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Sick mouse... need advice

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Post by FurMommy on Thu 29 Dec 2016, 6:29 am

Hello all! New here, first post.

Just a quick background... a few months ago, my brindle mouse, Crunchie/approx. 1 year old, began showing some signs of what I thought was an allergy. I thought it may have been peanut/peanut butter treats, so I took those away. Within a week, she was looking better. All was seemingly well for the next 3 months or so. Then, a few weeks ago, she started showing the same signs, of what I thought was an allergy. Excessive scratching and a greasy coat. At the time, I had just started giving her a new food, and thought that was the cause. It had tons of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and she seemed to only eat those. I cut back on the new food, but still gave her a little because she seemed to really like it, and kept an eye on her. Finally, a little over 2 weeks ago, I took her to the vet. At that point, she had cuts all over her head and neck from scratching so much. The vet said the most likely cause was mites. They did a taping, but found no evidence of mites. They did not do a skin scraping because she had so many boo boos and they were worried about scruffing her and hurting her. They sent us home with an antibiotic and dewormer, just in case. The antibiotics were supposed to be twice a day, for 2 weeks. I ran out before 2 weeks, and was not able to get more because of the holiday. Also, she did not get 2 doses a day, everyday. The only way I could get her to take the antibiotic was to put a drop on a piece of a treat. She didn't always eat the treat right away, if at all. So a few days, she only had one dose. I noticed the last few days she was sleeping more and not as active. Then yesterday, I noticed she had crusty eyes and was making a very quiet squeak when she was sniffing something. I called the vet and asked for more antibiotic, and so far, she's had 2 doses. Another odd thing I noticed, is she hasn't been sleeping in her "bedroom" the last few days. She has always slept in one of her 2 bedrooms, but I found her sleeping in her food bowl yesterday, and she's been sleeping on her wheel. I have no explanation for that. I also noticed that when shes sleeping, she twitches often. Which I have never seen her do before. As of now, she's still scratching, still seems tired, still not sleeping in her bedroom, and shows no sign of improvement.

So I guess my question is has anyone had a similar experience? What actions did you take and what was the outcome? Any advice, I appreciate!

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Post by Peachy on Thu 29 Dec 2016, 10:09 am

Welcome to the forum! Mouse Wave

Here's some tips to help you medicate your mouse.

It would probably be worth treating her for mites also, just in case. It will take care of any mites that she may have now as well as work as a preventative in the future. There's a treatment that you can give her yourself that many of us have had success with.
You can read about allergies, chronic scratching/OCD, and mites and their treatment here:

Since you have a female mouse, I recommend that you find another one or two females to introduce to your girl. Two would be better, mostly because if one dies you won't be left woth another lonely mouse. Three mice to a colony also often works out better than only two because of how intense mouse relationships can get.
Mice are social, and girls absolutely need mousey friends to keep them company. It's important for their health. I once had a girl who had started scratching her ear off, but after I was able to get her introduced to a friend, she stopped. I know there's a couple other similar stories around the forum.

Once you get your new girls, they need to be quarantined and introduced properly. Here's more info on Keeping Mice Together & Introducing Them, and on Quarantine:

In the meantime, once mice have began scratching to the point that there's wounds, it's often become a habit that you need to break. We usually refer to it as chronic scratching or OCD.

Until you can introduce your girl to some friends, you need to do all you can to keep your girl busy. Switch up toys and routines, hide her food around so she has to keep busy looking for it, etc. The DIY section has tons of fun ideas! She might find it soothing to sit in a hide that you had in the freezer for a bit. Something like a coffee mug or a plastic tube, the coolness can help relieve some of the itchiness and give her a scratching break.

Best of luck!
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Post by FurMommy on Thu 29 Dec 2016, 5:54 pm

Thank u so much for the advice! Breaks my heart to see her so uncomfortable, so I'm willing to try anything.

