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The Context: I've been nursing my boy, Remus, since Saturday, Feb 6th, when he uncharacteristically crawled into a t-shirt on my lap and went to sleep. (He's getting Baytril, hand-feeding Pedialyte/water, apple sauce, green peas, and mushy Regal Rat.) I've been up every one to two hours, and not that it truly bothers me - I raise orphans and babysit infants - but I'm exhausted. He's 2.5 and over the past couple of months has blown up like a balloon without any change in diet or exercise. (He's been eating Oxbow since he was a pup.) I started to feel lumps once he past 18 mos, so I think he's got tumors rolling around in there, which contribute to the size. His abdomen is pretty firm now, which makes me think it's not fat.

I'm also now unemployed thanks to a fractured ankle. (The winter of 15/16 has not been kind.) And to the tune of $10k in personal medical expenses, I'm not exactly in a great situation.

(I'll post the in-depth details below the next paragraph, in case you want to skip the wall of text.)

The Dilemma: I'm debating euthanasia while being 100% exhausted and, quite honestly, on the verge of a third emotional breakdown in as many days. There's no one else who's going to help actually care for him. The whole "Quality of Life Scale" has become useless - I've read it no less then ten times. I can't come to a conclusion. His attitude is amazing. He genuinely seems to like hanging out here in his low sided box on my bed, and he actively seeks out attention from me and, sadly, his former cagemates. Just when he's slept too long for my comfort or not drank much, he wakes up and starts puttering across my bed and poking his head over the box wall for food/water/pets.

So...

The Good: He's improved dramatically from Saturday night. His eyes are completely clear; he's back to eating; his nose is a little crusty, but he and his brothers have struggled with URIs their entire lives; and he (in the afternoon and early mornings) shows a genuine and unbridled interest in food/water mix and attention. He's even back to eating some crunchy foods. There's no real sounds accompanying his breathing besides an occasional, almost silent, popping, and he bruxes and boggles none stop. He drinks 1-2.5 ml an hour in addition to some apple sauce. (All of his food has water added to it, including the peas.) His skin is quite elastic (hydrated), and he seems very content when gently massaged. (Starting at the head, moving to the tail.) Bowel movements are a little sparse, but normal, and while he has a bit of the runs, he's also switched almost immediately to a high liquid diet.

The Bad: His breathing makes his entire body move. And almost always, especially while sleeping, his mouth is wide open. I don't know if Myco is back for a flare up or if their are tumors in his abdomen pushing against his lungs, but it's almost a heaving motion. (GIFs attached. The instability is not a result of frame rates.) He either can't or won't move more than a few inches to change positions in his box. I think he just gets so tired from trying to go anywhere. I stopped petting him before he actually went to sleep, and he tried chasing me. He got to the edge of his box (a tray, really), and couldn't (wouldn't?) make it over the half-inch lip. He also has difficulty cleaning his rear. Not that I mind wiping butts, and he's chosen a specific corner in true rat fashion. I'm with him more or less 24/7, so it's not like he's stuck alone in a mess. Also, he sleeps almost all the time. Maybe I never noticed how much rats sleep, or maybe I'm just over thinking it, but he's either sleeping or zoned out 75% of the time. And his eyes are almost always cracked open - I can tell he's out though because sometimes I'll accidentally surprise him with the water syringe. (I tried leaving him in the hammock near the water bottle once he started moving around, and two hours later, nothing. I intervened at hour three with some flavored water and he took 2 ml of it then and there. Maybe he's holding out?)

