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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 24396
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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My pet rat has developed a respirartory infection but no vet

Customer Question

My pet rat has developed a respirartory infection but no vet here in my town will give me antibiotics. I've had rats with this before and only an antibiotic will treat it. Is there anything else I can do?
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 months ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with your rat. Mine is in my lap as I type this. You're correct, no vet is allowed to prescribe antibiotics without the proper owner-pet-vet relationship which means you would have to bring your rat in to a pocket-pet vet to be examined. There are no alternatives to antibiotics for these rats.

You've described advanced respiratory disease by one of three major respiratory pathogens - Mycoplasma pulmonis (the most likely), Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Corynebacterium kutscheri. The best understood of these pathogens is Mycoplasma and it will cause all of the symptoms you mentioned. Clinical signs are highly variable: in many cases no signs are present even though significant pulmonary lesions may exist. The prevalence and severity of signs typically increase with the age of the rat and the presence of environmental stresses placed upon the animal. Initial infection commonly occurs without any clinical signs; early signs involve both the upper and the lower respiratory tract and may include snuffling, nasal discharge, weight loss, hunched posture, ruffled coat, head tilt, and red tears.

Intensive treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics is necessary. Tetracycline antibiotics like doxycycline are efficacious. Treating with doxycycline (5-10 mg/kg orally every 12 hours) or a long-acting depot such as doxycycline (Vibravenos, Pfizer Animal Health) at 70-100 mg/kg subcutaneously or intramuscularly every 7 days often helps affected rats. It's important to know, however, that no antibiotic can rid this infectious agent from your rat. We must be content to keep the infection at bay and perhaps medicate life-long.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I can get the meds at petmed.com but no vet here in my town will prescribe them to pet med.com. What can I do?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 months ago.

Do any of the vets in town see rats? If not, you'll need to find a vet outside of town.

You have another less conventional option. Tylosin is very effective against the Mycoplasma seen in these respiratory infections in rats. You can purchase Tylan-50 in your local feed store or online. You don't have to inject it into your rat even though it's an injectable product. It can be given directly into your rat's mouth at 5 mg/lb every 12 hours for at least a month and perhaps indefinitely. There are 50 mg/mL of tylosin in Tylan-50. You'll need to weight your rat and dose accurately with a tubuerculin syringe which also can be purchased in a feed store or online.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
He is a small rat about 2/3 months old. Jasper fits in the palm of my hand. Not sure on his weight.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 months ago.

A postage or food scale measuring in grams will do the trick. There are 30 grams in an ounce and 16 ounces in a pound.