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Pet Rats/In need of advice


Hi, I had seen your post on yahoo answer about rats,I have four baby rats that I had purchased a week ago from pet smart,I had just recently taken one them to the vet because I had relized that she was sneezing/coughing a lot and she seemed like she was having trouble breathing.I had taken her to the vet and they  prescribed her some meds, but the day after I had come relized that not only she was having this trouble but the other three were going through the same problem, so I started giving the other three some of the medicine as well.They are also have no interest in water but they have been eating, so I have been having to feed them water. I had bought a humidifier two days ago and some watermelon so I can make up for the water that they are lacking.I am also planning removing there care fresh bedding and replacing it with a tee shirt made out of cotton so I can eliminate as much dust as possible. is there any thing else that you may suggest that I maybe able to do for them, I love my rattys and I am worried sick about them.
Thank you!

Hi.  I'm so sorry for the delay in getting back to you.   Sneezing is common and normal for rats when they move to a new environment (i.e., from the store to your home) but that should have started right away and should go away in a few days once they adjust.  If they didn't start sneezing right away but it started a week later as you say, then it's likely a respiratory infection, and it is contagious among rats, which is why they are all sneezing.

Rats are all born with something called mycoplasmosis, which for some rats lays dormant in their system their entire life, but for some rats, it flares up causing secondary infections such as respiratory illness.  The flare ups are often caused by stress and moving to a new environment is a common cause of stress.  RAts are stressed easily.

What meds did the vet prescribe?  I hope it is not Baytril.  Baytril is the #1 best antibiotic for myco flare-ups but should not be used for babies until they are adults.  A good AB for babies is amoxycilyn.  It is critical that ALL your babies are put on the AB asap.  It is also critical that your vet give you a full 21 days worth of this AB and must be given for the full 21 days, even if they show improvement quickly, otherwise they may have a relapse.  14 days is not enough no matter what the vet tells you.  You actually should see improvement in the first 3 days and if you don't then it probably won't work and a different AB should be prescribed.

You did the right thing with replacing their bedding.  I always use fleece bedding and change it every 3 to 4 days or as soon as it begins to smell of urine.  The urine odor actually causes respiratory infections so it's important to keep the cage smell free.  Make sure there is no other odors around their cage such as candles, insense or cigarette smoke.  Using fleece is good because it's not too expensive and can be washed an reused over and over.  If you like using commercial bedding, there is one product I found that is 100% dust free.  It is Vitakraft ECO bedding and is recycled paper.  There is NO dust in it.  Carefresh and other claim they are dust free but it isn't.

If you notice one or more of your rats having trouble breathing, you should take him into a very steamy bathroom (run hot shower til it steams up).  The steam will actually open the airways.  Keep him in the bathroom for 15 to 30 minutes at a time and repeat as needed.  Also, a morsel of very dark chocolate can be given to eat...dark chocolate also helps open airways.

Good idea with watermelon but you can also give other fruits like grapes, cantelope, etc. that have water and also feed soft foods that are made with some water like oatmeal or baby food (fruits and veggies are best).

Please let me know the type of meds and if you need a better vet I can possibly help you find a good rat vet in your area if you tell me your city and state.  Let me know how they are doing now as it's been a few days since you wrote.  I look forward to hearing back from you.

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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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