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Pet Rats/breathing issues


QUESTION: Hi there. My rat seems to be having difficulty breathing. Its very harsh sounding. He is back on baytril and septrin and has been since saturday. But this morning when i woke up he was struggling. Managed to conquer today with him by using steam showers and olbas oil to help decongest his wee nose. Ive listened to his chest it doesnt sound gargly or clicking. Ive also gave him some inhaler too. Is there anything else i cant get to vets until wednesday. Thanks in advance.

ANSWER: Hi Lyndsey,
How long was he on the Baytril and Septrin the first time?  Did they clear up his symptoms?  Did one work better than the other? For secondary infections I recommend amoxicillin instead of Septrin. And often doxycycline woeks better for mycoplasma than Baytril. See more info below.

How old is he? He might need prednisone for lung inflammation, and/or heart medications. I'm glad you have an inhaler to use on him. Use it as often as needed.

You will find more info in the article about Respiratory & Heart Disease on my website at

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.

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)

Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Small Mammal, Second Edition, Barbara L. Oglesbee. 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Page 588, For Bacterial Infection
For rats (do not use in hamsters), amoxicillin/clavulanic acid (12.5–15 mg/kg PO q12h) may also be used.

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.)

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QUESTION: Himself and his brother who are both not long turned 2 have been on and off it all year. They last finished there course over 2 weeks ago and they got more on saturday on repeat prescription. Well i shall contact vets on weds for appointment and see if they can do amoxicillin im sure they have said its a not a legalised drug so im unsure if they will use it. In the mean time is there anything else i can do for him?

It is very important for rats who have had chronic respiratory symptoms to be treated with antibiotics for extended periods of time. It is not good to keep putting them on and off antibiotics as that can allow the bacteria to build up a resistance. At this point I recommend keeping them on either Baytril or doxycycline or maybe both for the rest of their life.

You could try giving him ibuprofen at 60 mg/lb (132 mg/kg) twice a day to help with inflammation in his lungs. For more info on giving the ibuprofen, see the Firs Aid article on my website at

Good luck!

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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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