Just to reply to a few things... she has had one dose of the dewormer (Revolution), and will get her second dose in 3 weeks. I don't expect it to work overnight, but any idea what time frame I can expect to see some improvement?

I do a fairly decent job at keeping her busy, for the most part. She has 3 cages that she rotates through. I switch up the toys and layout of the cages to keep her on her toes. I hide treats throughout the cage everyday. She has 4 wheels, tunnels, chew toys, look-out towers, bridges... just about everything I can think of. She gets play time out of the cage everyday. Perhaps she is bored with these toys, even though there are plenty of them, and she needs them switched up again?

I am definitely interested in getting her a friend. In fact, I ended up with her because I had another female, Munchie, and wanted her to have a friend. Unfortunately, they didn't get along very well. I attempted several times to introduce them on neutral territory and each time it ended up in a rolling ball of fur LOL. The last time, there was blood, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. She currently has 2 neighbors. The other female, Munchie; and a male, Moo-moo. Their cages are all side by side, but separate. I figured this way they can chit chat and hang out if they want, but can feel secure in their own home. They all seem content enough with their current living situations. However, Crunchie was not the aggressor when I tried to introduce her to the other female, so I've always thought she would be ok with a cagemate. However, since she is in a "weakened" state, should I be concerned about introducing her to a new friend? Is it possible there would be a dominance issue, and she would be seen as the weak one?

I'm glad you mentioned putting a hide in the freezer so she has a cool soothing place to relax. I'm wondering if that's why she has been sleeping on her wheel lately? Maybe all the fluffy bedding in her bedroom was irritating her already irritated skin?

Again, thank you so much for your reply! And taking the time to post some helpful links! I'm so worried for my little girl, and trying to get any info from the vet is useless. It's nice to have a place with like-minded fur-parents and to be able to benefit from their experience!

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Post by Peachy on Thu 29 Dec 2016, 7:05 pm

I'm not sure about the Revolution. I'd imagine it would be a few days, but I have no experience with it. Maybe another member has used it before and has more to go on.

Generally with introductions, it can look pretty rough at first, but once you have them together you really have to let them work it out and only separate if blood is drawn.
Did you have toys around during the introduction? Sometimes that can complicate things. Try putting them in a bathtub with only a towel laid down for half an hour. If they're doing okay after half an hour, you can try moving them into a clean, neutral, empty tank and then slowly begin adding the necessities. The benefit of introducing her would be that she'd have someone to keep her busy when you're not around, and someone to do mousey things with.

Itchy mice are a lot of work, I know. But they learn new setups so quick and the excitement wears down. You might try to just rearrange her toys and such as much and you can. Another thing you could do, if you have the time, would be to keep her close and interrupt and distract her everytime you catch her scratching. A good way to tell a mouse "no" is to gently blow on their backs. They hate it, but it's effective.
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Post by CinnamonPearl on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 1:40 pm

It sounds like a bad combination of depression and OCD to me. Female mice really cannot live alone. Only very rarely does it work, and more often they get depressed and you have problems like these. Getting her a friend or trying to reintroduce your two girls would be a good first step. Introducing your two girls could be better cause no quarantine is needed. Even if it looks rough, leave them alone unless blood is drawn. If you introduce, they get along, and it doesn't help, I would then start treating OCD. Also she could have a sunflower seed or peanut allergy- these foods should be picked out of all mixed. Never leave them in. Also try switching her bedding to shredded newspaper.

