For those of you that haven't experienced the friendship, love and human-animal bond with a rat, you are truly missing out! Rats are inquisitive, intelligent and very emotionally developed. They have no problem expressing fear, happiness, pain and love. Many people have preconceived notions of rats and they get really bad raps. I often wonder if the wild version of our tame friends could be just as loving and close to us as our domesticated friends. But I digress, lol.
Let's talk Felix! Felix is a 1.5 year old male rat that has been one of our most favorite rat patients at SMAH for over a year now. In December, his mom came to us with the concern that a small mass he had on his chest had started growing rapidly. When we looked at him, the mass was approximately 5cm and covering the majority of the left side of his chest.
The first inclination was to remove the mass, but at what risk? Should we just try to keep him comfortable until we couldn't anymore? Felix's life span is 1.5 - 2 years and we were close to 1.5 years already. But, the mass was already stretching the nerves and skin and impeding his mobility. Do we risk surgery and potentially cut his life shorter if we lose him during the surgery? It was a huge mass and a long surgery and he was considered an older patient. Could we remove it safely and still close the wound? Would he survive the anesthesia and the pain of the surgery? What about cost to do it? It would take 2-3 techs monitoring anesthesia, the laser, lots of medications and it would probably be a 1-2 hours surgery to try to safely and gently remove it.
Many people would ask how can you spend hundreds of dollars on a ten dollar rat near the end of his lifespan. But the answer to that is easy... Love. Most people never consider the cost of an animal, as the love created between two species is priceless. The decision was made, we had to try to remove the mass.
The surgery was tenuous and nerve-wracking for all involved. The technicians did an outstanding job making sure Felix was safe during anesthesia. Anesthetic depth, breathing, heart rate, temperature, and pain control were spot on. The surgery required approximately an eight cm incision along his left side. The mass itself weighed approx. 106 grams. Felix weighed 700g after it was removed - approx. 1/7th of his weight was the mass!
Felix was a champ! He recovered very quickly, never losing his spunk or personality. We are happy to report Felix is still with us today and his story continues...