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Discussion Starter #1
Chai is probably around 3. She is ridiculously ragged looking but eating well and holding weight. She sleeps a LOT but when she is out, she is very cuddly and likes to explore.

The problem is... her hind legs are starting to look weak. She isn't dragging them, but when she is moving from point A to point B, she bunny hops. Is this normal for a rat her age or are we looking at a vet visit? She is otherwise healthy... other than looking like she just crawled out of a sewer. She looks HORRIBLE. The older she gets, the more ragged she looks.
 

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I would get a flatter cage and maybe there is to much pressure on her feet because her legs are weaker. What bedding is she on?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I do have a flat cage that is too small for rats... it is sort of a guinea pig cage (one level) and I use it for surgery recovery because they can't really strain themselves in there.

It is about as big as the cage she is in now but her current cage has way more vertical space. She does go up and down ramps but I see her sleeping more and more on the bottom level. I put the food and water down there to help her out.

She is currently on Aspen. She used to be on fleece but even with frequent changing of the fleece, she was getting too many respiratory flareups. All the girls are on aspen and doing well on it.

I only use fleece in the hospital cage now.
 

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I'm not sure exactly what you mean by bunny hops, but if she looks really stiff and is kinda holding her middle up high where it looks odd she could be having some kidney issues. when the kidneys give them trouble it hurts so they tend to get a funny gait. At her age, you might consider having a urine test done just to see.

Hind leg weakness is different and more an old age thing, but it seems like your are describing something different.

Chai is a champ no matter what, 3 is a grand old lady age!
 

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She doesn't hold her middle up. She just looks squishy. What I mean by "bunny hop" is that instead of moving her hind legs one at a time as she walks, she moves them both at once. It looks EXACTLY like if you've ever seen a rabbit slowly moving forward.

Kidney problems are definitely something I never would have considered. Thanks for bringing that up! I'll do some homework on that.
 

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I'm not sure what other folks have experienced, but for some reason over the years many of my pets who made it past the average lifespan seemed to end up with kidney issues at one point or another. Currently dealing with failing kidneys on my 18 year old border collie. A few ferrets I had make it to 10 and above seem to get issues with kidneys (those guys was among other things-usually they were missing it seemed more organs that had left in very old age)

Anyways, it's something I always worry about if I see odd walking that doesn't appear to be arthritis or some other weakness issue.

I imagine it could be something else that is hurting causing the odd gait, or maybe if it's just stiff legs it could arthritis. If arthritis I'd supplement with chrondrotin and glucosomine. Painkiller if it gets really bad. Try and keep her moving regularly. If they lay up too long it seems twice as rough getting around, so I try to encourage mellow exercise. (like just walking around on flat surfaces or a mostly flat surface like blanket snorkling) If she is still climbing well I wouldn't discourage it, as long as there is plenty of hammocks/shelves to catch falls.

If it is kidneys-can be infections which if treated in time will be ok. If they are failing-low phosphorus diet. So things like oatmeal becomes avoided and corn is better. depending on the stage-if it's very bad refined foods start to be better than whole foods to process as far as grains. I like things like cream of wheat (or other refined wheat products, pasta, white rice over brown and such) -you can research foods there is a ton of info on foods to aim for. Diet seems to make a HUGE difference in quality of life here. Kinda a pain here since we are whole food/organic junkies and my kidney kids always go the other way. For them I do a lot of white rice/potato's (both white and sweet) as the main starch and then low phosphorus veg and eggs are a great protein source. Make sure they get plenty of liquids (avoiding any dry diets help in this so they get moisture from their diet as well. If they start to loose weight I add more oils/egg yolk and such to the diet.
 

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My old lady Zelda is also loosing the use of her hind legs. She walks funny and her rear end is always touching the floor as she moves. It is just old age setting in. She is otherwise happy.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for your advice everyone.

I've decided to start supplementing her diet to keep her strong. She does still climb (albeit a little slowly) so I won't discourage it. I've done homework on kidney disease in rats and I'm really not seeing it. It seems more like stiffness or arthritis.
 

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Hello,

This happened with Elton when he got on in years. It's pretty common in elderly rats and is called hind leg paralysis or degenerative osteoarthritis. It's more common in male rats, but it happens in older girls too. Basically it occurs because the cartilage between their joints begins to break down as they age - this is actually why older animals will have a more prominent spine even if they're still a little bit chubby.

This is something that is relatively easy to adjust for, and some rats can live out the rest of their lives in a fulfilling way even if they completely lose mobility in their back legs. You might want to consider outfitting your cage to make it easier for her to move around. If you have multiple levels make sure they are padded (we used fleece) so that her belly doesn't chafe when she crawls around. Make some cheap hammocks using fabric to act as safety nets in case she falls down. I actually put an old pillow at the bottom of my rat cage for Elton in case he fell and the hammocks didn't catch him - if you leave the pillowcase on it can be a fun little pouch for your rat to sleep in. Some people will restrict their older rats to a single-story cage or just keep them on the lowest level. If you have a litter box you might need to make it easier for her to crawl into. Also, some people have had success supplementing with glucosamine/chondriton.

Take a look at this page for more information.
 

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My rat didn't actually make it long enough for us to begin supplementing with glucosamine/chondriton once we discovered it was an option, but usually rat owners will start when their rats reach about a year and half old. You give them a very low daily dose (about 1/4 a tablet of 250mg glucosamine/200 mg chondriton - you can buy them at this dose in a combined tablet here), crush it up with a spoon into a fine powder and mix it with something liquid and delicious so that your rat will eat it all up - non-dairy yogurt or baby food might be a good option. You can find a more detailed testimonial in the link I provided above if you scroll down all the way to the bottom. It's more a preventative measure than anything, but it could keep your rat's condition from getting much worse. Again, I've never tried it but it is an option I will probably try with my current rat pack because a rat with hind leg paralysis is very sad to watch and care for.
 
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