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



29 December

We’re now back from our Christmas holiday and Kali’s rapidly amended holiday house worked OK. She was able to get at the wire on the roof but she had to be at full stretch to do it so she didn’t spend much time gnawing it.

It was a bit of a struggle to get her to take her medicines. She got bored of the porridge that I was mixing them with so I switched to scrambled egg which she really enjoyed for a few days. Towards the end of the week she was getting bored of the egg so I switched to mashed up banana. This got us through the rest of the week but she did miss a few doses when she refused to eat the medicine. One of the vitamins comes mixed in a molases-type medium and it has a very strong smell (and taste?). Kali doesn’t seem to like this very much and I think this is what put her off more than anything else.

She was very active most of the week, especially at night! She seemed more like her old self so something seemed to be making a difference. She seemed better during the middle of the week and became more withdrawn again towards the end.

I wasn’t able to observe the foot flicking/twitching properly because she was in a different place and her behaviour was a bit different anyway. She came out to explore the cottage a few times but because everything was new she was very distracted with exploring. Now that we’re home I was able to observe her in her normal environment and there has been a definite lessening of the shaking/twitching. It is both less frequent and less severe. However she still looked a bit uncomfortable and sat hunched up for a while while she was out and her poos were soft again this morning. They had been OK all week!

We’re off to the vets again tonight. I wish I had something more definite to report and I’ll see if there is any alternative to the ‘molasses’ vitamin supplement which Kali doesn’t seem to like.

20 December

The start of our holiday has been delayed because I have to replace the wire on Kali’s holiday house before we go away. I’ve got some clear perspex sheets to use instead of the wire. We were due to leave at 11 o’clock but we we didn’t get away until after 3 o’clock. I was able to replace all the wire except for the roof which I hope Kali won’t be able to reach. She’LL have to stay in her holiday house after we come back because I havn’t had time to replace the wire on her main house.

She’s took the vitamin supplements for the first time yesterday and she seems a bit better in herself. She was very lively last night and she woke us up in the early house of the morning crashing about in her house and gnawing the wire! Stupid girl.

18 December

I took a call from my vet at work today asking me to come in this evening because we’ve finally heard back from the zoo vets. It has taken a long time to get their response because they wanted to see a video of Kali’s behaviour so they could see the symptoms for themselves. I was able to hire a digital video camcorder and I captured about half an hour of footage of Kali. I transferred it to VHS tape and posted off to the zoo vets earlier this week. I’LL see if I can get some of it onto the site for everyone to see.

The zoo vets haven’t got a firm diagnosis but they’ve come up with some interesting suggestions. They are suggesting that she could be suffering from a ‘parasitic myositis’ (my vet tells me that this is where the parasite’s cysts form in the muscle tissue); zinc or lead poisoning or a vitamin deficiency (probably vitamin E or B). These could all cause the foot shaking/flicking symptoms.

It is possible to test for these by doing blood tests for the poisoning and a muscle biopsy for the parasite’s cysts. However this would mean Kali being put out again for an operation which was going to be difficult to arrange this close to Christmas. The vets would be closed and we were going away for Christmas. I’m sure the wire mesh I’d used when I repaired Kali’s house was zinc coated! so this was a very likely cause. We decided to try vitamin supplements over the Christmas holidays and I would make sure Kali didn’t have access to any zinc.

We are due to be going away on holiday Saturday so I need to replace the wire on Kali’s travel house with something else before then.

1 December

The news from the vets was not very encouraging. I’ve taken urine samples in to the vets every other day for the last week for testing. They do not show any glucose so it doesn’t look as if she has diabetes. Unfortunately the vet has no idea what is wrong with her. He’s put her on a course of steroids but I don’t think he’s expecting them to have any affect. We’re also sending all her medical details off for a second opinion from an exotics / zoo vet expert to see if there is anything we’ve missed.

I’m finding it really frustrating that we can’t find anything to treat Kali with. She is still OK in herself but she is still suffering from the foot flicking/shaking symptoms and she is finding them quite distressing. Because I have to do something for her I’ve decided to try her on alpha lipoic acid. From what I’ve read about this it is being used to treat neurological problems like Kali’s. If it helps it should start reducing her symptoms in a month or two. I’ve also read that vitamin B1 is helpful to nerve functions so I’m increasing certain foods in her diet such as whole-grain cereals, rye and whole-wheat flour, wheat germ and kidney beans.

We’re going back to the vets this evening and he should have had feedback from the exotics expert. I was also supposed to take another urine sample in but Kali didn’t oblige last night when she was out.

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