This article is from the Summer II 1997 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M.
Dear Carmen: One of our members called me this morning. She just had a rat have a c-section last night and the rat died on the table (she was full of an infection and the babies weren’t fully developed). Her vet would like to find out the latest information on C-sections so she can do the best job possible. Karen Robbins
Q How it’s done?
A I would not recommend a c-section, but rather an emergency spay to increase both the survival chances of the mom and the pups. I have delivered many mouse and rat pups this way and the closer they are to day of gestation the better their chances of survival. The chances of success decrease as you approach day 18. In most cases the mom does not do so well depending upon the underlying cause of the dystocia (difficulty giving birth).
Q What instruments are used?
A I use sterile technique with just a scalpel with a small blade, small scissors, addison forceps, mosquito hemostats to clamp off the cervix and ovarian stump. I use absorbable vicril or cat gut 4-0 in a simple continuous to close the abdominal muscle and nylon or surgical staples to close the skin.
Q What anesthesia is best to use for c-sections?
A The anesthesia depends on how sick the mom is and whether you want to optimize saving the mom or the pups. Gas anesthesia is best to try and save the mom, but any anesthesia that you could use in rodents would get to the babies and could cause respiratory difficulties. The key is to anesthetize the mom and get the pups out as quick as possible. I have used methoxyflurane, but with the right kind of anesthetic equipment you could use arane or halothane which would give a faster induction and recovery.
Q How long between the mom-rat having problems at home and when should you get the rat in for a c-section (when should it be performed)?
A It really depends on the nature of the problem. In general, if it is her due date and she starts labor and nothing happens or she is straining and nothing happens, the longer that you wait to do an emergency spay the worse the prognosis for both the mom and the pups. the uterus of a rat or mouse is so thin and delicate that trying to save the uterus for future litters is not recommended in my opinion. The surgery and anesthesia is prolonged and the risk of complications are increased.
Q The expected percent of survival rate of babies taken from a C-section. Any chance of a mom-rat raising her own babies after a c-section? If so, what would the percentage be of mom being able to do that?
A I do not have any statistics that I can easily lay my hands on. The less mature the pups are and the longer that the mom has been having difficulty since the onset of labor, the poorer the prognosis for getting viable pups. It is not unrealistic for the mom to raise her own pups if she is not to debilitated post op. If she is an experienced mother, then the chances are better.
Q Apparently this member has had 4 c-sections done on her rats (I guess she feels like she is doing something wrong for her rats to have this many problems having babies). From what I understood she has had several litters of babies and only had 4 times where there was a problem. One time with a Tailless female (the vet found the opening between the uterus and the vagina?? to be too small so she could have never had a baby successfully. Another time was the female mentioned above had a problem pregnancy, they did a c-section and 2 or 3 babies survived and the mom raised them. Another time there was a problem and they ended up spaying the rat. In all cases she gave these rats shots of Oxytocin and calcium but it didn’t help so she took the rats in for the surgery.
A I have no experience with using oxytocin or calcium in rodents with dystocia.
I wonder if there is some underlying problem in her rattery? Personally, any rodent that had a severe dystocia, I would not want to rebreed this animal or breed any of the offspring depending on the cause of the dystocia. Some problems are highly heritable.