The rat group is housed in a large bird cage: floor surface 60x70cm and height 150cm. In addition, for several hours a day the rats have free access to the fully enriched living room annex kitchen. Victoria is highly active, both outside their cage (e.g., climbing up into the bookshelves) and inside their cage (e.g., running in their wheel).
Afterwards, the veterinarian states that she was able to remove the affected area, but only just. This type of cancer actually requires more radical sectioning: not only of affected tissue, but also a “safe margin” consisting of healthy tissue. In this case, given the location of the affected area, this would mean amputation of the entire right leg. The veterinarian advises to have this done, preferably as soon as possible, in the hope that metastasis of the cancer has not yet occurred. However, while the veterinarian is confident that the surgery will be a technical success, she questions the effect the amputation will have on Victoria’s quality of life. She suggests to Victoria’s keeper that she contact other rat keepers and ask their opinion of how their rats managed following amputation.
Given the information, Victoria’s keeper is apprehensive regarding the invasiveness of the proposed procedure. She is also concerned over Victoria’s ability to cope with having only three legs, especially given her fondness for running and climbing about, and the fact that climbing is required to navigate their home cage and free-range area. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether or not the cancer has already metastasized. Due to this dilemma, and while waiting for the lab results to arrive (this took three weeks), the decision to amputate is postponed (note that this inevitably increases the likelihood of metastasis occurring). In the meantime, the incision heals well and Victoria’s keeper consults with other rat keepers, whose rats navigated very well after limb amputation. A decision is made: based on the fact that Victoria is a young and lively rat who is in otherwise good health, and that the amputation is not expected to have a negative impact on her quality of life, she is given the benefit of the doubt regarding whether metastasis has already taken place or not, and another surgery is scheduled.
On 28 June 2011 Victoria’s right leg is amputated, up to and including the hip joint.
Sarcoma, intermediate malignancy. Based on immunohistochemistry and morphology most likely fibrosarcoma. The tumour has only just (<0.1cm edge) been completely removed.
Interestingly, in order to prevent post-op stitch removal, it is regular practise at this veterinary clinic to “file down” rat incisors after surgery, to a degree that makes them considerably less sharp, but still allows the rat to eat hard foods, albeit slowly. This practise is also applied to Victoria, who does not appear to have too much difficulty eating post-op. However, she clearly prefers eating soft foods, so her keeper provides her with additional soft foods to insure that she receives necessary nutrients. Victoria grooms herself, but does not bother her stitches. Her teeth return to their normal state within 1-2 weeks.
The hospital cage is situated within the free-range area (aka living room) and is located close to their home cage. Victoria is a highly active rat, who was accustomed to prolonged free-ranging prior to her surgery. In fact, she already (successfully!) attempted to walk and climb immediately post-op! As a result, the “confinement” is increasingly stressful. Victoria’s keeper decides that it is in Victoria’s best interest to return her to their home cage. She also allows her to free-range again quite soon after the surgery.
As a result, Victoria resumes her pre-op (very high) activity level before her wound has fully healed, and without giving her body time to adjust to the missing limb. It is suspected that this lead to incorrect body movements, which possibly constricted certain nerves, as there were two episodes following the surgery during which Victoria appeared to be a considerable pain:
All in all, Victoria required little to no adjustment to moving about with three legs. She currently runs and climbs as well as she did before the amputation. There is no decrease in her activity level.
Victoria’s only noticeable handicap is that she can no longer scratch her right side/face/ear. Interestingly, she does make the accompanying body/hip movements, so whenever her keeper notices this, she tries to scratch Victoria’s itch for her. At first Victoria would not allow this, but she has become tolerant of the scratching.
Another noticeable difference is that when Victoria eats, she does this with one hand, since the other is required to maintain her balance while sitting. However, this does not appear to be a problem for her.
The first photograph shows a healthy Victoria in January 2011. The subsequent photographs were taken on 14 May 2011 and show the developing leg tumor. Note that the fur has been made wet to obtain a better view.
These photographs were taken in May 2012, several months after the successful leg amputation. They show the perfectly healed wound area. Note how Victoria now uses her tail for balance: it is placed in the position of the missing hind limb.
These photographs were also taken in May 2012. They are somewhat blurry, but clearly show that Victoria has suffered no loss in mobility. She still runs in her wheel and climbs about as fast as she did before the leg amputation.
Posted on October 13, 2012, 12:56,
Last updated on October 17, 2012, 10:48