Advice on surgery to remove tumour?

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tgarrud
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Advice on surgery to remove tumour?

Post by tgarrud » Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:34 pm

Hi I'm posting in the hope that some owners who have experience with surgery in their rats could give me some advice?

One of my two female rats developed a head tilt and loss of balance around the start of October last year. The vet initially thought it was an inner ear infection but when antibiotics didnt help she had an x-ray and the vet had a proper look in the ear whilst she was under anaesthetic. This revealed that she had a hard lump in her right inner ear, likely a tumour, the vet attempted to pull it out but it was firmly attached. They advised me that because of the location it would be very difficult to have removal surgery, and that she would probably adapt to the change in balance.

Since then she has been totally fine, her balance is significantly better (not as good as before the head tilt), she is perfectly happy and able to do all the things she enjoys (climbing, playing, running etc). Then last week I noticed another hard lump had developed under her chin. I went to the vet on tuesday, and her opinion was that due to location and attachment, rather than a benign mammary growth, it is probably a second tumour that has metastasized from the primary in the inner ear, into the lymph node on her neck. It is possible to surgically remove this second lump and they have quoted me a cost of £580 for the procedure.

My questions are:
  • Is £580 a reasonable price for this type of procedure? I'm in cambridge which tends to be more expensive than other areas.
  • Is it worth putting her through the surgery, given that the cancer has likely already spread into the lymph and other secondaries may well appear elsewhere, and we wont be able to remove the other tumour?
  • How long does it normally take to recover from this type of surgery?
  • If god forbid anything were to happen to her, what should I do with her sister who is in good health? should I get another rat so she is not alone
I should mention that this second tumour is currently not causing her any pain or discomfort and she is perfectly happy. She is 1 year, 4 months old. I am definitely willing to pay for surgery if it will help her, as she means a great deal to me and I want to do my best by her.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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[cub]
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Re: Advice on surgery to remove tumour?

Post by [cub] » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:09 pm

Have samples of either tumour been taken/analysed?

Normally I would strongly advise against operating on a malignant tumour in a rat regardless of location, especially if metastasis has already taken place. Recovery from surgery generally takes about a week, and given how quickly illnesses usually progress in rats, it's a week of poor quality of life that's not worth it if the surgery is just a very temporary holding action anyway.

What gives me pause is the fact that the lump inside the ear was discovered in October and the rat is, to put it bluntly, not yet dead. Tumours in rats tend to grow quickly, even benign ones, and if this one truly is malignant then it's quite surprising that the rat isn't at the very least seriously unwell by this point. A rat skull is a small space and tumours in there tend to cause a lot of problems very quickly; it's why pituitary tumours, despite being benign, are very quickly terminal in rats even with treatment.

I'd be tempted to get samples of both tumours analysed if they haven't been already, just to get a better idea of what's going on. I'd also be slightly tempted to find a different vet; £580 is quite a lot for a tumour removal on a rat. My most difficult tumour removal (which also turned out to be malignant; surgery was no fun for either the vet or the patient) cost just under £200, and that was in Battersea which is almost certainly no cheaper than Cambridge. Admittedly it was also 2.5 years ago so the price will have gone up, but it probably won't have gone up that much.

Cyber ratty on this forum is a Cambridgeshire breeder and might be able to recommend an alternative vet, and possibly also set you up with some new little rats if/when your other rat is left alone. Rats need same-species company so you do end up with a conveyor belt of rats as older ones inevitably pass on and you introduce new ones into your little rolling group. You could get her just one new friend if the friend is adult, but if you get youngsters then you'll need to get 2 as they also strongly benefit from similar-age company while they're still growing up. It's also not a bad idea to introduce more rats before you end up with a lone rat; some rats cope okay with being on their own for a little bit but some get very depressed. So you might want to look at options for more rats now regardless of what happens medically.

I'd hope for the best but in all honesty prepare for the worst; rats are heartbreakers, unfortunately. I do find planning for the future helps me a lot to cope with losses though; it's a nice distraction to contemplate where best to get your next rats, and also gives you something to look forward to. :hearts:
Poo-shoveller to: Calyn, Din, Zephyr Donovan (Phoenix), and Zephyr Mick Jagger (Edgeworth).
Fondly remembering: Xeltan the wonky, Lita (NLA32), Lia (NLA28), Zephyr Delanynder (NLA28), Falere (NLA36), Mirala (NLA36), Zephyr Opold, and Rila.

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cyber ratty
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Re: Advice on surgery to remove tumour?

Post by cyber ratty » Sat Feb 23, 2019 6:24 pm

[cub] wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:09 pm
...£580 is quite a lot for a tumour removal on a rat. My most difficult tumour removal (which also turned out to be malignant; surgery was no fun for either the vet or the patient) cost just under £200, and that was in Battersea which is almost certainly no cheaper than Cambridge. Admittedly it was also 2.5 years ago so the price will have gone up, but it probably won't have gone up that much.

Cyber ratty on this forum is a Cambridgeshire breeder and might be able to recommend an alternative vet, and possibly also set you up with some new little rats if/when your other rat is left alone...
Prices around here have doubled in the last year or two, and both my local Village Vet practices are without a permanent vet atm, so I'm afraid I can't really advise an alternative.

I would also have doubts about the likely success of an operation in that location, rat skulls are very fragile, and any infection will eat into the bones very quickly I'm afraid. :(

Please do get in touch if you'd like to expand your group anyway.

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