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My 3 year old rat, Syd was just eating a cocoa puff in his cage, minding his own business. Then all of the sudden, he started to flail around rapidly, and his body was jerking around violently. This lasted about two minutes. I don't know exactly what happened but my first thought is a seizure. After, he went about eating the rest of his food, and now he's sleeping. Does anyone know if this was a seizure or not? And what causes this terrible thing to happen to my boy??
 

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First of all, congrats on having a 3 year old! How rare that is to hear from people in the rat community. That sounds pretty much like a seizure to me, akin to the way I've heard of it happening in people. The aftermath of a seizure can vary, I think. I have known a couple of people with epilepsy, and it affected both people very differently. One person I knew had it as a child and outgrew it, describing it as something that caused her embarrassment as a child but didn't really cause pain. The other is severely developmentally delayed because of brain damage sustained during each seizure - but this is so so so so so rare. (I believe it was mentioned to me that only a few people in the world have this particular type of seizure activity).

Of course, I'm no seizure expert. There are a few things that can cause seizures besides just having a solid diagnosis of epilepsy. As it goes, I can only really say what can cause it in humans, but it can't be too different for rats. People with heat stroke can have seizures, as can people with blood sugar problems. I've also read that hormonal causes and stress can contribute to seizures in some people. Electric shock, poisoning, allergic reactions, fevers, meningitis - all of these things can cause seizures as well. Brain tumors are also notorious for causing this. I'm also pretty sure that strokes predispose you to having epilepsy. It could also be something unexplained, perhaps to do with age or just some genetic predisposition for "faulty wiring" in the head at an older age.

It is also possible that your ratty could have gotten into some forbidden foods or household chemicals, causing neurological damage. Poppy seeds and licorice have killed rats with their neurotoxic properties, and often cause seizures. Make sure that you check your pantry, nearby chemical cabinets, etc. for signs of being pillaged by rats. Any room that your rats have regular access to or even could have access to needs to be checked if there's a chance there might be some chemicals stored in there. If your rat got into something that he wasn't supposed to, this is also a possible cause. It may seem a little extreme, but violent episodes can be pretty serious and it's a good idea to make sure that this hasn't happened. Even if they got into a bag of salt or decided to eat a fair amount of dish soap, it could very well be too much for their little bodies to handle.

Make sure your love on him lots and watch his behavior. Definitely bring him to the vet as soon as you can, and if he has another seizure bring him in right away. If he'll stand for it, you may even just wrap him in a towel and hold him close to you as to ensure he doesn't hurt himself at the vet. (Though, I would suggest bringing a carrier in case the risk of other animal patients taking too much interest in your little guy is too high. Or if he tends to escape and wander off a lot). And, when he's having a seizure, follow the basic rules for handling seizures:
1. Don't put anything in his mouth. None of that wooden spoon stuff from the movies.
2. Don't attempt to feed or hydrate him during the seizure. I know it seems crazy, but some people really do think that giving someone water during a seizure will help somehow. I saw someone attempt to give an unconscious girl water and forced it into her mouth - NOT A GOOD IDEA. It's the same basic premise. They're not conscious enough to swallow safely and could aspirate it.
3. Unless he's in an unsafe place, don't move him. If you must, gently move him somewhere (with a firm enough grip to hold him while he's wriggling, but not too tight) that you guys can wait out the rest of the seizure without him hurting himself. Preferably, find a flat space on the ground, perhaps on top of a soft carpet or towel in case he thrashes his head around hard enough to harm himself.
4. Give him lots of love after the seizure. Pet him with caution, even during the seizure. A rat with a seizure and coming out of one will be disoriented and scared. Some rats can bite and scratch out of fear during this time. However, it's good to give him lots of love and attention throughout to ensure that he is as comfortable as possible. Stroke him to the best of his liking.
5. Get to the vet as soon as you can after it has happened.
 

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I would call your vet asap. They'll probably have the best advice.

I actually have a dog with epilepsy (not quite the same as a rat, I know), so I can tell you a bit about seizures in animals, though I don't know how much is applicable to rats.

