Author Topic: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?  (Read 770 times)

Offline Nyaasu

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Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« on: October 21, 2016, 12:43:54 AM »
Hey guys! Been a while!

My rat Shulk, who is 1 year and 8 months old (about) started getting sniffly about 1 1/2 - 2 months ago, so I brought her to the vet, and she was put on one antibiotic (clavamox (sic?)). When that didn't work, she was put on a combination of Orbax and Doxy, and that cleared up the wheezing, sniffly sound, but she was still noticeably breathing heavy. Normal otherwise...so my vet did an x-ray, and found a mass in her lung, so he told me the best thing I can do is keep her on the Orbax/Doxy, but the lung mass would probably end her life in about a month.

That bummed me out, but while looking online for ways to comfort a rat with a lung mass, I found an article that said lung tumors are rare, and what showed up on the X-ray might be scarring or an abscess instead. So I decided to just try to make this rat's life as healthy as possible, in case it wasn't a tumor and could somehow be cleared up.

A week or so later, the Orbax/Doxy seemed to stop working (I heard wheezing again), so I asked the vet if I could try another medicine, so as of 6 days ago, she started Azithromycin. This worked WONDERS. I was getting excited thinking she's going to make it through! But...then, the wheezing started again, and when I called the vet about it, he said it's probably the mass, nothing that can be done, call him in 7 days.

Today she started being lethargic. That was the first time that happened. When she was awake, she was bright-eyed and awesome, but when she was asleep...man, was she asleep. And in positions that always worried me, too. So, since my usual vet was closed, I brought her to a different one, who also did X-rays, and came to the same conclusion, and told me it's probably an abscess, and that whether it's an abscess or a tumor, the end results will be the same. But she did give me Metacam for imflammation/pain, which I appreciated.

So now she's still just taking the Azithromycin and Metacam and we're...just waiting, I guess, but I just wanted to know (because I can't find much info on it) if that's the right thing to do, or if there's something else I can try.

Right now, here is what I am doing for her:

-She's on the azithromycin and Metacam. I'm also giving her kid's echinacea drops, because I found that tip online (let me know if it's wrong), and small animal vitamins from PetSmart in her water.
-She's separate from the other rats since the start of this
-I bought her a warm steam humidifier and it's near her cage. Sometimes I put a towel over the top of the cage to keep out drafts/keep in steam.
-I was feeding her baby food, since the medications made her not want the kibble (Oxbow young rat - I heard it's better for females of any age?), but recently found that if I mash up ADULT Oxbow kibbles with a mortar and pestle and add water, she will eat it like a MONSTER, so that's what she's been eating for the past day or so.
-I changed her bedding from "CritterCare" paper bedding (similar to CareFresh) to Eco-Bedding (looks like crinkle-cut french fries), since I was reading that it has less dust.
-I still take her out on my bed, since sleeping on me while I watch TV/play video games makes her very happy, and I figured that would make her feel better than being in a cage all day
-I try to change the air in the room every few hours by opening the door and using a fan - Read that tip online, too!
-I clean the bedding out entirely every morning, to make her environment as clean as possible.

...Is there anything else I can do to improve her chances? Or am I just supposed to be making her comfortable...?
Is there anything I can ask my vet for that would help?

I have had very bad luck with my rats in the past few years, and although I do my best, they seem to all only make it to this age, and it's never because they are old...I'm starting to feel like i'm doing something wrong and as I'm sure you guys understand, I can't take it anymore.

It's OK if I have to just make her comfortable, I just...want to know if there's ever been any hope for a rat after this kind of diagnosis.

Thank you!! :(

Offline ILoveMyRatties

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2016, 02:23:33 PM »
I'm sorry Shulk has health issues, you are doing a wonderful job taking care of her and bringing her to the vet. Is there a reason you separated her from her cage mates? If not I would put her back with her friends which should make her feel a little better. I wouldn't use a fan or create any air drafts around her either. If you want to open the windowns, put her in a different room for 5 mins- rats don't deal well with air drafts or sudden change of temperature.

Offline Nyaasu

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2016, 03:36:21 PM »
I'm sorry Shulk has health issues, you are doing a wonderful job taking care of her and bringing her to the vet. Is there a reason you separated her from her cage mates? If not I would put her back with her friends which should make her feel a little better. I wouldn't use a fan or create any air drafts around her either. If you want to open the windowns, put her in a different room for 5 mins- rats don't deal well with air drafts or sudden change of temperature.