The Ugly: I have a zoo of these squeakers, plus two dogs and a cat. (I used to have multiple incomes with decent pay.) They all need food and vaccines. (The only reason the squeaks get their "fresh" foods (and someone is bound to lose their **** over this) is because I get food assistance and cut out a portion of it for their veggies. I'm also lucky enough to get the day-old left overs from our grocery.) Remus also has two biological brothers who I think will be joining him soon in hospice. Romulus is losing his back leg function, and Adolphus has dropped so much weight and started sneezing again. I want to be able to give them both and, when the time comes, their two cagemates the same level of care. Speaking of cagemates, they all seem to ignore Remus when I put him in his main cage, only stopping to lick any leftover food from his chin. He tries to follow them and gets left behind. They wouldn't let him in the hut. (From my experience, it's bad news when the others of the same species leave.) And like I said, I'm in over my head in bills. My mother is buying the food, and I've applied for CareCredit three times. My vet has been gracious enough to let me charge my account, but who knows how long that will last. (Not that I want to find out.) He's also 2.5, so if he miraculously recovers, am I buying him another (precious) week? A month? Six months or a year?

The Fear: I don't want to make him suffer. We're going back for what may well be the last vet trip (either because I'll run out of money, or because the worst has happened) on Saturday around 1p, and not that I absolutely have to make a decision by then, but I don't know how much longer I can keep charging my account/borrowing from my mother (who hates them and continually wants to know why I didn't just feed Rem to the cat and get it over with). The last two boys I had adopted were older than I thought, and their Myco took over and wiped them each out over a twelve hour period. The first (Rasco) died before the vet opened, and the second (Lexi) was so far gone that his only response to me/the vet was blindly pushing your finger/syringe away. I went in with Lexi to tell the vet to euthanize him - there was no doubt. He hated being held or coddled and even when he wasn't deathly ill, getting him to take Baytril was a blood sport. He would have been stressed and miserable. Regardless, they were both a rasping, writhing mess when they died; I don't want Rem to have to deal with that. Honestly, I was ready to put Remus to sleep when I walked into my vet on Sunday, but he convinced me otherwise. And just when I reach the conclusion that euthanasia is the best option for Saturday, he starts crawling to bask in the window or picking at his feeding syringe for applesauce and Gatorade, and I just don't know.

It doesn't seem right to pull him back from the brink only to send him off a week or two later, both in moral/ethical/emotional standards and financially. Maybe I should have just let him go on Sunday...

I would play it by ear - as I am right now - but my main fear is that we'll go to sleep one, two, three weeks from now and I'll wake up in the middle of the night to him rasping and suffocating like Rasco and Lex. There aren't really any e-vet's near me, and waking our normal vet at 3AM for a small animal euth would cost me my arm and newly repaired leg. (Probably my car, as well.) I don't have the tools - or the experience - to do an in-home euthanasia, and to be frank, it's terrifying.

I considered stocking on CO2 (or the supplies for it), but I read if you do it wrong, it'll burn their eyes and make them feel like their suffocating, not just going to sleep.

I just don't know anymore. I apologize for the length. I guess this ended up turning into my public thought train, but I would really appreciate the input of someone who hasn't raised this pup or just spent three to four days awake and fending off family members who think rats are aweful vermin. I'm too tired to have a logical thought, and it's Baytril time anyway.
 

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I'm sorry to hear about your situation.

I've had three rats pass away at home, two in my arms. Once rats reach the tipping point they usually go down hill really fast. Amelia lasted about 6 days in congestive heart failure and Max went from pretty much OK to deceased in only 3. Those last days are hard, but they can also be rewarding and very tender. Fuzzy Rat fist sliced her last phone wire then spent her last day in my arms nibbling her favorite treats then asked to be put back in her cage, she waited for my daughter to say good night and then she just slipped away with the same grace and dignity that defined her life...

The last hours are the hardest, but like I said it's usually over pretty fast.

As to killing a rat instantly... it's a thing easily done... by someone else. You just can't kill your own best friend. As a kid growing up in a rural area, I put down a lot of wounded animals, but I couldn't bring myself to kill my own best furry friend. I know that sounds twisted... because you would think it would be easier to relieve the suffering of someone you love...

In any event, there's no objective answer to your question. It's a personal matter, it's one you can address or one that will resolve itself when the time comes. Either way it's equally hard on you.
 

