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Saturday, February 1, 2014

We have a rabbit!

I'll write more about it soon. I figured this was a good way to start writing in my blog again as it's been a year since my last post. Sorry about that.

This is the first rabbit I've had and so far so good. Some of you won't like the fact that he lives outside in a hutch, but I guarantee he's in good hands and gets plenty of visits from us. I'll share more details in my next post. I also want to tell about how things went with Sugar rat. Bye for now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rat Surgery (Part two)


The second night after surgery, I felt Sugar might do okay without the collar because she had it off for a couple of hours and cleaned her incision area nicely without chewing. We kept her in the pet carrier again, but not nearby because I was so tired from spending much of the previous night up with her. I considered setting the alarm to get up and check, but didn’t. Of course, in hindsight, I should have.
When I got up at 6 a.m. and first looked in, I was happy she was alert and her incision looked good, but as soon as I lifted her high enough I saw that the lower third of the incision was open and the muscles inside her body were exposed. I started to freak and woke my daughter right away, telling her to hurry and get up. Thankfully, the doctor had given me some surgical glue in case of such an occurrence so I knew what had to be done. I needed my daughter to assist as she’s usually the one most interested in helping with the animals.

While she held Sugar and I tried to quickly glue the skin seam back together, she said she didn’t feel good and went to the bathroom. As I tried to hold Sugar and finish gluing her at the same time, I heard a thud-thud in the bathroom. This was enough to tell me that the child had passed out. My next move was to wake up my 17 year-old son. “A.J., I need you to get up and hold Sugar. Your sister is passed out in the bathroom.” She was actually out for just a few seconds, but on her way down she hit her chin on something and it was bleeding just a bit. My first thought was to use the same surgical glue on the girl, but I thought better of it. Instead, I gave her some ice and let her know there’d be no school for her today. A.J. held Sugar while I double checked my glue job and put her collar back on.
Of course, I felt terrible about the whole thing. My daughter had never had a fainting incident before. This was a vasovagal response to seeing the rat opened up. There wasn’t any blood and guts or anything because it was just the skin that was open, but it was enough to cause a reaction. Also, waking her so suddenly probably didn’t help either. I called the pediatrician and you can imagine me trying to explain what happened. I used the word “pet” instead of rat. Later, when we were actually face to face with the doctor, she asked if our cat was okay and I came out with the true identity of the pet. Surprisingly, she didn’t seem all that fazed.

When I talked to the vet later, she recommended trying some type of bandage material on the incision or taking a baby sock and making it into a body tube that would cover the whole mid section. I considered going a local vet for some Vet Wrap, but decided to try a similar product that I had at home. It’s called Kinesio Tape and it’s used on weak muscles. It’s lightly sticky and stretchy at the same time. We wrapped Sugar up with this and I immediately wished I’d put some gauze or something over the incision first to protect it from the sticky part of the tape. Since it looked like the answer to our problem, I decided to just leave it on and we’d improve it in a day or two.

With the tape on, we were able to take the collar off more and more. Sugar was eventually able to sleep without the collar and she became more active and mobile. To give the incision some exposure to the air, we put the collar on and kept her occupied by letting her walk around under supervision for a while. We did this each day for a little longer and re-covered the incision with some bandaging material and Kinesio Tape. For some reason, she respected the tape and didn’t try to chew it off. We eventually got comfortable with keeping the collar off for good.
After the incision started to look goopy in one place, the vet suggested a Band-Aid brand (Activ-Flex) that has healing gel. It worked like a miracle to help the incision heal fast. I saw improvement within 24 hours.

