Posts Tagged ‘rats’

Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

3 years ago, our hairless dumbo rex rats, Fuzzy and Wuzzy,  won second place in a beauty contest.  Just kidding!  If it had been a beauty contest, it would have been FIRST place!

Three years ago, our Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats won second place in a national Fourth of July pet photo contest.  They placed after an adorable baby Bulldog, which I thought was very impressive!

Here are the pictures of Fuzzy and Wuzzy eating rat-sized watermelon slices in 2010.



Wuzzy (left) and Fuzzy (right).  Fuzzy wanted to know if Wuzzy’s watermelon was better.


Fuzzy – “Hey, move over so I can try your watermelon!”


Fuzzy decided Wuzzy’s watermelon WAS better.


Wuzzy continued munching her melon while Fuzzy checked out the camera.  Hello, Fuzzy!

Happy Fourth!!

You can read about Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats in the Wuzzy Chronicles of – Wuzzy Rat, Part 1 HERE and Wuzzy Rat, Part 2 HERE.

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CareFRESH Blog!

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I am SO excited about my newest writing project!  I have been working with CareFRESH for a little over a year, and the team decided to start a blog on the website.  I love it!

Lavender CareFRESH bedding complimented Fuzzy and Wuzzy’s gorgeous skin the best of all the colors…

With this project, I will be less able to just go with my random kicks, and need to focus on themes and schedules and such much more than I do here on Riley and James, which, honestly, will be very good for me!

I am fairly disciplined, but (I have only ever told Russ this, and just very recently…) a large part of my discipline is extrinsic.  For example, I love having a made bed every morning, but if FLYLady did not tell me to make my bed, I probably would not!  I love being a veterinarian, but if I had not had the structure of veterinary school, I would not have learned all that I have.

And I love writing about environmental enrichment of <hamsters>, but if I were not led to write about it, I probably would not!

I will write somewhat shorter posts than what I normally write here, focus on small pets – rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rabbits and ferrets – and send the team every single picture I have of Fuzzy, Wuzzy, Princess and Piggy!  Feel free to send cute pictures of your Warm Fuzzies too!

Wuzzy in her Classroom in a Box

I will let you know where on the CareFRESH website the blog is as soon as I know.  It will probably attract a similar crowd to the Ask-a-Vet part of the CareFRESH website (kids and adults who are in love with small pets – two of my very favorite subsets of humanity!)  It will be an interactive blog, which will be very fun.  I hope you will come join me as often as you can!

For now, will you help me come up with topics? Do you have questions that would be best answered in a longer post than the Q & A of Ask-a-Vet?  Are there things about your own favorite small pet species that you think everyone should know, but may not yet?  THIS is going to be fun, people! :)

Princess Gerbil



Laboratory Animals are Exotic Pets on a Different Life Path

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I have spent the afternoon researching small pet (rabbit and rodent) nutrition in my constant, obsessive quest to be a better veterinarian for my patients and veterinary resource for CareFRESH.  Much of my reading today has circled back to laboratory animal nutrition resources.  That is weighing heavily on me.  It is difficult to read about research subjects when my frame of reference in Real Life centers around my own pets and the rodent patients who come in for individual, loving veterinary care, often in the hands of a child.

In college I worked with the best teacher I have ever had, Dr. Merlyn Nielsen, a Professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  His research interest at the time was primarily the heritability of obesity in mice.  I loved helping Dr. Nielsen with his research and spending time with his super cute little white mice.

I did data collection and analysis pertaining to fat percentages of purposely bred thinner and heavier genetic lines of mice – all survival studies, because Dr. Nielsen knew from the start I was a wimp and would cry if I were asked to do terminal studies.  (A story for another day – CPR on a laboratory mouse was my first rodent CPR attempt, not CPR on our baby ratties.)

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It took me thirty minutes to find a plain ol’ white lab mouse picture to contrast with the pet hamster picture, and I still think this guy is super cute!

Fast-forward to senior year of vet school.  I was finishing a well-rounded Midwestern veterinary education covering cattle, horses, pigs, cats and dogs, and realized no one had said “mice” to me in four years.  So I headed down to the Lab Animal corner of the veterinary school and Dr. Lab Animal created an exotic pet rotation for me.  We threw in a couple goat cases for fun.  Again, a surprisingly wonderful experience.  And again, I was shielded from terminal studies.