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:-/ Yeah - I had the supplies for a CO2 euth with Lex, but I was too afraid I'd just mess him up more instead of getting him moved on. Even when it was obvious, when I drove in the car with the phrase, "put him down, now," in my head, I still let the vet make the call.

I think my real issue is I still don't know how to read pain in a rat. I've worked with shy/scared/angry/testy/happy and even just downright odd and defiant rats, as is the benefit of fostering, but when it comes to physically pained rats, I'm at a loss. You generally don't have an old rat in foster, if for no other reason than they won't get adopted - that's Sanctuary's problem. The closest I've gotten is when Lex ripped AdolPhus's shoulder open in intros, and he and Rome/Rem huddled in a corner. No squealing, nothing. Didn't even know something had happened until I picked Phu up and there was literally blood on my hands, just the two covering their injured brother, getting blood everywhere.

If Rem was a dog or a horse, I feel like it would be different. I grew up with those. They're a part of the air permanently ingrained in my lungs. Rats are relatively new - a pair of hiking boots only partially worn in. I can see pain in a dog's face the same way a doctor sees it in people. I see borderline nothing in a rats. (In terms of emotions; plenty of them have tons of potential and meaning. They're prey animals, which doesn't help.) Some eyes closed while getting a cheek scratched: "Keep doing that." Perked ears - alert. Begging - hungry or wants what I have. The basics, you know. The signs you see every day. But not pain. There were never a lot of good resources on body language for me. I've yet to see an Eyewitness Guide to Rats, but I have the extended 14" versions for horses/dogs.

For now, I've resolved to put him down if he completely stops eating or drinking - taking the flavored meds or I hear a consistent loud rasp start forming. Just hoping that's enough, and that if I have to, I'll have the resources to make him comfortable and let go peacefully.
 

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He's gone.

I got home around 9 from the first dinner out I had all week, and he had crawled under my bed for somewhere dark and warm.

I'm happy he's not in pain anymore, but I can't believe it's over.

I know I did everything, but I still feel like it wasn't enough.
 

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I'm so sorry. But I'm also somewhat relieved for you to be unburdened from caretaking.

It's totally normal to feel like you didn't do enough. I'm sure if you look back over what you actually did, you'll see that you went to great lengths to keep him comfortable.
 

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Thanks. I honestly think he was waiting for me to leave. (Don't tell that to my mother. She'll think I've officially lost it.) It's just as well, I guess; I had decided I was going to put him down on Saturday because it started to seem like it took all of his effort to swallow applesauce/liquid.

I tried to give him some maple syrup before dinner to help with his blood sugar, and he turned that down. I knew he was leaving, I just didn't think it was so soon.
 

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I have read of rats who lasted until Mom got home and died in her arms, I have also read of rats who waited til Mom left to die out of her sight. Rat Daddy's Fuzzy Rat waited for his daughter to say "Good-bye" before passing. It seems that many rats have their own way of dealing with this time, and I believe yours didn't want you to suffer by being there at the end.
 

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Absolutely true... the last thing Fuzzy Rat did was to tap my hand and point back to her cage with her nose insistently... this is the way she asked to be moved around since she had become disabled. I had been holding her almost all day and I was surprised at her request... My daughter skritched Fuzzy Rat good night one last time before going to bed and when I went to the cage to check up on our best furry fiend just a few minutes later, she was gone.

I was laying on the floor next to Amelia when suddenly she bolted up to my shoulder... a couple of seconds later I felt her heart and breathing stop and she was gone. She never made the grade as a true shoulder rat, but for some ironic reason she picked my shoulder as the place she wanted to die. Oddly, it felt like a sweet gesture, in that moment I felt loved and at the same time terribly sad.

I've seen a lot of animals and people die, perhaps too many for a single life time, some linger and suffer, but for the most part rats go quickly. I know of people who raced their rats to the vet to be PTS only to have them die on the way or in the waiting room.

You did all you could do, and when his time came, Remus checked out on his own terms. You had stepped away and he could finally feel free to let go. Great rats usually die with the same dignity and grace in which they lived.

I am so sorry for your loss.
 
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