Trying to Beat Respiratory Problems in Pet Rats: Remy

Catherine Graf
From the RMCA web site, May 2003

As I write this, my beige hooded boy Remy has just improved vastly from what I suspect is a first bout of mycoplasma. Since pet rats tend to be born with this condition today, and since I have lost a few beloved animals to it, I tend to take sneezing seriously. My veterinarian and I have discussed this subject at length. I feel that with early, aggressive treatment, mycoplasma can be managed (I don't know of any cure for it) and the rat's life lengthened.Remy.  Photo by Catherine Graf

Remy was sneezing, not constantly, but enough for me to take him to the vet. He was about a year and three months old (he was adopted from a pet store where the former owner left him, so I don't know his exact age). One of his lungs was congested. We started him on .10 cc's of cipro. Remy's condition deteriorated. He became lethargic, had lost his appetite, appeared to be losing weight, and his fur was in poor condition. He was also sneezing with a lot of mucus, more and more often. I took him back to the vet and we found Remy had lost 3 oz. This time, the veterinarian gave him an injection of fluids, a nutritional supplement called Nutri-cal, and we switched him to .50 cc's of Zithromax.

I mixed the medicine into the Nutri-cal to be sure Remy was taking it. He loved it. I also gave him, at the veterinarian's suggestion, liquid Ensure, another nutritional supplement for people. The wet sneezing decreased and stopped altogether in a few days. Remy gained his weight back and now has a good appetite once more. The vet examined his lungs again and the congestion was gone. Remy has again become lively and affectionate. His fur is in beautiful condition. He is still on the Zithromax for another week at least.

I don't kid myself that this problem can't happen again with Remy or that he has been 100% cured. My point here is that drastic improvement is possible if one pays close attention to any unusual symptoms a rat may be experiencing. Had I not been watching him or taken him to the veterinarian when necessary, Remy might have needed much more intensive care and might not have made it this far. Obviously, different rats may need different treatments, and may have other problems than mine did. With a small animal, however, nothing should be overlooked as minor.