New rat sneezing + upset stomach? UPDATE

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Tabirat

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Hi,

I got a new rat on Saturday at the usual place I get rats, and he was fine at the store, but when we got him home he was breathing hard. We put him in his new tank with paper shreds (the store had him in pine bedding and the travel box he was put in had pine bedding), and he started sneezing a LOT. It died down after the first 24 hours and he hasn't breathed hard since Saturday, but then we put him in the big rat cage we have after seeing him looking miserable and stressed in the small 10 gallon tank. I should note that he's about 2 or 3 months old, but is rather big for his age (he's probably the size of a 4 or 5 month old, but his head, ears and feet are still large compared to his body like a 2-3 month old). The move stressed him a bit at first, but now he's more used to his new cage and has even popcorned a few times, with his speed even picking up (he was sluggish at first when we got him out of the box). He seems to be fine when he's playing outside his cage and sneezes less outside of it.

However, the sneezing continues, he still washes his face delicately, and sometimes there's clicking and occasionally mucous-y sounds along with the red stuff around his nose, but it seems to be getting a bit worse. It doesn't help that his poops stink, possibly from switching abruptly to Oxbow Mouse & Young Rat food from an unhealthy mix the pet store provided (it was some laboratory mouse and rat food mixed with pigeon food and shelled peanuts).

I started giving him fish mox last night, mixed with some apple juice for flavor, but I may have given him too high of a dose of the mox and the juice, because he spent most of the time he's usually active sleeping, and when he pooped it smelled worse. I also gave him some diluted unflavored Pedialyte, which he drank. I'm planning to clean his cage today to see if it helps his breathing, and I plan to give him a much lower dose of mox with more diluted apple juice. However, I wanted to try to get some advice before I do anything else (aside from cleaning his cage, because it stinks).

I'm hoping we don't have to take him back to the store, since he's warming up to us and I don't want to basically sentence him to death there. I live with my parents, and neither of us can really afford to take him to the vet for a check up and antibiotics.

What should I do?
 

Tabirat

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I should also point out that Wally's my tenth rat, but this is the first time a rat seemed to be in trouble right after getting them. I had a rat named Cornflower who sneezed, but she had more energy than Wally does, and she didn't have the reddish stuff nor did she get easily stressed. Wally was the only one in the tank at the store, so I couldn't get him safely with another rat his gender.
 

Fidget

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I wouldn't worry about sneezing at first in a new kid while they get adjusted, but clicking & mucous-y sounds are concerning. When you hold him up to your ear on both sides can you hear sounds in his chest? Can you get him some echinacea to start and see if that resolves it? If it doesn't, and especially if he's worsening you really have to get him to a vet for a checkup & likely antibiotics..
I know finances are tight for you, but ratties do need vet and/or medicine help sometimes and you have to be prepared for that. Money is really tight for me so I have a vet envelope I put everything I can into as I can, so I'm prepared when it's necessary. Maybe you have something you could sell or a way to make a little money?
 

Tabirat

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I just got the chance to listen, and I only heard sounds when he was stressed out (Wally's still getting used to me). It sounded more like his heartbeat, but I don't know for sure: I don't recall ever holding a rat's chest against my ear. His sneezing has decreased, though, and his eyes seem brighter than they were before. Plus, I noticed the amount of porphyrin has decreased: as I cleaned his cage Thursday I noticed it was a lot that was thick in color on the paper towel pieces in his igloo, but then yesterday I checked the same area and there was fewer porphyrin stains with fainter color. His fur seems to be looking a bit healthier too, and it isn't as coarse as it was before I started giving him the fish mox (which I've lowered the dose to half what I initially gave him) and pedialyte. His appetite and thirst seem to be alright, as he's eating his food and drinking like he should. I'm not noticing as much clicking or congested sounds, but when I do they seem a bit milder.

I don't have any echinacea, but I'll ask my parents if they can find some when they're out and about later. If they can't, I'll see if I can swing by the drug store on Monday (I'm assuming it's an herbal supplement?).

As for making more money, I have been meaning to sell comics I have no interest in rereading and opening up art commissions on a freelancing site. My folks keep mentioning a job I could do from home that someone they know does, but I can't apply for it without knowing where it is online.
 
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PiddlePod

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Considering he's a young rat (between 3 to 5 months) and he likely came from a rat mill, I might suggest trying amoxicillin or amoxicillin clavanate (brand name Augmentin or Clavamox) first. We will assume that he is already carrying mycoplasmosis and considering the history of rat mills, I would suspect that he picked up an opportunistic secondary infection from a compromised immune system due to over crowding, poor husbandry and stress. Compound all of this with the additional stress of being transported and not receiving proper care once he ended up at the petshop.