I separated her to keep the infection from spreading, although I have heard it's safe to keep them together (they all have the same type of infection from birth anyway, or something like that?), so I'm not sure what is the right thing to do here. Both vets told me she is contagious to other rats right now (when she sneezes, anyway, although that actually is very rare).

I will admit, though, that I have sometimes let her "visit" the other rats, for a short while, when she feels up to it, because she is their mom, and if it's really as hopeless a case as it sounds, I didn't want them to never see each other again.

I'm also worried they might wear her out, and I want her to relax, but if relaxing won't help her get better permanently, I'm OK with letting the kids wear her out a little, if she enjoys it. xD

What do you think?

Offline Nyaasu

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2016, 03:39:31 PM »
I'm sorry Shulk has health issues, you are doing a wonderful job taking care of her and bringing her to the vet. Is there a reason you separated her from her cage mates? If not I would put her back with her friends which should make her feel a little better. I wouldn't use a fan or create any air drafts around her either. If you want to open the windowns, put her in a different room for 5 mins- rats don't deal well with air drafts or sudden change of temperature.

Oh, and thank you for the tip about the fan! :)

Offline Vonda Z

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2016, 08:28:40 PM »
I disagree with the article you read that said lung tumors are rare in rats. I have had them diagnosed several times. I think they go way underdiagnosed because so many people never do x-rays and just assume respiratory infections.

What you were likely seeing with the improvement on antibiotics is the rats falling susceptible to secondary respiratory infections because of the lung tumor, getting better because of the antibiotics, only to fall ill again right away because the underlying problem is still present. I have seen this happen often in rats with lung tumors.

I would definitely put the rats back together again. Most often, the infections are caused by myco and they all carry it. It is just that the rat with the tumor has a weakened immune system and lung damage and so the myco is more prone to flare up. Myco is not contagious, since they all have it. Respiratory infections that are contagious are usually contagious via the air - so if they are in the same airspace, they are all likely exposed. But the healthy rats are not likely to fall prey to the illness because their immune systems are strong enough to fight it off.

One treatment you may want to try is using a steroid. If things are very advanced, the steroid is not likely to help. But if things are still early, I have had great success with prednisolone offering relief from symptoms. It can also slow the progression of the tumor. I had one girl have two to three months of symptom free existence on steroids before the tumor grew too advanced for the steroids to help. But don't expect miracles - many rats are too advanced when diagnosed for steroids to help and it is only a stall tactic in those in which it helps.

That said, steroids cannot be given in conjunction with Metacam, so you have to decide which med you prefer to keep her on. If the metacam is helping, you probably won't want to switch. If it is not helping, you may want to take her off and try a steroid just to see if there is any improvement.

Best wishes and good luck to Shulk.

Offline Nyaasu

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2016, 09:57:46 PM »
I disagree with the article you read that said lung tumors are rare in rats. I have had them diagnosed several times. I think they go way underdiagnosed because so many people never do x-rays and just assume respiratory infections.

What you were likely seeing with the improvement on antibiotics is the rats falling susceptible to secondary respiratory infections because of the lung tumor, getting better because of the antibiotics, only to fall ill again right away because the underlying problem is still present. I have seen this happen often in rats with lung tumors.

I would definitely put the rats back together again. Most often, the infections are caused by myco and they all carry it. It is just that the rat with the tumor has a weakened immune system and lung damage and so the myco is more prone to flare up. Myco is not contagious, since they all have it. Respiratory infections that are contagious are usually contagious via the air - so if they are in the same airspace, they are all likely exposed. But the healthy rats are not likely to fall prey to the illness because their immune systems are strong enough to fight it off.

One treatment you may want to try is using a steroid. If things are very advanced, the steroid is not likely to help. But if things are still early, I have had great success with prednisolone offering relief from symptoms. It can also slow the progression of the tumor. I had one girl have two to three months of symptom free existence on steroids before the tumor grew too advanced for the steroids to help. But don't expect miracles - many rats are too advanced when diagnosed for steroids to help and it is only a stall tactic in those in which it helps.

That said, steroids cannot be given in conjunction with Metacam, so you have to decide which med you prefer to keep her on. If the metacam is helping, you probably won't want to switch. If it is not helping, you may want to take her off and try a steroid just to see if there is any improvement.

Best wishes and good luck to Shulk.

Thank you very much!
The metacam seemed to work LIKE CRAZY yesterday (she started POPCORNING and she hasn't done that in months!), but today, even while on it (although it's hard to get her to take it, so I had to do it a little at a time, the dose is huge!!), she seems pretty...bleh. Awake and active when she's awake, but most of the time...very...very asleep. Doesn't bother even to look up when I walk by, until she's fully "awake".