Fast-forward um…many…years, and I LOVE my career as a small animal vet.  I started in Littleton where lots of vets saw exotics, and ended up in Omaha, where I often get “You’ll see my hamster??  Woo!  I will be right there!” which is almost more fun.  Yeah, exotic pet loving vets are here, and they are awesome, but they are few and far between.  I get quite a few referals from vets who only see dogs and cats and even from mixed animal practitioners (vets who see pets and large animals).  Imagine the courage it takes a pet owner to ask that guy for a hamster referral!

Most of what I have learned has been from exotic pet veterinary books, experience, continuing education and other veterinarians with an interest in exotic pets.  Every once in a while I will wonder…

What if laboratory animal researchers and veterinarians who like exotic pets communicated?

We don’t.  We have entirely different goals and focuses.  Pet practitioners are sad around research.  It is difficult to wrap our heads around.  Animals educated us so we could help other animals.  We got through it and do not want to look back.


Both of my experiences working with lab animals were very positive.  Both leaders who taught me were kind-hearted, compassionate people who cared very much for the animals they oversaw.

And SO MUCH research has been done over the years on animal health and nutrition and longevity.  It has mainly been done to benefit people.

Thank you researchers.  Thank you animals.

What if the knowledge from that research were also used to help pets?  I joke that we should have more medical knowledge about guinea pigs than any other species, because they are…guinea pigs.  But do we?  And if so, is it all being accessed to its fullest potential?

I think I have been ignoring a huge resource to the detriment of the patients under my care.  I do not have a conclusion for this post because I do not know how it ends.

When I figure out how to bridge the gap between the caretakers of the animals of the research world and the caretakers of the animals of the exotic pet world, I will share with you what I learn.  This is just one tip of the lab animal iceberg, which, for me, is a very emotional topic.  Chime in – I would love to hear your perspective.

Sometimes the most emotionally exhausting journeys are also the most rewarding.

Goodbye Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats…

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Our hairless rats passed away recently.  I have had (and have) pets as wonderful as these two, but none better.  Goodbye Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats.  We love you, and we will miss you very much.

A Day in the Life of a Vet

Fuzzy (left) and Wuzzy (right), July 2010

My last story about Fuzzy and Wuzzy was just published on  The link to the story is below.  Maybe I will write a remembering or looking back sort of story later (or a photo story – that would definitely be the cutest choice…)  But in Real Life, this is the last chapter.  I am really not ok with that.

Being a Vet and Coping With Loss

Blogathon 2010 – Hamster Tips (and Costumes)

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Talking about turtles was fun!  Yes, I am loopy-tired.  Maybe that is a good state to be in when I need fun topics to post!

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 On that note…


When a hamster comes in with a crying kid, it can throw your whole day off.  Well, no more!

How to weigh a hamster, gerbil, mouse, rat, budgie or anole (I am sure I forgot someone, but one of these two ways should work with almost all of the small guys.)

(1)  If the patient may dart off or fly away, weigh them in a small paper bag with the top folded over.

(2)  If the patient promises to behave and stay put, weigh them in a doggy dish.

How to handle a hamster:

Do not wake him up!  Hamsters are not morning people!  If he is awake, quickly pick him up by his scruff.  You will need to grab a much larger amount of skin than you would expect.  You will not hurt him, but you may anger him!  So make sure to apologize and give him a treat when you are done.

How to make a bunny costume for a hamster without angering him: Draw bunny ears and whiskers on your hand with a Sharpie.  Pick the hamster up in a loose fist.  Take a picture because he will look even cuter than he does when he is NOT in costume.  I love this “tip” almost more than I love the turtle weighing tip.  *Safety note:  This works best with happy hamsters.

How to handle a gerbil: Stop or steady him by grabbing the base of his tail (but do not pick him up by the tail).  Place a hand under him and scoop him up.

How to handle a rat: Pick him up under the armpits and then steady his bottom (exactly like you would pick up a very small, very strange looking baby)  Rats do not need excess restraint, as they are usually quite agreeable to whatever you need to do.  I have only ever met one crabby rat, and I suspect he was actually just feeling sick, not actually crabby in Real Life.

Baby Fuzzy and Baby Wuzzy playing in the Lincon Log house my daughters made for them – they loved it!

