Cancer in rats: detecting tumors

Unfortunately, tumors often occur in rats. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be cancer. So, take your rat to the vet as soon as you spot a swelling or bump. He can usually tell you what it is about.

The vet examines the cute pet rat for growths and tumors.  Be brave little Drops!  – Shutterstock / Roman Pelesh

The vet examines the cute pet rat for growths and tumors. Be brave little Drops! – Shutterstock / Roman Pelesh

A rat’s health is very important to their favorite humans. But what to do if suddenly strange growths appear on the cute rodent? Recognizing these growths early is just as important as having a veterinarian diagnose them correctly and as accurately as possible. This then results in the right therapy.

Growth discovered: is it even cancer?

As soon as you spot an unnatural bump on your rat, it’s a tumor. However, that doesn’t mean your rat will necessarily have cancer. Tumor simply means “swelling”. Cancer is malignant, i.e. malignant, tumors that spread further in the body and form metastases. Wherever these malignant tumors are found in the body, tissue is displaced, which can eventually affect vital organs. Another sign of cancer is when the tumor increases in size very quickly.

Rats: locate tumors

A rat-experienced veterinarian can carry out preventive examinations, which, however, do not guarantee timely detection; he knows where to look and where to feel. You can also check your loved ones regularly yourself. If you know the different types of tumors and the most commonly affected parts of the body, this can be done in a very targeted manner.

Malignant tumors in rats (cancer)

There are many types of cancer. Malignant tumors frequently observed in rats are, for example liposarcoma, fibrosarcoma and osteosarcoma. The latter is a malignant, extremely aggressive bone tumor. The formation of new bone mass destroys everything around it – bones and joints. Osteosarcomas can occur on all bones, but typical locations in rats include the back of the head between the ears (here often seen as a hard bump) and on the hind legs – they are usually only detected here when the rat can no longer walk.

Limbs can be amputated, but it is difficult to determine whether the cancer has spread, which is why X-rays are necessary. There are often secondary tumors that cause additional damage. A liposarcoma is a malignant tumor located in fatty tissue. It is often easy to feel because it sits directly under the skin. This type of tumor grows very quickly and causes pain to the animal. So-called fibrosarcomas are cancers of the connective tissue cells. This species is also malicious and grows extremely quickly. Metastases often form first in the lungs.

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Benign tumors in rats

But there are also many tumors that are benign. Nevertheless, these can impair the quality of life, for example if organs or joints are strained or the everyday life of the animal is hindered due to the size of the tumor. For example, some tumors that do not initially pose a threat are lipomas (harmless fatty tumors) or atheroma (benign cysts). Then there are abscesses, pus-filled capsules for example on the jaw. Benign growths of connective tissue cells are so-called fibroids. These are usually clearly defined and do not need to be treated as long as the animal can live with them.

Also regularly check the mammary glands of your female rats, especially those animals that have given birth several times. These often suffer from breast tumors, which are found on the teats and mammary glands. Mammary tumors are often hormone-related types that increase in size quickly but do not metastasize and are therefore benign in most cases.

In order to get a correct diagnosis, you should always go to the vet for any growth. They can perform a biopsy, i.e. take a tissue sample and have it examined. The prerequisite is, of course, that the affected part of the body allows a sample to be taken.

Pituitary tumor in rats

Females are also susceptible to hormone-induced pituitary tumors. Unfortunately, this cannot be felt because it is a tumor on the pituitary gland. With increasing size, displacement often triggers neurological symptoms such as coordination problems or paralysis. If the rat sleeps excessively, stretches all its limbs, turns madly in circles or tilts its head, these are signs of this dangerous type of tumor.

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