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Pet Rats/Rat fur colour


QUESTION: Hello, just noticed today that my rat has weird colouring of fur near her left ear. There's less fur around it than there is around the other ear. My rat is female and 2 years old. I know she scratches often but her skin looks perfectly fine. Just wondering if this could mean anything or its normal.
I was worried it could be related to her recent problem. She sounds stuffy when she breathes, often gasping for air and her lungs are noisy. She's currently taking medications for it though. I've had to get several different meds because some of them didn't work for ages.

Thanks for reading.

ANSWER: I am so very sorry I have not answered you in a timely manner, as I was dealing with a family crisis.  If you got help somewhere else, I understand but I will reply anyway in case you did not.  

Your girl is an old lady now at 2.  At this age, fur loss in different areas is not unheard of.  It is also possible that she has been scratching that area by her ear more than other places, even if she doesn't have mites or lice, it may just be itchy or maybe she just likes to scratch there more.

I don't suspect the fur loss is related to her respiratory problem, but it is of course a possibility.  If she is gasping for air and her lungs are noisy, I would be very much more concerned about that than the fur loss.  If not treated with meds that work promptly, it could easily turn to pneumonia, if she does not already have it.

I am curious which meds she has already been on that didn't work, and what she is on now.  For mycoplasmosis related problems like she has (respiratory infection) the antibiotics of choice is a combination of Baytril and Doxicycline.  The general rule of any antibiotics (human or animal) is that you should see some improvement within the first 3 days of giving.  If not, then they are not going to work at all.  If seeing improvement, it is imperative they be continued for a full course of 30 days!  No exceptions, even if she seems better...or she may relapse.

When she has trouble breating, put her in a very steamy bathroom (running the shower to steam it up) for at least 20 minutes.  This will help open her airways.  You can also offer very dark chocolate to open airways.  You should repeat these as often as necessary.  If it is really bad, a nebulizer might be necessary to get the meds in her faster than oral suspension.  You should probably go to a vet for nebulizer treatment unless you wish to research it online and do it yourself.  Your vet, if an experienced one with rats, may decide she may need an oxygen machine.

I hope this helps and I truly hope that your girl recovers.  Please let me know if you need any other help.  I won't be tardy replying next time, as my personal situation now is better.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi, that's no problem at all. Thanks for responding. The fur near her ear hasn't changed and I think its pretty normal since she doesn't have bugs or bad skin.
When she first showed little signs of her breathing problems, my mum gave me some doxycycline to give her since she's got rats herself. It lasted about 2 few weeks but she didn't get any better. So I took her to the vet I was given the Baytril but that didn't seem to work after a while and I took her back and was given Bisolven which is a medicine for people with chesty coughs or something. I was to give her both of them together each day.

That didn't seem to do much after a while and I went back and was told to stop using the Baytril since it wasn't working and was given some powder to put into her food. I took a photo of the name of it because I can't quite make it out but I hope you can. She gets that twice a day in a piece of food I give her so she eats it all and gets the Bisolven medicine in her mouth twice a day also. I think the powder is for all kinds of animals and so she gets it in tiny amounts as directed. The vet insisted that by using the powder I would see some change after a week.
I started giving her that powder on the 12th of December and kept using the Bisolven medicine also. She is still the same though so its really worrying and I might have to go back to the vet and try something else.

She acts like a happy rat but you can tell she breathes differently because it looks as if her body is heaving, struggling to get air. Some days she even lies on her side or her back when she's breathing funny as if she's trying to make it easier. When you hold her you can even feel how stuffed up her lungs are. She only gasps (like a panic attack) for breath once a week now and it only lasts a minute at most and she acts normal again. She has a really good diet like all my other rats - vegies, fruits and grains and rat blocks.

I'll try and shower and chocolate idea. Its defiantly horrible to see her struggle because I fear she'll die. Do you think its any point continuing to use the meds I am giving her now? I'll keep trying though. The vet I go to is in a small town. There are other vets in other nearby towns but one of them doesn't know anything about rats and the other won't touch them. Its pretty ridiculous.

Again, thanks for your response.

I'm so sorry your girl hasn't been responding to meds.  Poor girl that she struggles to breathe.  Yes, for sure when you see her struggling, immediately take her to a steamy room and give darkest chocolate you can buy....60 to 70% cacao.  

I cannot make out the name of the medicine in the pic, and don't recognize it.  I've never heard of hi silver either.  Are you in the U.S.?  If not, maybe that's why.  

You may already know this but all rats are born with mycoplasmosis, myco for short.  It can cause flare ups in some rats in the form of respiratory problems, which your girl has.   Myco does not respond to most antibiotics.  Baytril is the only one it responds to.  A combo of baytril and doxycycline is recommended because the doxy can fight a secondary infection if one is present.  Amoxicillin is another option instead of doxy.

At this point, I recommend taking her off the meds she's on now.  They're not working.  Try the Baytril and Doxy combo.  Make sure you know yor rat's correct weight.  It's critical to measure the correct dosing.  Give this combo every 12 hours and continue without missing any doses for a total of 30 days.  I can help you figure out dosing if you need.

Let me know after the first week if you see any improvement.  Consider getting or making a nebulizer for dosing these allows her to breathe them in instead of takin them orally.  You can find something I'm certain on the internet that tells you how to set up your own nebulizer.  You also didn't say if you talked to your vet about an oxygen machine,  you can buy one to have at home to put her in when she's having trouble breathing.

Finally, if none of this helps, and she continues to get worse, and you see her beginning to suffer, consider it might be kinder to have her humanely euthanized rather than have her live in frequent agony.  

I look forward to hearing back from you with either more questions or to let me know how she's doing.  I hope she can recover and live a healthy life again.

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Irene Murphy


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.


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.

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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