A lot of Millie & Daisy's advice was spot on. If he has another seizure, NEVER try to put anything in his mouth. Some people will say that you need to put something in their mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue. That's nonsense. It's actually physically impossible to swallow your tongue. xP If they do start choking while seizing (maybe on food or a toy), once the brain is cut off from oxygen the seizure will stop anyway.

When he seizes, don't try to hold him down. You can actually really hurt them by doing that. Just make sure he's in a place where he won't fall, and he can't hit his head or limbs on anything, and wait it out.

As hard as it is, don't freak out and panic. Just stay calm. If you can, try to time the seizure because that information can help the vet diagnose the problem faster. Also make note of any other symptoms before/after the seizure. You can also try and see if you can identify the cause by considering what he was doing before the seizure, or any foods he may have eaten earlier. I had a neighbour who's dog was allergic to chicken, and would have a seizure within half an hour of eating even the smallest bit.

Once the seizure is over, be VERY cautious. Seizures are very very disorienting for animals, and they can lash out at you not from aggression, but just fear and confusion. My dog is usually a sweetheart, and lets me do anything to him (handle his paws, ears, mouth, etc) with minimal fuss. When he has a seizure, I sit with him until it's over, then I immediately get up and walk to the other side of the room. I've almost gotten bit a couple times by trying to comfort him before he's calmed down. Keep talking to your rat in a comforting voice, but don't try to touch him until he seems to be more calm and back to his normal self.

Also keep in mind that it's possible that this was just a one time, freak thing. My uncle had a dog (I know a lot of dogs xP) who had a seizure one afternoon, and never had another one again for the rest of her life.

Regardless, definitely contact your vet and let them know, and then monitor your little guy as closely as you can. If he continues to have them, maybe consider moving him to a single level cage until you can figure out what's wrong.

I really hope he ends up okay, and I hope this stuff helped!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Millie & Daisy, I couldn't thank you enough for such a detailed response. It really helps a lot! The scariest part was that right when it was happening, I had to go for surgery. I felt so bad having to leave him home without me watching him 24/7. I waited until he relaxed (it lasted a very short time), and just pet him and talked to him to calm him down. It was such a scary experience, I cried because of it! Luckily, he was just fine after it and I haven't noticed that he's had another one since. I keep him out with me most of the time, and his cage is placed in my room so I am bound to hear it if he has another episode. The cause is still unknown, but he's going into the vet next week to get his teeth clipped (his top teeth overgrow, but the issue has already been addressed by the vet). I usually like to keep him running in my room, but sometimes he finds his way out and crawls around other rooms. I wonder if he could have found something that caused his seizure that way. I also sometimes let him run out on the grass. He'll sometimes chew on leaves and grass. I don't know if that could be the cause. I'll keep updating on how he is doing, and what the vet says next week. Thanks again so much!
 

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RattieFosters , during the seizure I basically just sobbed the entire time (lol) but I didn't try to touch him or anything. I dont know much about seizures, but I did hear that you shouldn't touch a person/animal who is having a seizure. I basically tried to calmly talk to him, i don't know if he heard me, or if it even helped. During it, his eyes were like half open, and sometimes closed. I was so scared because he looked like he was dying! Towards the end, he looked alert and his eyes were wide open. He definitely looked extremely distressed. Afterwards, I gave him some banana and he ate it all, as if nothing happened. Right now he's sleeping on the couch, eating normally. I hope it's just a one time thing like with the dog! You're probably right though, the causes in seizures are most likely the same in all animals, including humans. Even though it's kind of hard to find online a lot of info on seizures in rats specifically, I think researching seizures in general can give me some more information. I'm taking him into the vet next week for to get his teeth clipped anyway, so I will definitely run it by the vet when we go. If it happens again until then, I'll take him in right away. Thanks so so so much for your help! I always turn right to this forum when there's an issue and you guys are always such a big help!!
 

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We'll it sounds like you did the right things but I would go to a vet if you can to make sure it isn't something that's going to happen often and if it is so you can be prepared.
 
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