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Pet Rats/Respiratory Infection

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Question
My rat has a very hard time breathing and you can hear wheezing, and has had this problem for about 4 weeks now. He has been on 2 different antibiotics in these past 4 weeks and there has been no improvement. My vet thinks it is a respiratory infection, but then why would he not be getting any better? He just prescribed a new medicine but he said it might cause GI tract damage so I'm not even sure if it's worth it.

Answer
Hi Christina, I'm going to need some more info from you in order to give you proper advice.  

You may already know that all rats are born with mycoplasmosis (myco).  Some rats are prone to myco flare-ups in the form of respiratory infections and tend to get flare-ups throughout their lives.  Other rats have no flare-ups at all.  Various things can cause flare-ups including stress, (other) illness, pine bedding, scents in the air around the cage (candles, smoke, cleaning detergents, etc.)

I'd like to know the age of your rat.  Is your vet an exotic vet or one that has extensive knowledge and experience with rats?  Which 2 different antibiotics was on that did not help?

If you need a recommendation to an exotic vet, I find one that is close to you if you provide me with your city and state, or closest large city.

As long as your rat is an adult, the absolute best treatment for respiratory infections is a combination of the antibiotics Baytril and Doxycycline.

As a general rule, with any antibiotic, you should see improvements within the first 3 days.  If you don't, then the AB will not work and you should discontinue it and try a different one.  If you DO see improvements within 3 days, then the entire prescription must be completed even if your rat's symptoms are gone.  The proper duration of the ABs is a minimum of 21 to 30.  If your vet tries to tell you that a 14 day dosing is enough, you must insist on at least 21 days.

There are a few things you can do to make your boy more comfortable and help with his breathing.  Take him into a very hot steamy bathroom and keep him in there for about 30 minutes.  The steam will help open his airways.  You can also offer him small bits of very dark chocolate, which also opens airways.  If the steamy bathroom helps him breathe better, you should take him in there frequently throughout the day and night until, and hopefully, he responds to an AB.

We need to get to the bottom of this rather quickly as untreated respiratory infections can turn to pneumonia which is difficult for rats, especially older ones, to recover from.

Please respond back with answers to my questions and I hope to be able to advise you further.  For now, I hope I've given you a enough information to start the healing process.

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Irene Murphy

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I can answer a variety of questions regarding adoption and care of pet rats throughout their lifetimes, including questions about their health and well being, temperment, diet, bedding, cages, toys, etc. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability in a timely manner and I have an abundant amount of resources to help me to help you with your pet rats. I love rattie pictures, so include pics with your question if you can. You may ask me medical questions, but please be advised that I am not a vet. I may use my resources to answer some medical questions, however, I will need to refer you to your local vet with medical questions that I feel I am not qualified to address.

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I have been a huge rat enthusiast for many years. Since becoming a rat owner, I have educated myself in all areas of pet rats from every resource I could find including the internet, books, conversations with local exotic vets, as well as several local rat breeders.

Education/Credentials
I have a college degree but not in the area of animals. I have obtained my extensive experience and knowlege of pet rats all on my own because in my eyes, pet rats are the most interesting and fascinating creatures you can ever imagine to have as pets. I also am saddened by how mislabeled and misunderstood these amazing and extremely smart animals are by the majority, and my mission in life has become to educate and change as many people's perceptions of rats as I possibly can.

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