Pet Rats/Stroke?


Hello! My rat Bee is a year and a half old, and she is currently battling a severe respiratory infection. My vet has her on a treatment including theophyilline, doxycycline, and azithromycin. She was also taking metacam, but only for a few days, so at this point that prescription is finished.

She's been on her medication for about a week, and since then has begun to gain weight back and her energy level gets better everyday. Her breathing is still heavy, though, and I also noticed that a few days after I began giving her the medications she started having what seemed like choking fits. During these "fits," she would start running frantically around the cage while extending her neck like she was choking. I called the vet's office two days ago and asked them about what was going on, and they suggested I make an appointment to bring her in the next day.

Yesterday I found that Bee could barely move because she was having trouble using her right hind leg. She would take a few steps, but then the leg would just fall and drag behind her as she tried to walk. I called the vet and brought her in immediately. However, as soon as I got to the vet's office and Bee was being evaluated, she was walking without trouble, as if nothing had ever happened. The vet examined her leg but found no issue.

Now that she is back home, she is still occasionally having trouble with her leg. She can walk pretty normally, but every once in a while her leg will just collapse under her. She doesn't seem to mind, however, and is still trying to climb and play despite its occasional limpness. As for her cage situation, she's separated from my other rat and I took out all of the levels in her cage. The bedding I use is called Vitacraft Eco Bedding; it's basically like paper shreds. It doesn't seem like its contributing to her walking issues.

My question: What do you think caused this sudden limpness in her leg?
I'm wondering if maybe the choking fits I observed were actually strokes? I'm not really sure what signs rats display when having a stroke.

Thank you so much for your time!

Hi Nichole,
The "fits" sound like respiratory distress with gasping. Please see the article about Respiratory Disease on my website at on the Rat Info page. I do not recommend azithromycin for rats. If doxy is helping but not enough, then I recommend adding Baytril. If neither are helping, I recommend amoxicillin. She probably could still benefit from staying on Metacam to reduce inflammation in her lungs.

Since the problem is with just one leg and is intermittent, it sounds to me like it might be an injury. It doesn't really sound like the result of a stroke.

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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