Rat Health Information

Illnesses Mycoplasma

  1. What is Mycoplasma
  2. Scientific Facts (The Complicated bit)
  3. Mycoplasma or Something Else?
  4. How Does your Rat Catch Mycoplasma?
  5. Avoiding this Disease
  6. What are the Symptoms>
  7. What Should i do if i suspect my rat has Myco?
  8. What will the Vet do?
  9. What can i do to help?
  10. and finally....

Lumps (Tumours & Abscesses)

  1. Where is the Tumour?
  2. How old is the rat?
  3. What is it?
  4. Does it move about fairly freely, or does it feel deeply connected?
  5. Is there a smell?

Head Tilt

  1. Signs
  2. What to do?

Loss of rat fur

  1. Why Does this Happen?

Bumblefoot

  1. What is Bumblefoot?
  2. How do rats gets Bumblefoot?
  3. How can i prevent Bumblefoot?



About the Illnesses Mycoplasma

  1. What is Mycoplasma
    From everything that I have read I could sum up what Mycoplama is: It's a form of bacteria that all rats carry in their respiratory tracts, humans also carry it. Mycoplasma's are the smallest know bacteria and have no wall. This is why it is so difficult to treat. Myco lowers the immune systems of the rat allowing other bacterial infections or "secondary" infections such as pneumonia to set in. Many rats carry mycoplasma without appearing to suffer any illness, while others are not able to carry the infection unharmed. It can come into affect in a rat through a fright, stress, levels of ammonia, you name it. We had an experience with this nasty disease not long ago. We didn't know what it was at first because we hadn't researched into diseases such as Myco. We went to our local vet who prescribed antibiotics, but it is up to your rat whether they can cope or not. Most do pull through. I used lots of homeopathic remedies too, and Noodles pulled through within a week. This surprised me as I thought that it is very severe, however a lot of the symptoms such as a bloody nose, are similar to a high fever in humans.

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  2. Scientific Facts (The Complicated bit)
    Mycoplasma's are the smallest known bacteria that can grow and reproduce outside living host cells. They have no rigid cell wall, and are pleomorphic organisms. Because there is no cell wall they were thought to be virus, but they are now considered primitive bacteria. Wall-less bacteria are much more difficult to kill because they lack the lipid layer surrounding them. Mycoplasma is a Gram-negative aerobic bacteria. Mycoplasma typically causes a "blister" effect on the surface of the lungs, lung abscesses, and emphysema. It also causes inflammation and infection of the uterus. In the rat the Mycoplasma may accompany the Sendai virus or other bacterial infections, such as Pasteurella pneumotropica, Actinobacillus spp. Streptococcus pneumoniae, (which we may pass to them) Bordetella bronchiseptica, cilia-associated respiratory bacillus (CAR) and Corynebacterium kutscheri. Rats and mice are the main carriers for this disease.

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  3. Mycoplasma or Something Else?
    Sneezing/Wheezing and Noisy Breathing are often the signs of a respiratory infection. Sneezing can do some damage to their lungs, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter and cause an infection. If your rats do sneeze, it may be something else such as irritation of the respiratory tract from dust and phenol oils if the rat is kept on shavings, (most rats sneeze at some point in their lives). However, should your rat continue to sneeze frequently and for a long time you should watch for any other signs of illness. If your rat's breathing seems laboured, wheezy, or has a rattley sound, see a vet immediately. When treated early, secondary respiratory infections can often be kept at bay with a strong course of antibiotics. How can I find out about Myco? Type in "Mycoplasma rats" in a search engine and it'll find hundreds of Internet sites on this issue. Within these sites you'll find the same type of information I have on this page and perhaps other things you may like to know too. Try a search engine such as www.yahoo.com.

