Pet Rats/Weak rat
QUESTION: Good evening, I am hoping you can help me. I am heartbroken . I had three male rats. About two weeks ago I came home and one had died suddenly, the other rat was next to him curling up to him. This rat then started looking off balance last week and breathing heavily. I took him to the vet and during, even after he was energetic, breathing much much better and eating etc. A day later now and he's lethargic, and his back legs work but almost seem to 'flip' and off balance. I asked the vet and he said because he is still weak?
Also, the vet has said that I mustnt hold him but he fights and chews and climbs to just crawl up to me. What do I do? It is like he doesn't want to be alone. the other rat ignored him when I put him back in the cage. he just wanted to cuddle and I feel so bad :(
ANSWER: Hi Jay,
I don't know why your vet told you not to hold your sick rat. That is ridiculous. If he wants your attention, give it to him.
How old is this rat? Does his coordination seem bad? An inner ear infection can cause a head tilt and loss of balance, but not poor coordination.
What medications did the vet give him?
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you so much, yes because that is all he seems to want, is to be with me. Do you think I should get another rat that will cuddle with him like the other did, for comfort when I am at work? The vet said holding him would stress him out but I feel he seems more relaxed.
He is a year and seven months. No his co-ordination seems perfect, he jumps and climbs the cage to get to me, but it is as if his back legs are weak? Not even that they give in just that they are off center in a way.
The vet has given him vitamin shots and Baytril.
My apologies for the essays, thank you again.
Okay, I'm glad his coordination is okay. You didn't write essays! But I'm going to send you a lot of info!
The most common cause of weakness in the hind legs of a rat is spinal nerve root degeneration (SNRD) of the ventral spinal nerve roots (nerves exiting the spinal cord which govern motor control). This usually progresses slowly over a period of several months. We do not know the cause, but it might be a deficiency of B vitamins. It is common for one leg to be affected more than the other. This condition isn’t painful or life threatening, and the rat usually learns how to get around even with the disability.
B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, are important to the proper functioning of the nerves, and a supplement has reversed or slowed the progression of SNRD in some of my rats. It could be that some rats have a higher need for this nutrient as they age. I recommend all rats over 1½ to 2 years of age get a vitamin B complex supplement, and especially if you notice that a rat is walking funny with her back legs. B vitamins are also good for respiratory disease.
You can buy a human liquid vitamin B complex supplement from a health food store. Give the rat enough of the liquid to supply 10 mcg of vitamin B12 twice a day. The vitamins can be given plain or mixed with food, Ensure, baby formula or some other flavoring.
To figure out the dose, divide the amount of B12 in the human serving by 10 mcg to see how many rat doses are in the human serving. For instance, if there are 50 mcg/ml, then 1 ml contains 5 rat doses, so the dose for a 1-lb rat is 0.2 ml. A more concentrated brand might have 1200 mcg/ml, which is 120 rat doses. A formula this concentrated needs to be diluted. If you add 14 ml of flavoring to 0.1 ml of this product, the 1-lb rat dose is then 0.3 ml.
Also, it wouldn't hurt to treat him with amoxicillin in case he has a mild secondary bacterial infection. Based on my 30 years of experience, for a rat who is sick, no matter the symptoms, amoxicillin is the first treatment I recommend. This is because amoxicillin is best for secondary infections, which can get very severe very quickly, killing a rat in a matter of hours or days, and require immediate treatment. Baytril is not always effective for secondary infections, so if you try it first, the could die. Therefore, I recommend all rat owners have amoxicillin on hand. If the amoxicillin doesn’t work within 2-3 days, then you can try doxycycline or Baytril for mycoplasma, which is a slow chronic disease, so you usually have more time for treatment. Secondary infections can cause respiratory symptoms (but not always), lethargy, poor appetite, and other symptoms, and are common in rats, especially young rats and those from pet shops. Older rats can also get secondary infections on top of mycoplasma. Amoxicillin is also best for abscesses.
All vets will have amoxicillin, and in the U.S. you can also get amoxicillin over the counter as aquarium fish capsules from some feed stores and specialty aquarium stores, and online. 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 capsules from www.fishmoxfishflex.com. If your rat is already sick, be sure to ask for overnight delivery! They will even ship OVERSEAS!
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 want to mix the amoxicillin in a yummy liquid such as Ensure or slightly diluted Hershey’s strawberry syrup. You can buy a 1 ml syringe for measuring at most pharmacies. A 3 ml or 12 ml syringe is also helpful for measuring out the flavoring. 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 (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. 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 try mixing it in yummy soft food. Or, 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.
You need to know about how much your rat weighs. The normal dose is 10 mg/lb twice a day but you can safely go as high as 50 mg/lb if needed. A 250 mg amoxicillin capsule contains 25 1-lb doses.
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 get doxycycline from Jedd’s Pigeon Supply. Most people will want to order Doxysyrup, which is 10 mg/ml. The normal dose is 0.25 ml/lb twice a day. If necessary you can give twice this.
If you own a lot of rats, the most economical choice is Doxyvet Liquid, which is 50 mg/ml. The normal dose is 0.05 ml/lb twice a day. If necessary you can give twice this.
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!
If Jedds is out of Baytril, you can also order it from http://www.allbirdproducts.com/
I’ve had the best luck giving Baytril 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.
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.”