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Pet Rats/Running out of options!


QUESTION: My pet rat, Tido, has been battling a vicious illness.  I have taken him to the vet OVER 15 times in the last 5 months for this issue.  He appears to have a URI with constant porphyrin discharge around one eye and constant head hanging.  He is no longer the little guy I've always known him to be.  Tido is 2 and a half years old and until now has always been a healthy and loving boy.

I have had him on every antibiotic me or the vet could think of. (i.e. baytril, doxy, chlora??, and a few others that I cannot remember) Dr. Burgess is his primary vet and he is one of the best in the northwest for treating small animals.  

I have also been treating tido with prednisolone as needed for when he is having a really bad day.  We also tried Lasix in an attempt to get the fluid out of his lungs and to help with a possible heart condition (but it's hard to know because we cannot hear is heart over his loud breathing noises).  The Lasix gave Tido diarrhea and I was told to take him off the medication.

Tido has lost A LOT of weight and I am able to feel his spine, hips, etc. But the strange part is that he hasn't really lost his appetite!  He is still a big eater.  

It appears my last option is nebulizing, and I have heard it can really help with the breathing, but is this going to help solve the illness or just help the symptoms?  I can't afford a nebulizer right now, but am saving up for one. (I have spent a great deal of money on him and am pretty broke at this point).

Is there anything I'm missing here?  Are there any other options you could think of?  Or maybe you've seen something like this before and have advice on what the possible illness could be?
His breathing does become labored at times, but other times it appears much better.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated

Thank you

ANSWER: Hi Jordynn,
It sounds like he just has advanced mycoplasma. Although, if you haven't tried him on amoxicillin, you might want to give that a try, since he might have a secondary bacterial infection on top of the myco.

Since the pred helps him, you should give it to him all the time, twice a day at a dose of 1 mg/lb. It shouldn't hurt him, and some rats just need it. I've had lots of my rats on it long term without any negative effects.

Looks like you haven't tried a bronchodilator, or heart medications. See the article called Respiratory and Heart Disease on my website at on the Rat Info page, and I highly recommend you ask your vet to buy a copy of my Rat Health Care booklet (see the Books page on my website.)

Be sure to keep him on doxy and/or Baytril all the time even if it doesn't seem to be helping much. You need to keep attacking the myco.

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

QUESTION: Thank you for the quick response!

I am going to get a nebulizer tomorrow morning and I am going to try to get Tido into the vet because I am leaving for Michigan on Thursday.  I will only be gone until monday, but I am still worried about leaving him with my mom during this time. I'm afraid he will get much worse being in a new environment, but I want him under a lot of supervision and the only way to do that is to take him, his cagemate and their cage to my moms.  

Do you think his signs could possibly be signs of kidney failure?  I haven't noticed increased drinking and he is still eating as normal, but there may be increased urination.  It's just hard to tell because of his cagemate and it's not something I ever paid attention to.  

I just want my boy to be okay.  I am also worried about my mom nebulizing him while I am gone.  I have heard that rats can really get a fright from the nebulizing.  Any advice?  Should I just keep him at my house and have my mom check on him and give him his medication once a day while I am gone? Or would it be smart to take him to my moms for constant supervision, although the new environment may scare him?  

I should also mention that it's not necessarily a NEW environment because Tido and I moved out of my moms 6 months ago.

I did not recommend a nebulizer. Did you see what I did recommend? Give him the pred twice a day every day.  Put him on amoxicillin. Ask the vet for a broncodilator and/or the heart medications I recommend on my website.

I think he has respiratory and maybe heart disease, not kidney failure. He needs to be where someone can give him his medications twice a day and monitor him, so take him to your mom's.

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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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