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Post by FurMommy on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 6:58 pm

It seems to me that it's a combination of all these things. I could be wrong, as the vet seems to think I am, but I see them everyday and I know my critters pretty well. It all seemed to start with peanut butter treats. She was doing fine for several months with these treats, then one day, she was showing some minor signs of an allergy. I thought it was the bedding so I changed that, but at the same time I also took away the peanut butter treats. No particular reason why, just so she could have variety. After about a week, she was back to normal. I resumed the peanut butter treats, and the allergy started again. At that point, I assumed it was the peanut butter and took them away for good. Again, she went back to normal and was doing fine. A few weeks later, I switched up the layout of their cages. Their cages are all side by side. Moo-moo, the male, used to be between the 2 girls. He seemed to keep the girls company this way. Now he's on the outside, and the girls are next to each other. My one female, Munchie, she really seems to be a loner and wants no parts of a mousy friend. Crunchie, the sick one, her cage is also on the outside, so she no longer has the male next to her to keep her company. Around the same time I changed their cages around, they also started a new food. I give them 2 kinds, a nutritonal one, and I mix in a few pieces of a "foraging" type food. The store was out of the foraging food, so I replaced it with something similar. This food is loaded with nuts and seeds! This is when all hell broke loose. The scratching started and hasn't stopped. So I believe it's a combination of a food allergy to nuts that started it, made much worse with the addition of the new food loaded with seeds (I removed all the nuts since she appeared to be allergic), and she essentially lost her companion when I changed their cages around.

Now she doesn't get any nuts or seeds, period. I think she's rather upset with me for taking them away. Her favorite food is sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Now since I've only given her the one food, everyday the food that was in her bowl, is thrown all around her cage and the bowl is empty. I'm worried she's not eating enough and is relying on treats too much.

I'm treating her for mites either way, but it just doesn't seem to me like mites had anything to do with this. But my problem at this point... trying to stop her scratching! She now has started to bite herself. I watched her last night grab the skin on her chest with her little paws and chew it! She has horrible scabs on her neck and sides from chewing herself raw! It's a sad thing to see. Breaks my heart.

Thank you all for your advice! I really appreciate it! And I apologize for my posts being so long, but I always think it's better to give too much info, than not enough. Thanks again!

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Post by Peachy on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 7:58 pm

I know it can be so hard and heartbreaking. One of my boys was triggered by mites and/or an allergy to sunflower seeds, he scratched off his entire ear and began to rip at his neck/shoulder/front leg. Before it started to get better, he looked so terrible that we were discussing putting him to sleep. He did get better though, and has made it to his second year with me. Smile

One more thing to consider, since you brought up food, is protein content. Too much crude protein in a mix can also lead to itchy hot spots. Here's a thread with more advice about what to look for in a food, and a couple commonly recommended foods here:
http://petmousefanciers.forumotion.com/t15-mouse-diet

I hope that combining the advice that's been given so far will help out. Breaking the habit by being as unpredictable as you can, ruling out allergies and diet, treating for parasites, and getting her a friend. Someone to groom, be groomed by, play with, build a nest with, snuggle with... I would try introducing your current girl one more time, and then if it doesn't work it doesn't and you can rethink your options.
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Post by FurMommy on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 9:36 pm

Oh I'm so glad ur little guy made it through! And it gives me hope that she'll pull through this too! It's so weird because one day I think she's looking better, but then the next, something else pops up. Ay yi yi!

I'm considering pulling all food mixes and only giving her rice, since I read that's the least likely to cause allergies. Only giving treats I know she does ok with. My husband and I have been discussing how to totally remodel her home to give her something to do. In desperation last night, like 2 am LOL, I put together a paper towel tube that I poked some holes in, and stuffed tissue in the holes and hid treats inside. I was hoping she would see it and investigate but it looks like she took the treats and that was it. One good thing I can say is that she still very much enjoys running on her wheels! Surprises me because I would think she's hurting from all her cuts, but she spends a majority of her time either running or scratching. It's sad to say that when I check in on her, I'm hoping she's sleeping because I know she's not scratching if she's sleeping.

I'm definitely going to give all of your guys' advice a try and keep my fingers crossed. I did have another thought though... any experience with putting a neutered male with a female? My boy, Moo-moo, he's still intact, but I thought since he and my girls get along so well, it might be beneficial to have him fixed and live with Crunchie? I don't allow them together right now, so no risk of babies, but she loves to climb up the outside of his cage and have him groom her through the bars. I think they would make wonderful cagemates, but I don't want to do anything to make the situation worse.

