Carl was a hairless.
See Lenny's page for details on how I came to obtain him.
Unfortunately, Carl did not have the life I would have hoped for for him.
All of his adult life, from around the age of 5 months onward, he suffered from a mystery skin problem. Signs of it first became apparent at around 5-6 months of age, where he would get very dry skin, red, blotchy patches, and a hard, crusty layer on the soles of his hind feed.
Carl was treated in the usual ways to try and find out what caused it. He was treated for mites, put onto a different litter in case he was allergic to it, given steroids, given baths in two different medicated shampoos prescribed by the vet, and given a cream for his skin. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to make any difference, and Carl actually got worse. His skin became raw and quite thin. Carl was also finding it hard to keep weight on by this point, and was becoming very boney. A small lump that he had on his upper arm, initially thought to be either an abscess or just a harmless fatty lump, soon grew and it became apparent it would not go away on its own. However, due to his other medical problems and how thin he was, I was concerned he would not make it through a surgery. In the end, it was decided that it was worth a go, as the lump, while not huge, was beginning to turn black and look unpleasant.
Carl made it through his surgery, and I hoped that with this lump gone, we could get back to investigating his main skin issue. Carl was given a skin scrape while under the aneasthetic, which revealed the presence of demodex mange mites. He was treated for these, but it made no difference to his condition. Then, his eyes also began to swell up and become very dry. At this point, I decided to try isolating Carl off from the other rats so I could really monitor him individually. I was also further exploring the idea that it could be something in his every day environment which he was reacting to. I don't like to seperate rats off from their group unless it is unavoidable, as I think the mental stress of it can be a problem all on its own.
Carl was put into a small cage, and kept upstairs in my bedroom. I used towels as bedding rather than litter, and did not let him come into contact with other rats for 2 weeks. During this period, I also monitored his food, and put him onto a gluten free diet, and was having eye drops several times a day to keep his eyes healthy. At this point, with 3 seperate vets telling me they were baffled by his condition, I was just experimenting with different ideas. I never truely expected that the gluten free diet would make a difference, but you have to try all avenues.
Keeping a rat on a gluten free diet is pretty hard; most of the things rats eat on a daily basis contain gluten. Soon, it became apparent that the diet wasn't making any difference to him, and nor was isolating him from his normal environment. I made the decision to put him back into the group.
A few days after that, Carl developed a nasty abscess on his groin, but that turned out to be the least of his problems. Some days later, I went out to check the rats before bed, and found Carl on his own, on the side extention of the cage, seemingly unable to get up. It was very unlike him to not be snuggled in with the other rats. When I picked him up, he was freezing cold, and felt very weak and lifeless in my hands.
It was a cold night, which he usually dealt with by snuggling up to all the others in a hammock or igloo, but it appeared that they had pushed him out that night.
I rushed him indoors, convinced he was going to die, as he was very unresponsive. If I hadn't been able to see him breathing, I'd have assumed he was already dead, as he was so cold and rigid. I put him in lots of blankets and gave him a heat pad, but nothing seemed to be working. In a last attempt, I filled a bowl with warm water, and gave him a bath in it, hoping to heat his body up faster that way. This actually seemed to work, and he began to paddle his legs. After drying him off, he was put back on the heat pad, and I had no option but to just wait and see.
An hour later, I parted his blankets to check him, and he sprung to life, began walking about and seemed interested in his surroundings. I offered him some warm water with honey in it, and he drank 6 mls of it, before tucking into some porridge! By the next morning, he was back to his old self, and you'd never have known he was so close to death.
But it did cement my decision to keep him indoors with me from now on, as it was apparent the other rats were not looking after him outside. I took him to the vet, to have his abscess looked at and get him checked over after his illness, and he was given some dermisol to cleanse his wound.
Carl was with me for only a couple more weeks following this before he once again became very cold and unresponsive, this time while indoors with plenty of heat. I did the same I had done before: heat pads, warm baths, blankets, but unfortunately this time Carl did not respond.
I sat up with him all night, as I desperately wanted to be with him when he died. By 3:00am, I had to admit defeat and go to bed in order to be up at 6:00am for work.
Come morning, he was still alive, but by heart beat only, which was extremely faint. I left him snuggled up in his blankets and fleece igloo, and went to work. By the time I got home some hours later, he had died.
Carl was a special rat. He had so many health issues, and needed so much attention and nursing that I grew very attached to him. So many of his problems were, and remain, mysteries. I do sometimes wonder if he had Cushings, as he matched a lot of the symptoms. But despite his poor health, he was such a little fighter, and never complained. I would never have thought such a skinny little rat would have come back from the near-death experience he had, but he amazed me and convinced me even moreso to never give up on a rat, even if it looks like there is no hope.
Why Carl? My friend Mick named both Lenny and Carl after Simpsons characters.