Loki had been deteriorating rapidly in the past two days. Two days ago, he would only eat a little baby food and some oatmeal. Yesterday, we couldn't get him to eat anything until the afternoon, when he took some yogurt. He was bruxing a lot and I was pretty sure it was not the happy kind. He saw our vet later in the afternoon and she confirmed my belief that he likely has a pituitary tumor (PT).
We have two options. We could try steroids to make him more comfortable and relieve the symptoms as he lives out his remaining days. Or we could try one of the drugs that might give him a few extra months - bromocriptine or cabergoline. Those drugs may help or may not and they could also bring with them unpleasant side effects.
As much as I would like to try one of those drugs and see for myself if they have any positive effect on the pituitary tumor, I don't think that Loki is the right candidate for that. If he were younger and healthier, I would be willing to give it a go. He has had so many health problems in the last year and he now has surpassed the two year mark and I just don't want him to struggle with anything else. I don't want to extend his life only to be miserable or to have one of his other health problems come back or have something new take hold. I don't want to turn his last months into a battle. I want to give him some peace and comfort and when that is no longer happening, I want to help him cross the bridge. So I opted just for the steroids.
When our rat Weasel developed PT in late 2012, it hit him suddenly and severely. He had a lot of ups and downs. His ups (while on steroids) were pretty good, with him being aware of us and being able to hold food a little and eat. His downs were frightening. His eyes were glassed over and I don't think he was aware of us or his surroundings. He would move in bursts in a type of crawl run with no sense of direction, suddenly bursting forward regardless of what was in front of him. He would run right into a wall or right off a ledge without hesitation. Then turn, pause, and burst forward again. Run, crash, repeat. Once I found him with his front half run up the cage wall and his back half on the floor, his teeth clenching the cage bars as if he were stuck and hanging there. I freed him and he acted unaware. These terrible spells were short lived, though, and then he would regain himself. I was too focused on trying to treat him and those good periods made it too tempting to keep trying to help him. But I should have let him go, because the night he passed was a really bad one, and I would have had him PTS if he hadn't passed before morning. We found him lying stretched out in his litter box, where he had loved to sleep in happier times. It broke my heart, but I was so glad it was over for him and so sorry I didn't help him avoid that misery.
I won't let that happen to Loki. I am sorry I was not experienced enough to spare Weasel that suffering. At the first sign that Loki is unaware of his surroundings or having fits of movement that he cant control, or some other symptom that is equally as bad, I am going to take him to the vet to help him over the bridge. Fortunately, Loki's symptoms have developed more slowly than Weasel's, and Loki so far has always been aware and in control. We started the steroids yesterday and he now has had two doses and he has eaten better today than he did yesterday, so perhaps they are starting to have an effect. Hopefully, we will see some improvement in his balance and coordination soon. He probably doesn't have more than a month, but maybe he will surprise us. Whatever time is left, I am going to make sure it is in peace and comfort.