How to handle a mousie: Pick him up by the base of the tail (This is one of the few little guys whose weight can be supported this way-but just for the few seconds it takes to nab him.)  Place him on your sleeve for the examination while continuing to hold the base of the tail.

How to handle a bird: When you are learning how to restrain a bird, start with the smaller birds who cannot chomp you as hard.  The technique is the same for all of them though!  Once you are comfortable with budgies, move on to macaws!

Examining and working with birds is ALWAYS a two person job!  Have the bird on a finger or your arm, with your thumb gently holding their four front toes down.  With a light towel in your hand, gently place your thumb and forefinger of your other hand in a ring around his neck from the dorsal side.  The palm of the same hand will be over his back.  Close your hand around his back and wings, being careful not to compress the chest.  Slowly turn him upside down.  Everyone is now in a position to safely examine and work with the bird.

Easy for me to say!  Actually the best way to learn how to restrain a bird is to make sure one of the two people involved is experienced at avian restraint.  Restraining birds has been like a skill chain through Omaha veterinary teams until all of us who want to work with birds are now able to safely hold them!  I even have trained teams at Montessori Children’s Room and Lakeside Retirement VIllage, so whenever I go see their cockatiels, I have plenty of helpers!  (Thanks Mom and Mom-Karen!)

Pedro, The Lakeside Village Cockatiel


Clicking here will bring you to the webpage with information about Bradyn and an opportunity to donate towards the training of his service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. ♥

Blogathon 2010 – Izzie Rat

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

My Smallest Epileptic Patient Ever…Also One of The Very Cutest…

OK, she doesn’t look like my smallest epileptic patient ever in this picture.  I didn’t want you to miss her cuteness in a Very Small Picture.  This is Izzie Rat.  She belonged to Leda Frost and Jeremy Coffey.  She was my rat-in-law, thrice removed, and one of my favorite rats ever.

She developed a seizure disorder after a course of antibiotics that I prescribed.  She most likely did not have true idiopathic epilepsy, as I strongly suspect it was secondary to the medication.  She did very well for several months on very (very) small doses of anti-seizure medication.

Thank you for letting me share her with everyone Leda and Jeremy.  And thank you for trusting me with your wonderful little rats.  I love them all very much.

Clicking here will bring you to the webpage with information about Bradyn and an opportunity to donate towards the training of his service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. ♥

Blogathon 2010 – Service Rats!

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

me:  Can I take a picture of that?

Amanda:  I thought you’d be mad.

me:  If you thought I’d be mad, why’d you draw on your arm?

Amanda:  I didn’t think about it until after I did it.

me:  You have noticed my Sharpie obsession, haven’t you?

Amanda:  Oh…yeah!

me:  So can I take a picture?

Amanda:  Sure!  Do you want me to draw a watch for (glancing at my list) seven o’clock and eight o’clock and twelve o’clock…

me:  No.

(Stay tuned for contributions from my oldest daughter that she makes ON PURPOSE later in the Blogathon – ha!)

Remember when I gathered that list of other veterinary blogs I love?  I was trying to figure out what Riley and James has among all the veterinary blogs that is unique.  You know what it is? Rats! Pictures of rats!  Stories about rats!  Links to Carefresh Ask-a-Vet where we talk about…rats!  *sigh*  I love rats.

You have to admit, they are at the very least “interesting.”  Especially our silly hairless rats.  So even if you are not as in love with rats as I am (weird!) I thought you might be interested in learning about…


When I started becoming involved in this Blogathon, I started obsessing about service pets…more on that later (We have all day and all night, after all!)  I remembered hearing a story of rats that ran wires through walls so they could be connected to…something.  I will find the story for you and link it here.  In trying to find THAT story, look at this great story I DID find about service rats!  Rats are amazing!

African Giant Rats Sniff Out Land Mines In Mozambique Africa, they have CLICKER-trained (I love it!) rats to find undetonated land mines left over from their devastating civil war.  (They are a different species than our domestic Fuzzy-Wuzzy types, but still known by the common name “rat” so Wuzzy has decided that they are indeed related to her…)  The rats are very friendly, quick, accurate and entirely food-motivated.  They are also very focused – “Dogs…tend to get bored and run the risk of blowing themselves up.”

YAY rats!

