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Pet Rats/New rat shaky on feet


Hi Debbie,

I have just adopted a small (260g) female hairless rat that is very unsteady on her feet. I got her from a woman who didn't notice any deficits over the 3 months she had her despite it being very obvious she has a balance issue. She topples onto her right side quite frequently and generally walks like a newborn or like she's drunk. I have stood her on her hind legs (as it seems her back right side is where she has the balance issue) and she does not have any weakness to either side and I don't see any deformities indicative of a previous injury. She seems to walk with her right hind leg underneath her with her left hind leg splayed out to the side for balance but occassionally she walks with her legs evenly distibuted (makes no difference in her balance). She does not have a head tilt or an odourous ear and enjoys being pet and stroked on her head and ears. Otherwise she seems perfectly healthy. Her previous owner really didn't know much about her history other than she adopted her from a woman who rescued her (I'm owner number 4) and she thinks she is about a year and a half old. I have started her on Baytril (5mg bid) as that is what I have on hand in the event that it is an ear infection although if she has been walking this way for 3+ months without change then I wonder if it's possible that this is what it is. I know your stance on amoxacillin so if that is what you would recommend I have your information you typically post. I have made a vet appointment for her next week however in the meantime any information/advice is appreciated.


Hi Kaylee,
With a female of this age a pituitary tumor must be considered, but usually the symptoms would progress rapidly, so if she has been like this for 3 months, it's probably not a pituitary tumor. It's possible that this is a congenital nervous disorder that she has had all her life. In that case, there is nothing you can do for it. It sure wouldn't hurt to try treating her with amoxicillin just in case it might help. I guess another possibility is meningitis, but again, that would usually have rapidly advancing symptoms. I think she is a very lucky rat to have come to you! You've done a good job evaluating her problem!

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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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