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Pet Rats/Respitory or Maybe Heart?


QUESTION: Hi Debbie,
I have a male rat, Squeak, who I am hoping you may be able to help me with. He has been making respiratory style noises, on off since the middle of April. He is now nearly 10 months old. At first it sounded more around his nose, but it is getting worst. Sometimes at night, he can make the noise for an hour or two without a break. It is always worst whilst he is cleaning or excited and during the night. He is eating fine and not sneezing, but he is more cautious in his movements and not as agile as his brothers and sisters. He free roams in a large room, but is part of a large family. His father and mother were rescues, and mated in one seconds lack of concentration. So he lives with his 3 year old father, 16 month mother, 7 sisters and 4 brothers! All the females have been sterilized. Squeak has been on lots of meds since April, 1st: Marbocyl and Doxycycline, then 2nd: Clavamox and Doxycline, then 3rd: Clavamox and Baytril, then 4th: Baytril and Doxycline. He has also had Metacam at different times. None have worked. He has been to my local vets, who is very nice but no expert and also to an exotic vet, who performed the girls sterilizations, a couple of hours drive away. Whenever he goes to the vet he hides his symptoms. I asked the exotic vet, for Furosemide, in case it was his heart, but he refused. I have now asked my local vet about Zithromax, she has said she will order some in, but that she is not familiar with the medication. He was the worst on Clavamox and Baytril and the best on Baytril and Doxycline, but this is no longer holding it at bay. Now I don't know where to go. Can I give Clavamox at the same time as giving Doxycline and Zithromax (and Metacam)? Or Clavamox at the same time as Doxycline and Baytril(and Metacam? Although I am suspecting that he is a bit resistant to Baytril. His dad has been on Baytril and Doxycline since the start of the year. His respiratory is held at bay with just the occasional sneeze, which is amazing as he came from a chain-smoking house. His mum and siblings have been on Baytril and Doxycline for the last 2 weeks as there was a lot of porphyrin on the coats of some of them and two girls have it bad in one eye each (not both on either) and there has been some sneezing through out too and some ruffled looking coats. That has not improved or increased in any way. I would be grateful for any advice you can give me and sorry for the long message.

ANSWER: Yes, you can definitely give amoxicillin (Clavamox) together with other antibiotics. If the Metacam didn't help before, there is no reason why it would help now.

I never use Zithromax, but my vet did say he had a rat respond to it when it didn't respond to other antibiotics, so I guess it's worth a try.

However, it might be that his symptoms are caused by something other than an infection, such as an allergy, asthma or, as you asked, heart failure. So, it would be good to try, one at a time, an antihistamine, a broncodilator, and then enalapril (not Lasix).

I highly recommend you order my Rat Health Care booklet, which discusses all this in detail. You can see it on my website at on the Books page. You will also find info on my website on the Rat Info page under Respiratory & Heart Disease.

BTW, what do you use for bedding in his cage?

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QUESTION: Hi Deb, Thank you for your speedy reply. We were just wondering about asthma, as I had given them some grasses to play with and that night was the worst ever. I had given them fresh but hadn't thought about how dusty they go as they dry out. For bedding we use cut up fleece, which is changed out twice a day. The metacam seems to be a favourite with most vets, they say as an antiinflamitory, but also to speed the absorbtion of the antibiotics? I have read the info on your web site, many times over the years (great info) and have meant to get the care booklet before now too. I have just ordered it, however I'm guessing it will take a while to get to me, here in France, so would you be able to recommend a antihistamine and a broncodilator which are good to use on rats? Also when using each of these, one at a time, can the other respitory meds be continued along side? Thanks for all your help, Dawn

ANSWER: Yes, you can keep him on the antibiotics, except not Baytril with the bronchodilators, while you try the other medications.

Here are two antihistamines:
chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimaton)—An antihistamine.  Helpful for respiratory allergy.  0.2 mg/lb BID. (BID is twice a day.)

diphenhydramine hydrochloride (Benadryl)—An antihistamine. Helpful in cases of respiratory allergy.  5 mg/lb BID orally or SQ

Here are bronchodilators:
Warning: Enrofloxacin (Baytril) can interfere with the metabolism of broncodilators and allow a toxic build-up. Use them with doxycycline intead.

albuterol—0.05 mg/lb 2-4 times/day.

aminophylline—2.5-5 mg/lb 2-6 times a day.  Injectable liquid can be given orally or SQ.

terbutaline—0.025-0.05 mg/lb 3-4 times a day.

theophylline—2-2.5 mg/lb 2-3 times/day.

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QUESTION: Sorry, I forgot to ask how long I should give each one to work, the broncodilator, the antihistamine and the enalapril, before trying the next one. Also wether there should be a gap between them or whether you can litural switch meds the next day?

Good question!  For the broncodilator, you should know if it's going to help within hours, or at least within a day or two. Same with the antihistamine.  For enalapril, usually a day or two, maybe 3.  There doesn't need to be any gap between them.

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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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