View Full Version : Rat health = a money sink?

dirty hippie
09-14-06, 11:30 pm
I think this is going to sound more like a vent/rant because I'm just depressed and a little frustrated.

I've kept rats for over seven years now. In the terms of a rat's lifespan, that's a lot of rats.

I take good care of my rats, and I believe in treating a rat's health problems like I would those of any other animal or human. I have spent thousands of dollars to get tumors removed, cysts and absesses drained, cuts stitched, and mites removed. I have had rats that single-handedly kept the makers of Baytril in business with chronic myco flair-ups. On average, my rats live for 3.5 to 4 years.

And there's the rub? the frustration and indecision. Do I spend $350 to have a tumor removed on an old rat that could keel over of some hidden URI a few days later? (Or, even worse, the tumor comes back again and again...) Where do I draw the line? How can I morally say "This rat is too old and frankly, blowing $500 just isn't worth another two or three months of life." When do I hedge my bets: I've had rats live comfortably and painlessly for six to eight months with tumors that would have cost hundreds of dollars to have removed. (And in the end, you can't really tell whether the rat died because of the cancer or because s/he was over three years old...) Or what if one day the rat is alive and the next, he's gone?

Why do rats have to have such short lifespans and so many medical problems?


09-15-06, 06:35 am
I have never owned rats, but I know where you are coming from. My dog is now 11 years old and has had two recent surgeries to remove several tumors. So far none of them have been cancerous, but who knows when a cancerous one may pop up? And we probably won't notice because he has so many of them. With his advancing age it is also unlikely we will put him through another surgery, he just seems to have a hard time recovering.

Where do I draw the line?

I think this depends on each individual situation, but when their quality of life is suffering, I think you can draw the line. If they are in pain or are unable to do the things they enjoy, it may be kindest to have them humanely euthanized rather than put them through even more pain in surgery.

It can be very heartbreaking because you can get so attached to them in their short lifespan, but can you imagine the heartache if they lived for twenty or thirty years?

dirty hippie
09-15-06, 04:19 pm
Yeah. I've never owned a horse or another animal that could feasibly live for 25-30 years -- but I've heard that it's like losing a family member. (Not that I haven't done my share of crying over my rats and I still miss many that have been dead for years, but y'know.)

I guess my moral...paradox...stems from the fact that I don't always have the money to extend the life of an [older] rat for what usually turns out to be six months at the maximum. Sometimes, if a rat is on the older side of middle aged, I just let the tumor grow and make the rat as comfortable as possible. (They're usually never painful, in my experience.) I don't know whether this makes me a "bad person" or whether I'm just being pragmatic and fiscally responsible?

09-15-06, 04:31 pm
I empathise with your diallema - but have no answers...it must be the worst part in being a pet owner.

10-06-06, 07:11 pm
If the life expectancy is only going to be a couple of months, even with surgery, I would say give the little rat-a-tat the best quality of life you know how. I could understand if it were a youngster and you could give her a few more years then yes go for it. My opinion? I would spoil the little guy with sugared dried fruit and lots of yogurt drops and all his favorites. Surgery would be 1) recovery time for an old guy, 2) money you could be putting a side for an annual visit to the vet for other rats or something more benificial for healthier rats, 3) traumatic and a depressing last couple of days for the old guy.
Thats just my opinion. But do what your heart says is right.

10-06-06, 10:38 pm
You seem to be a really great pet owner. By expressing your distress over whether or not to give them surgery shows that you really care. I think giving them the best life possible in their old age instead of giving them painful surgery to increase their life for a few months sounds like the best thing to do. That's what I would do, anyway.

lynn's Cavies
10-07-06, 12:38 pm
I can understand how distressing, confusing and frustrating it is. I have a guinea pig, Tim, who has tumors. When I first discovered them I took him to the Vets and the Vet tried to see if they were just fatty tumors. He determined they weren't. They also are not cysts. I totally panicked and asked if there was anyway we could figure out if it was cancer. He said that he would have to do a biopsy which would require Tim being put under anthestic.
When Tim was neutered he had a lot of problems with the anthestic and that scared me. Then the Vet said that once he is under that we might as well remove them all because if they are cancer then I'd have to do that anyways.

Well, this poor pig has them under both nipples, under his armpits, up higher on his belly. I mean the Vet was going to have to do surgery almost all over his body. This really upset me because I know with cancer that often when you remove the tumor it can matastisize in other areas of the body.

I told the Vet I would have to think about it and took Tim home. Tim was in no pain that I could see. He was eating, popcorning, etc. He was chubby and seemed content.

I took him to another Vet for a second opinion. She basically said that same thing but she also said that if it was cancer it could pop up somewhere else later down the road - my fears.

I had to really think this over. Did I want to put Tim through a painful surgery only to have this possibly come back? Plus, I didn't even know if it was cancer.

I opted to not have surgery done on him. It was a VERY hard decision as I know you can emphatize with. That was over a year ago.

He is still with me and the tumors have not increased in size. He has not grown any other new tumors. Plus, he is happy, he popcorns, he is himself. I think in my heart the tumors are benign but I do not know for sure. But I feel I made the best decision I could for Tim.

When I make decision like the one above I think "am I going to put the animal through pain for something that I do not have all the facts on?"
Will this enhance his life or reduce it? Is he in pain right now? etc.

For everyone in this world will die...it is the inevitable. All we can do for our pets is give them the best life possible. I believe in quality of life over quantity of years. But heck, I am not perfect, but this is my belief.

I just wanted you to know you are not alone in making these decisions and I can tell by your posts that you are a wonderful pet owner. Your rats are very lucky to live with you.


10-11-06, 12:11 pm
I've worked with birds, cats and dogs who are elderly and lived in "hospice" care until their last days. Sometimes the hardest choices for US emotionally is to say "Okay... you've had a good life and I will give you the very best ending possible". For two budgies I cared for (abandoned together - both with tumors), that was two weeks of a warm cozy home; lots of treats and loving, and when the time came, and on the advice of the avian vet, they passed on together with the company and sincere caring of the staff there.

I, of course, bawled my eyes out for hours, but later came to a true realisation that their last days were comfortable, loved and happy. The same happened 1 1/2 years ago with an abandoned cat I found who had severely advanced renal failure. I learned quickly how to administer fluids and care for her, and she spent her last days with a name and a home and having naps in the afternoon sun.

My husband's childhood dog, Princess, lived for 2 years with inoperable cancerous tumours. Her vet checked her every month and called her a "miracle dog" who lived happily and healthily until one days she got really sick and was rushed to the vet's where we stayed with her through her last moments. Surgery couldn't have helped her anyways, but she lived happily for two years with these tumours.

I don't have answers for you, and as has been said - the fact that you worry about these things is a good thing. Each case in different and we each have to struggle through them. Talking about it, asking advice from those you trust and going with your gut instinct and your knowledge of that particular rat... you're definately on the right path though, and I think lots of us understand your predicament.

10-20-06, 11:53 pm
i know how this feels. I took in my scree baby as a rescue, a sick old rescue saving him from immediate danger. with my vets help he lived a grand total of 3 months. cost me several hundred dollars and a gallon of tears. was it all worth it? yes he cost me alot, yes he terrified me sometimes with just how sick he was. truthfully in a heartbeat i wouldnt have to think about it. he brought so much love and compassion into our home. but thats just me.