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Pet Rats/Scarred lungs, female rat

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QUESTION: Hi Debbie,

I have been treating my 15 month old female rat on and off since she was 8 months old for URI's mainly with Baytril 5mg for 2 weeks at a time (15mg tabs split 3 ways, tablets are easier to get her to take). Last month though her symptoms flared up again (hooting noises) so once again I started her on the Baytril but this time it got worse with congestion and laboured breathing. I took her back to the vet who recommended I give her Doxy by itself (I forget the dose but it's at the medium-high end of the RMCA recommendations)then if no improvement to try a combination of azithromycin with Baytril. There was no improvement after 4 days so I started the combo but she absolutely refused the azithromycin no matter what I did to it so I after 1 day of trying to force the azithromycin I commenced the Baytril/Doxy combo. She has also been on aminophylline since the last vet visit but she is not getting any better with this combo of 3 meds over the last 3 weeks. Her breathing is more laboured with occassional gasping attacks that sometimes get better with steam (if she doesn't get too freaked out). Her appetite dropped dramatically after starting the 3 way combo but she will take her meds mixed in peanut butter and chocolate ensure which I've figured gives her about 60-70 calories a day, plus once and a while she'll eat a piece of pasta or some quinoa. 2 days ago she started having diarrhea and I've begun giving her some Activia yogurt (about 1/4 tsp mixed with the ensure as she also doesn't like the blueberry flavoured yogurt) to see if it will help.

I am going back tomorrow and was planning on asking for Ventolin and Fluticasone inhalers as was recommended by another vet. I was also wondering though if a nebulizer would be better at this point or an oral steroid.

Your help is greatly appreciated,

Kaylee

ANSWER: Hi Kaylee,
Unfortunately, your use of Baytril for only 2 weeks at a time might have allowed the myco in her system to build up a resistance. I recommend the minimum treatment time for myco be 6 weeks, and for a rat who has chronic relapses, it can be best to put them on Baytril or doxy permanently for the rest of their life.

I recommend you try giving her amoxicillin, in case she has a secondary bacterial infection in her lungs. See more info below.

Since the aminophylline is not helping, there is no point in continuing to give it, and therefore, also no point in trying inhalers. I recommend trying an oral steroid, prednisone at 1 mg/lb twice a day, and you might even ask the vet to start her off with an injection of dexamethasone at the same dose.

The next medications to try would be a diuretic, to flush out possible fluid in her lungs, and/or the heart medications that I discuss in the article about Respiratory & Heart Disease on my website at www.ratfanclub.org on the Rat Info page.

The best supplement for rats who aren’t eating well or who are losing weight is powdered soy infant formula from the grocery store.  (The liquid form goes bad too fast.)  The brand doesn’t matter because they’re all about the same (Wal-mart's store brand is cheapest).  They contain pretty much all the nutrients a baby needs, and they are 50% fat, so they help put the weight back on them fast.

Mix a little of the powder in water, pedialyte, or juice.  You can mix it as thick or as thin as you need to.  Thick encourages intake of nutrients and can be fed off your finger, thin encourages intake of fluids.  Most rats love it and will lick it out of a little dish. You can also give it with an eyedropper or syringe. You can also soak or mix ground rat blocks in it.

The infant formula is nearly a complete diet for rats. The only nutrients the formula is short on for rats is the B vitamins.  When giving the formula longterm, add enough liquid vitamin B complex supplement to supply 1 mcg of B12 to each scoop of formula, or you can add ¼ Tablespoon of nutritional yeast (available at health food stores) per scoop of powder.  If your rat doesn’t like it, try adding a tiny drop of vanilla extract or other flavoring.  If that doesn’t work, try adding some whipped cream or ice cream.

If the formula is pretty much all your rat is eating, give one scoop of the powder in the morning and another scoop at night.  One scoop a day is enough if the rat is eating other foods.
Deb

For a rat who is sick, no matter the symptoms, amoxicillin is the first treatment I recommend.  Secondary infections, which can include respiratory symptoms, lethargy, poor appetite, and other symptoms, are common in rats, especially young rats and those from pet shops. Older rats can also get secondary infections on top of mycoplasma. In my experience, amoxicillin is the best treatment for secondary infections in rats.  Amoxicillin capsules are good to have on hand for secondary infections, which can get very severe very quickly, killing a rat in a matter of hours or days, and require immediate treatment.  Amoxicillin is also best for skin infections. (However, amoxicillin does not work against mycoplasma. For that I recommend doxycycline, and maybe also Baytril.)

