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Pet Rats/Sick female rat


QUESTION: I have a female rat about 3 years old who came down with a respiratory infection about a month ago. I have had rats for about 5 years now and needless to say they are my life. I have seen many illnesses come and go and I have had a few rats come and go, God rest their little souls. Back to my question, when my girl got sick I started some tetracycline. I saw improvement, but then she seemed like she started going back down hill again. So I started back with the tetracycline with some amoxicillin for any secondary infection. Within the last week, she has gotten much worse, lost some weight, and when she "tries"to eat, and when I give her meds, she is doing something I've never seen before. She will take food and spit it out and rub her chin on anything and everything in site. She does this when I give her medicine also. She is not doing it in a way like its scent marking, but like there is something wrong and she can't eat or take meds properly. Again, I've never seen this before. I would have already had her to a vet but my other female just had surgery and the costs was double what the "high" end was supposed to be. Please help me, any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have done so much research, but nothing giving me an idea as to what going on with the chin rubbing.

Thanks in advance,

ANSWER: Hi Carmen,
They do the chin rubbing when they have a bad taste in their mouth. Congestive heart failure can affect their sense of taste, so there is a high chance that's what she has. See the article about Respiratory and Heart Disease on my website at on the Rat Info page, and I highly recommend you order my Rat Health Care booklet, which you can see on the Books page.

When treating mycoplasma with tetracycline (doxycycline and Baytril work better) the minimum length of the treatment should be 6 weeks, since myco is incurable and you have to treat it aggressively. However, if she has congestive heart failure, just an antibiotic won't be enough. She needs treatment with heart medications.  

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your quick response. I respect you so much. I have full intentions on ordering your book. Every site I've ever been to recommends your book. Another question, what type of tests are required to check for congestive heart failure? She is going downhill quickly and I would like to know all about this so I know what to expect at the vets office, type of tests, costs, medications for congestive heart failure, etc. Thank you again for answering my question.

ANSWER: There aren't many tests that can be done. An x-ray can show an enlarged heart, but the most common type of congestive heart failure in rats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which causes thicking on the inner walls, and this can't be detected with an x-ray. Basically, you need to ask your vet to just try the enalapril at 0.25 mg/lb twice a day, which lowers the blood pressure and makes it easier for the heart to work. If your rat does have CHF, you should see improvement in the symptoms within just a day or 2. It is a very safe drug and can't hurt your rat even if she doesn't have CHF. It is also a very cheap drug. If your vet doesn't have it on hand, he or she can call in a prescription to a human pharmacy. Tablets can be easily mixed into liquid. Print this out, and my online article, and take them in to show your vet.

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QUESTION: I called my vet and they want to give an xray, ultrasound, physical, and then determine whether they think enaliprl is the best thing to give her. I mentioned that doing a xray of her heart may not reveal what we are looking for. I told them I could not afford to do the ultrasound right now, and if the enaliprl won't hurt her that we should give it a try. They refuse until all the above us done first. But I did however talk with another vet who is willing to examine her, but cautioned me that she does not specialize in this area and does not have much expertise with rats, however she is willing to try the enaliprl. So to my next question, what type of improvement in symptoms should I see in the next day or two? Will she start eating again, being more active, etc. And I have recently had a hard time getting her to take meds, she just lets it run out of the sides of her mouth and down her chin. So, I guess I'm asking what improvements I should see (giving it is CHF), and how to get her to take the enaliprl without it running out of her mouth? I'm not giving to much at once, just a drop at a time, but she isn't having it. Thanks again for your help.

If the enalapril helps, her appetite should improve and she would be more active. The way to give meds to a rat who doesn't want to take them, is to only put 0.1 ml of the liquid in the back of their mouth at a time. This amount is too small for them to spit out.

You can mix the enalapril so her dose is only 0.1 ml. Let's say she weighs 3/4 lb, which is the average weight of a female rat. The dose of enalapril is 0.25 mg/lb. Her dose would be 0.75 X 0.25 mg = 0.1875. The tablets I use are 5 mg. I mix one tablet in 2 ml of flavoring (I use the Safeway version of strawberry Ensure)and then there are 2.5 mg/ml. 2.5 mg/ml divided by her dose, 0.1875, = about 13. So there are 13 doses for her in each ml. 1 ml divided by 13 = 0.0769 so her dose is just under 0.1 ml. Actually, the dose of enalapril that can be given is much higher than the beginning dose of 0.25 mg/lb, and in fact, the dose I usually give is 2 to 4 times that.  So you can certainly give her 0.1 ml per dose. You need to give it twice a day, and you should know it if is the right treatment within just a day or two. I hope this all makes sense.

Here's the quick version: Mix one 5 mg tablet of enalapril in 2 ml of flavoring and give her 0.1 ml twice a day, if she weighs 0.75 lb.

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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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