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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone,

I am new to the forum and a new-ish rat owner. My husband and I adopted two baby rats from a rat breeder (for snakes) when they were 4 and 6 weeks of age. Both females.

Both rats are about 8-9 months old, and live together in a large cage. Clementine is a little older and bigger, and Annabelle started out as the submissive/shy rat but now has changed. I wasn't sure if this should go in the Health forum or here, so sorry if it is in the wrong spot!

A few months ago we noticed that Annabelle was grabbing Clementine and dragging her into their wooden hut and sitting on her. Clementine doesn't fight back, just freezes. If she escapes, she hides and tries not to move. If we take Clementine out to give her "a break", Annabelle is more aggressive when we put them back together. She doesn't draw blood, it just looks and sounds awful. Clementine squeaks and so obviously doesn't enjoy this. I looked up info on this and found out this is a heat cycle? And Annabelle is just trying to "mother" Clementine? This seems to happen once every 2-3 weeks for about 2 days. Then they would go back to normal. The rest of the time, they seem pretty "equal", as in, neither of them is more "boss" over the other.

A few weeks ago, Annabelle had one of her "cycles" and it seemed to be worse. Still not drawing blood, but it's just awful to watch. I don't have a cage or room to separate them for this time either, so I just sat and tried to help Clementine as much as I could. I snuck her a lot of treats too. Since this last cycle, Annabelle has been REALLY hoarding food (more than normal) and her behavior seems pretty erratic. She has quick movements, like she's trying to stash her food REALLY fast before TIME RUNS OUT and it's this race! She isn't interested in coming out for free time, she is way more comfortable in her cage. She sleeps REALLY deeply too. I have to sometimes really poke at her because I wonder if she's still alive. It takes A LOT to wake her up. Clementine always enjoys coming out and looks for attention as soon as you open the cage door, but Annabelle sleeps through it. I don't think she sleeps more than normal, just deeper then I would think a rat normally does? Does any of this sound okay?? I wonder if I should make a video to show? I just feel so lost!

Thanks in advance for the help!
 

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Can you take a video? It could just be a development in behavior but i would be interested in seeing if it could be a symptom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I will do my best to get a video of some tonight, but I'm not sure when one of these "cycles" will come back, so it might be another week or so before I can post something.
 

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Heat cycles shouldn't be happening that sporadically. They typically occur once every 5 days.
Likely, it's one of two things: behavior or illness.
For behavior, have you tried saying "NO" in a stern voice or clapping your hands loudly?
When she does this, are you capable of putting her in a time out cage? This is a small cage with no toys, etc. You will only do this for 10 minutes at a time, no more.
Is their current cage big enough (at least 5 cubic feet?) and do they have enough enrichment? Can you pull her out for out-time so she can burn off some energy?

It's not a for sure thing, but sometimes spaying has reduced "aggressive" behaviors in female rats.

For illness. The erratic-ness makes me think of a respiratory problem. Is her breathing good? Does she look healthy?
Do you see any itching or scabs? Mites can cause aggression... Although if it's been months you probably would have seen scabs by now.
She could have some kind of tumor or other internal problem that is aggravating her. This could also be the result of poor genetics ("snake food" breeders will often just throw any two rats together and allow them to breed. Rats can carry all kinds of unseen problems, with aggression and neurological problems being common).
You might want to get a check up with your vet for her, and explain what's going on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks so much for the response. We just went and bought more little toys for their cage in hopes that it will add more to their environment, and the cage is huge, so I don't think that is a problem. I managed to get a video, but it is dark. She's normally a little more shy when I sit right in front of the cage so I was worried if I turned on the lights she would stop and go hide. She is definitely acting weird, I think something is very wrong. She keeps doing something weird with her head. Her breathing seems fine, just really fast movements and erratic behavior. Hopefully the vid helps.
I'm about to clean out their cage and sit with both of them for a bit, both my husband and I will try to get a better video and check her for lumps.
 

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I would treat for an inner ear infection for at least five days to see if there is a response, 2-3wks if there is. http://ratguide.com/health/auricle_ear/otitis_media_otitis_interna_labyrinthitis.php

But I would also use steroids. If tx doesn't help within 5 days you could be seeing a pituitary tumor...http://ratguide.com/health/neoplasia/pituitary_tumor.php devastating, just went through one. This is really uncommon (RARE) for her age, I read an article that said it was like a 35% chance.