I'm certain that you're already aware that most Pet shops that sell live animals don't always offer the best care and unfortunately not every sick animal gets treated by a veterinarian.

Amoxicillin or Amoxicillin Clavanate is relatively cheap. I would try dosing him with amoxicillin (or Clavamox) first and monitor him for improvement over the next 5 days. If his condition improves, continue the treatment for 6 to 8 weeks; if he does not have any improvement by day 5, you'll need to switch to a different class of antibiotic, typically Baytril (enrofloxicin) and Vibramycin (doxycycline) which would need to be given for 6 to 8 weeks.

I know that you mentioned that you're having some financial difficulty but your new little friend will require medication to get better. Without antibiotic treatment, the infection will likely advance to pneumonia. :(

If there is something else going on in his gut such as an infection that is causing gastrointestinal issues, antibiotics in addition to another medication at the discretion of the veterinarian, will also benefit your little rattie.

I've suggested this before to a couple of other folks that were experiencing some difficulty taking their rat to the vet, but I would strongly suggest that you reach out to the petshop that you bought him from and ask to speak to the manager. I would ask the manager what their policy is regarding sick animals and ask if they offer veterinary treatment at no cost or if they have a policy for reimbursement for vet visits for animals purchased at the store that turned out to be ill.

Some shops will offer to take the pet back and treat him/her and once the pet has recovered, allow you to take the pet back home. As mentioned above, some pet shops (Petco and petsmart have this policy) may have a policy that covers reimbursement for animals that were sold sick and require veterinary care.

If the petshop tells you that they don't offer any assistance, you could also try contacting you local shelter or animal rescue (or rat rescue if there is one near you) and ask if they offer low cost or free veterinary services for folks that are having temporary financial difficulty. You could also call a couple of veterinary offices that treat rats and ask if they offer discounted services or if they are open to setting up a payment plan. If you're in the United States most Petsmart's have a Banfield Veterinary Clinic in their stores that offers low cost visits. I believe a visit for a rat is between $45 to $65 for the vet visit and antibotics like amoxicillin (or clavamox) is around $15; Baytril (Enrofloxicin) is around $20 and Vib (Doxycycline) is in the same price range as the Baytril.

Hopefully there are options available to assist you, but the bottom line is that your new little rattie will require a visit with a veterinarian in order to evaluate him and prescribe antibiotics. I can't stress this enough but without immediate and proper treatment his condition will decline. An active mycoplasma pulmonis infection and/or and active secondary infection will become pneumonia if it remains untreated. :(

As for the upset tummy, you can pick up a probiotic product called Benebac that can help bring balance to his gut flora. Benebac comes in a powder form that you can mix with some baby food and it also comes in a gel form that you can give directly from the tube. Factors like excessive stress can lead to gastrointestinal irritation which throws the entire gut biome off. Good gut health supported by prebiotics (think fiber and lots of greens) and probiotics can improve the immune system and many other systems in the body. :) I know you are in a pinch for money but I'll also suggest a probiotic that I personally use for my ratties. It is a brand called Flora that is made for human toddlers. I've found that it supports rattie gut health much better than the Benabac brand. You can find it here: https://www.iherb.com/pr/Flora-Toddler-s-Probiotic-2-64-oz-75-g-Ice/3064?gclsrc=aw.ds&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvJadhMSA5gIViZOzCh3EKwPbEAQYBCABEgKl8PD_BwE

You can also find Benebac on Amazon (I recommend the gel version): (3 Pack) Bene-Bac Plus Probiotic Pet Gel 15g Each X 3 Syringes https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XK2699C/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_ufu2Db2W6TEZE

I hope that one of the solutions I mentioned above will get you some help with finding a way to get your new little buddy the medical treatment he needs! Please keep us updated! ❤
 

PiddlePod

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I must have completely missed this the first read through, but I just saw that you started Wally on amoxicillin. I'm not an advocate for giving ratties fish antibiotics because I'm distrustful of what these companies list in the ingredients and most of them don't publish the inactive ingredients at all. The decision is yours if you want to continue to give him the fish amox but keep in mind that this stuff is not regulated by the FDA and those companies can put whatever they want into those capsules. In addition to potentially dangerous additives, the concentration of active antibiotic may not be accurate.

If you do continue Wally on the fish amox, make sure that you have compounded it properly and that he is receiving the correct dosage. His upset tummy may be from stress or illness but it could also be that the dosage you are giving him is too high. LilSpaz posted accurate dosages of medications in a pinned post called Dosage Calculator that can be found pinned at the top of the posts in the Health & General Care forum. Double check the concentration of the meds you compounded and visit the dosage calculator website mentioned in the pinned post to accurately calculate the appropriate dose for Wally based the prescribed dose for amoxicillin (e.g. 22mg/kg) and his weight in grams.

