overthinking a plate of house mice.
August 18, 2012 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Mousefilter: a house mouse got its back half stuck in a box fan last night. We heard it squeaking and rescued it (and I got nipped). Nurse line tells us to keep the mouse, just in case, and page our doctor. We did. This morning, when we came out, it was on its back and non-responsive, but still breathing. What do we do?

Both on a health level and I guess a humane animal treatment level. Do we try to put the mouse out of its misery? If so, how?

Mouse facts:

- the mouse's tail looked badly bruised last night. This morning, it's hard to tell, but it looks like it's snapped in half. No other visible injuries.
- the back half of the body is really big, almost swollen. I thought it was pregnancy originally (definitely female), but maybe it was internal injuries?
- we put it in a big glass vase that we have together with a plastic container it could hide under, plus a little food, but no water
- it was moving around fine after capture, but became more lethargic as the evening went on.

Me facts:

- I washed the two places where the mouse drew blood thoroughly with soap, then soap and water, and put bandaids on 'em.
- we called the nurse line. The nurse line said to keep the mouse and page our doctor since it was late Friday night. We did. She didn't call back. It's a busy urban practice, and yeah, I can't even feel the nips this morning.
- I'm current on my tetanus boosters. (I think. Four years ago?)
- The disease/animal control website for our city says that mice almost never carry rabies and are not known to cause rabies in the US.
posted by joyceanmachine to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You IMMEDIATELY have it sent to a lab and tested for rabies. You absolutely do NOT wait to do this.

On the bright side, rodents actually don't tend to carry rabies very often, so pretty low risk, overall. But you don't screw around with untreatable fatal diseases.
posted by pla at 5:36 AM on August 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

The mouse:

Wait, what is your goal here? I don't understand. You aren't seriously considering getting medical treatment for a wild mouse, are you? If it's non-responsive, it's going to die soon anyway. So, euthanize the poor thing and be done with it.


The CDC basically says to contact your local health department, and they should be able to advise you. They also note that a wild animal will be euthanized and then tested for rabies, so this mouse is basically toast in any situation.

The CDC also says "Small rodents (like squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, and mice) and lagomorphs including rabbits and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans."

Personally, I'd put it in a bag in the freezer to kill it, then move it to the fridge to preserve the body. Then I'd call the health department when they're next open to see if they wanted it. pla mentions sending it to a lab immediately. You can probably have that done somewhere quickly, but you'll be paying for it.

Alternatively, call the local hospital and see if their lab can do the test. If so, you could go to the ER with the dead mouse.
posted by Netzapper at 6:18 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I would put the mouse out of it's misery and not worry about the bite given that there has never been a documented case in the US. But, you're probably a lot younger than I am and have more to lose if you die.
posted by HuronBob at 6:25 AM on August 18, 2012 [14 favorites]

Animal Control will usually take care of euthanizing and testing animals in these cases. Call them. You've done the hard part of capturing the mouse.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:39 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you want to put the mouse out of its misery immediately, grab its shoulders with the finger and thumb of one hand and it's head with the finger and thumb of the other. And (quickly) pull in opposite directions. It's the most humane way to kill a mouse and the method they use in labs.

You can then take the mouse to animal control to test it for communicable disease.
posted by phunniemee at 6:47 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

My guess is that the mouse received internal injuries from the fan: probably some sort of crushing/squeezing, since there's no blood or open wounds. Also, I believe mice have pretty high heart rates, and the whole stuck/capture/caged sequence has it freaked out into a mouse-ish heart attack or something. Sorry, but I'd say Mr. Mouse will be dead soon, no latter what you do.
posted by easily confused at 6:55 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Quick mouseicide: hold the vase under a car exhaust. Death in a couple seconds.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:10 AM on August 18, 2012

Depending on where you live, you may need to be concerned about Hantavirus. Definitely call your local health department and ask for advice. Either the communicable/infectious disease group or the environmental health (vector control) people should be able to help you.
posted by gubenuj at 7:45 AM on August 18, 2012

I MeMailed you.
posted by srrh at 7:49 AM on August 18, 2012

And here we go with people suggesting inhumane euthanasia methods like freezing or using car exhaust. You might as well leave it to die naturally given how cruel those methods are. The only humane methods are either proper CO2 asphyxiation - which requires training to do correctly and a proper CO2 source which you do not have - or cervical dislocation - which is basically what phunniemee is suggesting. Cervical dislocation generally requires training to do really well but is certainly the easiest to get right, or at least close enough, without it and is what you should do. If you don't want to use your fingers then use a pencil or something solid to pin it behind the head then pull sharply from the tail while pressing down (so you both crush the spine and break it at the same time, killing it two ways at once). Or get animal control to come do it themselves, or it might even be dead by the time you finish reading all this anyway.