All vets will have amoxicillin, and you can also get amoxicillin over the counter as aquarium fish capsules from some feed stores and specialty aquarium stores. Call the stores in your area and ask before driving there.  Do NOT tell them you are buying it for your rats!  It is legal for them sell it over the counter only for fish.  You will not find it at Petco, PetSmart, etc.  If you can’t find amoxicillin, you can use ampicillin which is basically the same thing, it just isn’t absorbed as well, so just double the dose to 20 mg/lb twice a day.

Some vets won’t prescribe amoxicillin for rats because they learn in vet school that you can't give amoxicillin to hamsters or guinea pigs (it will kill them) so they sometimes generalize this to all rodents.  But amoxicillin is fine for rats and mice, whose digestive systems are very different from quinea pigs and hamsters.  I use it all the time.  (For more about getting your vet to prescribe amoxicillin, see the info at the bottom.)

Rarely you will have an individual who will be allergic or sensitive to amoxicillin, and the most common side effect is diarrhea.  In most cases, this diarrhea is mild enough to be controlled with probiotics (good bacteria for the intestines) but if the diarrhea is severe it will stop when you discontinue the treatment with amoxicillin.

You can order amoxicillin and doxycycline capsules from www.aquaticpharmacy.com. If your rat is already sick, be sure to ask for overnight delivery!

You can also get amoxicillin mail order from Jedd’s Pigeon Supplies at 800-659-5928.  Ask for Greg, and be sure to order CAPSULES.  

You need to know about how much your rat weighs.  The dose is 10 mg/lb twice a day but you can safely go as high as 50 mg/lb.  In most cases (check the package) each amoxicillin capsule contains 250 mg, which is 25  1-lb doses.  

If you have access to small syringes for measuring (a 1 ml syringe or insulin syringes with the top broken off) you can mix the amoxicillin in a liquid.  Amoxicillin does not dissolve but forms a suspension.  The powder will sink to the bottom, so before taking out a dose, you need to stir the mixture with the syringe extremely well, being sure to scrape up all the powder off the bottom so it is in suspension.

Mix one capsule of 250 mg amoxicillin in 7.5 ml of flavoring such as Ensure or slightly diluted Hershey’s strawberry syrup. (If you have 500 mg capsules, use twice the amount of flavoring: 15 ml.) A small pill bottle is about the right size to mix it in.  Keep in the refrigerator.  Amoxicillin doesn’t taste too bad to most rats and most rats will eagerly lick this right from the tip of the syringe.  The normal dose is 0.3 ml/lb twice a day.  (Note: 1 cc = 1 ml = 100 units on an insulin syringe, so 0.3 ml = 30 units.)  You can go as high as 5 times that normal dose if necessary, and it’s a good idea to give a double dose the first time.

If your rat won’t take the amoxicillin mixture voluntarily, you can make the dose 0.1 ml which is too small for them to spit out when you put it in the back of their mouth.  Mix one capsule with 2.5 ml of flavoring. Then the dose is only 0.1 ml/lb twice a day.

If you don’t have small syringes, you can mix it in food.  Dump a capsule out on a plate.  If it is granular, grind it to a powder.  Divide the powder in half, and half again, etc.  Until you have 24 piles. Since it’s hard to divide it more than this, you can give the 1-lb dose to rats who weigh less than a pound.   It’s better to give too much than not enough.  Scrape a pile into a little bit of food such as baby food, mashed avocado, etc.  

Give the dose twice a day.  If it's going to work the symptoms should improve within 2-3 days.  If it does work you need to continue the treatment for at least 2-3 weeks.  If it doesn’t work then you need to try a different treatment.  If the symptoms are all gone within 3 days you should continue the treatment for 3 weeks.  If it takes longer for all the symptoms to go away, give it for 4-8 weeks and maybe longer.  The longer it takes for all the symptoms to go away, the longer you should continue the treatment.  If the symptoms stop improving, or if the amoxicillin doesn't help at all, you will need to try doxycycline instead.

You can also get doxycycline capsules from www.aquaticpharmacy.com.
To mix doxycycline capsules:

In a small pill bottle, put 12 cc (12 ml) of liquid such as Hershey’s strawberry syrup.  Open and dump in the contents of one 100 mg doxycycline capsule.  Stir well.  The amount for the typical dose of 2.5 mg/lb is 0.3 ml/lb (0.3 cc or 30 units on an insulin syringe) twice a day.  For 5 mg/lb give twice that.  To use an insulin syringe for oral dosing, break off the whole needle assembly.  Be sure to refrigerate the mixture.

