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Stroke in Rats

I found Pogo lying on the bottom of her cage the day before Thanksgiving, 2004. She was mostly cold and unresponsive. Her eyes were filled with porphyrin; a substance secreted by the Harderian gland and appears around the rat's eyes. This red substance looks like red tears or blood and is secreted when rats are stressed or ill.

Since she was not exposed to any outside source of disease and she did not have the pinched, thin appearance of a rat with heart failure nor did she appear to be in pain. Her breathing was shallow but not raspy. I knew right away what was happening. She had suffered a stroke that left her mostly paralyzed. (see image of hind leg)

Her Grandmother, RnR Raven, had this happen to her at about the same age and went on to live a mostly normal life for almost a year after the attack.
The first thing to do was to get her warm. I wrapped her in a soft towel and we sat by the heater together. She became a little more aware of her surroundings after about an hour or so. She was also able to move her head some now but it was like watching television in slow motion.
With Raven, we began prednisone to reduce swelling as soon as she was able to swallow using a quarter of a .5mg tablet crushed and mixed with baby food once daily. I did not have this on hand being a holiday weekend but Pogo's recovery progressed beautifully without it.
It is important to realize that they are unable to swallow correctly so you have to start with very tiny amounts of water. I use a syringe for this.You can pick up a product called Nutrocal® at your local pet warehouse. I find that by mixing baby rice cereal with baby bananas I get the best results and it is easily licked up and swallowed. Pedialyte or grape Gatorade can be very useful to keep the rats electrolytes in check and keep them from becoming dehydrated. Offer liquids in small amounts every half an hour to an hour throughout the day and every two hours throughout the night.

Make sure you keep your rat in a warm quiet place to reduce stress and check on them often. I prefer keeping them in whatever room I am in so I can check on them constantly. They first few days are critical and recovery periods vary. With Raven it was about 2 weeks before she began to show a marked improvement. Pogo’s progress was much more rapid.

Five days after her stroke, she was able to eat on her own as long as it was soft food and was also able to drink from a water bottle. She was not able to walk yet as she was still weak on her left side. She did however, get around on her own quite well. Because they are so unsteady you have to be very careful where they are allowed to wander. Do not leave them unsupervised during this recovery period when they are out of the security and safety of their own cage. Make sure there is nothing in their cage to climb on that they can fall from.

Above is a photo of Pogo taken a month after her stroke. She continued to get stronger and was back to many of her old antics. She remained weak on her left side and was still wobbly but overall did very well. Her permanent cage became a single story cage with no hammock but we made sure that she always had a clean, warm shirt to sleep in. We also moved her sister, Pongo, back in with her once she was strong enough. They were very close and it was Pongo that was laying next to her when I found her after the stroke. Below is a photo showing how well her recovery is going. I think she figures it is time to "live on the edge" now since her brush with death.

Although we have added the above photo for a bit of levity, strokes are a very serious subject. There is no warning and in many cases, no recovery. Pogo was lucky, as were we. We were blessed with 9 additional months with her. Sadly, she passed away from another series of strokes on Aug 4, 2005. She will always hold a special place in our heart and we miss her tremendously. Her gentle, loving spirit touched all who knew her. This article is in memory of our very special little girl. We hope that by reading it and recognizing the signs, it can help others save their ratties from what is certain death without treatment. Video of Pogo has been added below. Please note that they can be difficult to watch.

Click on each link below to view the videos. You will be directed to a new page. At the bottom of that page, select the button that says "FREE". It will bring you to a new page. Scroll to the bottom of that page. There is a counter at the bottom. Wait for it to count down and your download link will appear. Right click on the links below and save target/link as: to view the videos. You will need windows media player to view them. Please report broken links to

Pogo-one day after her stroke
Pogo on day 3
Pogo on day 5, showing improvement