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  4. How Does your Rat Catch Mycoplasma?
    Rats cannot catch our colds. The way we transport m.pulmonis in our nasal passages is to breathe it in and then out - it is not the same strain of mycoplasma humans catch (walking pneumonia). Strep throat is easily passed to them by us, though, so I think it is okay to interact with a cold, but not a severe sore throat until a culture has come back negative. I would qualify that all rats carry myco - they are able to breed SPF (specific pathogen free) rats in labs, but these rats must be kept in a barrier environment to protect from natural infection (life in a bubble!). Myco can develop through direct contact between mother and babies, aerosol over short distances, sexual transfer, in the birth canal, and us humans. Conditions they are kept in can also cause Myco to develop, these are; Over crowding, poor ventilation, and high ammonia levels in an unclean cage. Urine and feces raise the ammonia levels dramatically, this is why it is extremely important to keep their cage disinfected, CLEAN every day and ventilated.

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  5. Avoiding this Disease
    You should never breed from a rat, which shows a tendency to succumb to infection, as the tendency towards respiratory illness is partly hereditary. This means it is likely that offspring and resulting generations will have weakened immune systems. It is important to get your rats from breeders whom breed healthy rats, a constant sneezer should not be bred from. To protect your rats from the viruses, it is always a good idea for new rats or rats returning from a show to be quarantined for at least 2 weeks before exposing them to your other rats. There should be no air-flow between your rats' room and the quarantine area. Wash your hands and other areas that go near the rats and change your clothes after being with the quarantined rats so not to spread possible infection. Provide a clean, well-ventilated home for your rats, use quality bedding such as Care-Fresh, Sani-Chips, or aspen. Never use pine or cedar. Feed them small daily servings of fresh or frozen vegetables, cereals, grains, and a small amount of fruit. You could also use homeopathic remedies to help build their immune system. (See below) Don't ignore those little sneezes and that raspy breathing. Normal rat sounds are a variety of squeaks, not congestion. See a veterinarian when you hear it, don't wait for it to get worse, because it will, congestion does not clear up, it gets worse.

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  6. What are the Symptoms>
    The first signs usually go unnoticed by the less experienced rat owners. M.pulmonis affects three major areas of the body, the upper respiratory system, the bronchopulmonary system, and the genitals. Sneezing. Any number of reasons may cause rat sneezing, such as allergy to poor quality bedding. If you are hearing sneezing often and if it responds to antibiotic treatment, it more than likely is the M. pulmonis causing it. Other symptoms are sniffling, rough hair coat, and head tilt (PEW do this anyway), lethargy, rough hair coat, hunched posture, chattering (as in shivering from the chills), weight loss, laboured and raspy breathing, and breathing that sounds congested. Antibiotic treatment at this point is helpful but they begin a downward spiral that leads to eventual death. It is important to differentiate whether or not a rat has an upper or lower respiratory tract infection. Upper respiratory tract disease includes rhinitis (cold symptoms), sinusitis, labyrinthitis (middle ear disease). Lower respiratory disease includes conditions ranging from mild bronchitis to pneumonia and sometimes emphysema. A rat with noisy or snuffling breathing is unlikely to have lower respiratory tract disease if it is otherwise healthy, eating and in good condition. It is far more likely to have sinusitis. Although the infection does not usually kill rats by itself they are rarely successful in getting rid of it from their system.

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  7. What Should i do if i suspect my rat has Myco?
    The severity of a mycoplasma infection can be increased by cigarette smoke, ammonia from a dirty cage, vitamin A or E deficiency, and a concurrent respiratory infection of another type, as well as genetic susceptibility. So go and see your vet Only some antibiotics are effective against mycoplasma, and some are effective against both mycoplasma and secondary infections. When a rat is showing acute disease, you should choose one of the later antibiotics, which include Baytril, chloremphenical, and gentamicin together with amoxicillin.