If the diarrhea persists I would strongly suggest you pick up a tube of BeneBac as soon as possible. You can also try adding bulking foods to his diet such as uncooked oatmeal groats.

Please keep us posted on how Wally is doing!
 
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Tabirat

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Thanks for the input! I will definitely lower the dose I've been giving him, as the dosage calculator said I should be giving him about half the amount I've been giving him (after the first dose, I mean, as that one was clearly too high). The diarrhea has stopped, though he does still have some stools that seem a bit too soft. I came across a thread where someone recommended probiotics or yogurt for diarrhea from antibiotics, so I gave him a little bit of lowfat peach yogurt since it's all we have at the moment for that (the other flavors we had were orange cream and vanilla: I know anything involving oranges can be dangerous to male rats, and I wasn't sure about vanilla, so I avoided using those). It didn't seem to hurt him, and he certainly found it tasty! Wally's energy has increased, his eyes seem brighter and wider, and his ears have perked up. His coat seems a bit healthier, too. I haven't heard any mucous-y sounds lately, and the clicking seems to have gone down. Also, Wally hasn't had as much porphyrin drainage since starting treatment. Whenever it does appear, though, it's faint in color.

Also, I just realized I should have mentioned this sooner, but, when I got Wally he was licking his private like crazy. One of my previous male rats, Jonathon, had done the same thing one night about ten years ago, but we figure it was a UTI since we used purple grape juice diluted by water to help him flush it out. He lived for about a year and a half after that. Back to Wally: ever since starting the fish mox, he's been going for his private less and less, and his pee seems to be a more normal amount with each passing day. Someone who's used fish mox on rats has said that it can help clear up UTIs as well as respiratory issues. So maybe he has/had a UTI on top of this?

I don't know if he came from a rat mill, as his tank was marked as "pet only" (which possibly means he was from a family that breeds rats specifically for pets) and the clerk said they only get their rats from local breeders. I will see if I can reach out to the store manager tomorrow, and I may call my usual vet (their prices are usually fairly reasonable) to ask about costs if this doesn't clear up soon. As I've mentioned before, I plan to be opening up commissions on a freelancing site and hope to sell old comic books to try to earn extra money for Wally's needs. My only job at the moment is a weekly vacuuming job for my grandmother below minimum wage.
 

Tabirat

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Forgot to mention: Wally's washing his face faster now as though it's not bothering him, and on Friday he started sleeping on his head--the first time he's done so since he arrived. I had two rats who had respiratory issues, and they didn't sleep on their heads when they were too congested. This further tells me he's starting to feel better.
 

PiddlePod

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Aw poor buddy...no wonder he had a bad belly :). Glad that you were able to adjust the amoxicillin w/ the calculator! Make sure that you bookmark the calculator because you'll find that it comes in handy during situations like this!

Yogurt is a great source for probiotics too and if the peach yogurt seems to be helping, I would continue it, just keep an eye on the sugar content. It's better to give Wally probiotics 4 hours before his med or 2 hours after his med so that the antibiotic doesn't end up eliminating the good bacteria that was introduced to Wally's gut. After Wally is finished with his round of antibiotic, I would continue to give him a good source of probiotics for life. Every third day or once a week for life will help keep his gut colonized with beneficial bacteria and may even assist in boosting his immune system as he grows older.

It also sounds like the amoxicillin is doing its job! If Wally had a UTI, the amoxicillin may have helped that as well. I think it's safe to assume that a secondary infection was causing his respiratory issues and his urinary tract issues as well. Poor little guy, he's lucky that you found him! :) I hope that Wally continues to improve and goes on to live a very long and healthy life in your care. ❤

Please do keep us updated on how he is doing as the week goes on!
 

Tabirat

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Sorry for such a late response, as I was worried I'd be jinxing everything by saying he's doing good.

Wally seems to be feeling better (knocks on wood) but he started sneezing a lot again on Friday or Saturday (when I cleaned his cage most recently) and he's started making strange noises again. They sound more like the other boys I'd had did at his age though, when they were making little grunting sounds, but I'm still on high alert since they sound a bit off. His sneezes don't sound congested like they did before, and they seem to have gradually decreased since the cage cleaning. He doesn't really act sick anymore though, and he's getting more active. He's also eating and drinking like he should, plus he's growing fast--not just in size but also in weight. I'm trying to make sure I don't feed him too much, though.

