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Pet Rats/Very heavy breathing/pneumonia


Hello Irene,

My rat Georgie(almost 2yrs) has very heavy/labored breathing.  He has been on Baytril and Doxycycline meds for the past 5 days.  The vet did a chest xray and diagnosed him with early peumonia and said there was a 'spot on his lungs' which indicated atelectasis.  Im really nervous that the meds are not helping.....he has also recently had surgery to remove a lump and has gained a lot of not sure what to do and am going crazy trying to figure out something to help his breathing calm down.  We also recently brought him on a trip where he went from 80 degrees near a wood stove back to our place, which is 70 degrees.  He still has an appetite, however does not play very much due to his very labored breathing. He has a few days left a total dose of 10 days and we just thought by now he would be a little he just going to be like this until his last days??  Should I bring him to our emergency vet??  

anxiously awaiting your response,

I understand your worry when your baby is sick and the helplessness you feel.  Baytril and Doxy are the right meds that were prescribed, however: 1) a 10-day prescription is not nearly enough - 21 to 30 full days is necessary for full recovery, and 2) as with any antibiotics if you don't see improvement within 3 days, these meds are probably not going to work, and you said they don't seem to be helping after 5 days.

You didn't say if your vet is an exotic vet or at least one with experience treating rats.  Also, do you know if the emergency vet is experienced with rats?  If he is not, then I would quickly try to find one that is even if you have to travel a bit.  I can help you find one if you give me the largest major city, state, country you live in.  Either way, take him to a good vet as soon as possible.

Until you can get him to a good vet, to help his breathing, do the following two things:  take him into a hot steamy bathroom and keep him there for at least 15 minutes, and repeat every time his breathing gets worse, or at least several times a day and night.  Hopefully this will help a little.  The other thing is to feed him bits of extra dark chocolate...this also is a natural remedy for labored breathing.

When you do take him to a vet, insist they give him nebulized Amakacin or Gentocin (since Baytril wasn't working).  Albuterol and steroids can be used too in the nebulizer.  Your rat should stay at the vet for a few days for this treatment until the medications begin to work.
The nebulizer gets the meds into the lungs extremely quickly and makes them work faster.

Below, I'm including instructions written by a vet for the best way to treat pneumonia.  These instructions call for the use of nebulization.  I recommend you bring them with you to the vet and make certain he is familiar with the treatment.

I hope that this information is helpful and pray for his recovery.  Let me know if I can help you locate a local vet for you.  Please do give me and update on how Georgie is doing.


The following treatment regimen for use in rats with advanced lung infection or more serious respiratory illness with Mycoplasma as the suspected agent, is recommended by Dr. Michael Hutchinson, DVM; Animal General, Cranberry Township, PA., and is based on his experience treating rats and current literature:

   enrofloxacin (Baytril) 15 mg/kg BID, PO (oral) for 10-30 days
   doxycycline 5 mg/kg BID PO (oral) for 10-30 days
   nebulization for 15 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day, for 14 days, with the following mixture:
   8 mL sterile saline
   0.5mL gentocin injectable 100 mg/mL
   0.5mL Albuterol 0.083% Inhalation *Note: excess mixture for nebulization can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

   dexamethasone 1 mg/lb BID, then weaned down as follows:
   1 mg/lb BID injectable or PO (oral) for 3 days
   1 mg/lb SID for 3 days
   0.5 mg/lb SID for 3 days
   0.5 mg/lb orally every other day, three doses

   Other veterinary recommended reduction schedules for dexamethasone may also be used.

Additional antimicrobial choices
Besides the above recommended antimicrobial choices, and treatment regimens for pneumonia, the following drug choices may also be used.


Cefadroxil (for secondary infections - best used in combination with Gentocin)


Enrofloxacin (Baytril) and Doxycycline simultaneously.

An aminoglycoside: (such as amikacin or gentamicin) in combination with Cefadroxil.

*Note: Combination of drugs given simultaneously like enrofloxacin (Baytril) + doxycycline, azithromycin + doxycycline, clarithromycin + doxycycline, have been found to be very effective in rats.

The choice of an antibiotic/antimicrobial or combination can be more effective when selected based on culture and sensitivity of organism.
Bronchodilators and Corticosteroids In Therapy
The use of bronchodilators given orally, such as Aminophylline/Theophylline, or Albuterol, may be added to help relax the smooth muscle and dilate the bronchi in the lungs to aid breathing.
Nebulized treatments with these medications as well as certain antibiotics (e.g., fluoroquinolones: enrofloxacin (Baytril), aminoglycosides: amikacin or gentamicin (gentocin), or a macrolide: tylosin, may be prescribed for rats that have difficulty taking the medications orally. Medications for nebulization need to be diluted in normal saline.
Ratio for dilution of medication per normal saline recommended as follows:
Enrofloxacin(Baytril) 10mg to 1 mL normal saline. 3
Gentamicin 5mg to 1 mL normal saline. 3
All others a 1 to 10 solution. 3

For the nebulization formula using gentocin and Albuterol in a treatment regimen, recommended by Dr. Michael Hutchinson, see above in the section: treatment regimen for serious and advanced respiratory illness. See Nursing Care below for more information on nebulizers.

In addition, a corticosteroid such as prednisone or dexamethasone may be added to the treatment regimen to help reduce inflammation of the bronchi and bronchioles in order to help the rat breath easier.  

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Irene Murphy


I can answer a variety of questions regarding adoption and care of pet rats throughout their lifetimes, including questions about their health and well being, temperment, diet, bedding, cages, toys, etc. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability in a timely manner and I have an abundant amount of resources to help me to help you with your pet rats. I love rattie pictures, so include pics with your question if you can. You may ask me medical questions, but please be advised that I am not a vet. I may use my resources to answer some medical questions, however, I will need to refer you to your local vet with medical questions that I feel I am not qualified to address.


I have been a huge rat enthusiast for many years. Since becoming a rat owner, I have educated myself in all areas of pet rats from every resource I could find including the internet, books, conversations with local exotic vets, as well as several local rat breeders.

I have a college degree but not in the area of animals. I have obtained my extensive experience and knowlege of pet rats all on my own because in my eyes, pet rats are the most interesting and fascinating creatures you can ever imagine to have as pets. I also am saddened by how mislabeled and misunderstood these amazing and extremely smart animals are by the majority, and my mission in life has become to educate and change as many people's perceptions of rats as I possibly can.

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