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Pet Rats/Mystery illness / PT and pain


I have two separate questions concerning my rats.

Some years ago I had a lovely Berkshire ratty, Eddie. A very active, mischievous and affectionate girl.
However, poor Eddie started showing signs of illness. At first, she lost small patches of fur, later she developed scabs. So my first thought was it must be parasites, so she got treated for those. Except the scabs did not disappear.
As time passed, she became strangely thin, eventhough she still ate and played happily. Then one day, I found her with her face full of porfyrin, and rushed her to the vet.
Unlike the days prior, she now actually seemed miserable, and I had her put to sleep.
To this day, I still have no idea what caused this. Or wether the scabs had something to with it, or were a different, separate matter.

If you know what this disease was, I'd like to know for possible future cases.
N.B. I used to take my ratties outside and let them walk around in the grass, so I thought she might have caught something from there? I've never taken my rats outside for walks again after Eddie's death, for safety measures.

Q2: My ratty Aggie has been diagnosed with a Pituitary tumor, and thanks to Prednisone she's doing much better than earlier this week (for the time being). Before the diagnosis and treatment, I got her Metacam, as she seemed to be in a lot of pain. Should I keep giving her the Metacam, or is she not in pain while the Prednisone is doing its job?
Also, this Prednisone is a long-lasting injection, and according to the vet it should work for up to two weeks. But is it possible the shot won't actually work for two weeks for Aggie, due to rats' faster metabolism?

ANSWER: Hi Tryntsje,
Do you know what Eddie was treated with for parasites? It's possible she could have been allergic to something, or had an autoimmune disorder. Seems like other treatments could have been tried.

You do not want to give oral prednisone and Metacam at the same time because they can both damage the inner lining of the stomach. Since the prednisone was given by injection, I guess that is not a concern in this case. Why did you think she was in pain before she was started on the prednisone?  Is she still showing the same signs now? I don't think you need to continue the Metacam if she doesn't seem to be in pain.  If the injection works for 2 weeks in a dog, then it certainly won't last that long in a rat. My guess is that it will only work for a week or less. I think you should ask the vet for oral prednisone at 1 mg/lb to be given twice a day.

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

QUESTION: Hello again,
fortunately I haven't given Aggie Metacam that often since the Prednisone shot, as she's no longer showing pain signs. I've done so a couple times, just in case, but I'll stop with the Metacam rightaway then.
I figured she was in pain before, because she'd hardly move, she'd just lay in her sleeping spot lethargically for almost all day, and had her eyes and nose practically caked with porfyrin.
It wasn't until I read an article via this place on PT that I figured THAT had to be the source of Aggie's distress (the clumsyness and lethargic behaviour, as well as being hardly able to hold food in her frontpaws were spot-on).
I will ask my vet about continuing with Prednisone, eventhough I assume I'm only extending Aggie's life, but she will not heal from it?
As long as she still is happy and can eat, drink and climb well, I'll gladly provide her with all the necessary meds.

I must say, this site has saved Aggie's life (for now). I was this close to having her euthanized until I read about PT and asked the vet to treat her with Prednisone. She looked to be near death last Thursday, but now she's almost completely back to her active old self!

As for Eddie; If I recall correctly I used to treat my rats with Ivermectin in the beginning. But I later on read about a mixture of Teatree oil and lavender oil, and treated Eddie (as well as the other rats at the time) with that when the scabs started appearing. But to no avail, so I'm wondering wether the scabs were the result of parasites in the first place...

There are several things that could cause a rat to be lethargic, but if she also had poor coordination and trouble holding food in her hands, then it is most likely a PT. Yes, the prednisone is only a temporary treatment, not a cure, but it can give them several more good weeks or even months. She needs to stay on the prednisone and amoxicillin for the rest of her life.

Rat fur mites can be resistant to treatment with ivermectin, and teatree and lavender oil is no cure. But fur mites are not usually fatal, so she probably had something else going on.

Do you know about my Rat Health Care booklet?  You can read about it on the Books page of my website.

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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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