Tumors

with permission from Carole Nelson of LilRatscal Rattery

Rats over 2 years of age have an 87 percent chance of developing tumors. Tumors may be external or internal. Leukemia (cancer involving the white blood cells) is also quite common. Both male and female rats develop benign mammary breast) tumors, and females develop benign tumors of the uterine and vaginal linings. These are the most common tumors of pet rats.

Rats have mammary tissue in locations beneath the skin other than along the underside of the belly, so it is not uncommon to find lumps and bumps representing mammary tumors over the shoulders, flanks and base of the tail. These tumors are relatively easy to surgically remove under general anesthesia.

Owners of pet rats should seek veterinary attention at once after discovering a lump, bump or unusual mass protruding from a body opening, the mass can be surgically removed by the veterinarian and biopsied to determine its exact identity issue type, benign vs. malignant, etc) which, in turn, helps to determine the long-term outlook for the patient.

Tumors tend to grow continuously larger and may ulcerate and become infected if they reach very large size.  For this reason, it is always preferable to remove them when they are small. A qualified vet will also tell you if it is a tumor or an abscess. Abscesses can come up fast and also need immediate attention and care.

Benign tumors normally are not attached to any organs; they are most often just under the skin and don’t grow very fast, so the tumor can be very large before removing it. BUT… it’s best to have any tumor removed while it’s small because it will require a smaller incision, less time under anesthesia, and the tumor itself will have had less time to sap its host
of precious nutrients and energy.

Malignant (cancerous) tumors normally grow very rapidly and most often are attached to an organ, bone, etc. The sooner you remove these types of tumors, the better, because they spread to other parts of the body very quickly.

So, every tumor situation is different. There is no set pattern, but a tumor that is attached to something (you can’t get your fingers all the way around it) should be considered suspicious, as it may well be cancer.

Surgery is worth it – no matter what the price. Osteosarcoma: a malignant (cancerous) bone tumor. Secondary growths (metastases) are common. The symptoms are usually pain and swelling at the site of the tumor and there is often a history of preceding trauma, although it is doubtful whether this contributes to the cause.

Sometimes you will have to make your decision based on the age of your rat. If the rat is rather old or not in the best of shape it could be hard on it to have surgery. This you will have to discuss and decide with your vet.


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