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It’s pituitary tumour month here on Rat Faction, and some wonderful community members have shared their stories about their beloved fancy rats going through this horrible time; the symptoms, the treatments and the outcomes.
@thesjuli from Instagram is our guest author this week, writing about treating pituitary tumours with Cabergoline.
Grab a cuppa!
This story is about Coco, a healthy female aged 1 year and 3 months.
At least this was the reality until the first pituitary tumour signs showed up.
It started in September 2016 when I heard strange noises coming from my rats’ cardboard house.
I investigated and saw Coco was having convulsions.
Her fur was puffy, she was trying to chew anything near her, she was disorientated, couldn’t see properly and she was clearly panicking.
My first thought was epilepsy because my mother has this disorder so I knew what epileptic seizures looked like.
I took Coco carefully out of her cage and held her in my arms until the seizure was over; it took a few hours for her to return to her normal self.
As soon as I could, I could her to the vet, who said he couldn’t find anything.
He thought it could be a pituitary tumour (PT), but he wasn’t sure because she had no other obvious signs or symptoms of PT and she was still running and playing, being her usual self.
The only thing that had changed was that a month earlier she had started cuddling more.
Coco wasn’t a cuddly girl before, but I wasn’t concerned about it because she was now over one year old and characters can change when ratties get older.
One month later, in October she’d had four more seizures, and the vet prescribed her Cabergoline for epilepsy.
The medication worked and she never had another seizure, but during that month she started sleeping more and wasn’t playing at all.
Deep inside I was more and more sure that it was a PT, but I tried to think positive.
Some people may think that I closed my eyes from reality, but that’s not true.
When my mother had a seizure she felt weird for a few days but then everything was ok again for the next 6-7 weeks.
That’s not how it was with Coco, so I every morning my first thought was that she may have PT.
The medicine kept working, and her condition was stable until November when her personality changed and she wasn’t the playful and naughty ratty I knew anymore.
I’d had Coco since she was just 11 weeks old and I knew her very well; now her eyes looked very sad and she was eating a lot at that point, behaving like she was starving.
This is when I knew in my heart knew that she had a PT.
She was trying to do all the things she was used to, but it was like somebody was cutting the cables between her brain and body one by one.
She started going downhill quite quickly in November and was soon having trouble holding her food, and couldn’t walk the stairs down anymore.
She was getting weaker every day and was like a ghost.
It was a tough time and I was extremely scared of losing her, but one day she suddenly perked up and seemed to feel much better.
She could eat and walked around on the bed and in her cage again – not like a totally healthy rat, but it was a huge improvement.
Today I know that rats with PT can have days where their symptoms suddenly change or seem to go away, but its only for a short time and then they go back downhill.
Two days later all her PT symptoms came back worse.
Coco’s sister Ivy took care of her and in December my vet gave Coco a very last chance.
He increased her dosage of Cabergoline to the highest feasible dose for her weight, and the positive changes in her felt like a miracle!
Only days later Coco showed her personality again and the ghost she became was gone.
I wasn’t to know, but that was to be my last time with wonderful Coco being herself.
By the next afternoon she was barely able to eat or move around.
She was trying to clean herself and I thought that might be a good sign, but I found out that for ratties, cleaning is instinctual.
They will try to clean for as long as they can move their body, so a rat cleaning herself doesn’t necessarily mean she is feeling good!
By the next day, a Sunday, she was only sleeping in her bed and I could sense she was at the point where she could start her way over the rainbow bridge at any time.
I took her to the vet the following morning, and he was now completely sure that she no longer had any quality of life, and could not improve.
She had been fighting for months, and it was time to help her over the bridge.
I was by her side until she was gone.
Coco passed away on 5th December 2016 and she was only 1.5 years old.
Coco fought for two months, and the Cabergoline helped give her an extra 4-6 weeks with us.
But PT can also develop and progress very fast.
This year (2018), on the 1st August I had to help another of my girls, Belle over the bridge.
Her symptoms progressed much faster than Coco’s, and her symptoms were a little different, for instance, she didn’t have any seizures.
Within only days Belle lost her ability to walk, and drink.
She was also prescribed Cabergoline but it didn’t help, the PT was too progressed.
The stories of Belle and Coco show that pituitary tumours ca happen to any rat, any time.
Rats don’t have to be old to fall ill, and even great medications like Cabergoline don’t always work (although they often do!).
In the end helping them over the bridge is the only way, because there is no surgery and they would suffer otherwise.
It’s so sad and stressful to see your babes go through any illness, and PT is another cruel affliction that is sadly common.
A general list of symptoms can be found on the Rat Guide, and they can vary.
Coco and Ivy experienced the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Increased sleeping
- Loss of ability or interest to eat and drink
- Reduced mobility/ability to walk
For more websites with scientific/medical information on pituitary tumours, and Cabergoline, see our Resources page.
Read the second in this four part series here