Baytril is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It is the most commonly used antibiotic for a wide range of rat ailments, including respiratory problems, cystisis and abscesses (though it is not the most appropriate antibiotic to use in all these cases).
It is commonly recommended that Baytril is not injected - as some rats can develop painful blistering at the injection site, resulting in a large hard scab, which is often pulled off, leaving an open wound. Baldness can occur at the injection site though the wound will heal and the fur will grow back eventually. However, there are rare occurrences of rats bleeding to death where the ulcer erodes a major blood vessel. Despite this, Baytril is still often injected when a rat is particularly poorly, or having an anaesthetic, and good injection technique or dilution of the drug can both minimise the risk of a baytril burn developing.
It is also commonly recommended that Baytril is not administered through drinking water (despite it still sometimes being prescribed this way). This is good advice for several reasons:
1. In a group cage of several individuals, only one may require Baytril and there are no guarantees that it would be this rat that drinks the water!
2. It is difficult to assess what dose the rat is getting over what period time. The level of Baytril in the sick rat's bloodstream may never reach a therapeautic level (or may be overdosed).
3. Baytril tastes vile so, more often than not, rats will not drink water with Baytril added, or they will drink less and dehydration will not aid recovery.
The least stressful way to give your rat its Baytril dose is to hide it in a small amount of something yummy- noted favourites include....
- chocolate baby pudding
- apple and oat baby cereal (powder in box, made up with boiling water)
- sugar (enough to soak up the Baytril) mixed into a little butter or margerine.
- jam on toast
- cream cheese
- fruit yoghurt
- melted chocolate - cooled into small 'drops'.
Dosing information for Baytril varies considerably and it is clear that the antibiotic can be used over a significant dosage range. The usual presentation is 2.27% solution which has 22.7mg per ml.
Recommended doses range from 5 to 20mg per kg of body weight**, per 24 hours, with the lower doses useful for minor ailments and prophylaxis, and the highest doses best kept for serious and life threatening infection.
A moderate doses would be
10mg per kg per 24 hours, or 1mg per 100g of body weight per 24 hours. So a 400g rat would get 4mg per 24 hours (approx 0.2 ml)
15mg per kg per 24 hours, or 1.5mg per 100g of body weight per 24 hours. So a 400g rat would get 6mg per 24 hours (approx 0.26 ml).
The highest dose I can find mentioned in 'recommendation literature' is 30mg/kg/24hr alongside doxycycline for treating pneumonia. This would be 3 mg per 100g of body weight, working out at approx 0.5 ml for a 400g rat.
I am not sure where the 0.1ml per 100g body weight (often recommended in the UK) initially came from - but it is clear that this is a very high dose and may be best reserved for severe infection. We have used doses of around half this amount for most infections and all prophylaxis for some time now with excellent results.
All dosages are discussed above per 24 hours. These may be split into two 12 hourly doses.
Though Baytril can work extremely well on certain ailments with certain rats, for more severe problems (e.g. mycoplasma respiratory problems, head tilt) it oftens works better with other antibiotics, particularly doxycycline (trade names include Ronaxan, Vibramycin). Administer different antibiotics 2 hours apart.
It is not recommended to give Baytril to rat kittens under the age of 3 months* as Baytril has been shown to affect the development of cartilage. It should not be given to pregnant or nursing does either and it can be passed through breast milk. Adversely (but rarely), Baytril can cause restlessness, seizures, itching and diarrhea. I have seen some evidence of anorexia too. If any of these severe reactions occur, dosing should be stopped and an alternative antibiotic used instead.
High doses should be uses with caution in elderly rats or those known to have kidney issues.
Dosing should continue for at least a week after all symptoms have gone. Feeding a good probiotic after dosing can help to replenish gut flora.
As already said, Baytril works best when in combination with another antibiotic. But, sometimes, another course of treatment is needed or other antibiotics can be more effective for certain ailments.
It is also worth remembering that if a treatment works, there is no need to change it! Baytril and doxycycline combined produces very satisfactory results, particularly against respiratory problems, if dosed correctly for at least 14 days. As with humans, the use of antibiotics should be monitored and not administered for the slightest sneeze or snuffle or for short bursts as a 'medicinal boost'.
*Please note that there is some contention over whether Baytril should be administered to rat kittens under 3 months old. There is a popular understanding that it can effect the development of cartilage in a growing rat but there is some recent evidence to suggest that this could be incorrect.
**Sources, The Rat Medication Guide, the RMCA drug chart, Debbie Ducommun Rat health care.
Author: Sarah Lea - revised by Alison Campbell