I realize this was a long post, but I wanted to include details in case somebody else has to go through this with their small pet. A pet is a pet no matter how small, right Horton? We ought to give them the best care we’re able to give. Now that Sugar is all healed and super active, I have no regrets about the time and money I put in. Still, I’m glad it’s behind us and I might think twice before considering surgery again. At least next time I’ll be more prepared.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rat Surgery (Part 1)

Our pet rat, Sugar, started developing a mammary tumor on her right side, under her arm, shortly after turning two years. She was otherwise healthy and active. The tumor was just pebble size when I noticed it in early October, or less than a centimeter in diameter, but by the end of December it was nearing two inches. The tumor was growing and Sugar was getting thinner, but she was still trying so hard to be active. She couldn’t fit into some of the spaces of her cages because the tumor would hold her up.

I chose to have the tumor surgically removed. I wouldn’t normally do this because of the expense, but I happened to run into my former employer who’s also a veterinarian and she offered to do it at a discounted rate. What I would typically do is wait for a time when the rat stops eating or gets weaker and then take it in to be euthanized. Sugar didn’t seem to be doing either.

Surgery went well. A small, hard mass on the left shoulder was removed as well as the large mass under the right arm. The total of these weighed 57 grams which was about on sixth of Sugar’s entire body weight at the time. The most difficult part of having a small animal have surgery is the recovery that follows. I learned this years ago when I had a male rat neutered. At that time, I fashioned an Elizabethan collar out of cereal box cardboard. I don’t even remember how I got it to stay on his neck. Now, there are similar “E-collars,” as they’re called, designed for small animals.

For the first night, I kept Sugar in a small carrying cage so I could keep her nearby and keep watch. She didn’t like wearing the collar and freaked out at first, trying to paw at it and get it off and sometimes even flipping herself around. When she wasn’t doing that, she just sat and looked depressed. At one point, early the next morning, I thought she was dying because her breathing was squeaky and even when I took the collar off and held her, she lay limp and sad looking. I saw that she was not turning blue or anything, but I was still nervous and worried.

I kept telling myself things would be better in a few days and we just had to be patient. The lethargy could have been a result of the pain drugs she was given combined with just being exhausted. We let her have some times with the collar off, but she would try to get at her incision so we had to put the collar back on. When we heard the squeaky breathing, we took the collar off, but she had to be watched constantly or held or kept occupied with food. Unfortunately, things got worse before they got better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Play Place Results

In my last post, I wrote about the play place I built for our two rats. At first they were afraid and spent their time trying to find a way out. Both were able to jump to the window screen and hold on, but Fiona could actually jump to the top of the largest box and walk around on the inside flap. I had this box held shut with a heavy paint can, but she continued to try to squeeze her way out. So far she has not been successful.

With nowhere else for them to go, I just kept putting them in this box and adding a few nibbles of treats. They eventually explored further to the box on the opposite end. One day I saw Sugar in nowhere near the wheel, yet I heard it spinning around. I was astounded to find that Fiona was running on the wheel. One time I caught her with only her front feet on the wheel and she would make it go around that way. She must have gotten the courage to get on up there because it wasn’t long before she was on a full run. Whether she learned this from watching Sugar or just from shear boredom, I don’t know, but I’m glad she’s getting the exercise she needs because she was starting to get a little plump.

Poor Sugar now has two mammary tumors and may only be with us for a few more months. So far, she’s acting and eating fine, but she’s looking a little thinner than usual. The bigger the tumors get, the harder it will be for her to move around. So sad.

I’m probably going to take a break from keeping rats for a while. I won’t replace Sugar and we’ll likely have Fiona for another two years. It will be hard to have just one rat, but I feel like I need a break from cleaning and Fiona is kind of handful with her need for so much stimulation. We’ll see if I can stick to the plan.
 
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Playplace for Small Pets

Our newest rat, Fiona, is really a rascal and we’ve been having trouble keeping her occupied and stimulated. I thought we had a pretty nice set up for our two rats, but it wasn’t enough for Fiona. The large three story cage sets on a long table that also supports a ten gallon glass tank, a large rat wheel and two smaller cages. When they’re let out of the large cage, the rats are allowed their freedom on this long table. Sugar rat has always stayed in the confines of this area and loves to run on the wheel, but Fiona is afraid of the wheel and seems to need more attention from us.

