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Hi, I just made it to the vet today for my hairless pet rat named , POW. Words alone cannot describe the LOVE that I have for this little guy, so excuse me if my words get typed wrong bc I am so emotionally unstable right now.
 I took Pow in today as an emergency at the animal hospital.They immediate put him on oxygen, and said that he has pneumonia or a respiratory illness. So they put him on amoxicillin, and doxycycline, both to be taken twice a day for.21 days. My questions are:
1. How long does it take to start working(antibiotics)?
2. ***MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION***  I'm having an extremely difficult time getting him to take his meds. I've mixed the first doses of both antibiotics into his favorite baby food, and he went to it , smelled it, and turned away. So, I've already wasted two dosages. So I tried holding him and putting it in his mouth from the side and he fought me tooth and nail. I managed to get a good 80% of it in his mouth, but there has to be a better more effective way. I'm so afraid bc he NEEDS to take these meds or he can die. I'm afraid I'm not getting it all in his mouth and by him fighting it, he's stressing himself out way more than necessary. Could you please tell me how I can do this properly so he can get the meds in him that he desperately needs?
In Advance, Any advice that You can give me would be so appreciated, Thank You Sincerely,Sherry

Answer
Hi Sherry,
I'm so sorry your boy is sick. The good news is that the right antibiotics can start working immediately, and often you see significant improvement in just a day or two. I'm very glad to see they gave him amoxicillin, which many vets will not.

For a rat who refuses to take meds willingly,you do have to force them, and the best way to do that is to make sure the volume of the dose is as small as possible. You can buy amoxicillin and doxy over the counter for fish and birds, and mix them up yourself. You will want to continue giving the doxy for at least 6 weeks anyway. The vet obviously doesn't know that.

If you can make the dose just 0.1 ml, you can put that in the back of their throat and it is too small to spit out. See the info below. You want to order the Doxyvet Liquid.

Is your boy still eating other foods?
Deb


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 doesnít 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.

All vets will have amoxicillin, and in the U.S. you can also get amoxicillin over the counter as aquarium fish capsules from some feed stores and specialty aquarium stores, and online. Call the stores in your area and ask before driving there.  Do NOT tell them you are buying it for your rats!  It is legal for them sell it over the counter only for fish.  You will not find it at Petco, PetSmart, etc.  If you canít find amoxicillin, you can use ampicillin which is basically the same thing, it just isnít absorbed as well, so just double the dose to 20 mg/lb twice a day. Be sure to get CAPSULES.

Some vets wonít prescribe amoxicillin for rats because they learn in vet school that you can't give amoxicillin to hamsters or guinea pigs (it will kill them) so they sometimes generalize this to all rodents.  But amoxicillin is fine for rats and mice, whose digestive systems are very different from quinea pigs and hamsters.  I use it all the time.  (For more about getting your vet to prescribe amoxicillin, see the info at the bottom.)

Rarely you will have an individual who will be allergic or sensitive to amoxicillin, and the most common side effect is diarrhea.  In most cases, this diarrhea is mild enough to be controlled with probiotics (good bacteria for the intestines) but if the diarrhea is severe it will stop when you discontinue the treatment with amoxicillin.

You can order amoxicillin and capsules from www.fishmoxfishflex.com. If your rat is already sick, be sure to ask for overnight delivery! They will even ship OVERSEAS!

You can also get amoxicillin mail order from Jeddís Pigeon Supplies at 800-659-5928.

You want to mix the amoxicillin in a yummy liquid such as Ensure or slightly diluted Hersheyís strawberry syrup. You can buy a 1 ml syringe for measuring at most pharmacies. A 3 ml or 12 ml syringe is also helpful for measuring out the flavoring. Amoxicillin does not dissolve but forms a suspension. The powder will sink to the bottom, so before taking out a dose, you need to stir the mixture with the syringe extremely well, being sure to scrape up all the powder off the bottom so it is in suspension.

