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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Another Veterinary Visit

I noticed our rat, Sugar, acting off one day. She was still interested in us and coming out, but she would sit in a hunched fashion and kept pawing at her mouth. It really looked like she was just grooming around her mouth, but this was more than usual and I wondered if she had something stuck in her teeth or what.  Of course, it was a Saturday night and no veterinarians would be available to call until Monday. I wasn’t even sure there was anything wrong since she was so active and eating.

Well, that’s not true. It worried me that she was grinding her teeth. Birds grind their beaks to soothe themselves, often right before they go to sleep. Rabbits, guinea pigs and rodents grind when they’re in pain. I decided to give her a tiny dose of Metacam that I had leftover from another pet. This pain medication seemed to help as she slept soundly that Sunday and came out to visit when we approached later. I only gave the one dose and Monday morning she was still acting off, but I had to go to work. 

I started thinking about what the problem could be. Just two days before I had witnessed her falling off the table on which our rat complex is arranged. She has escaped from the table before so this certainly wasn’t her first time dropping three feet, but since Carolina’s aged and been sick, Sugar has been doing more eating. Maybe since she gained a little weight, the fall was more traumatic or maybe she just hit her head or mouth just right. When she was still a little hunched and grinding the next morning, I made a vet appointment since it was my day off.

While Sugar was investigating the counter top in the exam room, with all its glass jars and the can of Cheez Whiz (probably for ferrets), I stressed to the technician, who always comes in to get the lowdown before the doctor enters, that they might think I'm crazy because this rat certainly didn’t look sick at first glance. I think it took Dr. Katie less than a minute to look in Sugar’s mouth and determine she’d broken her two top incisors. “Oh no,” I said, because I know rat incisors grow continuously and grind each other down. Without the top to grind the bottom, what would happen?

Dr. Katie said I could give her more Metacam as needed and to just watch to see if those lower teeth become overgrown. If the top teeth don’t grow in fast enough, she may have to come back for a tooth trim which must be done under sedation. All I heard was $$$$. While I didn’t like the news, it felt good to know that I wasn’t crazy and there really was something amiss as suspected. It kind of reassured me, as a pet owner, that I still have a clue as to what I’m doing. I didn’t take any meds home and only had to pay the exam fee so it wasn’t too bad. I noticed two little nubs of Sugar’s top incisors coming in within a week so there would be no need for a tooth trim. It later occurred to me how she might have broken her teeth if it wasn’t from falling off the table.
Every morning, I give the two rats a snack as soon as I go to the basement and turn on the low lights. They come out and take their portion and run to wherever. With Carrie slowing down and not feeling well at this time (see previous post), Sugar quickly grabbed two portions. I saw this and said, “No way, you’re not getting both,” and quickly grabbed her up and tugged at the food in her mouth. She’s a gentle rat so I wasn’t worried about getting bit, but I was quite surprised at the strength she had to hang on. Once I retrieved the extra piece, she ran off and ate the one she had. I can’t remember if she squeaked when I grabbed that food or not, but I’m pretty sure that was the moment she broke her teeth because that particular food object was something hard, like a nut or nugget.

Whatever happened, all’s well that ends well. It was another hard lesson learned on my part. I think I mentioned early on in this blog that mistakes have been made. This time it only cost me $45 and some guilt.

Here's our girl having some popcorn. What a face. Sugar is a Dumbo rat so her ears lie sideways rather than pointing up. She's about a year and four months old here, not quite halfway through her life.

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