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Hello,
I have come to seek any advice for what to do for my rat. She is about 3 years old and is quite large. A few months ago she started doing something the vet called ‘knuckling’ (if you have heard this term before). Recently she has started to struggle eating her hard food and ive had to soften her food with water which she is now thankfully eating. In addition she has also started to sort of drag her back legs around, i think it could possibly have been a stroke? Tell me what you think. She is quite wobbly on her feet and falls over sometimes, she does not have any other rats living with her as sadly they have passed away and i want to make the rest of her life peaceful and comfortable, i have her with me almost all the time in a blanket. I thought she was going to pass away earlier today but thankfully she is still alive and doing a lot better after eating, i assume she has not eaten properly for a while and i had not even realised and feel terrible about it but she is doing a lot better now. Still, tell me what you think might have happened to her, i’m terribly worried about her.
 

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If she's having trouble with both her front and back legs, and generally having a hard time keeping her balance or seems confused/weak, I would say it sounds like a pituitary tumor (PT). They are more common in female than male rats but can strike either sex. Pituitary tumors are incurable because they can't be surgically removed, but some people have good luck halting or even shrinking the tumor with a medicine I can't remember the name of- it's frightfully expensive- or managing the symptoms with steroids.


A stroke happens suddenly, and usually affects one side more than the other. But it is possible to be the case here. Strokes, to my knowledge, do not have any treatments available but they also usually don't get worse over time (unless the rat has another stroke or other problem develops).


Unfortunately three years old is about the expected lifespan of a rat, so with these symptoms she is most likely in the last stage of her life. I would focus on keeping her comfortable, discuss steroids with your vet, and start thinking about her quality of life vs the option of euthanasia. Some rats can live quite well with symptoms from a stroke if a second doesn't occur, but a PT is progressive and will only get worse.

One of my rats is showing early signs of a PT and it's a very difficult thing to consider, but ultimately I feel that there's a point at which it's better to let them go, though this point will be different for every rat and every owner. There's no right or wrong, especially since a PT (or stroke) doesn't usually cause pain.
 
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