When you have her out, check her ears and eyes in particular; you also want to do the wheelbarrow (test front legs by holding rear up, or by having climb cage withonly front paws) or cheerio test (http://lilspazrats.wikispaces.com/Health+Care-+Pituitary+Tumour+-+Failing+the+Cheerio+Test). If it ends up being a pituitary tumor, you will want to either look into nursing care (which I can elaborate on if you want) or euthanasia. Cabergoline can shrink and prolong life but is around $150 in the US for one month so not particularly feasible for the average rat owner. A corticosteroid (dexa or prednisone) is also useful and is relatively cheap and can buy you months.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks so much for the info! We just took their entire cage apart and did a huge clean and re-organized it.... While my husband had the rats and I cleaned, we noticed Annabelle moves faster out of the comfort of her cage (head wags back and forth faster) and she spun in circles a lot. We did the wheelbarrow test and she still has a functioning front end. She isn't grooming herself as often as she should though, her tail is super dirty and her coat just isn't shiny and healthy looking. No lumps or bumps. I am really hoping this is an inner ear infection. I called my local vet (who happens to be open 24/7) and they don't actually have an exotic vet on staff, so I'm waiting until morning to call one in my city. Fingers crossed that's all it is. She is still eating and drinking, and climbing around her cage. I added toys and both are being super cute and curious checking it all out. I'll post another update soon. Thanks again for all the information, I REALLY appreciate it! :)
 

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Yes I am seeing an inner ear infection.
As nanashi said, a PT is possible, but not likely given her age. The cheerio test is simple and quick, so see how that goes.
I would go ahead and schedule a vet appointment either way.
can you sniff her ears really good? You might be able to smell the infection.
She may be in pain if she has an ear infection. Do you have any infant ibuprofen?
 

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Oops didn't see your post haha. If she passed the test then I wouldn't worry about PT.
Hope you can get to the vet and get some antibiotics soon!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
**UPDATE**
Thanks again for the posting and advice! Just got home from the vet, and she couldn't see anything in her ears that indicate an infection, but we are doing a round of antibiotics (for a month) and an anti-inflammatory. If it IS an inner ear infection, I was told she would be fine within a few days of the meds, but if it is a brain issue these meds would still help. She seems to tilt always to the left and circle to the left. Still eating and drinking fine, and hoarding food. She was really vocal with the vet poking her too. Hopefully these meds clear whatever it is up and she is back to normal. The vet also asked for me to video the behavior she has with her sister next time she does it (the dragging and sitting on her) to see if we can figure out what is going on there.

Fingers crossed!
 

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Awesome! You can indeed typically count on antibiotics showing relief within 3-5 days (but of course need the full month to cure the infection). Inner ear infections can sometimes be treaky to diagnose, but the head tilt gives it away, IMO. I also wanted to mention that a head tilt cause by inner ear infection may take several weeks to go away and it may also never go away completely. Hopefully she feels better and acts a bit nicer soon!
 

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My rat, Neera, suffrred from an inner ear infection a few months ago. She had a head tilt and her balance was pretty bad. My first vet was a load of crap and he just made her infection worse... My next vet (Who I still use) gave her three weeks of medicine and the effect was amazing. Her head tilt got a little better and her balance was much better. She still has a head tilt and she will still roll if you tip her too far, but the medicine cleared her up so well. I hope your baby gets to feeling better!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hey guys!
I just wanted to post how Annabelle is doing.
Today is Day 3 and so far there is no improvement. If anything, I find she is a tiny bit worse than before. I know it's only been a few days, but I know whenever I'd been on antibiotics and pain meds, usually there is a difference within the first day. She seems way more erratic when you give her food now, and she's so unbalanced that she seems to really struggle with the ramps in her cage. We started referring to her head wagging (star gazing) as a 'tick', and she can control it and slow it down/stop to groom herself but only when she seems to make a big effort. If that makes any sense.

I'm still hoping that it is some kind of infection, but I have a feeling it maybe isn't. She is still affectionate and last night she fell asleep on me all snuggled in. I'll keep watching her closely and hopefully the meds help soon!
 
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