Author Topic: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated  (Read 757 times)

Offline oktiger

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Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« on: September 25, 2016, 09:46:20 PM »
Hi everyone,

Iím posting in hopes to receive some insight and peace of mind after the passing of my two rats this weekend.

On Monday, I brought 2/3 of my rats to the vet. These two were sisters, almost 2 years old. The reason for Gumdropís visit was for a lump that appeared on her backend. We wanted to confirm that it was a tumor and whether it was inoperable. Jelly Beanís visit was for slight breathing noises and some sneezing.

So the vet takes an x-ray of Gumdrop and confirms the mass is a tumor and surgery wasnít an option. He said he would give her a cortisone shot, that it may be possible for the tumor to shrink, call back in a few days to let him know if there was any improvement. If so, a cortisone treatment could be possible. For Jelly Bean, he says her breathing sounds like allergies and said a cortisone shot would clear it up.

Fast forward to Friday evening, they were doing fine up until now, we noticed that Gumdrop was lethargic and definitely out of character. Since our vet was closed by this time, we decided we would bring her there in the morning. By the morning she completely went downhill, symptoms resembled a stroke and her body was flat. The vet said he felt a tumor within her abdomen, she was suffering and recommended euthanasia. We agreed and she was put to sleep.

We return home with the body to present to her sister and other cage mate. Soon after we noticed, her sister, Jelly Bean, was lethargic and her breathing was off. While I thought she may have been really depressed, something was way off and I researched cortisone side effects in pets. I came across this website: http://www.earthclinic.com/pets/cortisone_shot_side_effects.html and became instantly worried. We rushed Jelly Bean to the emergency animal hospital where they placed her in an oxygen cage. The vet there assumed she had pneumonia but wasnít able to take an x-ray (because of her poor health) and confirm that diagnosis. I mentioned my concern about the cortisone shot and she stated that she doesnít use them in small animals because they are really sensitive to the steroid. Our options were to leave Jelly Bean overnight where they would give her antibiotics, fluids, food and oxygen or put her to sleep. We wanted to at least try to give her a chance to recover by leaving her at the hospital overnight but after almost a dayís treatment, she passed away.

I understand rats hide their illnesses usually until itís too late but Iím left to question why this happened the way it did. The timing is unusual to me and because they were both sisters. I would love to hear what you think about this situation.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2016, 09:54:38 PM by oktiger »

Offline BigBen

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2016, 09:32:05 AM »
I'm so sorry for your losses.  Losing both girls so soon together has to hurt. :'(

The only thing I can suggest is a follow-on to your point that rats hide their illnesses.  Jelly Bean was probably sicker than she appeared, and I have no doubt that losing her sister was a blow that weakened her further.  We know that grief can make us vulnerable to illness, and that is likely just as true for rats.  Jelly Bean may not have lost the will to live, precisely, but perhaps losing Gumdrop sapped her will to fight.

I had two brothers in my first mischief, who were very close.  Gabriel had a congenital defect that necessitated putting him to sleep at the young age of a year and a half, and Michael was absolutely grief-stricken.  I am sure that he would have pined away and died, except that the two girls climbed into the hideout with him and literally stayed by his side, one on either side of him, and brought him food until he recovered from his grief.  After about a week, I knew he was going to be okay when I heard the sound of scuffling inside the hideout, but it was a further four or five weeks before Michael was truly himself again.

The moral is that grief can really affect rats and make caring for them more difficult.  I just lost my beloved Peter, and it was no surprise that his brother John's chronic respiratory infection flared up, given the strain of losing his brother (John is now fine again, I am happy to report, but the outcome could certainly have gone the other way).  So don't blame yourself for losing Jelly Bean; there was very little that you could have done, under the circumstances. :heart:
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
Rat Code:  6m2f22r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline oktiger

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2016, 10:55:53 AM »
Thank you so much BigBen for your response. I'm very sorry for your loss as well. What you explained makes a lot of sense and brings me peace.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2016, 11:32:16 AM »
I'm glad it helped.  Rats are such loving little creatures that losing them is really painful, and it doesn't help the grief to be wondering if there was something else we could have done for our little friend.  There is a story that I saw once on the Internet about how rats are really angels in disguise, but God is afraid that the air down here will be bad for the angels' lungs, so they are allowed to stay with us only for as long as they can hold their breath.  So that is why rats have such short lifespans.

