Is My Rat Dying? When Is It Time to Let Go?

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Is My Rat Dying? When Is It Time to Let Go?

Unfortunately, pet rats have relatively short lifespans. They can live anywhere between 18 months (1.5 years) and 3 years; sometimes up to 4. A relatively accurate lifespan is between 2 to 2.5 years. Rats have such different lifespans due to breeding, health, genetic issues, varying diets, and environments. Is it time for your pet rat to cross the Rainbow Bridge?

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Rat Refuses to Eat Food or Drink Water

walnuts-552975_1280Usually, this is one of the most telltale signs that a rat is preparing to cross the Rainbow Bridge. When a rat is ready to die, it will begin to refuse food and water. This can be due to multiple reasons. First, food and water may actually make the rat feel worse. This causes the rat to associate food and water with pain or discomfort. In other cases, the animal simply does not have an appetite or desire to eat and drink. In less likely cases, a rat may suffer from immense depression and heartbreak after the loss of a cage mate. This extreme form of rat depression closely mimics what you might see in humans.

Rat Lost Lots of Weight and Is Skinny, Bones Protruding!

rat-16927_1280As a rat ages, it will begin to encounter age related health issues. One of these problems is excessive weight loss and the inability to put on weight. Metabolism seems to increase, and the rat may begin to eat less food. Underlying health issues can expedite this symptom of old age. Once a rat becomes skin and bones, it will either need a special diet or advanced veterinary care.

If the rat is becoming cold, slow moving, stiff, and slow to respond, it is very possible that the rat is going to pass within a few hours to three days. This is usually accompanied with a reduction in appetite as well as becoming picky with food. The rat may only accept its favorite treats, chocolates, meats, and candies.

Rat Is Running in Circles, Confused, Twitching, or Having a Seizure

Sleeping rat has its eyes closed. Sometimes, rats will sleep with their eyes open; but it isn't very common. Photo Credit: Starsandspirals via Flickr
Sleeping rat has its eyes closed. Sometimes, rats will sleep with their eyes open; but it isn’t very common. Photo Credit: Starsandspirals via Flickr

Rats are capable of developing seizures, strokes, pituitary tumors, and other health conditions that affect the central nervous system. These different illnesses can cause rats to run in circles, appear confused or dazed, twitch, lose major or fine motor skills, and convulse violently. In addition, fully treatable conditions such as inner ear infections can cause very similar symptoms. If the rat has suffered from a stroke, massive damage to the brain is quite possible. This could result in immediate death, or delayed death if the damage is not catastrophic.

How Do I Know If My Rat Is Ready to Pass Away?

Death is a natural process, however most painful for those left behind. Rats make such a large impact on our lives that losing them, no matter how short their lives, is utterly heartbreaking.
Death is a natural process, however most painful for those left behind. Rats make such a large impact on our lives that losing them, no matter how short their lives, is utterly heartbreaking.

One of the quickest things I will say to ANYONE who asks this question is to look into the animal’s eyes. If they are still bright, hopeful, and joyful and the rat readily comes to you for attention or plays despite poor health, he or she is still willing to continue on. If the animal’s eyes seem dull, depressed, and lifeless, it is time for the rat to let go. If the rat is in immense pain, he or she should be euthanized as soon as possible. Contrary to what most would say, a journey to the vet is incredibly stressful on a rat who is already facing imminent death. If you think it’ll be several hours until a vet visit is possible, simply allow the animal to lay with you, keeping him or her warm and offering favorite treats if he or she accepts them. Your arms will make the animal comfortable, allowing death to be a peaceful experience surrounded in love and warmth.

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