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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-31-2002, 08:18 PM Thread Starter
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Post Rat Tumors

I'm no expert on rats. I've never owned one even. But I used to job shadow at a vet's office. I saw so many rats with tumors. If you notice ANY lumps on your rat/s, have them taken off IMMEDIATLY! Don't even think, "I'll wait and see if it goes away". Rat tumors can double in size in just a week or two! I saw one rat there with a tumor the size of the rat itself! All because the owner wanted to wait and see if the tumor would go away.

If I stepped on any toes I apologise. Just wanted to let that out.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-31-2002, 08:36 PM
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I don't own rats either but have owned mice and they get the tumors as well.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-31-2002, 08:40 PM
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aww that is so sad, I have heard that alot as well, I guess as pet owners we go one of two ways, we either rush to the vet over every little thing, or we wait and see if it is bad enough to warrant it.. I hope people take your advice.

Here is some more info.......

Older rats are prone to tumours; in particular about 1 in 3 does (and a small proportion of bucks) will develop mammary tumours. Most mammary tumours in British rats seem to be lipomas, arising from the fat in the mammary gland rather than the gland itself, and are encapsulated, benign and immediately behind a nipple: but there are also some more dangerous tumours which occur in the glandular tissue itself and these can occur in outlying fronds of gland, quite far from the associated nipple. American strains are said to be prone to endocrine tumours arising in the mammary tissue itself, and these are more likely to be aggressive than are lipomas.

The doe has 12 nipples, but really only 8 breasts. In front of her fore-legs and just behind/between her hind-legs are pairs of breasts, each with a single nipple. Behind her fore-legs and in front of her hind-legs are pairs of larger breasts with two nipples: I don't know if there's a separate mammary gland for each nipple and they are just very close together, or whether these double-nippled breasts only contain one mammary gland. For purposes of "going lumpy" they behave as if they have only one gland, so a doe can develop a maximum of eight mammary tumours.

Metastasis does not seem to occur in Norway rats (and is rare in mice) provided the immune system is sound. A few types of tumour are invasive - that is, they spread in situ and infiltrate surrounding tissue - but you don't get secondary tumours cropping up at sites physically remote from the primary one. It's a moot point whether any tumours in rats can truly be classed as cancerous. Malignant tumours - cancers - are normally defined as those which are invasive and metastasizing, while benign tumours are those which are neither invasive nor metastasizing. There isn't really a word for tumours which are invasive but not metastasizing, as it's a situation which wouldn't normally occur in humans.

Inoperable internal tumours of e.g. the brain and lungs do occasionally occur. But the great majority of tumours in rats are benign, painless and outside on their skin or just under it. Most - including the great majority of mammary tumours - can easily be removed if they start getting in the animal's way. Rats survive both anaesthetic and operations very well, with little distress; so the majority of tumours present little more medical difficulty than an abscess. However when choosing your rats you may like to remember that does are likely to represent a higher veterinary cost.

Because metastasis almost never occurs in Norway rats there is no great hurry about removing tumours, and it is generally safe to leave them until they start getting in the animal's way. Watch out, however, for an unpleasant soft, squishy tumour occurring alongside the vagina and anus in does. This type of tumour grows rapidly and sometimes becomes wrapped around the urethra, making it inoperable. Even very large examples of this tumour can usually be removed safely by a skilled vet, but the risk of it becoming inoperable is much higher than for mammary tumours: so it should be removed a.s.a.p. unless the rat is so old and frail that surgery is a major risk.

There are other kinds of aggressive tumour which are never or almost never operable, such as tumours of the nasal bone or ear canal, papilloma, various skin tumours and one arising as a progressive thickening of the skin around the mammary glands. Tamoxifen may reduce those of glandular origin, but otherwise you will just have to treat the symptoms for as long as the animal is taking an interest in life and not seriously distressed, and then put it down.

Internal tumours are rare, at least in British rats. For symptoms of brain tumours see under Neurological Disorders.

It is extremely difficult to eliminate tumours by selective breeding and still end up with a healthy rat. More often than not, it's the fit, glossy, vigorous rat who breaks out in lumps, and the scrawny, wheezy one with incipient kidney-failure who remains tumour-free. In part this may be because many rat tumours arise from somatic mutations of fatty tissue, and unhealthy rats have less fatty tissue to mutate: but I suspect that growing tumours is of itself a sign of vigour. This would make sense. Rats retain the ability to grow new tissue after injury (including new nerve tissue following strokes), and to grow in size throughout their lives, to a much greater extent than most other mammals do: but having an increased ability to grow new tissue probably entails an increased risk of growing new tissue you don't want, i.e. tumours. Scrawny, sickly rats usually have a reduced ability to heal and to grow - and that probably means a reduced risk of growing extra bits.

For anyone who is trying to breed healthy rats, I would say don't breed from any strain which has a high incidence of non-mammary tumours/tumours occurring in bucks, or which has an excessively high incidence of mammary tumours (if your does are averaging more than two each before two years old, you probably have a problem). But if it gets down to a choice between a bouncy, glossy strain with a few lumps and a sad skinny one which is lump-free, put up with the lumps: they are only a strain on your pocket, whereas kidney-failure is a strain on the rat.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-31-2002, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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*looks at all the info from CT and falls over*
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-31-2002, 09:35 PM
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lol, well just thought i would help!
post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-07-2002, 10:09 PM
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I have had rats my whole life. About 30 yrs now. And I have only had one die peacefully. What is it with rats that make them prone to such terrible elderly problems. Tumors, lung problems, bleeding from the eyes and nose, intestinal backing out, and servere weight loss. It's so hard on me to watch them suffer like that.
post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-09-2002, 12:51 AM
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I ablolutely LOVE rats, they're like miniature dogs I think, but they have such a short life span, and they are so prone to sickness as they get older it's devastating
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-20-2002, 05:33 PM
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Not all lumps are tumors, they can also be abscesses or cysts which also need a vets care. One of my recue rats lost an eye due to an abscess that was not properly taken care of by her previous owner. Serendipity?, what do you mean blood comming out of the eyes and nose? AS for that red stuff around the eyes- although it looks like blood, it isn't. The gland behind the eye that keeps it lubricated manufactures a substance called poripherin. This lubricant is emmitted to keep the eyes and lids moist and is red in color. When the rat's eyes are watery from sneezing, the gland increases it's production and you begin to see red color. This also happens on the nose.

So if you have a rat who has a lump do not jump to conclusions and automatically think it has cancer and you will have to put it down. Consult a vet and maybe it is an abscess which if very easy to cure providing the rat is put on antibiotics.
post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-20-2002, 05:36 PM
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Serendipity states perfectly why you should not aquire you rats from the petshop. Most breeders breed out these things such as tumors. They selectively breed the healthiest rats therby created a happier healthier longer lived rat. Therefor most live rather happily and die peacefully of old age and not cancer, diabetes, or renal failure.
post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-20-2002, 10:57 PM
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I am going to look into this.
I would sure like a rat that didn't get so sick in their old age.
Thanks for the info!
post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 12:06 AM
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My rat Marla recently died of a tumor (she was about 2 1/2 years old). I had one removed and the second grew back more rapidly and around the mussels in her leg, preventing her from walking with the ease the once had . I am still currently looking for a breeder that has fixed this problem so that i will not have to go through the same heart break again, and I am still wondering, why are rats so prone to tumors?
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 12:05 PM
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even though it's horrible that they get tumors, for me it's one of the things that make you appreciate their short little lives and encourage you to try and get the most out of them while you can.

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