But the story goes on to say that, when their time is up, the returning angels make sure to tell the ones who are coming down here where to find the people who need them and who will give them loving homes.  It's just a story, of course, but it gladdens my heart (even though it also makes me cry).
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
Rat Code:  6m2f22r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline oktiger

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2016, 04:35:52 PM »
That is a very sweet story. Thank you for sharing it.

I'm still going through a roller coaster of emotions questioning everything. I posted on another site as well (AllExperts) and was told that cortisone, or any steroids given to rats, need to be paired with antibiotics otherwise it's fatal. This was my gut feeling that the cortisone set something off. (See post here: http://www.allexperts.com/user.cgi?m=6&catID=3537&expID=125320&qID=5093347)

I can't help but feel that they would have had a lot more time left with us if this incident never happened. I feel responsible and heartbroken.. It has been a nightmare.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2016, 06:05:39 PM »
Steroids do weaken the immune system, but "fatal" is an awfully strong word.  In my experience, it depends on the dose of steroid being administered and the duration of the treatment, whether antibiotics are necessary or not.  Vets differ on this matter, and not being a vet myself, I am not prepared to criticize your vet on the basis of what you posted so far.

Ms. Ducommun has a great deal of experience with rats, but for her to say that the treatment the girls received killed them is not helpful.  Ms. Ducommun is a lab technician, not a vet, and for her to second-guess a vet's treatment is unethical.  Even another vet on this board would not do that, especially never having seen the rats.  She does make some very good points, but personally, I have enough doubt about some of the recommendations she has made in the past not to be too concerned over her criticisms in this case.  From your posts, it is clear that you did the very best you knew how to do for your girls, and I believe they knew that.  They still love you, and the fact that you were not able to save them is not something that they hold against you--I believe that with all my heart.

If you truly feel that your vet could have done a better job, I would advise you either to talk to him or her and get a fuller explanation of the courses of treatment and what might have been done differently, or to find another vet you can work with.  My own feeling is that I would rather have a vet who will listen to my concerns and take them into account, than an "expert" who is so sure of him- or herself as to be incapable of listening or learning.  I consider a good vet to be one who acknowledges mistakes and the limits of his or her skill.  Rats are tricky to take care of, it is sometimes hard to tell exactly what their problem is, and often it happens that the most sophisticated diagnostics cannot do more than tell us how serious and untreatable the problem is.  Please do not let the second guesses of a stranger who never knew your rats or your vet weigh on you like this. :heart:
What is a rat?  King-sized love in a pint-sized package.
Rat Code:  6m2f22r !B C? D+ F S-- ocA reC sM a+++ e++++ n

Offline oktiger

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2016, 09:20:55 PM »
I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. It comforts me to know your perspective on the situation.

Offline Kitsch Slapped

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2016, 10:07:22 PM »
Very sorry to hear you lost two wonderful girls, especially so soon apart.

Ive never given a rat cortisone before, but Ive never been told they should not have it either. So I cant really comment on that, but I completely understand your concern. What BigBen has already said sounds more plausible to me. Rats can be very close to their siblings (related or not), especially if they grew up together.

If you would like, I know my vet offers necropsies when we are in doubt and want some closure. It has helped us a few times when we needed to just *know*. If its still possible for you to do so and you dont mind them performing this on your ratties, you might ask if they could do this for you, or call another vet who can.
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Offline oktiger

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Re: Losing Two Sisters -Insight Appreciated
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2016, 03:47:15 PM »
Thank you, Kitsch Slapped.
I did think of a necropsy, only after we had already buried them.  :-\ Everything happened so fast, we were in shock. It's a good option for the future, although I'm hoping I won't be in a situation like this again.

After this event happened, I was thinking back to previous rats and there is one that stands out who had a similar death. I reached out to my vet and I plan on discussing a few questions I have, in addition to finding out if they still have her record to check if she received cortisone as well. It was a couple of years ago but this could possibly confirm my doubts.

If I hear anything further I will update this thread. I'm dedicated to learning as much as possible and always find it helpful to read about others' experiences with rats.

In memory of Jelly and Gummy:

The girls over the summer Jelly on the left and Gummy on the right (You can see an abscess on Gummy which was successfully drained and removed).. They did have their share of health issues


Jelly last Christmas