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  8. What will the Vet do?
    The traditional antibiotic used to treat Mycoplasma with varying degrees of success is Baytril. Other antibiotics that have been successful at treating secondary infections are amoxicillin, trimethoprim-sulpha, cefadroxil, and chloramphenicol. If a particular antibiotic is effective against the infectious organism, you should see an improvement in acute symptoms within 2-3 days, or in chronic symptoms within a week. When treating respiratory infections, antibiotics should be continued for at least a week after all the symptoms disappear to prevent an immediate relapse. That means sometimes the treatment must be continued for 3-4 weeks or longer. Treatment should be reinstated if the symptoms come back. If an antibiotic is no longer effective, try another one.

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  9. What can i do to help?
    If the air in your home is dry, a humidifier will help your rats breathe more easily. I didn't have a humidifyer so I put a tub of water by the rats cage so that when evaporating it dampens the air. If your rat's nose seems congested, the decongestant pseudephedrine might help. Buy the non-drowsy pediatric formula. The best dose is unknown. You might try giving 5 drops, 3 times a day to help clear the breathing passages. I also took noodles into the shower room with me and got the room all steamy to help her breathing Another medication that can help is called VetRx. It works by stimulating deeper breathing and contains Canada balsam, camphor, oil origanum, and oil Rosemary. The best results seem to come by putting a few drops in the nest box or on the bedding 2-3 times a day where it will be inhaled. I couldn't find VetRx, but I left rosemary essential oil open on top of their cage which is directly over their bed. The herbs Echinacea and goldenseal both help improve their immune system. You can buy these together in liquid form for about �5 in your local health store. I went to Holland and Barretts(uk). You should get the alcohol free liquid. I put 4 drops in their water, and into the syringe of ribena that I gave to Noodles (She wouldn't drink from the water bottle but would drink ribena) I gave her diluted ribena as she wouldn't take anything else and at least it was some sort of liquid inside her. Dehydration can be lethal to a small rat. The liquid or powder can also be mixed in tasty food, such as yogurt or avocado. Try giving 1/10 the dose for humans, which will be on the label. These herbs need to be given for up to 8 weeks at a time. However, if they are used for too long, they lose their effectiveness. I alternate it one bottle with, the next with out for about a month. The homeopathic remedy antinonium tartaricun might be of some help. It can be used in conjunction with antibiotics and other medications. While mycoplasmosis is incurable in rats, antibiotics can help keep the disease in check and extend a rat's life. Even when the infection is advanced, there are also other medications, such as aminophylline (a broncodilator), a diuretic (to reduce fluid in the lungs), prednisone (a steroid to reduce inflammation), and enalapril (to lower blood pressure and make it easier on the heart) which can make a rat much more comfortable and extend his life. This can give a rat many more months with you. Keep them warm. Use a heating pad if you must, but be sure the cage has a warm side and a cool side. They often won't eat their regular food so use anything you can find that they'll take. I bought apple cinnamon oatsoeasy and gave noodles this, she loved it! I also bought human baby foods, well, blueberry pudding to be precise! Other things you can feed your rats are Live yogurt, (friendly bacteria) If you feed any type of dairy food do so only if the medication prescribed is not a tetracycline. The molecules of dairy products compete with the tetracycline molecules and will cancel out the antibiotic. Chicken soup, just about anything you would eat if you were sick. Always remember to stay away from junk food. Make sure they get plenty of fluids. Do not let them become dehydrated even if you have to give fluids with an eyedropper. To induce them to drink you can add a sweetener to their water or add a salty food to the diet. Chocolate is a natural aminophylline and in small amounts is not toxic to rats. Noodles loved these. She and the others had one choc drop every day for a week. Feed garlic in whatever form you can - raw is best, crushed into soft food, or as capsules, garlic also builds the immune system.

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  10. and finally....
    And lastly, Good Luck beating this vicious disease. We beat it!! Many rats do pull through and by joining the rattie chat group/message board on this site you can share your experiences and ask for help.

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Lumps (Tumours & Abscesses)

  1. Where is the Tumour?
    The most common mammary tumor areas are leg/genital region (inguinal mammary tissue), chest near arms - "armpit" area( pectoral mammary tissue). Any tumor on the underside of a female rat should be suspect as a mammary tumor - they have extensive mammary tissue. Near jaw/eye/ear - get to vet immediately. In groin area of male, can be testicular, prostate, or suspect abscess in recently neutered male. Males CAN get mammary tumors, as they have pectoral mammary tissue.