Edit: I just read the link about their diet, and came across something interesting. In the post, they recommend Brown's Tropical Carnival Gourmet Food. That is the food that my guys were recently switched to because the store was out of their usual food (Vitakraft Natural Foraging), and I suspect is partly to blame for allergy trigger. Although, they recommend the hamster and gerbil formula, while my guys have the mouse and rat formula. Maybe that's the problem? They should have had the hamster/gerbil mix? Either way, I have found their usual food on Amazon and have ordered several bags of it. Hopefully it'll help calm the situation.

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Post by CinnamonPearl on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 10:30 pm

If you think it's an allergy, then you can certainly put her on a rice diet and slowly reintroduce foods one at a time to see what helps, but at this point it sounds more like OCD to me. Definitely find what she's allergic to, but start to treat it as OCD too.

It could be a matter of crude protein. Brown's mice and rat formula is too high in CP for mice, which can trigger allergic reactions. Their hamster and gerbil food is the correct CP, but I personally dislike it: too many artificial colors, and I've received more moldy bags than fresh bags from them. I feed Sunseed Vita conure food, but Vitakraft and Sunseed Vita parrot are also good. Vitakraft has the added bonus of not containing anything you need to pick out by hand.

Having cages next to each other isn't enough for females. They must live together. And for a mouse with OCD, being alone will only exacerbate the problem. She needs the support of her fellow mice. As for your neutering question... I'm not quite sure I understand. What would be the point of putting your boy through a painful, very risky procedure when you have a perfectly fine girl you could introduce to your sick one? It's more costly as well, and you'd still have to wait three weeks after the procedure before they could even meet. If you want to do it, go on ahead, but there's a time and a place to neuter a buck, and I don't see this situation as a good reason for risking his life.

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Post by FurMommy on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 11:32 pm

I don't have any experience with males, so I don't know the risk/benefits of neutering one. I only thought it an option because I know that he and my girls get along very well, whereas the 2 girls don't. I'm concerned with trying to introduce the girls again while the one is going through all of this. I certainly don't want to risk doing more harm because I put the 2 girls together, and the 1 was too weak to really defend herself (assuming they'll fight again). If neutering the male is not a good option, then the idea is out the window. Just reaching for solutions at this point and relying on advice from others with more experience.

I definitely agree that at this point, it is OCD. I think it may have started with allergies, maybe mites according to the vet, but now it's just habit. I guess I'm in for a tough road ahead with my little girl.

Another question... anyone ever use an e-collar on their mice? Again, this is desperation, but I purchased one last night online, hoping that it will at least make it harder for her to reach these areas that she has chewed and scratched raw. Drives me crazy that we can't just sit these little guys down and explain to them why they can't do these things to themselves, or that they have to take their medicine, or eat this food! Drive me crazy but I love em!

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Post by CinnamonPearl on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 11:40 pm

If you are convinced these girls will fight, then I would adopt two more to befriend her. Or even adopting one more and introducing all three of them could work. If your naughty girl decides to be dominant, the third girl will act as the peacekeeper to level out the alpha. It's how mouse colonies work.

An e-collar won't work. It's just an impossibility with mice. We've had someone on here try a thunderjacket type thing for a mouse and I recall it didn't work out either. We have someone on here who knows a lot about dealing with OCD. Hopefully she'll come by to help out. I also once had a girl with OCD but I unfortunately was never able to cure it, just manage it enough. Hers was a much milder case than yours, but I was cleaning up bloody eyes for most of her life.

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Post by Peachy on Sat 31 Dec 2016, 12:17 am

Unfortunately, mice are so prone to OCD behaviors that I think a lot of us have a lot of experience dealing with it. Laughing

Since an e-collar won't really work, perhaps you can talk to your vet about some medication that might help with the itchiness and/or about helping you trim or file her back nails.

