You are here:

Mice/Sick Mouse?


QUESTION: Hello Tamarah,

I recently took in a few mice. I've been told that 1 of them (Berry) is quite a bit older than the others. I've left the 4 of them alone for the most part so they can get adjusted to their new environment, but I've been noticing some unsettling things pertaining to little Berry.

She seemed thin to start with, but now I'm noticing that she wobbles around and has a slight head-tilt. I'm very very aware of what this could mean, and I'd love to take her to a vet, unfortunately there aren't any exotic vets anywhere near me much less be able to afford. I've also noticed that her eye seemed to be swollen. I got her out and noticed some discharge that I quickly cleaned off.

I know head-tilts could be many things like inner-ear infections. Is there something I could/ should do without access to a vet? I really don't want her to be in pain.

I have tetracycline, but I'm a little confused on dosage and also if I should even be treating her with it. Should I separate her from her cage-mates? They all seem to be in good health right now.

Thank you in advance, Erin

ANSWER: Hi Erin,

I'm so sorry for the delay in my answer.  Has Berry's condition changed since your question?  I'm not sure how old she actually is from the information you were given, so I can't tell if any of her symptoms could be a result of her age.

Can the person who gave them to you give you any further information on how long she has been experiencing these things, particularly the low weight and the head tilt?  I ask because head tilt is most often caused by one of two different causes - one can be treated (inner ear infection), while one cannot and must be simply lived with (neurological problem, usually genetic).  I know you probably already know that, but if it's possible to find out how long it's been going on, we may be able to tailor the treatment or coping a little better.

Since an inner ear infection IS treatable, it would be my suggestion to start there.  What form of tetracycline do you have?  Here are some instructions on how to measure out and administer tetracycline from the fish section of a pet shop, courtesy of another mouse expert:  Does this help?  If you have a different form of tetracycline, please write me back so I can help you figure it out.

All the mice in the cage can be given the water bottle with the tetracycline in it - it won't hurt them.  In fact, keeping her with mice she is comfortable with can help prevent her from stressing out!

Can you tell me more about her swollen eye?  Is it raw around the lid, does it open fully?  Is the skin around the eye inflamed or is the actual eye pushing outward?  Is there any discharge coming from the eye, and if so, what color and consistency?

Hopefully a round of tetracycline will see improvement in her weight, wobble, and tilt.  If you don't see any change, however, or if she begins to worsen while drinking the medicine, it may be time to explore more targeted antibiotics that may be harder to come by.  Please let me know how her condition proceeds, especially after starting antibiotics, and I'd be more than happy to continue to help however I can.  Pictures, and perhaps a video of the head tilt if possible, would also be beneficial to helping me to help you and her.

Best of luck, and again, please let me know how she is doing,

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

QUESTION: Thanks so much for getting back to me!

She doesn't seem to have worsened thankfully. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to reach her previous owner. I also haven't been able to get a video of her wobble.

Her eye looks pink around the lid like she's got no fur there. She's a little squinty as well. What looked like discharge around her eye was whiteish and it wiped away very easily. I haven't noticed anymore though.

I've just given her tetracycline, so hopefully she'll start to improve soon.

Thank you again, Erin

That's great news, except for not being able to reach the previous owner, of course!

Sometimes a swollen or irritated eye can result from things like scratching the lid or eye, or even irritation from dusty or dirty litter.  You can help to ease irritation by using saline eye drops (saline only, not medicated), or, since mice are squirmy little critters, dipping a cotton ball in a cup of warm water with just a tiny bit of sea salt added.  You can then dab the eye gently with the cotton once or twice, and use a towel or dry cotton ball to dry off the fur around the eye.  Not only can this make it feel better, so she messes with it less, it can also help to wash away physical debris that may continue to irritate it.  Don't worry if she doesn't tolerate it, though, it's not necessary, just helpful.

Let me know how she does after she's been on the tetracycline for a little while!  And of course if you have any other questions.



All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I can answer questions regarding mice as pets, mouse behavior, color and coat genetics, breeding techniques, and general health questions. I can help with caging and setup, nutrition, social issues, and what to do in most mouse emergencies (such as unplanned litters, injuries, fighting, etc.). I can also assist with questions pertaining to orphaned mouse pups, weaning litters, and questions of mating and birthing. I cannot answer questions about exotic or wild varieties of mice such as spiny or pygmy mice. *****FOR EMERGENCIES, anything requiring immediate medical intervention, PLEASE take your mouse to a professional veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator who works with mice as soon as possible! IMPORTANT RESOURCES: Raising Orphaned Mice: Orphaned Mice Videos: Natasha's Your First Mouse: General Mouse Help: Mouse Info and Exotic Breeds:


I have enjoyed the companionship of mice nonstop since 2004, and spent a year caring for them in a lab where I learned a great deal about their breeding, social needs, and health. I spent a few years breeding them, specifically working with albinos, marked mice, angora mice, and satins. My education never stopped - I am learning something new every day from current and well-established research thanks to the wonderful folks at the Jackson Laboratory, as well as from my wonderful mousey friends online. I also love learning from my terrific questioners here on AllExperts - you folks keep my passion for these amazing animals alive and well!

East Coast Mouse Association - expired, American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association - expired

Partial University for a B.S. in Microbiology, Partial University for a 2-year degree in Veterinary Technology (RVT cert), C.E. classes in pathogens, aseptic technique, genetics, and applications

©2017 All rights reserved.