Q & A

From the May/June 1999 Rat & Mouse Gazette

One of my male rats has what we believe to be congestive heart failure. Can you suggest any medication for congestive heart failure?

In the rats I've had with congestive heart failure, their main symptom was skin edema. I have been pretty successful treating them with a combination of the diuretic Lasix and Cardoxin. In fact, one of my CHF girls lived to be 38 months old! The dosages can vary, so you have to see what works for your rat. (Consult your vet.)

Generally, I've started with low doses and then had to gradually increase them as their disease progresses. I suggest starting with doses of 1mg/lb for Lasix and .001mg/lb for Cardoxin, both twice a day.

I have also had rats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is a different heart problem where instead of the heart becoming enlarged, it grows in on itself, reducing the sizes of the inner chambers. In this case, the symptoms are generally labored breathing and, in advanced cases, blue extremities. In this case, Lasix can be helpful, too, but Cardoxin is dangerous.

Instead, I've been trying enalapril with some success. The dose I'm using right now on two of my rats is .25mg/lb once a day.

~Debbie Ducommun

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I am thinking about getting a couple of mice for pets. What is the average life span of a mouse and can you tell their sex?

Yes, you can tell sex… when young, males have a longer space between the anus and uterus/penis, and when older, the bulge of the testicles is clear (say, three to four weeks and older). Life span is about two years.

There are handouts which have basic information on mice, available from clubs, or you can look it up at bookstores or libraries. In any case, it is recommended that you learn all you can about a prospective pet prior to bringing it home.

~Roxanne Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald’s Fancy’s

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I had two mice, one male and one female. They bred and came out with a male and female offspring. I then separated the two males from the two females because I didn't want any more babies. This evening I went to check on them and found the mother mouse eating the littler girl mouse. I was wondering what might of caused the mother to do this to her little child? The male mice are fine and have had no problems since being seperated. This separation happened about two weeks prior to this incident. What went wrong?

I’m sorry to say that this is not enough information for me to know what might have happened. However, this is not a usual or typical behavior in any female mice. I have bred mice for literally decades. This sort of thing happens only if a cage was forgotten and there was no food or water in it for days; or if a mouse suddenly becomes very ill or weak in some way. Under these circumstances, the other stronger mice will kill the weaker ones to survive. If any other breeders have had this happen for any other reason, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

~Roxanne Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald’s Fancy’s

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I have had two female rats for about one and a half weeks now (about two and half months old). One gave birth yesterday. One gave birth today. It seems the female that gave birth yesterday has collected the other rat's babies as her own, and the newer mom rat is not allowed to touch the new pups. They occasionally seem to fight, though no blood or anything seems to have resulted. The new mom is still a little dilated--that's how recent the birth was. Also, is it okay to handle the moms now that they have pups?

It would be a good idea to move one of the litters to a new cage. I prefer a glass aquarium with a secure lid. It is likely that the one rat will keep trying to steal the other's babies. One rat probably doesn't have enough milk to nurse two litters, if they were large litters. It would be another story if the second mom was neglecting her babies or unable to nurse.

It is okay to handle the mom rats as long as handling doesn't cause them too much stress. Are the moms comfortable with you? Are they well socialized? Sometimes, mom rats that are young, with new litters and not too familiar with the human caretaker will bite. The one time I was bitten was in such a situation, and it really got my attention. I now have the utmost respect for new moms with sharp teeth. It is a good idea to rub your hands in the used litter from their cage before handling any of the rats or pinkies. They seem to to get less stressed this way. Give the mom rats a break from the babies, and while they are occupied, you can gently handle the newborn rats. They are able to smell right away, and at about 14 days their eyes open. You want to be handling the babies daily at least by this point, if the mom is not too stressed. Well socialized rats make remarkably wonderful pets!

~Meg Stephenson

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