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A "quality of life" issue

(6 Posts)
rattieofcarcassone Tue 07-Mar-17 08:39:52

I used to post here regularly, if you recognise me you know that I wouldn't be asking for opinions or advice on this lightly!

DH and I have rats and we've been known to take in the ones who have 'issues'. We had one, Ashi, who was a runt of a 17-strong litter, he was completely unable to stay with other rats, had epilepsy and was generally not a very well boy, but he was happy, had a lot of time out with us and was a lovely little thing until he had to be PTS for illness. We were told by vets from day one that we should "consider his quality of life" and we refused to consider putting him to sleep if he was happy and the seizures continued to not bother him, which they didn't.

We have another runt at the moment, Rygel, who we got last summer. He's got a lot of similar traits to Ashi but unlike Ashi he's happy with the others and would get depressed if we were to separate him. However, when he has his 'space out' type seizures, he gets incredibly defensive. The others learnt to avoid him during these and all was fine. However recently he's started getting extremely aggressive during these space outs and is targeting our smallest rat and we've had to remove him from the cage twice in the past two weeks now after he's attacked her.

Unlike with Ashi, Rygel has no warning signals of these types of seizures so we can't preemptively remove him from the cage before one. They last a few hours before he conks out and he wakes up happy and his usual self again the next day. The last two times that we've seen these space outs happening he has been targeting Kozu. When she manages to get away to a hammock that he can't reach he will stalk it and go straight for her if she leaves. He'll also fight the others if they go anywhere near him. DH managed to get him out of the cage last night and got a defensive bite for the effort. He said it is the first time he's ever actually felt scared of one of the rats and I have to say that I agree with him. We did manage to get him out using the towel method but given that this is the second time that Kozu has been injured in two weeks (and it would explain some injuries before that too which we weren't entirely sure about) we are having to seriously consider his quality of life and the effect he is having on the others.

This isn't a case of usual rat aggression, he's already neutered for a start and he's absolutely lovely and fun when he's not having a space out. He doesn't actively seek out the others company but he's happy sharing a space with them, seems to enjoy their company and is happy when they come cuddle with him. But right now he's in a cage on his own looking utterly miserable (he'll go back with the others when we're certain he's okay in a short while). Kozu has gotten quite reclusive and isn't spending as much time running around and the others have started avoiding him generally too.

I suppose that I'm just asking what others would do in this situation? We're certainly not new to owning 'difficult' rats or ones with health issues and we've never given up on any of them before. I do feel like we're giving up now though and I feel stuck. I'm going to speak to the vet about medicating him but I know that it can take time to sort out and I'm concerned that he may well end up seriously injuring Kozu or one of the others in the time it takes to work out what suits him.

pipsqueak25 Fri 07-Apr-17 15:01:37

i do feel for you and your fur family, what does the vet say ? but it really is about the quality of life though isn't it ? do let me know how you get on if you can.

fortifiedwithtea Fri 07-Apr-17 20:33:45

Speaking as a human with epilepsy the thought has crossed my mind if I were a pet would I be pts confused ? I have complex partial seizures with altered sense of consciousness. I can be frightened as the sensations feel real.

I'm sure small animals live in the moment and don't dwell on these sensations. However what concerns me is the seizure activity lasts for hours. I think having the flight or fight response for hours at a time would be intolerable.

So in answer, from my perspective, epilepsy in its self is not a reason to say good bye but the form its taking is making for a miserable existence.

No easy answer I'm afraid.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Fri 07-Apr-17 20:40:47

Oh very difficult one.

TBH, I think you need to consider the needs of the others not to be attacked by Rygel.

I don't think PTS as a first option if he's ok with people (is he though? )

I wouldn't want to risk injuring the others in the quest for him not having a Face On if he's in solitary .

rattieofcarcassone Sun 09-Apr-17 14:41:35

fortified I really don't feel happy about the idea of PTSing because of epilepsy, I know that some people do but neither DH nor I have ever felt that is fair and we'd feel the same whether it were one of the rats or a dog or a cat. Obviously I understand that for humans it is different but having had an epileptic rat before who lived out his life with us, we truly don't feel that the epilepsy alone is ever enough to PTS an animal. Ashi was always epileptic but he was also alone from very soon after we got him and never wanted the company of other rats. His seizures were, 9 times out of ten, 'normal' tonic-clonic seizures which he slept off afterwards, he only occasionally had these space out type seizures, he was only PTS due to other health issues becoming untreatable/too much for him. Rygel has no clue what's going on, and we really do understand that his behaviour is not his fault.

We actually had to remove Rygel from the cage for his and the others safety in the end, he started trying to attack Kozu again and we just couldn't leave them all like that anymore. He's been alone since a few days after my last post and, being honest, he's gotten worse. He's miserable being alone and his seizures are more frequent than before now. I did speak to the vet but we decided that medication isn't an option right now as we can't hold him anymore, he's terrified of us and I feel that shoving a syringe into him is just going to make that worse (he isn't reliably one for treats so we can't lace anything). We were hoping to slowly trust train him again once we separated him but he's really not comfortable being held and is visibly distressed and trying to get back into his cage.

As you have probably guessed we have resigned ourselves to having him PTS. This past week has been a last ditch effort on my behalf and I've been trying to handle him/tempt him with treats/stroke him repeatedly each day and he's still terrified.

I feel awful for giving up on him tbh. I've spent hours upon hours googling and trying to find something but I don't think that he can have a decent quality of life. He's upset being alone but can't safely be with others.

TimeIhadaNameChange Wed 12-Apr-17 10:31:55

I'm so sorry to hear this. It does sound as if PTS is the best (and, really, only) option for you.

Hugs to you and Rygel.

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