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  • Writer's pictureGlen Lewis

Rat Mammary Tumor Care: Understanding Mammary Tumors in Rats Through Lessa's Journey


Lessa and a sister looking out from a tunnel.

Today, we embark on a special series following Lessa, a beloved member of our rattery family, who is currently navigating the challenges of a mammary tumor. Our goal is to shed light on this common health issue among female rats, who have not been spayed, and to explore the differences between hormonal reactive tumors and those that are not. Through Lessa's story, we hope to provide valuable insights and guidance for new rat owners, making this journey not just about Lessa, but a learning experience for all. Join us as we delve into the complex world of mammary tumors in rats, armed with curiosity and a commitment to engaging and informative storytelling. This series will cover:

  • Understanding Mammary Tumors in Rats

  • Lessa's Story: A Case Study

  • The Role of Genetics in Mammary Tumors

  • Spaying as a Preventative Measure

  • Lessa's Progress and What We Can Learn

  • Reflections on what Lessa's journey teaches us about caring for rats with mammary tumors.

  • Tips for early detection and the importance of regular health checks for rats.


Rat Mammary Tumor Care: Understanding Mammary Tumors in Rats


Mammary tumors are a prevalent health concern in female rats, particularly those that have not been spayed. These tumors are often associated with the rat's hormonal system, making them "hormonal reactive". Unlike tumors that do not respond to hormonal changes, hormonal reactive tumors can grow or shrink in response to fluctuations in the rat's endocrine system. This distinction is crucial, as it influences both the treatment approach and the tumor's overall impact on the rat's health. Spaying, the surgical removal of the ovaries and sometimes the uterus, significantly reduces the risk of developing these tumors by eliminating the primary source of hormones that can fuel their growth. However, the occurrence of mammary tumors is not solely a matter of hormonal influence; genetics also play a role. For instance, Lessa comes from a lineage of thirteen



sisters and three aunts, none of whom have developed mammary tumors, highlighting the variability and complexity of genetic factors at play. Understanding the nature of these tumors, their causes, and preventive measures is essential for any rat owner aiming to provide the best care for their furry companions.


Lessa's Story: A Case Study


Close-up view of Lessa, a female rat, showing a visible mammary tumor on her underbelly, highlighting the need for awareness and care in rat mammary tumor cases.
Lessa's Tumor

Lessa, a charming and spirited rat, has been a part of our rattery family for over about 1.5 years. Known for her playful antics and insatiable curiosity, she has always been a picture of health, making her diagnosis with a mammary tumor all the more unexpected (of our 18 females, she is the only one to have developed at tumor to date). The discovery came when she stretched up to greet us in her cage, making a small, unusual lump near her underbelly visible. Understandably, this discovery was met with concern and a swift consultation with a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals.

The diagnosis confirmed our fears: Lessa had developed a mammary tumor. Faced with this reality, we were thrust into a decision-making process fraught with considerations about her quality of life and treatment options. Spaying emerged as a strong preventive measure not only to address the current tumor but also to significantly reduce the risk of future tumors developing. This decision was not made lightly, given the surgical risks involved, but with Lessa's well-being as our top priority, we opted for the procedure.


Tomorrow is Lessa's surgery. Stay tuned to find out how it goes.

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