Rat Lumps

By Small Furries - June 18, 2019

Benign and Malignant Tumours

Lumps are a very frequent occurrence, particularly mammary tumours in females! There are two main types of tumours, cancerous and non-cancerous and the majority of the time tumours are benign, but this is not to say your rats lump could not be cancerous.

It is always best to take your rat to the vet to get their opinion on whether or not the lump could be cancerous and whether surgery is advisable. There is no way for a vet to know if a lump is cancerous unless you pay for it to go to the lab after removal, however, they should be able to make an educated guess by the overall health of the rat and the location, shape and density of the lump.

Benign (non-cancerous) tumours can usually be removed via surgery depending on the age of the rat, older rats are more at risk of not making it through the aneathesia and in general, operations can be very invasive because of how small rats are! They seem to be almost floating in the skin and live in between the skin and muscle tissue, because of this they are much easier to remove.

Malignant (Cancerous) tumours can be fatal and tend to ignore treatments and grow extremely quickly. It is very unlikely a vet will suggest removal as they spread so fast and can be deeply imbedded into the muscle tissue by the time you have diagnosed a lump and taken them to the vets, however, some can be removed, so it is always best to seek a professional’s opinion!

Common Tumours

·        Mammary Tumour – found in female rats and usually appears underneath the armpit, underbelly, vulva or anus.

·        Testicular Tumour – can be seen as one testicle bigger than the other, found in male rats, testicle can become discoloured.

·        Brain Tumour (Pituitary Tumour) – Grows at the base of the brain inside the skull, cannot be operated on and is usually too late by the time you rat shows symptoms.

·        Neck Tumour – can be many other things including abscesses, inflamed salivary gland or swollen lymph node.

·        Back Tumour (Fibroma) – found on the side or back, usually benign

·        Face Tumour (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) – found on the face and is usually malignant

·        Cheek Tumour (Zymbal Gland Tumour) – appears below the ear on the face, may appear as an abscess and bleed severely.

·        Leg Tumour (Fibrosarcoma) – can also be found on the rats side

·        Rare Tumours – Histiocytic Sarcoma, Lymphsarcoma, Melanoma, Liposarcoma and Epitheliomas.

Sometimes you may have to make the difficult decision whether to go ahead with surgery or leave the lump and let your rat live out the rest of his/her life peacefully. As mentioned before surgery can sometimes be more fatal than the lump itself and can cause unnecessary stress to your rat.

Lump Removal Cases

·        Your Rat is Under two years old and is in good health
·        The tumour is small and in the early stages of growth ( benign and malignant )
·        The tumour seems benign away from the muscle tissue and will be simple to remove

Remember: You do not have to fast rats before surgery; they cannot vomit so it is not necessary and they must continually eat so fasting them can cause serious harm.

Post Lump Removal Care

Removing a lump can have many complications and some rats do not react to it well after coming around from surgery. They may irritate the wound, pull out the stitches or if they are in pain, they can self-mutilate and rip the wound open. Ensuring your rat as the correct antibiotics and painkillers can help prevent any of this happening, although it is always a possibility.

You will want to separate your rat from the mischief whilst they heal from their removal; we do this to ensure the other rats do not touch the wound or pull out the stitches and means you have more control over their individual environment. If nothing has gone wrong within 24 hours, it should be safe to allow your rat back in with their cage mates, this will keep them relaxed.

Whilst your rat is removed from the mischief, you may keep them in your carrier or in a smaller cage, you will want to supply something warm such as a hot water bottle after surgery to keep their body temperature up. Hot water bottles should not be put directly into the cage but can be placed underneath floor to keep it warm.

Before booking your rat into the vets for surgery, you will want to book the rest of the day off from work, and if possible the next day too. This ensures you will be there to keep an eye on your rat’s recovery, intervene, and take action if you notice your rat irritating the wound or any problems with their health.

Manuka Honey can be used on the wound to speed up healing; it also acts as an antibacterial topical treatment and keeps the wound clean. It persuades you rat to lick the honey off (because it is so tasty!) and this keeps the wound clean whilst healing.

Keep an eye on how much your rat is eating and drinking, you can offer them tastier foods such as baby food or boiled egg if they aren’t eating their usual mix and you may want to offer them foods such as vegetables and fruit as these have high water content if you notice they aren’t drinking.

Lump Remaining Cases

·        The rat is nearing on or over 2 years old
·        The rat has previously had a lump removal in the same place and regrowth has occurred
·        The rat has previously had surgery and did not react well
·        The tumour is small and seems benign

Lump Remaining Care

Depending on the location and how big your rat’s tumour is, you may need to provide them with metacam (painkillers) every day if they are uncomfortable, although this is not a long-term solution, the tumour will not get any better, and you may have to start thinking about euthanasia if they are showing signs of pain or discomfort.

Some tumours can grow extremely fast and this will stretch the skin over the tumour. Stretched skin can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable and whilst there is no much you can do about the itching, again, you can supply them with painkillers. Keep an eye out for self-mutilation, some rats may start biting or scratching at the stretched skin and you will want to start thinking about euthanasia again. If you notice your rat self-mutilating, take them to the vet immediately.

To make your rats life easy if they are to carry around a huge tumour, you should either move your rat (with a friend) to a cage with less levels, such as a guinea pig cage or you can add more levels, which will flatten out the ladders, making it easier for your rat to get around the cage, just remember to have some hammocks as a fall breakers too!

There is hormone medication that can be given to your rat to slow down the growth of the tumour including Galastop and Tamoxifen but many rats do not like taking medication and it can also become very expensive. A good diet can aid in slowing down the growth of the tumour and in some cases CBD oil can also help!

Ensuring your rat is as comfortable as possible and checking on them as frequently as you can will ensure they have the best end to their life possible. Any signs of pain including the following should be taken seriously and a vet appointment should be made:

Fluffed up Fur – if your rats fur looks fluffier than normal (not including if they have just had a bath!) and they appear arched over.

Sucked in Sides – if your rat suddenly looks skinnier than usual and their sides are sucked in, they are likely in tremendous pain.

Self-Mutilation- this can be anything from chewing at the skin to scratching to the point it bleeds.

 Bruxing – bruxing is when a rat grinds or chatters its teeth together (aka chattering) and can mean many things but pair this with any of the other signs of pain and it is likely to be pain.

Squinting Eyes – squinting eyes can mean a few things too, but likely indicate pain if they are showing other signs.

Chewing – rats chew a lot as it is but if you suddenly notice the rat that’s never been a chewer, gnawing on random objects persistently, they may be using it as a distraction technique as they are uncomfortable or in pain.

Squeaking – if your rat makes a high-pitched squeak and snaps or runs away when you touch them, they may have an injury. It is also a general indicator of pain but does not always mean they are hurt; they could be scared of you.

 Not Eating – it can be very worrying when you notice your rat is not eating, but if they are still drinking it could mean they have a problem with their mouth, check their teeth and try to feed them baby food. If they still do not eat any liquid food, it is time for a vet trip.

Not Drinking – When a rat is not drinking liquids, you know it may be very serious and you should take them straight to the vets.

 Aggression – if you notice your calm 2-year-old rat suddenly turn on you, they may very well be in a lot of pain. Rats can become aggressive to ward off anyone touching them whilst they are so vulnerable so you should avoid touching them until you take them to the vets.

This also includes any signs of the tumour rupturing or bleeding.


Small Furries 2019 Extended Diploma in Animal Management





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