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Mice/Mouse is very sick-- antibiotics


QUESTION: I will try to be as thorough as possible in regards to little Gerry's illness.
Age. about 10 weeks
Origin. Abandoned wild deer mouse found at about a week old, bottle fed. Only child. Very loved and spoiled.

She started to breath heavy just about 24 hours ago. She also has one squinty eye and appears a bit weak.
Prior to this Sunday... she was housed in a 2 gallon glass tank,petco recycled small pet bedding (soft), a small heating pad on a small corner, with only a small cardboard hide a way house and a toilet paper roll. She mainly had a diet of dry oatmeal flakes, carrots and water.
Sunday afternoon, we decided to keep her instead of releasing her back into the wild. We live in New england and its winter. So we made the following changes.
moved her to a 10 gal glass tank, still have the heat pad on a small portion of the tank. purchased a 2 decker wooden house from petco (petco brand, says its for gerbils? not sure if that detail is important), added a few more toilet paper rolls,same bedding being used, purchased a new mixed food ( sunscriptions, vita prima, rat, mouse, gerbil formula, its a mixture of seeds, peanuts, etcc), still giving her carrots and dry oatmeal as well, and added a wheel, which she barely used..
It's now Friday and the symptoms started yesterday ( that I noticed). I suspect an alergic reaction to something new. The peanuts or sunflower seeds possibly? They squinty eye leads me to this conclusion. Some advice or thoughts would be much appreciated. We have brought her so far we would do anything to keep her healthy! I am also a Vet tech and extremely passionate about all animals. Help! what actions can I take right now. Put her back in her old house? I've taken away the new house and new food additions. Should I try hydrating her with pedialite? She is used to drinking by my hands ( with a small paint brush)

ANSWER: Dear Michelle,

Can you get her to an exotic vet?  That would be best, because if she is sick she ought to be on antibiotics. A difference between mice/rats and larger pets is that because these little rodents are prey animals, they do not show any sign of illness whatsoever until they are pretty sick. You can imagine why. They don't get a cold or something they can get over by themselves. Your girl sounds pretty unhappy.


If you can't get to an exotics vet, you have the  wonderful advantage, that you can get the right meds from your office (I assume there is a  nice vet who will help?). She should get Baytril and Amoxicillin. Baytril attacks myco and Amoxicillin attacks any other secondary infection. I tell people to just give "a drop" twice a day p.o.. When I measure it, it comes out as a drop from a  0.3 or 0.5 ml syringe. You can't really change that!

This should be given for a minimum of 14 days. You may find an exotics vet who only prescribes a shorter time, but the fact is, when you do 7-10 days the mouse can get sick again. (This is really true for rats).

If she gets some better but does not get well, you can actually add doxycycline to the mix. Of course you must count your 14 days from the day you add it.


Since it is easy, hydrating her is a great thing to do. Flushing out your system with lots of water is a great way to excrete toxins. Oh yes, do let her drink from your hand, if she is more comfortable that way. Whatever it takes to keep her hydrated and healthier. If she isn't eating well, you can even give her the formula she was used to.


Once she seems better, maybe after five days, you can start back toward the healthier diet, keeping allergies in mind. You might as well operate on the assumption that she might have had allergies which reduced her immune response so she got sick on top of it. The diet you had been giving her is not nearly adequate. You do want to end up using a mouse mix, so you need to reintroduce the ingredients of the mix one by one. This means picking it apart with your fingers; got any kids who would do it for a few bucks? lol. Every two days you reintroduce something else, until you have gotten to the ingredient which makes her sick. If she has any allergies, she will never be able to have pellets or blocks.

It did take her 5 days to get sick the first time, so you might miss. Thus if symptoms recur, you will need to withdraw the last two ingredients you had added and retry slowly. I'm sure you can figure this out. Add last the sunflower seeds, then corn, then any manmade chips or pellets,  and give them three days apart- they are very likely allergens. In fact, feel free to always remove the corn. It isn't nutritionally very helpful. Just like with cat and dog food, it is a cheap filler.  And do *always* remove the peanuts. Raw peanuts contain molds which are toxic to small animals. I hate pet food companies and pet stores for selling inappropriate foods. Especially the seed mixes supposedly for rats and rabbits. They are nowhere near what those animals should be eating. It is tragic. Even with the correct pellets, imagine all the bunnies whose owners don't even know bunnies have to eat 75% hay? This is a pet peeve (pun not intended) I am sure you will agree with.


If she gets very sick, say, tonight, before you get the meds, the best thing to do is just hold her quietly. You are keeping her warm so that she doesn't have to work to stay warm (although you do have the cage heater, which is great), and filling her little heart with love. Believe me, I have revived extremely sick mice this way, even a bad poisoning. But get her on meds right away in the morning. It can go really fast with mice. if she actually gasps or clicks, she needs a 5-10 minute steam bath. I am sure you know how to do that.

I wish her the best of luck and health. By the way, if everything gets better except the eye, you will know the eye was something separate, and again, other than just using an antibiotic eye drop or cream, she needs an exotics (or pocket pets) vet.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much! Your answers are great. Her condition has worsened through the night. I have noticed she is really breathing more heavily, and shaking, trying to keep warm. I have since concluded it is respitory. She has began chattering a bit. Good news, she drank a whole snapple cap of equal parts pedialite, water, and apple baby food through the night, and some more from me early this morning. I have seperated her cage so she can only access the area heated by the pad and put a towel over half of the screen top to keep out most drafts. I work 7 to 4 today and really hope she can pull through until I get home! I hope the vet will be kind enough to prescribe me some anti's. I work for a coorporate owned vet, and they can be very strict. However, I can be equally charming and convincing. I wouldn't even be able to have her "seen" by a vet, because technically she is wild and my state has strict policies :( so hopefully, they can just help me and give me the meds I need. However, if they are unable to, I have read there is an over the counter med you can purchase at pet stores, begins with a "T" and I can't recall the name. Do you know of this? And if so, how is it's effectivness? If not, anything else I can get over the counter? Thank you so much for your help!

