WHAT EVERY RAT OWNER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SURGERIES.
Surgeries are always a risk, for both pets and us owners. But for rats, its a lot bigger risk than most think. Rat have a high mortality rate under anesthesia due to their high surface area and the high risk of hypothermia. The mortality rate can be as high as 1 in 50 with a competent vet, let alone with a vet who is not experienced in operating on rats. The risk is always higher for very young rats or very old rats. Generally healthy and between the ages of 5 months to 16 months have the most optimal chances of recovering from surgery without any hassle! Click here to read more about rats and anesthesia.
What to expect
For many animals, we are used to vets telling us to not let the animal eat or drink for a certain amount of time. For rats, fasting is not needed, in fact, fasting a rat before surgery increases the risks of not surviving. If your vet tells you to fast your rat before a surgery, this is big indicator your vet is not well educated on surgeries performed on rats.
If you animal has been sick in the past 2 weeks before surgery, it's important to mention this to your vet. Make sure you also mention what medications the rat has been on in the past 2 weeks and for how long. If your rat is showing respiratory distress just a few days before surgery, you should call your vet and discuss if the operaton should be postponed till the animal is in a better conditon.
If your rat is on any sorts of long term medication, please inform your vet of this fact. In rare cases rats can have bad rections to certain medicine just like us humans. If your rat has history of reacting badly to medications, make sure to inform your vet of this.
What to expect
Most vet offices will ask you to bring your rat in early in the morning around 8am-9am. Most expect to get their animal back around midday when they take their animals in this early, but this is not the case most of the time. When your rat arrives to the clinic, it will not be taken straight to the operation room. The day is full of unexpected emergency operations, rearraging of time slots, etc. Many surgeries are done later in the day and you will get your animal back between 4pm-5pm. This is not always the case, but this is common practice.
COLLECTING YOUR RAT
Make sure you are bringing in a carrier and not just your hands or pockets. The rat will be drowsy and out of it for the rest of the day so don't be alarmed if they are sleeping and not interested in treats straight away. Make sure your carrier has some bedding for warmth. Do NOT use lose bedding such a pine, aspen, hemp etc. Lose bedding will stick to the surgery wound which is gonna be counter productive to healing.
Your vet should prescribe your rat pain mediation such a meloxicam (metacam). This is importan as it will keep the rat from picking and scratching the surgery wound due to pain. The vet should have given the rat a pain medication that will last over night so you dont need to give the animal more pain medicine on the day of the operation. If your rat is constantly trying to get to their stitches, its worth hecking if the dosage of pain killers is wrong. You'd be surprised how often people have found out their rat was prescribed twice, if not trice too little medication for their weight! 1.5mg/ml Oral dosing for meloxicm(metacam) should be (1mg/kg)
once you get home with your rat, you should have a hospital cage set up. A hospital cage should be small and not very high to prevent the rat from climbing and breaking their stitches by stretching and dangling down from places. For the first 4-5 days, you should NOT have lose bedding in your hospital cage as you want to keep the wound clean and lose bedding will just get stuck to it. Fleece is a good option for hospital cages as its very temporary. The cage should also have a hide at least. As we do not want to encorage climbing for the first few days, it's best to not add a hammock straight away. Make sure water and food are very easy to acess.