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Surgery and Euthanasia

Surgery Information

If you decide on surgery, there are some things you need to know.  First of all, it's very important that you find a vet who is experienced with rat surgery.  They are usually classified as exotics vets.  Rats react to surgery much different than cats or dogs do and many vets will try to treat them like a cat or a dog.  You need to be sure that the vet understands what you expect.  If certain precautions are not taken, their chances for surviving the surgery will be greatly reduced.  Here are some things that you may want to print out and show your vet:
 
Do NOT fast the night before or morning of surgery!!  This is very important.  Rats' metabolisms are much faster than dogs' or cats' and fasting before surgery can jeopardize their lives. 
 
If the incision is small, such as with a neuter, tissue glue is the least invasive.  Staples, used with as little glue as necessary, are the best choice for closure of a larger incision.  External sutures should be the last choice to close an incision on rats.  Rats should be monitored carefully post-surgically by the veterinary staff to assess reaction to the incision. 
 
Rats feel pain!  Pain management after surgery is very important.  It will also help prevent your rat from picking at his/her incision.  Butorphanol Tartrate should be given pre-anesthesia and every 4 hours as needed at a dose of 2mg/kg.
 
Some rats will try to remove closure materials despite pain management.  If this occurs, a body wrap may be necessary. 
 
Rats must be offered something to eat and drink as soon as they wake up from the anesthetic, so you should take something like baby food, or thick chicken and rice soup, or anything else that is soft and smells yummy to tempt your rat to eat right away.  The vet and his techs need to understand that the food and water is to be placed in the cage as soon as your rat wakes up.  Unless they allow you to take your rat home as soon as they wake, then you can feed your rat when you get home.
 
Rats MUST be kept warm during surgery and post-surgically, both at the vet and at home.  Your veterinarian should have a heat pad or hot water bottle for recovery.  When you bring your rat home, you can place a heating pad on LOW under HALF of the cage or tank.  Or, if you have some kind of hot water bottle that your rat couldn't chew that would help too.  It is imperative that your vet and vet techs understand that rats will get hypothermic very quickly after surgery if they're not kept warm.
 
Your rat will need to be put on antibiotics after the surgery, in most cases. 
 
You should separate your rat from his/her cagemates overnight so that you can monitor body temperature and determine if they will pick at their incision.  Use plain cotton towels or paper towels instead of bedding to prevent the bedding from getting into the fresh wound and check for bleeding. 
 
After monitoring your rat overnight, it's very important to get your rat back with her/his cagemates as soon as possible.  Being alone will stress your rat even more and the other rats rarely bother the incision.  Obviously, you will need to keep an eye on them in case they do and you need to separate the recovering rat again, but it shouldn't be a problem.
 
More info here:

Euthanasia Information

Signs that euthanasia should be considered:
 
Not eating or drinking
Not grooming
No energy
Won't play or interact with you
Won't take treats
Shows no interest in life
Obvious signs of suffering
 
It's very important that you insist on humane euthanasia for your rat. Not all vets are willing to take the extra time to euthanise a rat humanely.  The rat must be anesthetized with isofluorane or with an injected sedative (Ketamine etc.) before she/he is given the lethal injection.  Without the prior anesthetic, it is an extremely painful death.  If the vet says s/he will not allow you to be present while the rat is being anesthetized, find another vet.  Also, the lethal injection should be given intracardiac (in the heart).  Some vets will propose injecting the kidneys, but this will result in a prolonged death as the kidneys try to filter the toxin.  Intracardiac is immediate.
 
More information on euthanasia:

Please note that isofluorane (and halothane) is NOT available to the general public.