ANSWER: Dear Michelle,

Oh, no! Poor little girl. There was really nothing you could do besides keeping her warm, as you did.

If you can't get a vet to help (try tears in your eyes), you can try the tetracycline. But it is not nearly as strong. You can also get the right antibiotics from a pigeon supply store, but even if you do it overnight mail, she needs something today. So probably the best thing to do is get the tet from a fish or pet store, start her on that immediately, and order the others overnight. I don't know if you can get them Sunday or Monday. Normally you would make sure to do the whole course of any antibiotic once you started, but after only one or two days, when this mouse has no contact with others, and will not have the tet again in the future, unless you know better, I would recommend stopping the tet. I have never told someone to start with tet and then start the others, but in this case it makes sense.

Here is a link to tell you all about all of these meds. The one initial kick start oral dose of tet should only be given once.

I sure hope she is OK. Mice can make pretty miraculous recoveries on antibiotics. But they can also not make it. They are so tiny, and they are built to have a lot of babies rather than last long themselves, as evolutionary strategy. Best wishes of health and luck to her. Please let me know what happens.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again Natasha. I am writting again with some updates as well as a few more questions. Gerry, believe it or not is still alive. I took her Monday to get anti's from an exotics vet. However, it is now almost Sunday and her condition has not improved. I can't believe she is still alive. I have decided the kindest thing to do at this point in to euthanize her. She is a fighter but, she is in bad condition. I just can't believe she has been sick for 2 weeks with the same symptoms and not perished? Do you have any insight into this prolonged illness? I just want to be able to help other who may expierence the same issues. Her condition is grave, however, she eats slightly. She is still breathing heavy, squinted eyes, weak, she may even be having slight tremors? Its like she is fighting to stay warm. She is also bobbing a bit, which may be due to the heavy breathing. Its just so weird she hasn't perished in such grave condition. Every morning I fear she will be dead and yet, she's not. I am very puzzled. I can't seem to fing anything that explains her symptoms with such a prolonged illness? Any thoughts on it? I have researched tirelessly and endlessly, and nothing is consistent. I thank you for all the help! I wish I could get a real diagnosis, but it seems, even a vet is clueless at this point.

Dear Michelle,

How tragic. You are certainly right in knowing when to let her go.

I do not know better than a vet. And I have no medical training. So this is just what makes sense to me, and it isn't complicated. She has such a nasty illness, whether it is a super nasty bacterial infection that doesn't respond to the drugs (did you try all three at once? Though maybe it is too late to try something else); or a virus, which is of course not medically treatable. But she is a very strong mouse. So the fight is intense. Unfortunately it is taking far too much toll on her.

I see that I did not tell you a very basic thing. Yes, she is fighting to stay warm. If you think of the tiny volume of a mouse, which is where she works to create heat, and the relatively large surface area of a mouse, which is where she loses her heat -- you will begin to understand why they eat so much. They can barely keep themselves warm. When they are sick, they do not have enough energy to both stay warm and fight the illness. I believe that sick mice often die, not of the illness but of the cold. They simply become too cold to live because their systems are fighting the illness, or poison, or whatever.

I feel terrible that I did not tell you this. The most important thing to do with a sick mouse (besides medication) is to keep her warm. If you supply the heat, she can better fight the illness. I have saved mouse lives that I never would have expected, by holding them for 12 or even 24 hours. Even a mouse with a bad case of poisoning-- the very sickest of the poisoned cage-- survived to have a long and happy life when, tragically, the mice that had seemed fine the night before died; I held her all night in my hand in my sweatshirt pocket. This has worked for mice with illnesses too. It is, of course, not only the heat-- it is the love. I did mention that but I did not stress the importance of keeping her warm all of the time. When I was a kid, my mom's remedy for sick mice was a lightbulb over the cage making it warm. I even remember mice so sick they were in a little jewelry box because there was no way they could go anywhere- surviving.

Maybe she does have a chance, if she has been fighting to stay warm. Why don't you give her another day or two and give her all three meds, if you did not do so; and keep her cage halfway on a heating pad on low (a towel between the heating pad and cage will keep it from getting too hot).

I feel awful that I did not suggest this. If she has been cold, no wonder she can't fight such a nasty bug. Poor little trouper. I am so sorry. I guess I figured the cage heater was enough, but obviously that is not the case. It is probably just a little bit warm, like for a lizard, and not enough to replace her body warmth.

It is up to you to decide if it is worth trying further. You will do the best thing for her.

I am so sorry about her. Again, keep me posted...

Sad squeaks,



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I can answer questions about raising mice and caring for them as pets, with knowledge from my 38 years of having fancy mice as pets. I have NO MEDICAL TRAINING and you should take a sick mouse to the vet; but if you simply can't, I will try to help you. I LOVE PHOTOS!!! I ALSO LOVE UPDATES! Let me know how the little tyke is doing later on, for better or worse, especially orphans. It also helps me to help the next person. Please first search first: use 'Natasha Mice Mouse' with whatever else your question includes. Or check out these links: **** YOUR FIRST MOUSE (my video; rough draft): **** TEN VIDEOS ON RAISING ORPHANS: **** SEXING MICE: **** And some GREAT MOUSE INFO SITES:


I have had mice for 40 years (since I was 5!). I raised them when I was a child but now I keep all females, and never fewer than three so that if one dies the others are not devastated, because they have each other.

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B.A., M.A., M.A. in Linguistics: Yale University and University of Connecticut

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