Pet Rats/Pet rat

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Question
I have a pet rat named Sophie who will be three years old this summer. She lives in a 30 gallon fish aquarium with a hole in the side(patched of course!) She has a wheel for running, but refuses to use it. My brother also used to have a rat, Skunk, that lived with her, but she died. Now, Sophie seems lonely and is always begging to be out. I do not have a safe place for her to run without supervision, and although she is very sweet toward humans, I am afraid she would not be as kind to a new cage mate. Also, when Skunk died, she began sneezing and breathing strangely a few days beforehand, so when Sophie began sneezing, I gave her some leftover penicillin we had in the medicine cabinet,it seemed to work,so I still give it to her whenever she starts sneezing, but I am afraid it will stop working some time. My parents refuse to take a "RAT" to the vet. Am I doing the right thing by giving her the penicillin? And what can I do to keep her from being so lonely?

Answer
Audrey:

Thank you for your question.

First, I would like to advise that you provide your rats with a better ventilated type of housing. Aquariums and other solid sided housing can further irritate a rat's delicate respiratory system. I have noticed that even rats that appear to have been fine in these types of housing develop more serious respiratory problems with age.

Secondly, rats being very social animals, definitely seem to mourn the loss of their cage mates and become quite depressed when housed singularly. I would suggest that you get a buddy for Sophie as soon as possible. A new rat should be quarantined for a minimum of 2 weeks so you can use that time to treat Sophie for any possible respiratory infection while monitoring her buddy for any possible signs of illness. With proper introductions made in a neutral setting, most rats are able to accept new cage mates without issue. However, like people, all rats are different and have different personalities. There are a few rats that just do not like the company of other rats so I always advise people looking to add additional rats to be sure they have a separate housing unit set up, just in case, but seeing how you had Sophie with another rat before gives me confidence that she would accept another friend.

Lastly, penicillin is not very effective for respiratory infections and is most commonly prescribed for secondary infection, like amoxicillin only not as broad spectrum. Its better used for abscesses, skin infections.  As with any medication, an incorrect dosage could cause more harm than good. If you continue to use penicillin, be sure your dose is 12-18mg/ lb or 20,000-30,000 IU/lb twice daily.

A better choice for treating Sophie would be Doxycycline or Baytril. I found you can order Baytril 10% oral liquid from bird suppliers such as Jedds Pigeon Supplies, Global Pigeon Supplies, and Siegel Pigeons. The recommended dosage of the 10% oral Baytril would be 0.1mg/lb twice a day for at least 6 weeks to longterm.

I do hope that helps!  

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Shawna Laufer

Expertise

Nutrition has always been an interest of mine as well as creating stimulating environments for rats. I conduct product reviews on my blog so I can take questions regarding products marketed or intended for rats. Other questions regarding basic husbandry, feeding, grooming, and other pet rat care will be accepted. I have very little breeding experience so I would not be able to answer much in the ways of breeding or genetics questions. I can help with some basic health care questions but am not a vet and always suggest contacting your vet for serious inquires.

Experience

I have over 13 years of experience with pet rats, having worked in several pet stores, as a veterinary tech assistant, and with my own pet rats. I run a highly regarded blog on the subject of pet rat ownership (www.ratwhisperer.net) with a corresponding YouTube channel and Facebook page. I have been and always will be open to questions and comments.

Publications
A photograph of my lady rat's cage is being published in Worth Publishers' college textbook "How Children Develop, 4e" by Robert Siegler, Judy DeLoache and Nancy Eisenberg on the subject of how complex, stimulating environments and how they relate to the brains of rats.

Education/Credentials
I have some college experience, but not in the field of animals. I completed the majority of an at-home Veterinary Technician course which I was unable to complete due to financial reason. The majority of my knowledge on rats have come from personal experience, conducting my own research with the help of published medical studies and journal, the internet and through other knowledgeable 'rat people'.

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