American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Summer 2000 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.


Paralyzed Hind Legs; 3 Rowdy Bucks; Sick Mouse

By Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M.

Paralyzed Hind Legs

Lynn Lehman, Racine, WI
QJust the other day I noticed one of my older mice (she’s maybe 1½ years old) struggling to move her hind legs, and she’s pretty wobbly. She can move around, but she has to really struggle, and when she sits still, she kind of leans to one side. Do you think she is becoming paralyzed or something similar in her old age? If she is having these problems, will I have to euthanize her? She doesn’t seem to be in pain, just really struggling to move around.

AThere are a number of different causes of symptoms such as these. A tumor in the brain or spinal column would be high on my list, especially with the tilt. In older rodents, there is a disease or condition of the peripheral nervous system where there is inflammation or degeneration of the peripheral nerves. There is no treatment.

3 Rowdy Bucks

Kathryn Lane, e-mail
QI have a large rabbit cage in which I have three bucks (rats). All three are from the same litter. They are three different sizes, small, medium and large. The small and large ones started fighting, which is something Fighting rats they don’t do often. Well, they decided to jump the middle one—I think he got hit in the eye. Is it normal for a red eye (if he loses a headlight), to tilt his head sideways, keeping the good one up top? He did not tilt his head until immediately after the injury. He doesn’t tilt it all the time, only when he’s trying to look at something. He isn’t cut, but it appears to be slightly pushed in a bit, and darker. His eye is clean and free of scratches. Please let me know if you have any suggestions of what it may be? I can’t afford a vet right now.

AThey should be separated if they are going to fight, to prevent further injury. You may also consider neutering the most aggressive male. As far as the eye, a primary eye lesion does not usually present as a head-tilt (torticollis). I suspect that there is a problem with the tympanic bulla from a previous or current bacterial infection causing the head tilt. As far as the eye itself, this rat should be examined by a veterinarian. There is no way getting around having the animal examined. Eye lesions can progress quickly to more serious problems if not addressed promptly.

Sick Mouse

Victoria Kirby, Washington, D.C., e-mail
QMy husband and I got pet mice about 3 months ago. Though we have learned a lot about them during these 3 months, we don’t know much about handling their health problems. One of our girl mice appears to be sick. Recently, she stopped being active; mainly she is sitting hunched up. Her eyes are clear though, and she does eat and clean herself. When picked up, she does not explore and run everywhere like she usually does, but sits hunched up in the hand. Her stomach appears to be quite a bit larger then it was before. She definitely is not pregnant. We think she might be constipated, as we did not see her go to the bathroom. Would you please tell us what we can do to help our possibly constipated mouse as well as give us ideas for what else could be wrong with her. Also, if you know of a pet mouse club in or around Washington D.C., please give us their contact information. If by any chance you also know of vets specializing in small animals around Washington D.C., please let us know. Thank you so much.

AWithout knowing the age of the mouse or other important information, determining the problem is impossible. The differential for what the problem could be is also difficult. If the mouse is an older female, then neoplasia (cancer) is more suspicious, especially of the spleen. When mice sit hunched up, it usually means that they are dehydrated, sick, or in pain. Decrease in activity is also a poor sign. With an enlarged abdomen, the differential includes: pregnancy, bloat (dilated stomach), anasarca (generalized edema), or neoplasia. Diseases caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses can also have these symptoms. Irregardless, mice with these symptoms should be taken to a veterinarian knowledgeable about mice. If I were brought a mouse with these symptoms, my plan would be the following:

  1. Get a good history of the mouse: idea of the age, number of litters (if previously bred), environmental conditions, diet, etc.
  2. Do a physical examination with additional diagnostic tests as indicated by the exam.
  3. Depending upon what is found, I would then discuss the options with the owner and proceed according to their wishes. *

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Updated February 13, 2015