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Pet Rats/Very Sick Rat


So I have a female rat that I am very concern about. There are 2 parts to this story. As I have been recently giving her a proper dose of ibuprofen.
Part 1:
My female rat was a good size in weight(she had a double chin). And basically over night she dropped in weight and was so skinny. I did not miss a feeding. She was still very eager to come out for free play. She seemed very stiff. And I noticed that her finger nails had grown a bit and that her hands and feet were swollen. I tried to give her some food but she would only take what was in my had and would not try to grab for food. Even than she would take a bit or two then not be interested. She also had no interest in the water bottle either. She would also nip at my hands if she didn't want to be touch. She seemed very confused and scared. I came across an article saying that rats with heart disease have a hard time eating solid foods so I quickly boiled some veggies and got some bread for her. I could tell she was starving cause she eat anything that was soft and if I gave it to her. This seemed to make her feel a bit better until the next day. She did not nip at me or anything and wanted to be held and petted. As if she wanted to be comforted. She also started to smell really really bad it was really toxic and I believe if was the smell of death. She start to porphyrin pretty much all over her body around her arms and on her back including her nose and eyes. She had many signs of chronic pain such as, eyes closed, weight loss, depression, unresponsive, body sunken in, change in fluid intake, stiffness, poor grooming, avoidance of contact with human and cage mates, huddled facing corner of cage, and tachycardia. I immediately found out what I can give her for pain, ran out and got some aspirin and gave it to her. It helped a little bit but she was still in somewhat of pain. I than research and found out ibuprofen is a better for pain. So I went out and go baby Motrin. And I gave that to her the next night.
Part 2:
The ibuprofen has helped her tremendously. She is still not out of the woods yet. But with no pain I can see some disability symptoms. I do noticed that she cannot grab anything and that her she has no movement in her fingers and toes. her hands and arms and hind legs are fine it just seems to be her fingers and toes that look like they have gone limp. She is still not grooming herself well as she has loss of balance. She isn't grooming her  nails either and they are growing long and I have to clip them myself. She is still very slow moving and eats very slow. Everything is very slow and she has to take her time. And I have to feed her separately from her cage mates as they are very fast and will eat it all up before she can get enough food for herself. Each day seems to be getting better and she seems to be getting stronger each day. She is now moving around and sleeping with her cage mates and will actually go and seek them out and cuddle with them. As she was not doing this before she wanted to be alone and her cage mates left her alone. She still is very eager for her free play. She is very very tired and sleeps a lot. but she will wake up for free play or a visit from me or my bf. Her eating and water intake is getting better and everything. This has been going for about 5 days. the 1st 2 days were the worse the last 3 have been gradually getting better.(the last 3 days she has been on ibuprofen)
I have read up about some things that could be happening.
1. heart disease - which I believe her sister had actually died from. does heart disease cause chronic pain? and can it paralyze fingers or limbs? She also has swollen feet and hands when ibuprofen is out of her system. And I know this is a rare symptom of heart disease in rats.
2. Pituitary Tumor - which I know causes the front hands to not be able to hold their food etc. Does ibuprofen help to reduce the size of the tumor at all and help with some symptoms of the tumor? I also know that another symptom is loss of balance and she has a hard time cleaning herself in the hard places cause her balance is off.
3. A stroke - she cannot use her fingers or toes they are limp and just flop around. She also has loss of balance which I know could be another sign of storke.
Today is sunday and she has an appointment tomorrow with the vet.
But I just want a rat experts opinion.
I am jw if you have any answer as to what is going on with my rat. Whatever she has, the ibuprofen has been a life saver! Any info is greatly appericated thank you.
As for giving my rat ibuprofen I only give her baby mortin and let her have 1 lick of it. And this seems to last her 24 hours.

Hi Jennifer,
I don't think you said how old she is. The therapeutic dose for ibuprofen in rats is actually quite high, 60 mg/lb twice a day, so I find it hard to believe that one lick of the baby Motrin is what is really helping her. I don't have a good explanation for you of all her symptoms, but because rats are so prone to getting secondary bacterial infections (secondary to mycoplasma) I usually recommend trying amoxicillin, which is good for secondary infections. Unfortunately, most vets don't know you can use amoxicillin in rats. See more info below.

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.

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 can’t find amoxicillin, you can use ampicillin which is basically the same thing, it just isn’t absorbed as well, so just double the dose to 20 mg/lb twice a day. Be sure to get CAPSULES.

Some vets won’t 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 capsules  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 Jedd’s Pigeon Supplies at 800-659-5928.  You can also order on their website at Go to the shopping cart to search for items.

You want to mix the amoxicillin in a yummy liquid such as Ensure or slightly diluted Hershey’s 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 doesn’t 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 it’s a good idea to give a double dose the first time.

If your rat won’t 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 doesn’t 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 order doxycycline capsules here:
If you would prefer a liquid they also have Doxysyrup or Doxyvet Liquid. 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. I have heard from several rat owners that this liquid is not as palatable as the Doxysyrup, but it can be diluted with yummier liquid or mixed with food. 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 order 100 mg capsules of doxycycline at a good price on eBay at  This company is in Singapore, so expect shipping to take 3 weeks.

For 100 mg capsules or packets of doxycycline, 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.

If the doxycycline doesn’t help either, you will need to try Baytril. You can buy 100 ml of 10% oral generic Baytril (enrofloxacin is the generic name but it can be called enroxil or enrofloxacine) 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!

I’ve 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 order it from

You will find more info about treating respiratory infections on my website at on the Rat Info page.  I also highly recommend you order my Rat Health Care booklet.  It is only $7 plus shipping (CA residents add 58 cents tax.)

Concerning amoxicillin and veterininarians:  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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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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