Mix one capsule of 250 mg amoxicillin in 7.5 ml of flavoring (If you have 500 mg capsules, use twice the amount of flavoring: 15 ml.) A small pill bottle is about the right size to mix it in.  Keep in the refrigerator.  Amoxicillin doesnít taste too bad to most rats and most rats will eagerly lick this right from the tip of the syringe.  The normal dose is 0.3 ml/lb twice a day.  You can go as high as 5 times that normal dose if necessary, and itís a good idea to give a double dose the first time.

If your rat wonít take the amoxicillin mixture voluntarily, you can try mixing it in yummy soft food. Or, you can make the dose 0.1 ml which is too small for them to spit out when you put it in the back of their mouth.  Mix one capsule with 2.5 ml of flavoring. Then the dose is only 0.1 ml/lb twice a day.

You need to know about how much your rat weighs. The normal dose is 10 mg/lb twice a day but you can safely go as high as 50 mg/lb if needed. A 250 mg amoxicillin capsule contains 25  1-lb doses.  

Give the dose twice a day.  If it's going to work the symptoms should improve within 2-3 days.  If it does work you need to continue the treatment for at least 2-3 weeks.  If it doesnít work then you need to try a different treatment.  If the symptoms are all gone within 3 days you should continue the treatment for 3 weeks.  If it takes longer for all the symptoms to go away, give it for 4-8 weeks and maybe longer.  The longer it takes for all the symptoms to go away, the longer you should continue the treatment.  If the symptoms stop improving, or if the amoxicillin doesn't help at all, you will need to try doxycycline instead.

You can get doxycycline from Jeddís Pigeon Supply. Most people will want to order Doxysyrup, which is 10 mg/ml. The normal dose is 0.25 ml/lb twice a day. If necessary you can give twice this.

If you own a lot of rats, the most economical choice is Doxyvet Liquid, which is 50 mg/ml. The normal dose is 0.05 ml/lb twice a day. If necessary you can give twice this. It works best to dilute it with flavoring. If you mix 1 ml of the Doxyvet with 5 ml of flavoring, and then the dose is 0.3 ml/lb twice a day. Depending on the flavoring you use, the mixture should probably be refrigerated.

You can also find 100 mg capsules or packets of doxycycline from some sources. In this case, mix one capsule or packet with 12 ml of flavoring (slightly diluted strawberry syrup works good) and then the dose is 0.3 ml/lb twice a day. Store in the refrigerator and stir before taking out a dose.


You can buy 100 ml of 10% oral generic Baytril (enrofloxacin but they call it Enroxil) from pigeon supply companies for birds. The dose for a 1-lb rat is 0.1 ml, which means that 100 ml is 1000 rat doses!  Very economical.   You need to give it twice a day.  Do not refrigerate the Baytril!

Iíve had the best luck giving Baytril in 4-6 ml of a product such as strawberry Ensure or Boost in a baby food jar lid, or in 1/8 teaspoon of the soy baby formula powder, making a paste.  It helps if you put the baby food jar lid on a small magnet to help keep your rat from tipping it over.  

You can also order it from Jeddís Pigeon Supplies, or  http://www.allbirdproducts.com/ or www.ladygouldianfinch.com

Jeddís Pigeon Supplies is my favorite. I order by phone at 800-659-5928. You can also order it on their website at http://www.jedds.com/StoreFront.bok. If ordering online, order item #5002.  It wonít say itís Baytril, as they keep it quiet.

You will find more info about treating respiratory infections on my website at www.ratfanclub.org on the Rat Info page.  I also highly recommend you order my Rat Health Care booklet.  It is only $7 plus $2.25 shipping (CA residents add 58 cents tax.)  The address is Rat Fan Club, 857 Lindo Lane, Chico CA 95973.  

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Debbie Ducommun

Expertise

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 www.ratfanclub.org/helpfinfo.html. 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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

Publications
I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

Education/Credentials
BA in Animal Behavior

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