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African Pouched RatKali aged 6 weeks
Kali's vital statistics
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Species: African Pouched Rat (Cricetomys gambianus)



31 January

After a week where Kali seemed to be a bit more lively she was very poorly again last night. Her breathing was very laboured and she didn’t want to move about at all. I got her out to clean her house and she spent about an hour sitting in her favourite spot at the top of the stairs. I changed her house back to her main house and she really didn’t want to go back into it. As soon as I put her back in she jumped out and ran back upstairs. She was exhausted by the time she reached the top and all but collapsed on the top step. Once she had recovered a bit I put her back into her house and quickly closed the door. She tore round the house for a few minutes biting the wire and jumping at the door. Finally she calmed down and had some food.

She looked much better at breakfast time and was keen to get her food. She jumped out of the house again but didn’t object much when I put her back.

27 January

It has been a few day’s since I started adding the taurine supplement to Kali’s diet. I think she is marginally more active and alert than she was but there has not been a dramatic improvement. At least I don’t seem to be poisoning her! I haven’t noticed any improvement in her breathing. She is still working very hard but she seems to have a bit more stamina. She is active for longer periods now and doesn’t have to rest quite so often when running about.

I think her skin problem is causing her some discomfort because she really enjoys it when I scratch her rump. I’m still using the antibiotic ointment because Kali seems to find it soothing but I don’t think it is curing the underling problem. Kali enjoys the treatment so much that she fell asleep on my lap on evening while I was rubbing the ointment in. She has never been relaxed enough with me to do that before.

We are due to go back to the vets next week for a check-up and I’ll ask if the skin can be tested to diagnose the cause and to identify an effective treatment. I must case up her old x-rays too. I want to get them scanned so I can put them on the website.

24 January

I noticed a message on the Pouched Rat List about another Pouched Rat diagnosed with heart problems. The message contained some medial information and further research linked to details about the causes of heart failure in pets. The information was mostly about cats and dogs but rats were mentioned too. The information suggested that a taurine deficient diet can cause heart failure in some species. I learned that Taurine naturally occurs in meat. Some species such as dogs can apparently manufacture their own taurine but cats for instance have to get if from their diet. As Kali’s diet is almost totally vegetarian I’ve decided to try adding a taurine supplement to her food. I was able to find dosage information for normal domestic rats and to be safe I’m using that dosage although it probably needs to be higher. Taurine itself can be brought from health food shops and there do not seem to be any side affects associated with it. I am also introducing dry cat food, which also has taurine in it, to Kali’s diet and she seems quite keen on it.

Kali’s been having the taurine supplement for a couple of days and she was noticeably more alert and active when she came out on Sunday night. For the first time in weeks she was exploring the hall and the landing and climbing on the book shelves. Her breathing didn’t seem to be any better but she didn’t seem to get tired out by her exertions – at least not to the same extent. She was on-the-go for about an hour whereas previously she would have sat about for most of that time. Her improvement might have nothing to do with the taurine and I’m trying not to get too hopeful.

21 January

The ointment I’m using to treat Kali’s flaky skin doesn’t seem to be making any difference. The dry flaky patches on her skin are spreading and, in some areas, they have formed scabs. A couple of these scabs have fallen off and Kali is left with bald patches. The skin underneath seems very healthy so I hope the fur will grow again.

Kali is still quite poorly but her condition is more of less stable. She has good days and bad days but overall there hasn’t been much of a change. She seems quite happy to sit in my lap and be stroked. This probably isn’t a very good sign but its nice to see her so friendly.

I’ll put Kali back into her main house this weekend once I’ve given it a good clean. I changed her house and bedding in November last year just in case they were the cause of her problems. However the change hasn’t made any difference and her main house gives her more room. I expect she’ll be very happy to have it back.

10 January

I explained to the vet that there wasn’t any way I could use the medicated shampoo on Kali and they’ve given me an ointment for her flaky skin instead. I haven’t had any trouble applying this to Kali – she seems to really enjoy it being rubbed in. We were at the vets for a check up trying to see if there was any more we could do to manage Kali’s symptoms better, especially her breathing. The vets were actually quite pleased with how well Kali was coping and they didn’t want to increase the doses of any of the heart pills.

One positive side effect of Kali’s illness is that she is much more friendly. Because she is short of breath she doesn’t waste her energy running away from me or trying to climb down when I pick her up. She will allow me to hold her and stoke her for several minutes before she starts getting restless.

She doesn’t have the energy to run about the way she used to so her playtime is much shorter that it used to be. However I do give her the opportunity to come out every night. Some nights she wants to come out and will climb out of her cage when I take the top off and if I try to put her away before she’s ready she’ll climb out again. Other nights when I get her out I soon know if she isn’t feeling very well because she’ll go straight home. If I let her out in her room she is usually trots about exploring the room and scrabbling at the bottom of the doors and she will often climb up on the furniture and get onto the windowsill. She is much less active if I let her out into the hall. She usually just goes upstairs and sits in her favourite corner.

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