Leaving it without water can also kill it after a couple of days regardless of injuries (and this mouse is clearly mortally injured). They're so small that dehydration kicks in really fast. If the food is moist at all that goes a long way towards helping, but if you're not going to kill it any time soon then please give it some water.

Even heavily pregnant mice aren't really as fat as you'd think, it's more of just a bulge in the belly area rather than really well swollen. This sounds much more like internal injuries from the fan. Given how small the mouse is and how badly they react to stress like being caught, the lifespan of this mouse is probably less than a day at this point. Kill it humanely then either freeze the body or send it somewhere immediately (it will decompose really fast), and get it tested for whatever your local health department thinks is necessary.
posted by shelleycat at 8:35 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

shelleycat: why CO2 over, say, nitrogen?
posted by Leon at 8:38 AM on August 18, 2012

As far as euthanization, shelleycat certainly seems to know what she's talking about (from personal experience, I'm guessing) but if you don't think you can manage the dislocation technique or are too squicked out to do it, I will say that when I recently had to euthanize a chipmunk I did it by placing it on some concrete and decapitating it with a shovel. It was over very quickly. I used to do the same for mortally-wounded gulls and rabbits back when I was a park ranger (I was on an island, it was all I had) and as long as the poor thing will sit decently still and you're able to do the deed without flinching it should do the trick.

I would not worry too much about the bite, if it were me. I got bit by a wild mouse as a kid and my parents, both medical people, just shrugged it off. You should do whatever makes you feel safe though.
posted by Scientist at 9:45 AM on August 18, 2012

Dear god, kill the poor thing right now. It must be suffering terribly.
Then worry about the very low but still possible chance that it might have been infectious to you.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2012

I will add that Mr.SLC used to kill lab mice and shellycat's technique matches his description. (He would then purée their brains, but you need not go that far, I think.)

I read your question very quickly, being a bit freaked by the idea of the little thing suffering. In a more careful reading, it seems like you have all your bases covered. If you live in an area that has rabies or hanta virus, I would want the body tested for those. But otherwise I think you're fine.

By the way, this is an upsetting thing to happen! I like to think of my box fan as my friend, not as a mouse killer. Good on you for handling it and thinking everything through.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:57 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the comments, guys. I was super, super-freaked and upset by how much the mouse was suffering. I still don't know how the mouse ended up in the box fan, but it ended up dying on its own shortly after pla posted.

On the mouse front: thanks for the practical, hands-on instructions about how to do cervical dislocation were helpful.

For anybody reading this thread in the future, a very kind Metafilter member tells me that PETA can make arrangements and pay for safe, humane euthanasia of mice.

On the health front: my worrywart husband made me call the doctor; the doctor told me to go the ER, especially since the mouse died. What the hospital did/said:

- House mice in our part of the US (Philadelphia) are not considered potential carriers of rabies.
- The hospital disposed of the mouse for me without sending it to animal control or testing it for anything else.
- If you're an adult in good health and get bit by a mouse in the Philly that is acting like a mouse, your main concerns are infection and tetanus.
- For both concerns, the best thing to do is wash the bitten hands immediately with soap and water. In my case, the hospital did another irrigation, then did an x-ray to see how deep the puncture wound had gone. If I hadn't had a tetanus booster shot within the past five years, they would have given me one.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:23 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am glad you posted this. I have had to kill hurt animals. It is awful. It is more awful to let them suffer. Also, this is a good reason to make sure you don't touch small wild animals without gloves, even an oven mitt will work. As for large ones (like groundhogs) call animal control.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 1:37 PM on August 18, 2012

I am sorry I didn't get to this thread sooner. I have tried to emphasize in past similar threads that because of the extremely rare (nearly never) incidence of rodents with rabies, rodents are not considered potential rabies carriers for prophylaxis, because the rabies prophylaxis is expensive and time consuming. This goes not just for Philadelphia but for the whole rest of the USA and probably the world (although I can only speak for the USA).

By the way, the x-ray is to look for foreign bodies (like pieces of a tooth that broke off in the wound), rather than to see how deep the puncture goes.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:11 PM on August 18, 2012

Gotcha! I must've misunderstood the hospital. Thanks, treehorn+bunny.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:23 PM on August 18, 2012

As far as euthanization, shelleycat certainly seems to know what she's talking about (from personal experience, I'm guessing)

I bred and kept mice as a child and now I collaborate with all kinds of researchers, including animal ones. But I'm also smart enough not to out them on the internet given the massive issues we have with animal activists in this part of the world and I'll please ask you to do the same.
posted by shelleycat at 1:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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