If you don’t have the proper syringes for dosing, dump the capsule out on small plate and divide the powder into 40 equal piles.  (Divide in half, then in half again, etc.)  Each pile is a dose and can be scraped into soft food.


You can buy 100 ml of 10% oral generic Baytril (enrofloxacin but they call it Enroxil) from Jedd's Pigeon Supply for $40 plus shipping.  The dose for a 1-lb rat is 0.1 ml, which means that 100 ml is 1000 rat doses!  Very economical.   You need to give it twice a day.  Do not refrigerate the Baytril!

I’ve had the best luck giving it in in 4-6 ml of a product such as strawberry Ensure or Boost in a baby food jar lid, or in 1/8 teaspoon of the soy baby formula powder, making a paste.  It helps if you put the baby food jar lid on a small magnet to help keep your rat from tipping it over.  

Jedd’s Pigeon Supplies is 800-659-5928. If you order by phone ask for Greg. When ordering, just ask for the 10% Enroxil.  Do not say “for my rats” because it is available without a prescription for pigeons only.  Greg is cool about it though.  You can also order it on their website at http://www.jedds.com/StoreFront.bok. If ordering online, order item #5002.  It won’t say it’s Baytril, as they keep it quiet.

You will find more info about treating respiratory infections on my website at www.ratfanclub.org on the Rat Info page.  I also highly recommend you order my Rat Health Care booklet.  It is only $7 plus $2 shipping (CA residents add 58 cents tax.)  The address is Rat Fan Club, 857 Lindo Lane, Chico CA 95973.


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Concerning amoxicillin and veterininarians:  Many vets don’t want to use amoxicillin on rats.  This is probably because in vet school they learn that amoxicillin can’t be used in guinea pigs, rabbits or hamsters (because it kills the good bacteria in their intestines), and they probably generalize this to rats and mice.  However, rats and mice usually tolerate amoxicillin quite well.  In my experience only a very small percentage of them will get diarrhea from it, and this is not life-threatening; it will usually clear up with a probiotic, or the amoxicillin can be stopped.

Here are some references for using amoxicillin in rats for your vet to check if they are reluctant to prescribe amoxicillin:

Exotic Animal Formulary, Third Edition, James W. Carpenter, MS, DVM editor, Elsevier Saunders Publishing
Page 377, Antimicrobial and antifungal agents used in rodents.
Ampicillin for mice and rats: dosage 20-50 mg/kg PO, SC, IM q12h
(Note: ampicillin and amoxicillin have essentially the same adverse reactions and effectiveness, so they can be used interchangeably)

ViN (Veterinary Information Network, Inc.) Website

Thomas Donnelly, BVSc on 02/05/2006  “Amoxicillin is safe to give rats.”

Johanna Briscoe, VMD, on 07/08/2004  “I have used Clavamox liquid in a rat and it worked beautifully on an abscess that I thought may have been from a bite….  Clavamox dose same as in other mammals—13.75 mg/kg PO BID.”
(Note: Clavamox is the brand name for a mixture of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid.)

Elizabeth Mitchell on 06/01/2007  “I have used Clavamox a few times in rats without problems, although I am always very careful to warn owners to watch for diarrhea.  I  generally have gone with a dose more similar to dogs and cats (20-30 mg/kg BID) but if you search on PubMed you will find all sorts of much higher doses.”
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---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your quick response. A question regarding the amoxacillin: I have Clavamox on hand at the moment for her sister who underwent mammary tumour removal last week and is on a dose of .2ml bid. She at least 4 ounces heavier than Lucy but could I try her on the same dose or should I adjust it?

Regarding the prednisone: both vets I've spoken to were very reluctant to even consider prednisone due to its immuno-suppressant effects however I'm sure I can convince my regular vet of it. The injection though, would it be SQ or IM? And is it adviseable to try the injection on an easily panicked rat?

Regarding the CHF: We did do an x-ray that showed no enlargement however I did read your recent response to someone else where you said the thickening is not always visable. What diuretic would you recommend and how long on the steroid would you suggest before trying a diuretic?

Thanks again, I will be buying her the infant soy formula this afternoon for her!

-Kaylee

Answer
You can give Lucy the same dose of Clavamox as her sister.

The dex injection would be SQ. You could actually give her the dex orally too.

The diuretic I usually use is Lasix at 1 to 2 mg/lb twice a day. It would work faster than the steroid, within just a few hours. The steroid would take a day or two to work.
Deb

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Debbie Ducommun

Expertise

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 www.ratfanclub.org/helpfinfo.html. 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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

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

Education/Credentials
BA in Animal Behavior

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