So we had a pretty stressful time last night. From the beginning: Barbara went in to have 3(!) small tumors removed yesterday. Because the last time she took her surface stitches right out, the vet didn't put any in this time. She just put stitches inside the wound, and used some kind of glue on it.
I picked Barbara up from the vet on the way home from work, and she seemed healthy, curious, and ready for some treats. Got her home, into the brand new sick cage (because we currently have two babies in quarantine in the old sick cage), and she seemed pretty happy. Then about 10 minutes later I hear Danielle admonish Barbara for picking at her cut. She's making it bleed a little bit.
We're not sure what to do, so we just hold her to prevent her from doing this. The best I can think of is to make a collar, so we fashion one out of cardboard but no matter what I do she gets it off in just a few seconds. So we post here, and call our breeder, and in general are pretty stressed out about the whole thing. The consensus is that we should just leave her be, and she won't go too far.
So we leave her to it, but half an hour later Danielle sounds very upset again. It looks like Barbara has actually gotten at the deep stitches. One of her cuts is opened a little bit, showing bright red flesh. To make the sight worse Barbara is pulling at it as hard as she can, right in the center. In somewhat of a panic, we take her to the emergency vet. They take one look at her, and confirm that the wound needs to be stitched closed again. Unfortunately they're completely swamped, so it'll be at least an hour. At first it sounds like they want to keep her there until they're ready, but we decide to hold onto Barbara ourselves so we can prevent her from hurting herself any more.
The vet tries on a collar they have. It has snap buttons, a nice soft rubber along the inside, and looks generally very clinical. Unfortunately it's either too tight on our poor rat, or too loose. They give us a piece of x-ray paper that we can try to make our own collar out of, and tell us they'll call us when they're ready for Barbara.
So we drive back home again, where I finally manage to make a collar that fits. I used the pattern on this page, with the x-ray paper, some cotton for the collar inside, medical tape, and our neighbor's sewing kit to put it all together: http://ratballs.com/RatTails/Tails084.html I think what went wrong with the cardboard ones was that I'd made the center hole too big.
While we're still waiting for the vet to call us back, I set to making the sick cage taller. I didn't count on a collar-wearing rat, which needs more vertical space to get around comfortably. At this point Barbara is in our carrier, wearing the collar, while Danielle is asleep on the floor next to her. Just as I'm finishing up the taller cage, the vet calls to say their emergencies are over.
At the vet, they take Barbara, make us sign the paperwork, and leave us alone in the waiting room for half an hour or so. Finally the vet emerges from a door, with Barbara in his hands. He's fixed the cut she opened up, and put surface stitches on all the cuts as well, just in case. I ask him some questions, and learn how to judge how tight a collar should be put on. You should look at the color of the rat's gums, tongue, etc, which should be pink. If they're bluish then the collar is on too tight. On top of that he personally likes to make sure the collar is loose enough that it can rotate around the rat's neck fairly easily.
We get home just before 1am, where we put Barbara in the enlarged sick cage. We fret a little bit over her ability to eat without her hands. In addition to her seed mixture we also give her some soup. Distressingly, Barbara is still a bit groggy from the anesthetic they gave her. A couple of times she sits up straight, only to fall over onto her back. Even with that, we're satisfied that she'll be OK through the night so we finally catch some sleep.
This morning we took off the collar to give her a chance to wash herself, and generally feel better. After fussing about a bit, she's fallen asleep now. We're watching her closely, and plan to put the collar back on if she starts picking at her cuts again. I'm not sure how long is long enough, but I'd like to give them at least 24 hours to heal without being messed up.