Wally still gets reddish liquid around his nose, but it doesn't seem like porphyrin. I see it more right after he washes his face, but then when I look a minute or so later it's a more clear liquid. He had that just below his lower lip the other day (too far down for it to have come from the mouth), where there was red liquid first and then clear stuff a minute later. Maybe he's scratching himself with his claws (they are pretty sharp)? Has anyone had this happen before?
 

PiddlePod

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Sorry for such a late response, as I was worried I'd be jinxing everything by saying he's doing good.

Wally seems to be feeling better (knocks on wood) but he started sneezing a lot again on Friday or Saturday (when I cleaned his cage most recently) and he's started making strange noises again. They sound more like the other boys I'd had did at his age though, when they were making little grunting sounds, but I'm still on high alert since they sound a bit off. His sneezes don't sound congested like they did before, and they seem to have gradually decreased since the cage cleaning. He doesn't really act sick anymore though, and he's getting more active. He's also eating and drinking like he should, plus he's growing fast--not just in size but also in weight. I'm trying to make sure I don't feed him too much, though.

Wally still gets reddish liquid around his nose, but it doesn't seem like porphyrin. I see it more right after he washes his face, but then when I look a minute or so later it's a more clear liquid. He had that just below his lower lip the other day (too far down for it to have come from the mouth), where there was red liquid first and then clear stuff a minute later. Maybe he's scratching himself with his claws (they are pretty sharp)? Has anyone had this happen before?
I'm glad to hear that Wally is feeling a little better! I can't remember, but were you able to get him on a round of antibiotics? If you did, may I ask how long his treatment was prescribed for? If Wally has finished a round of antibiotics for 6 to 8 weeks, I would probably attribute the sudden sneezing to his cage being cleaned especially if the substrate you use might be a little dusty. If that's the case, I would just keep an eye on him and see if he improves in a couple of days.

If you didn't get the chance to have him evaluated by a veterinarian, I would err on the side of caution and say that any measure of improvement that you're observing in Wally is placebo. If this is the case I would strongly suggest that you bring him in to see his veterinarian so that he can be prescribed the appropriate antibiotics. Any active infection, be it caused by mycoplasmosis or otherwise, will not resolve on its own and instead will cause irreversible damage to his lungs as well as his heart and will likely progress into pneumonia.

In regards to the excessive porphyrin production, I would be concerned that it may be related to an unresolved or untreated respiratory infection. Porphyrin discharge ranges from clear (transparent w/ trace amounts of porphyrin) to a semi-opaque rusty red color. The discharge can start off as clear and graduate to rust colored or start off as rust colored followed by a clear discharge; unless the fluid is bright red and opaque, it's likely porphyrin discharge and not blood. Finding porphyrin on the mouth may be from the act of sneezing droplets and simultaneous grooming. Porphyrin may also weep from the eyes as well.

Any excessive amount of porphyrin is a symptom of extreme stress or illness. If it continues, I would strongly suggest that Wally see a veterinarian (again) for further evaluation, especially with the holidays coming up and most veterinarian offices closing early I think it's important to have him looked at sooner rather than later.
 

Tabirat

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I haven't gotten him to a vet yet due to my mom telling me I don't need to and I'll waste my money or hers, but I finally got one set up after explaining the situation again and suggesting asking about payment plans, though it's on Monday. We're both willing to get him to the emergency vet if it gets to the point he needs to be seen immediately. Wally got off fish mox last week (after three weeks on it) and was doing well the first few days, but now he's gradually going back downhill, even drinking a bit less and sneezing more. He's had more to drink today than he did yesterday, though it may be because he had a lot of sugar yesterday (my bad). The porphyrin didn't appear for a few days, but now it's back. I'm going to put him back on the mox tonight and see if it'll help him last until the vet visit. Weird thing is, he's fine in the morning when he's awake and active (he plays like crazy and doesn't lie down during it anymore), but in the afternoon and evenings when he's resting the symptoms appear. I don't know if he's allergic to anything in his cage (still paper shreds: we tried Carefresh a week and a half ago, but it had a bit of a scent that made his face look miserable and he tried to eat it so we had to get rid of that; and Mom doesn't want me to try fabric because 1. he chews fabric and 2. she feels it's unsanitary to wash, like it's a diaper).
 

Tabirat

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Update:

Today I'm noticing some lethargy in Wally. He played like usual today and seems a bit less congested thanks to the fish mox again, but after the most recent playtime he started acting more tired than usual, and acted a bit lethargic. I've talked to Mom again, and we've agreed to take him to the vet on Friday when the exotics vet is in. I hope we don't lose him, and that it doesn't get to the point where we need to haul him to the after hours emergency vet (which costs about 4 times more than a regular check up, and more than twice as much as an in-hours emergency visit).

