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The Wuzzy Chronicles

My Rat Wuzzy - Part 2

A closeup of Wuzzy Ray in her cage
Published on February 8, 2010 : 10 comments

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A few weeks back, I was talking to the wonderful folks at about writing a dog health blog with them. At exactly the same time we were talking about the column, my Wuzzy Rat began to show signs of illness. It ground my week to a halt, and, somewhat sheepishly, I admitted that to them. 

They started my column, and let me call it The Wuzzy Chronicles! I am so very grateful, and if that week was scary and sad, rat-wise, this week is happy and content. So, this Wuzzy update will be neither as exciting nor as dramatic, thank goodness. I have said it before, and I will say it again, “I LOVE boring.” (ed.’s note: I do not love boring, but luckily found the story quite interesting. Keep reading!)

Fuzzy and Wuzzy are our two year old Hairless Dumbo Rex Rats. Wuzzy had been bleeding for a couple of weeks, and the bleeding had just been localized to her reproductive system.  The next step in her diagnostic and treatment plan was abdominal exploratory surgery.

Surgery Day

Surgery day came. I set up a small kennel for Wuzzy, put her gently into it, and wrapped it with a towel. On the way to the hospital, my oldest daughter’s words echoed in my head, “You haven’t spayed her yet, Mom?” 

Wuzzy immediately post-opWuzzy immediately post-opMy kids went through a, “We’re going to raise puppies when we grow up” phase, and rather than agree with them that puppies are cute, and leave it at that, I went into an in-depth explanation about pet overpopulation, health issues of intact pets, and the importance of sterilizing most pets. 

My three point lecture with visual aids was met with eye-rolls from my children.  I was OK with that. I figured I had their entire childhood to both educate them and change the world. My plan (and that of many others) is to move towards a world in which there is a lifelong, loving home for every pet.  There will be more room there for excellent breeders, and my daughters will be free to raise their puppies without worrying that their cute fuzzy litters will edge out the rescue pets waiting to be adopted. Apparently, they heard me the first time, and now my own lecture had come back to judge me.

Wuzzy is not at risk of contributing to pet overpopulation. Her only same-species friend is Fuzzy, and she too is female. I considered spaying Fuzzy and Wuzzy as babies. I would like to say that I decided against it for sound medical reasons. Most hormone-related mammary tumors in rats are benign, and other reproductive system-related illnesses are uncommon in rats. These issues did play into my decision, but truthfully, I was also scared. Their surgeries would have coincided with the end of the chilling crisis we had just been through in which we nearly lost Fuzzy, Wuzzy, and their littermate, Cookie Roo. I knew intellectually that the risks of anesthesia were minimal, especially for young, healthy rats with no respiratory issues, but my fears won out, and they remained intact…until now. 

Wuzzy on the car ride home after surgeryWuzzy on the car ride home after surgeryWe arrived at the hospital right on time for Wuzzy’s surgery. I prepared her fluids and pain medication. Angela and Dr. Wittler painstakingly rerouted the tubing of the anesthesia machine to ensure that Wuzzy Rat would inhale as little carbon dioxide as possible, and replaced the rebreathing bag with one made especially for the smallest of patients. The majority of our anesthetic patients are at least several pounds. Wuzzy is 242 grams, just barely over one half of a pound, which is small even for a rat!

All veterinarians I know react in one of two ways to the anesthesia of their own pets. We either go (in our minds) to a quiet place as far away as possible and sip a pretty blue drink while we wait to hear that our pet is waking up smoothly, or we stand an inch over our anesthetized pet with a surgical instrument in each hand, threatening to use the sharp one to poke anyone who gets too close.

We are not more neurotic than you are. In fact, we understand well the physiology and medicine of veterinary anesthesia, and that it can be done as safely as human pediatric anesthesia is done.

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We leave or hover because we can. We leave because we know our teams well—we know that we can trust them completely and that they are perfectly capable of doing what needs to be done without us present. We hover because we have access to every part of the hospital and every patient. You would be a neurotic person of extremes in these situations, too, if you could. 

Our veterinary team will not ever rush a surgery or dental procedure. But once your pet is waking up safely, one of us surely will rush to the surgery suite exit. We know that you are neither far away waiting calmly, drink in hand, nor hovering over your anesthetized pet. You are at work or home wondering why we have not yet called. I know how you feel.

For Wuzzy’s abdominal exploratory surgery, I went with the second option, standing an inch over Wuzzy. She’s very small! And I needed the scalpel for surgery! In all seriousness, I am comfortable with complex surgeries and with very (very) small patients. Of course, the hitch for me on this day was that this very small patient undergoing complex surgery was MY Wuzzy. 

A Laugh a Week in the Making

Wuzzy home after surgeryWuzzy home after surgeryWuzzy’s surgery went wonderfully, and she woke up smoothly. None of her very small abdominal organs appeared to be diseased except for her very small uterus, which I removed, along with her very small ovaries.

