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Friday, April 17, 2015

Burt Diagnosed with a Lymphoma

Photo of Burt taken this morning. He is in good spirits.

Not even a week after we lost Ruby, Burt has gotten a surprising and upsetting diagnosis. He developed a lump on his left hip area, that grew incredibly quickly in just a few days. My first thought was abscess, because Burt has been prone to abscesses, but this grew way too quickly and seemed to be much more mobile under the skin than an abscess. It also seemed to affect his gait, with him seeming to lean or wobble to one side (I believe the side of the lump).

Burt's lump on his left hip area
We brought him in to the vet and she aspirated the lump and did cytology testing to determine that it was lymphoma. Lymphoma is a malignant neoplasm that affects the lymph nodes. This particular instance is actually a potential candidate for surgery. However, that surgery would be very expensive and the vet warned that the lymphoma has likely already started to spread and if we did do surgery, he very well may develop more lymphomas right after this one was removed.

I consulted with the Rat Guide, which seemed to concur with what the vet has said - usually, once lymphoma has been diagnosed, it has already started to spread and other areas will soon be affected. The Rat Guide also mentioned lymphoma sometimes causes hind leg weakness, which could explain his irregular/wobbly gait. Because of the likely poor prognosis, we leaned toward not doing the surgery. Burt is in relatively good spirits and still active and happy (despite a day when he wouldn't come out of his cage - but this was the day after Ruby's death and he may have been grieving her loss). We didn't want to put him through surgery and the recovery period, only to become sicker right afterwards. We want him to enjoy his remaining time and be happy and well for as long as possible, and when his quality of life decreases, to let him go peacefully.

Still, not having dealt with a lymphoma like this before, I turned to the GooseMoose experts and asked for other's experience/advice regarding lymphomas and surgery. The response I got was unanimous - surgery was unlikely to result in a good outcome and Burt likely will be best served being spoiled and loved until his time comes.

So that is what we have decided to do. I want to emphasize that this is a completely different situation from a mammary tumor, which is a more common cause of lumps in rats. Mammary tumors are usually benign, and while, when a rat develops one mammary tumor, they do have a higher likelihood of developing more later on, mammary tumors do not spread the way lymphomas do. Mammary tumor removals have a much higher likelihood for success. Lymphomas, on the other hand, are malignant and they travel all through the body - anywhere there are lymph nodes. They spread fast and are merciless. They are a true cancer.

So now we are spoiling Burt (well, we always spoiled Burt, but he is being especially spoiled and loved on now). Burt is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 years old, but we don't have an exact age for him. He is on Prednisolone to try to buy him some time and maybe symptom relief, which he hates, but he gets spoiled afterwards with a yogi. Fortunately, I still had an almost full bottle of the steroid from when we were treating Ruby.

Burt is one of those rats that will be especially difficult to lose. Burt is a people rat. He seeks out the attention of his people more so than the others. He loves to be pet and he loves to beg for some of whatever we are eating at the time (and then stash it in his cage). He likes to hang out on the couch with us sometimes, rather than run around on the floor. He is such a sweet boy. I wish we had more time with him.


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