So, tomorrow (the vet is closed now), I will call and ask for his opinion on the steroids. Actually, now that you mention it, the second vet was talking about them, too, but since there was an infection we were fighting, and apparently the steroids make it hard for antibiotics to work (?), she said she would prefer to see her put on metacam, so I chose that option.

Do you think, with her being so tired-looking, the other rats would stress her out? I'd love for them to all be together, but I'm worried about them keeping her awake when she feels she needs sleep. ...they're kind of crazy, lol. xD She was the calm one!

The articles I read about lung tumors being rare were here:
http://www.ratfanclub.org/resp.html
http://en.allexperts.com/q/Pet-Rats-3537/2010/2/Lung-tumor-s.htm

...but if you're saying they're more common than these say, I'd believe it, too, because my last rat to go was diagnosed with one also. But, when I read that, I thought, "if there's a chance it's not, I'll fight", so I did!

I'll try the steroids, or at least ask about them, although from the looks of her tonight it may be too late. I'd love to get 3 more months from her, though. :(

Offline Vonda Z

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2016, 11:51:27 PM »
It is true that the steroids increase the risk of infection - so in a case like this you would probably want to administer it in conjunction with antibiotics. Whether or not to try it would be up to you and your vet - I just wanted to throw it out there as an option. But if the tumor is already advanced, it probably won't help much, so if the risk for infection is significant, you may prefer to stick with the metacam - especially if you see improvement when using it.

Offline BigBen

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2016, 12:32:23 PM »
If the Metacam's anti-inflammatory effect is helping, then there is no need to switch to a steroid.  But the mechanism by which steroids reduce inflammation is a bit different, I believe, so a steroid might still help even if the Metacam stops working.  (Of course, it just might mean that things have progressed to the point where nothing will help--sorry.)

As for putting your girl back in with the other rats, I am in favor.  Rats usually do better in the company of other rats; they find being alone stressful.  Vets often apply the same rules of thumb to rats that they use on other animals, but the rules for rats are in many cases quite different.  If you ask your vet why isolation is recommended and the answer is along the lines of "animals generally do better . . . ," then I would take the recommendation with a grain of salt.  But if the answer is along the lines of "in my experience, rats generally do better . . . ," then I would pay it more attention.
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Offline Nyaasu

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2016, 08:44:11 PM »
It is true that the steroids increase the risk of infection - so in a case like this you would probably want to administer it in conjunction with antibiotics. Whether or not to try it would be up to you and your vet - I just wanted to throw it out there as an option. But if the tumor is already advanced, it probably won't help much, so if the risk for infection is significant, you may prefer to stick with the metacam - especially if you see improvement when using it.

Thank you! I spoke to the vet today, and he said he would suggest steroids out of the two, but since I started the metacam already, to use that until it stops working, then start steroids (after a day of nothing because like you said, the metacam and steroids can't be used together!).

Everything you said lined up with what my vet said, so you are good with advice, thank you. :)

Offline Nyaasu

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2016, 08:47:57 PM »
If the Metacam's anti-inflammatory effect is helping, then there is no need to switch to a steroid.  But the mechanism by which steroids reduce inflammation is a bit different, I believe, so a steroid might still help even if the Metacam stops working.  (Of course, it just might mean that things have progressed to the point where nothing will help--sorry.)

As for putting your girl back in with the other rats, I am in favor.  Rats usually do better in the company of other rats; they find being alone stressful.  Vets often apply the same rules of thumb to rats that they use on other animals, but the rules for rats are in many cases quite different.  If you ask your vet why isolation is recommended and the answer is along the lines of "animals generally do better . . . ," then I would take the recommendation with a grain of salt.  But if the answer is along the lines of "in my experience, rats generally do better . . . ," then I would pay it more attention.

That's what the vet said today! So you're spot-on. She'll be on metacam until it seems to stop working (today it didn't seem as "miraculous", so that might be happening), then a day of nothing, then steroids.

I have gotten enough advice that putting them together is fine, and it logically makes sense, so unless I want her to eat, enjoy some warm steam for a while, or rest, she is with her "babies" (they are not babies anymore!), and putting them back together for the first time was like those "soldier coming home" videos you see online.  :BlueDumboBigEyes:

I am happy that was suggested, because it makes me feel a little better, even though this will not end with a surprise recovery anymore. At least they're all happy for a little while longer. :)

Offline Nyaasu

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Re: Is there any hope for a rat with a lung abscess?
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2016, 08:52:19 PM »
Here is Shulk, by the way! Sometimes, she feels OK!