The uterine and ovarian tissues were sent to a veterinary pathologist for review. My big scare was cancer, for two reasons, both of which you know well: 1) Wuzzy is my rat, and 2) I am neurotic. However, I hope to never let my love for my patients nor my extreme interest in their well being cloud my judgment—I had also written a very extensive rule out list with cancer being the top differential in a senior rat with uterine abnormalities. 

I wanted to put a note on the pathology report that said “DOCTOR’S PET” and maybe include a cute picture of Wuzzy. But I know the pathologists who review our cases are excellent. It’s not as if they would put down their doughnut, dust off their microscope and really focus on this one. So, I just sent in the tissues and paperwork, and waited. 

After surgery, I had Wuzzy wrapped snuggly in a towel, with only her cute little baldy head showing. Her eyes were half closed, but she was as gorgeous as ever. A kind client said, “What is that?” I held her up and replied, “My rat! She just had surgery.” She looked more closely and said, “Oh! They had to shave her, huh?” After I explained that she was hairless from the start, we both laughed. I realized it was the first time I had laughed in a week.

Ebony Lab and Wuzzy after surgeryEbony Lab and Wuzzy after surgeryI have sent many rats and other pets, for that matter, home with very detailed postoperative instructions. I could give you the speech in my sleep. I have never seen one so dedicated to disobeying those instructions as Wuzzy was. And rats do not keep E-collars on (the cone-shaped space collars most often associated with post-surgical dogs). They pull them forward and off in one fell swoop of their nimble little hands. So, I made the cutest little belly wrap! Actually I made ten, and Wuzzy hula-danced out of ten. I folded my arms and scowled. Wuzzy climbed the bars of her toy-less, set-up-for-resting kennel and laughed. 

The two of us stayed up most of the night. I answered calls and e-mails about Wuzzy. I am still on an emotional high from all the care I have received from concerned friends and family, and even people I had not met before Wuzzy became sick. Wuzzy got some licks in that night, but her abdominal incision remained intact. So we both won.

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Six days later, I received Wuzzy’s two page pathology report, scanned it, and zoned in on the good part: “endometrial hyperplasia with chronic, suppurative and hemorrhagic endometritis,” [i] that is, a uterine infection that can be fatal if not treated. “Ovariohysterectomy should prove clinically beneficial; however, post-surgical monitoring and appropriate antibiotic therapy would be indicated also,” [ii] that is, do what you did. Surgery was diagnostic and curative, another win for both of us.

Fuzzy and Wuzzy’s food came in the mail today, the kind they both love. They are together again in their large habitat with toys and shelves, hiding boxes and snacks. All is back to normal. All is well. Boring, just like I like it.

[i] Antech Diagnostics, Chris A. Schiller, DVM, Diplomate ACVP, Histopathology Report, (Oak Brook, IL.) p.1.

[ii] Ibid.

Finch93Shawn Finch is a veterinarian and Mom. She works at Banfield, The Pet Hospital of Papillion. She writes for her own website (, and Carefresh. :)


Mom Karen (not verified) says:

February 9, 2010 : 14 years 23 weeks ago

Mom Karen's picture

wow, you are amazing!!!! I’m sorry I forgot to ask last night if the path was ok, but she looked so good and you werte so happy I guess I knew it was good!!

cpooschke says:

February 10, 2010 : 14 years 22 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

You’re a great writer, and you have a wonderful story to tell. Thanks for joining! I look forward to your articles!

Finch93 says:

February 11, 2010 : 14 years 22 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thank you Mom Karen! Love you!! And thank you Christy! I already knew I loved your articles-great one about Tomato Tomato. And I JUST read the school garden article. Can’t wait till spring now!

jesskamish says:

February 12, 2010 : 14 years 22 weeks ago

jesskamish's picture

That’s so great that Wuzzy made it through surgery and that the surgery was all that she needed=)

Finch93 says:

February 12, 2010 : 14 years 22 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

I agree! Thanks for rooting for her Jessica! It is no exaggeration to say that Wuzzy is as cute as a Pug!

Mary Haight (not verified) says:

February 15, 2010 : 14 years 22 weeks ago

Mary Haight's picture

What a fabulous story, and the mirror you held up to show us how much you empathize when it is our version of Wuzzy in surgery, well, the depth of your compassion rang loud and clear. I see your editor had no worries about the last part of Wuzzy’s story being boring:) All I can say, Dr. Finch, is Omaha/Papillion is very lucky to have you—what a kind, thoroughly caring person you are. And you can write, too;-D

Finch93 says:

February 15, 2010 : 14 years 22 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thank you Mary!!

AnniesDoodlebugz (not verified) says:

February 17, 2010 : 14 years 21 weeks ago

AnniesDoodlebugz's picture

I just found your article on Wuzzy! Yikes! I assume Wuzzy is still doing well…
Keep writing, you may find you will have another stream of income ;-)

See you on Twitter - Ann

Finch93 says:

February 19, 2010 : 14 years 21 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thanks Ann! You’re the best! Wuzzy is doing wonderfully. Goofy as ever and you can hardly see her little tummy incision anymore :)

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2013 : 11 years 27 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

Thank you so much for sharing this story. It set my day off on a positive tone!