More on these awesome “rats”…

Rats That Save Life and Limb

They even have their own website…


3/21/11  Whenever I find a fun link or information that relates to an earlier post, I usually tuck it into the original post that has come and gone, where no one will ever see it.  I realize I should stop doing that if I want my content read.  But sometimes, it is just satisfying to me to know that something exists…like SERVICE MICE!  If no one ever comes back to check if there are service rats (and friends) updates, I guess I am ok with that.  It is just going to make my whole day today better knowing service mice exist.  I suppose I should get better at sharing.  But how fun would it be if you DID check back here and find this?  I think I will put it here and just hope one or two of you see it.  And yes, some day I will move it to the “front lines” cuz it is just too awesome to NOT share!  These tiny guys are trained to recognize drugs and explosives and are being used in airport trials in Israel.  Awesome.



Clicking here will bring you to the webpage with information about Bradyn and an opportunity to donate towards the training of his service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. ♥

Fuzzy Rat

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Our Fuzzy Rat died today.  I guess I am not ready to say it outloud, so I will hold onto this post for a while.  She was a great little goofy rat.

Rest in Peace little girl.  I love you.

Fuzzy Rat

February 14, 2008 – October 14, 2010

I suspected she had something more serious than an ear infection or even idiopathic vestibular disease several weeks ago when I was unable to wean her off of anti-inflammatories (prednisone).  Most likely, she had a pituitary adenoma, which is a benign brain tumor, but in rats it can grow so much, it puts pressure on the brain and causes vestibular signs (wobbliness, like in Fuzzy) or other signs and eventually is incompatible with life.  Being neurotic and being me (which are of course overlapping, and in my opinion not such horrible things!) I searched for “records” and found a rat who had lived ten months with a probable pituitary adenoma.  I needed the hope then but I don’t need the heartache now.

The night before Fuzzy passed away, she was not eating well, but she was playing and nosing my hand to be pet.  I think she was happy right to the end.  I tried to talk with Wuzzy Rat about it, but she just wanted to know if I had peanut butter.

My twelve-year-old nephew put it best.  He hugged me and said “I’m sorry about Fuzzy.  She was a nice little rat.”

What I am Doing This Week, Dwelling on Construction Jobs and the Inner Ear of My Rat

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

This week I am working much more than usual!  The kids are back in school full swing and starting fall activities.  Russ’ company (J.T. Builder’s, where he is a carpenter) is closing tomorrow, but he already has some leads on new career opportunities.  God always takes care of us.  I don’t suppose He will drop us now.  I love my crazy, busy life, but it is taking all of my writing time!

Also, I have been providing supportive care for Fuzzy Rat, who has been very sick.  Last week, she was so wobbly she could not walk or even hold food.  I have been bugging all of my poor veterinarian friends to help me come up with a differential diagnosis list that does not include “brain” or “cancer!”

She is on antibiotics and antiinflammatories, and responding well.  She even started walking yesterday!

Still could be bad, but I am hoping she is either dealing with a severe inner ear infection or idiopathic vestibular disease.  Idiopathic means “unknown cause” (same base word as “idiot” – ha!)  The vestibular system deals with balance.  Idiopathic Vestibular Disease is fairly common in dogs, so it would not be unheard of to occur in rats, though I have never dealt with it before.  It is basically a diagnosis of exclusion – if it is not something else, it may be Idiopathic Vestibular Disease.  In dogs, it has a good chance of resolution, so here’s hoping for Old Ratty Vestibular Disease!  I would never wish an ear infection on anyone, but I would be ok with that diagnosis too!

Get Well Really Soon Small Rat!

What I am Doing This Week: Attending Camp Kindness Again, Taking More Rat Pictures

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Tuesday, July 20 was another day of Camp Kindness, a day camp for kids at Nebraska Humane Society.  You know I am super neurotically protective of kid pictures, and Camp Kindness is all kids everywhere…which means of course, more pictures of Fuzzy and Wuzzy!

Still, I didn’t want you to think I ONLY ever take pictures of my gorgeous rats, so I also took one of Kerry Ecklebe, the Director of Humane Education at Nebraska Humane Society…um, holding a rat.  OK, so maybe I am obsessed with my rats!  There are worse maladies to have!

I do not even want to know how many website design rules I am breaking with this layout.  I just love huge pictures of Fuzzy and Wuzzy!  They are so goofy looking, and I love that you can see whiskers and wrinkles and everything in the pictures…

Kerry Ecklebe holding Fuzzy

Kerry is a class act, and one of my favorite people.  NHS is blessed to have her!