One day, I was trying to clean or something and Fiona was just too clingy so I set her down on a nearby craft dresser where she immediately started exploring. She was only free for about five minutes, but it was long enough for her to realize that exploring is awesome. After that day, we were never able to keep her on the table. We’d walk away and find she had somehow gotten down and was running around the basement. We moved everything away from the table so there was nothing for her to jump or climb down to, but she still found a way. It soon got to the point where we’d open the door to let the rats out and Fiona would be on the floor within 30 seconds. She just leans over the edge of the table and falls down to the cement floor and dashes away.

For a while, I was just letting her run around down there for ten minutes. She would always eventually try to get upstairs so we could catch her easily. Sometimes, we allow her free time in the upstairs living room, but if my husband is home, this is no good because he doesn’t understand our friendship with rats. Also, if Fiona came to a door or anything blocking her way, she would start gnawing or ripping up carpet and we just couldn’t have that. I had to keep the both of them locked up in their big cage more and more. We tried letting just Sugar out to run on her wheel, but she seemed confused as to why she wasn’t being allowed back in her cage. A couple times, we forgot about her and found her curled up sleeping in another cage, but still on the table like a good girl. This made us feel guilty.
My solution was to build a play place for them using cardboard boxes and tubes I’d collected at my workplace. The tubes are wide and made of sturdy cardboard so they were just crying out for me to do something with them. One of the boxes had dividers all through it which I found perfect for making a cardboard maze. I used that box and three others, attaching them all with the tubes using an Exacto knife and duct tape. For two boxes, I had a screen top that I presume once covered a huge, long aquarium.

I first decided to see what Fiona thought of one of the taller boxes. I dropped her in and was surprised to find she could jump out. This box is probably a good three feet tall and she was able to use one side to ricochet off of to get to the top. I was amazed by her stealth, but I think she was mostly motivated by fear. I still went forward with my building plan, but considered adding windows to the tall box so it wouldn’t be so dark in there. For this I borrowed some cage wire from a neighbor and simply duct taped it on.  So here’s how it turned out. I’ll let you know what the girls thought of it after they’ve had some time to try it out.  
 This is the tall box Fiona was able to jump out of. Each box is connected with a tube.

Three sides have a window like this one. Both rats jump up to it and grab the bars with their little hands, not unlike prisoners in jail.

The bottoms of these slats have holes carved in them so the girls can maneuver through.

Here's what the whole thing looks like. The box lids get closed and I put a gallon paint can on to keep them secured.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Tip for Cleaning Bird Cages


We used this one every day at the animal hospital. Instead of having to soak or scrub perches to remove bird poop, the technicians simply wrapped them with Vet Wrap. It’s a bandage material that self sticks as it wraps around something, like an animal’s leg. Once the perch is soiled, you just unwrap the Vet Wrap and throw it away.  The perch is ready to go after re-wrapping. Vet Wrap comes in a bunch of colors, but green or dark colors probably aren’t the best choice because they might make it harder to observe whether your bird’s droppings are normal or not. I prefer white. There are plenty of places to purchase Vet Wrap or similar knock offs. Here’s one of them:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Robo dwarf hamsters



I found a good website for information about Roborovskii dwarf hamsters. They sound pretty cool and I just might have to get one someday. I've been a hamster hater since the one I had briefly chewed his way out and was gone within a week. The other ones I encountered always bit me so I decided they weren't the rodent for me.

In 2010, I met a breeder of Russian dwarfs at Scott Smith's All Animal Expo and she had me convinced they might be worth another try. The one she let me hold just sat in my hand. Most recently, I had to write a fact filled article about Robo dwarfs and that piqued my curiosity. I love that they can be housed in a large, plastic storage container and that they love to run on the wheel. Wheel runners have always been an attraction to me. In fact, that's how our rat, Sugar, won me over in the pet store. She was just running away.

Here's the link for Robo dwarf hamsters:

http://roborovskihamsters.webs.com/