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  2. How old is the rat?
    Mammary tumors can occur in young rats, but most commonly occur after 18 months of age. Most cancerous tumors are found in rats over one year - in young rats rule out abscess first.

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  3. What is it?
    Is it a tiny ? Pea-sized, walnut-sized?
    The earlier a tumor is identified, the more options are available for treatment. Large tumors begin to cut off the blood supply to surrounding tissue.
    Is there any sign of an entry wound? Any scabs or a "head" to the mass?
    If yes, likely it is an abscess, as bacteria could have entered the wound.
    Is the mass soft or hard?
    Soft more indicative of abscess or benign tumor. Hard is indicative of more serious tumor or an abscess filled with a waxy pus (been there a while!).
    Does it feel solid or fluid?
    If it feels like it may be containing fluid, it is more likely an abscess.
    Does it feel uniform, or like many small beads?
    The nodular tumors tend to be more invasive, and can be indicative of a malignant tumor. They are also harder to remove surgically, as they are not well encapsulated.

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  4. Does it move about fairly freely, or does it feel deeply connected?
    Tumors that move about almost as though you could pop them out are usually well-encapsulated and easily removed by an experienced rat surgeon. Deeply connected tumors are usually invasive and indicative of a more serious type of tumor - look for an experienced exotic vet.

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  5. Is there a smell?
    Abscesses can have a foul odor associated with the bacterial infection, tumors will have no odor. A black line indicates necrosis, or dying, of tissue. This can occur with either an abscess or a tumor, and requires that a vet debride the tissue, actually trimming off the dead tissue down to healthy tissue so the necrosis will not spread.

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Head Tilt

  1. Signs
    Head tilt is not common in PEW. Head WEAVING is common in the lighter-eyed rats due to vision. A head tilt is mainly what it says, if you notice anything like this or seeming disorientation, see your vets immediately.

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  2. What to do?
    True head tilt indicates ear infection, and must be promptly treated with a prescription antibiotic IN COMBINATION WITH A CORTICOSTEROID from your vets. The steroid is necessary to reduce inflammation around the vestibular nerve, which controls balance. Once the vestibular nerve is deeply affected, the rat will roll trying to right itself. The actual tilt has a good chance of improving if caught early and treated aggressively. If a rat is permanently tilted it can still lead a normal life and will adapt well, but you must take care to protect them on shoulders and high places, as their balance is not as keen.

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Loss of rat fur

  1. Why Does this Happen?
    Loss of rat's fur is common and is generally caused by a change in season or hot weather (malting) and is generally nothing to worry about. On the other hand it could be a sign of excess scratching, possible causes are mites and similar. If you see a lot of fur lying around the cage then check their fur for small black or white things (similar to lice amongst people). Another possibility is that another rat could be heavily grooming others and causing bare patches, if this is the case take them to the vets for a checkup and see what they say.

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Bumblefoot

  1. What is Bumblefoot?
    Bumblefoot is a condition that occurs to ratty paws and is very painful for them and tough to cure. It appears in the form of red blister like features on the feet.

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  2. How do rats gets Bumblefoot?
    Some people say that rats get Bumblefoot by walking on mesh, whilst others say that it's hereditory or can be caused by a number of things.

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  3. How can i prevent Bumblefoot?
    Depending on how rats get Bumblefoot there may not be a way to prevent it. However, I would suggest covering any wire floors in your cage with thin sheets of wood, self-stick linoleum or another solid surface, just to protect your rats feet. Also make sure you clean out the cage regularly to prevent infection. Cover any wire floors in the cage with thin sheets of wood, self-stick linoleum or another solid surface.

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The information posted on this page is not set in concrete, it's only advice. See your vet for the correct advice for your rattie.