He's still eating and drinking, but the amount has decreased. I've managed to trick him into drinking some fluids by adding 1 mL of apple juice to 4 mL water, and have been soaking some food blocks and hard treats in water.

Is there anything else I can do for him? I do still have unopened baby food from when my most recent rat had needed some, in case that can help.
 
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PiddlePod

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I would talk to your vet about prescribing Meloxicam rather than Prednisolone. I would reserve prednisolone or prednisone for conditions that are no longer responding to an NSAID (like Meloxicam). In the meantime you can give Wally Motrin infant liquid drops (pic attached). That may help with any inflammation in the lungs or physical discomfort he's experiencing until his visit on Friday. For the Infant Motrin you can try a dose of 0.25ml to 0.3ml every 8. hours (or every 6).

If you give Wally the Motrin remember to mention to the vet what time his last dose of was given in the event that the vet wants to prescribe an oral steroid like prednisolone. The two medications (any NSAID including Meloxicam) cannot be given together. Combining prednisolone with an NSAID can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Either the NSAID or the Prednisolone will need to be stopped for 72 hours before switching between either medication.

If you're unable to get him in today, I would continue supportive care such as offering fruits and vegetables with a high water content (blue berries, watermelon, tomatoes, mashed potatoes, etc). Unflavored pedialyte is also helpful in maintaining hydration and you can mix some into baby food or baby cereal (rice or oatmeal versions).

Vanilla or strawberry Ensure are also great to help maintain hydration and provides extra calories in the event that he doesn't have much of an appetite. The ensure can be mixed into baby cereal as well for some texture.

I hope this helps and I hope that Wally remains stable while he waits for his appointment on Friday. ❤
 

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PiddlePod

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If you decide to try the Motrin, please make sure that it is the liquid version for infants, not children.
 

Tabirat

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How did the appointment go today?
It went well, thanks for asking. Wally was confused and nervous at first, but then relaxed when the vet technician he tried to climb firmly held him and pet him. He's doing very well today, so they couldn't really tell what was going on (probably because the fish mox knocked the symptoms back down), but they believed me when I described what he'd been going through since we got him (including a 20-30 minutes-long sneeze attack he had on Tuesday), so the doctor figured it's Mycoplasmosis and prescribed a mix of Enroflaxacin and Doxycycline. I'll start giving it to him tonight.

Wally had started to eat and drink more normally yesterday, and today his appetite continued to improve--even at the vet! I'd included some pieces of food and a bottle of water for the carrier, as well as newspapers and pieces of cloth and paper towels to help him stay warm and occupied. I wasn't sure he'd eat or drink due to the stresses of being in the car and handled by strangers, but luckily that wasn't the case. Interestingly enough, he didn't put up a fight when I put him in the carrier before going to the vet, and his initial confusion was forgotten when he found the food bits, and ate before we even left!
 

PiddlePod

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It went well, thanks for asking. Wally was confused and nervous at first, but then relaxed when the vet technician he tried to climb firmly held him and pet him. He's doing very well today, so they couldn't really tell what was going on (probably because the fish mox knocked the symptoms back down), but they believed me when I described what he'd been going through since we got him (including a 20-30 minutes-long sneeze attack he had on Tuesday), so the doctor figured it's Mycoplasmosis and prescribed a mix of Enroflaxacin and Doxycycline. I'll start giving it to him tonight.

Wally had started to eat and drink more normally yesterday, and today his appetite continued to improve--even at the vet! I'd included some pieces of food and a bottle of water for the carrier, as well as newspapers and pieces of cloth and paper towels to help him stay warm and occupied. I wasn't sure he'd eat or drink due to the stresses of being in the car and handled by strangers, but luckily that wasn't the case. Interestingly enough, he didn't put up a fight when I put him in the carrier before going to the vet, and his initial confusion was forgotten when he found the food bits, and ate before we even left!
Hopefully with the Baytril and Vib Wally will be feeling much better soon! Give him lots of snuggles and love and I'm sure along with his new meds he will be feeling as right as rain. ❤:)
 

Tabirat

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Hopefully with the Baytril and Vib Wally will be feeling much better soon! Give him lots of snuggles and love and I'm sure along with his new meds he will be feeling as right as rain. ❤:)[/QUOTE
Will do, but I have a question: Is it normal for his sleeping schedule to change when on the meds? Usually he's awake all early morning, but my parents say he wasn't. When he is awake he's still active, though. I can't tell for certain if he's tiring faster when he's out.
 
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