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Tumors need not be proportional.

I am utterly amazed at the size potential of tumors. Tumors are very common in female rats but male rats get them too. The difference really seems to be that female rats get monster-sized tumors while a male rat's tumor tends to maintain a civilized size. The worst I've seen, though, was about the size of a softball and it was on one of our female rats named Pitter. She also had a roommate who, if I recall correctly, was also her sister, who didn't develop a tumor while Pitter was alive. Pitter was a normal sized female rat. She was always in good health and had a hearty appetite. After she was a bit over 2 years of age, her appetite doubled, and she developed a golf ball, which in a matter of a month, turned into a tennis ball that felt so inferior, it turned into a softball a couple of weeks after that. This development was right by her belly so it made it a bit difficult to walk, but it didn't stop her from getting around!

After it reached softball size, it started to flatten out until it go to the point that she couldn't put her two front paws together to eat like a normal rat. Once again, her goals were not halted as she learned to use her tumor plus one paw to hold the food in place while she ate it. Patter was also very supportive and never took Pitter's food away from her as she would do when she was younger. Besides, Pitter was eating so much, it was Patter we were worried about fading away!

We did consider putting her to sleep. After all, a tumor of that size couldn't possibly feel good. We took her to our vet, Dr. Bob, as well, to see what he had to say. He didn't think removing it would be very useful as he'd mentioned that it would grow right back, and possibly double in size. As for putting her to sleep, we decided against it as she was still eating and drinking and cleaning herself to the best of her ability. We're glad we made that decision despite the fact that 8 months after the tumor's initial appearance, it ruptured a blood vessel or vein leaving possibly one of the worst looking messes we'd ever seen. We both felt that she was happy and probably didn't feel much when she died. Her roommate, Patter, however seemed very distraught, and for a few weeks would not cross to the other side of the cage where her roommate had passed away. After less than a month went by, she too developed a tumor around her front armpit. She never snapped out of her funk after her roommate died though, so she soon passed on.

Just to let you know, in case you encounter the same, we've had other rats whose tumors and stretched out skin have aided in tearing a vein or blood vessel and they all survived it. We actually witnessed one happen and it was absolutely terrifying. I never realized a rat could hold so much liquid, but it was obvious that a good amount of it was from fluids surrounding the tumor itself. We always have skin glue handy so we cleaned the wound up with Hydrogen Peroxide and glued it right back up. In some cases, particularly with the male rats whose tumors tend to be benign, we would take that opportunity to get the tumor removed. In fact, we once removed it ourselves!

To explain, we had one rat who had been in poor health for a very long period of time, despite the antibiotics we'd given him, etc. He ultimately "cleaned" the area around his tumor so much that he tore the skin on his back open. We dutifully cleaned it out and glued it back up, and he in turn tore it open again, presumably because it itched. Well, after the 5th tear and seal expedition, the skin, we found, was quite dry, so I decided to trim the dead skin off some so we could close it better. What I found in doing that, was that the tumor itself had dried out as well and was hanging by a string of dead skin (or something) so I just snipped it off, cleaned it out, and glued it back up. Surprisingly, his health improved quite quickly after that, and he lived almost another full year! On the other hand, I probably wouldn't do this again, and wouldn't recommend doing it yourself either.

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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes:

    1) To entertain.
    2) To help avoid repetition of mistakes

  Remember! Your rat is not a science project, he is your friend!

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