Also, if she's eating, drinking, and playing normally, I wouldn't worry about her being attacked by your other girl. During the first part of introductions you're supposed to observe anyway, so if anything went wrong you'd be there to stop it.
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Post by FurMommy on Mon 02 Jan 2017, 5:45 pm

So it's been 3 weeks, as of today, since we've started on this journey, and I'm happy to report that Crunchie is looking so much better! I was really worried up until about 2 days ago because she seemed to be getting worse, rather than better. She was scratching more, even chewing herself, and had so many cuts all over her face, neck and back. She was practically bald from the top of her head down her neck, and all around her eyes. I've noticed the last 2 days that her hair is growing back, her cuts are healing and I haven't noticed any new cuts. Aside from the huge scab on her leg and chest where she was chewing herself, she looks to be almost healed! I wish I knew what exactly it was that helped her. If it was the mite treatment, the antibiotic, removing the known foods that cause allergies... or if it was all things combined. Hopefully, now we just have to deal with her OCD!

Since she is looking better, I feel more comfortable with re-introducing her to my other girl, Munchie. I've been trying to help facilitate a friendship between them, before I actually put them together. I know that grooming each other is a way to establish relationships, so I've been putting the girls up to each other's cages, and allowing them to sniff and groom each other, but with the safety of the bars between them. My male, Moomoo, was jumpy and skittish at first, and could not be handled. I would put the girls up to his cage, and he would groom them through the bars, but they would not groom him. I felt bad, so I started "grooming" him myself lol. I would just gently pet his face, and it seemed that he thought it was the girl grooming him. So I've been doing the same with the girls. Hoping to trick them into being friends. Crunchie, the sick one, immediately comes over and sticks her face through the bars, so that Munchie can groom her. Once Munchie stops fidgeting, I pet the both of them, hoping they will think it's the other one grooming them. The first 2 days, Munchie was still aggressive with Crunchie, but only when I put Crunchie up to Munchie's cage. As if she was defending her home. Munchie would try to reach through the bars and grab ahold of Crunchie. Today, Munchie is much nicer to Crunchie. She hasn't tried to bite or scratch her through the bars. She is not trying to groom her though, either. I feel it's a step in the right direction though. I'm hoping that a few more days of this will help Munchie recognize Crunchie as a friend, and then I'll try putting them in the same cage. Fingers crossed that all goes well!

Now my question is would it be better to put them in a neutral cage for the introduction? I've always tried it in a neutral cage, since that's what I've read over and over in my research. I only ask because Munchie, the naughty one, is much less aggressive towards Crunchie when they are around Crunchie's cage. Crunchie is a very sweet girl either way. Is it possible to introduce them in Crunchie's cage, where Munchie won't feel the need to be so defensive? Or is this just asking for trouble?

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Post by CinnamonPearl on Mon 02 Jan 2017, 6:26 pm

This is all such great news! The introduction should go fine. Do it in neutral territory just to be safe.

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Post by FurMommy on Wed 04 Jan 2017, 7:07 am

Does anyone know if there's something that I can put on my little girl's scabs? Or should I leave it alone? She seems to be healing, slowly but surely, but the scabs that are on her leg and neck where she was chewing herself are looking pretty nasty. They don't appear to be infected or anything. All things considered, they look good actually. But they are very dry, and I'm assuming, very itchy. I'd like to help relieve some of her scratching, if possible. I don't want her to end up scratching the scab off. Both scabs are obviously in an area that she can reach easily, so I know I can't use anything that would be harmful if ingested. I just don't know if there is something else I can use, or if I should let them continue to heal on their own?

So sorry for the thousands of questions, but my vet is the only one in the office that treats exotics, and she only works part time, so getting ahold of her can take several days. I can't say enough how much I appreciate all of your help! I'm sure my little girl does too!

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