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Common Illnesses for Older Rats (Part 1)
9 years ago
I found this post on another site and wanted to share because I thought it had a lot of good info.

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Hi Everyone,

i was hoping to get some advice, suggestions, or input about the
following situation: my boy Tinkie who is about 16 months old has been
feeling under the weather for about the last day & a half or so. The
symptoms are: he seems to be very weak & wobbly & has little or no energy
so has to move around by crawling; he will eat & drink small amounts
but i have to give him soft food like banana; his poop looks to be of
normal texture & consistency; his eyes are open almost all the time, even
when he looks like he might be asleep. We already went to the vet
yesterday but no specific diagnosis was apparent (his lungs & heart sounded
OK). The vet gave him an injection of fluid therapy + vitamin(s) for
now. i'm gonna see how he does for the next day or so & if there is no
improvement then i'll probably get him on some antibiotics. Does any
of this sound familiar to anyone? Thanks.

Diana   
Common Illnesses for Older Rats (Part 2)
9 years ago
HI Diana, My first thought was Mycoplasma pneumonia,the number one disease that affects rats, especially older rats, but if your vet says the lungs are clear, and there is no respiratory abnormalities, then we have to consider some of the other things old rats can get. Have your vet test some urine on a strip....kidney failure is a distinct possibility, with uremia causing weakness, lack of appetite and dehydration. Put him in a clean plastic carrier or box at the vets ( no bedding) all they need is a few uncontaminated drops to test for protein. Diabetes is another distinct possibility...old rats do get diabetic. Again, the urine strip will come in handy...glucose is on there. If there is not a lot of urine, then tell your vet to limit it to the protein block and the urine block on the strip. If he is diabetic, Dr. Hutchinson and I have worked out the maintenance for rats using NPH insulin ( PZI did not work on either of my diabetic rats). The third possibility ( much more rare than kidney failure or diabetes) would be a pituitary tumor. That is seen in about 16% of intact females, and a much lower percentage of males. The pituitary is not encased in a bony space in the rat brain, and can enlarge a lot before putting pressure on the rest of the brain. The main signs are neurological, with weakness, inability to sit upright, inability to hold the food properly with the front paws, and poor proprioception ( correct placement of the limbs and feet). If you can take a front paw or hind foot and place it with the toes curled under, and the rat does not correct the placement, that is one test for poor proprioception. Head tilt may also be seen with pituitary tumor, but head tilt is more often seen with inner ear infection. I did not notice head tilt in your description of clinical signs, but inner ear infection ( most common agents Pasteurella, Corynebacterium, and/or Mycoplasma). They can also get weak, dehydrated, stop eating, as well as get a head tilt. Old rats also get chronic heart failure, with similar signs to humans. They are weak, lose appetite, but also appear bluish ( cyanotic) in areas that should be pink, like ears, feet and oral mucous membranes. One cannot always diagnose heart disease easily with rats, since you may not hear an abnormality on auscultation, and can't do an EKG or a lot of blood tests.
Common Illnesses in Older Rats (Part 3)
9 years ago
Of the above possibilities, I can give your vet suggestions on treatment for all of them. Some will be successful in reversing the problems, others will just maintain your rat comfortably until it is time to put him to sleep. My suggestion would be to test for diabetes and kidney failure asap. Assuming it is not diabetes, I would start antibiotics immediately, and I would choose: -Baytril 15 mg/kg BID ( rats have a much higher dose than dogs and cats). Orally is preferred, but if your vet wants to start out with an inhjection, dilute well with saline...it will cause a skin necrosis otherwise. -AND- -Doxycycline 5 mg/kg, BID, orally. You can mix it ( and the Baytril) in a flavored syrup and most rats will take it. Both antibiotics should be continued for at least 14 days. If Mycoplasma is involved, a 30 day treatment is suggested. Myco takes longer to suppress, and is involved frequently with rats. No problem with long term use of either drug in rats. Trimethoprim/sulfa will not touch Myco, so I like Baytril/doxy because it will take care of anything including Myco. In combination, they potentiate each other. -AND- I would start dexamethasone at 1 mg/lb injectable or oral BID for 3 days, unless your vet has some strong reason to not use dex. It will reduce inflammation, make the rat feel better, and will actually not only reduce the effects of Myco overgrowth, but also reduce the numbers of organisms directly. If it is a pituitary tumor, dex will shrink the tumor rapidly...and you will see a return to normal in 12 to 24 hours. Unfortunately, it does not cure the tumor...you will need to get it shrunk down with 3 days of dex then switch to prednisone at 1-2 mg/lb BID, and maintain him on pred until you see a return of the signs, or until the pred itself causes medical problems...then it will be time to put him to sleep. Bad disease. If it is an inner ear infection, again, I think Baytril/doxy is the best, and also use dex for 3 days, then prednisone at a decreasing dose starting at 1 mg/lb, reduce dose every 3 days. If you can get the inflammation down, you may be able to reverse a head tilt ( if he has one). Don't use dex in diabetes of course. Not sure about dex in kidney failure. Dex is pretty strong and may harm the heart if congestive heart failure. Your vet knows most of this, of course. With heart failure, you can use Enalipril (an ace inhibitor) at 0.25 mg/lb BID, safely. It will help to lower the blood pressure. In addition, if there is any fluid in the abdomen or pulmonary edema, Lasix 1-2 mg/lb can be used. Hawthorn Tincture ( a natural remedy, from health food stores) will strengthen the heartbeat without the nasty side effects of digoxin. Safe to use. Dose 10 to 20 mg per dose, 2 to 3 times a day. Let me assure you that when I say "I recommend", I mean my vet, Dr. Michael Hutchinson recommends. I am a vet tech with 30 years experience, and Dr. Hutchinson has been treating rats for 18 years. I encourage you to print this email and take it to your vet. It may help point your vet in the right direction, if he or she is not well versed in rats. If your vet wants to confer with Dr. Hutchinson, he is always glad to help. Have your vet email me at my personal address, pulman2@comcast.net and I will forward it to Dr. Hutchinson, and then send the reply. If he is diagnosed by your vet as having diabetes, let me know, and I will give you the dosages of NPH and the structure of raising the dose gradually, and how to test the blood sugar levels easily. Good luck, Please let me know if I can be of further help, and how things work out. Sincerely, Lindsay Pulman, LVT, LATg Pittsburgh Rat Lovers Club
8 years ago
Maggie I am so glad you told me about this group.  I am printing of many of the posts incase I ever need them to give to my vet.  This info is all so great, especially since many vets are not very knowledgeable about ratties.