused a constant immunological response; the macrophages/WBC constantly being mobilized to fight off the bacteria).

If the causative agent is antigenic stimulation, then perhaps if more people had their rats necropsied (tissue necropsied) we would see a higher incidence of this. The cancer was a big surprise to both me and my vet. It just goes to show that the only way we can ever totally know about disease and life is to study the cause of death. What you think happened is not always what did, and so little is known about rats that the only way we are going to be able to prolong life is to find out about the problems that shorten them, and the only way we will know this is to necropsy. *

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Updated March 9, 2014