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Bubbles - A story of rat family love

By Dr Louise Grey

You may have seen our recent post on Facebook regarding the remarkable Bubbles and her rat friends helping her through anaesthesia. We always knew this was a lovely story but we were not quite expecting it to reach so many people. Bubbles story was by people all over the world and by over 200 thousand people! That's a lot of reach for a little rat!

We'd like to give you a bit more of her remarkable story given there was so much interest and support for her. Bubbles is an older female rat and had developed a mammary mass. This is an all to common issue for female rats. The mass was likely benign but was growing to a large enough size to cause her discomfort. She was admitted for surgery to remove the mass. Given the size of the mass (large) and the size of the patient (small) this surgery was not without risk. Further complicating surgery and anaesthesia was Bubbles advanced age and underlying respiratory disease (another super common rat issue).

Her surgery was very straightforward and she had very little blood loss. Measures were taken to support her respiration and body temperature throughout and she had a smooth anaesthetic. Her initial anaesthetic recovery was very routine but after the first 20min she started to struggle with her respiration. She was given medication to support lung function and stimulate respiration. She recieved fluids through intravenous access via her tail vein. However, she was not regaining concioussness.

The decision was made to call her family in and they bought her ratty friends in with them. Frank and Baby's response to Bubbles was remarkable. The went straight to her side and started snuggling and grooming her. They showed little interest in all the other equipment on the table surrounding her, zoning in on their friend. They continued by her side, regularly licking and grooming her face and body for around 40min. Amazingly and wonderfully she continued to slowly improve and then woke up! At this point both Frank and Baby's behaviour changed. They gave her a quick lick and then went off to explore the table, attempt to nibble the monitoring equipment and climb up arms for cuddles from the vets and nurses monitoring the stiuation! It seemed that they had decided she was going to be fine and were now more interested in what was going on in this new and exciting place! We took that as a great sign. Frank and Baby were providing care very similar to newborns in NICU - skin to skin or Kangaroo care. Touch, warmth, smell - these powerful triggers to the concious and unconcious brain will help stabalise heart rate, respiration and body temperature in tiny babies. It would seem that this is true of rats too. Love is love, family is family - regardless of species. It would seem that having family and loved ones close is so very important.

We will commonly keep bonded pairs of pets together as much as possible in hospital. This will reduce stress and anxiety throughout the day. This is just another powerful example of how life changing the power of love can be!


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