Lone baby rat dilemma

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Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2018 12:40 pm

Lone baby rat dilemma

Post by kikadb » Sat Jul 28, 2018 12:56 pm


My partner and I purchased a baby rat from a pet store who made 'cute' yelping sounds from the first evening. By the end of the first week she was extremely withdrawn and lethargic, which we put down on her being alone. So we adopted a second baby from a local breeder. This is when we realised our first rat was ill and not a recluse. The google searches began and we realised its a bad URI. After a vets visit on the 7th day of her time with us the vet prescribed anti-biotics that did not work and we were advised to put her down. Now we are left again with one baby rat who so far has not shown any symptoms. She has remained a rambunctious little fatty that is extremely inquisitive and hyper.

However, she has been sneezing and sometimes the sneeze turns into a short wheezing spurt. Should I put her on the anti-biotic Sulfatrim as a precaution? Is there any big negative consequences that can occur for giving the anti-biotic if there actually isn't a URI? As the vet yesterday did not confirm a URI in the second rat, but advised to continue observing her.. Also she has only been with us for a week, so could this just be the new environment and not the illness our first rat had?

In terms of proactive preventative approach to URIs, we are considering fleece fabric bedding and a raw diet that would be supplemented with SELECTIVE commercial food. Do you know of any sites that have a daily breakdown (timetable) of fresh foods that should be fed for a nutritionally balanced rat diet?

Lastly should we adopt a third rat as a companion for the one we currently have? If so, what are the odds of our rat giving the potential URI to the new rat? We don't want to continue this chain reaction! How long should we wait for a new buddy? And is the risk of contagion worth the need for a companion? Last night was her first night being alone in her life, so I am concerned if she remains alone it can be to the detriment of her health.

Any advice would be much appreciated, as we are not at all certain what we should be doing and I have not owned a rat since I was 7.

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Re: Lone baby rat dilemma

Post by [cub] » Sat Jul 28, 2018 2:06 pm

Usual caveat: I'm not a vet, not even really an expert, I just keep rats and read things.

Normally, mild respiratory symptoms would not preclude adopting more rats, since they are usually due to flare-ups of bacteria in the upper respiratory tract which are endemic in the pet rat population anyway. (And in particularly young rats it's apparently usually due to parasitic bronchitis, caused by parasites which are also endemic in the pet rat population.) There's no risk of contagion if it's something that everyone has anyway. :P

However, given that your first rat was from a pet shop and apparently became quite ill, I would be just a bit wary of the possibility that it's a viral infection, which tend to be much more deadly in rats and obviously not treatable except supportively. I believe two weeks is the usual quarantine period, but that's assuming there are no symptoms.

What I would (hesitantly) recommend is treatment with topical ivermectin, in case it's just parasitic bronchitis. If symptoms don't improve, go back to the vet or possibly actually find a different, slightly more knowledgeable rat vet: Mycoplasma pulmonis is the most common cause of respiratory symptoms in rats (it's one of those endemic bacteria I mentioned), and the standard antibiotic treatment for it is enrofloxacin with doxycycline. If there's no response to that then I'd be inclined to try co-amoxiclav next, as although it doesn't do anything against myco it is effective against some of the other common respiratory bacteria. Co-trimoxazole (Sulfatrim) is not normally the first line choice for rats with URIs, as it's not effective against myco.

If symptoms get better or at least don't get worse, I'd definitely look at getting another youngster or better yet two, preferably from a good breeder or rescue, although most reputable breeders have long waiting lists.

For feeding advice, try looking here http://www.isamurats.co.uk/feeding-and-nutrition.html
I'd be wary of leaping straight into a homemade mostly raw diet for rats if you don't really know what you're doing yet, and I say that as someone who makes their own rat food. :P I don't know offhand of anyone reputable who feeds a raw diet, so I haven't seen any sensible schedules for raw feeding. Most people feed a dry mix supplemented with fresh foods. Science Selective isn't the worst thing to feed, and probably the least bad of the commercial foods marketed at rats, but it's pretty boring as it's the same thing in every mouthful. (I also heavily side-eye its short ingredients list and its calcium:phosphorus ratio. Saying that, I always have a bag in the house as my rats love it as a treat – they get bored of it eventually when it's their main diet, but once in a while is apparently delicious – and I find it useful for feeding grumpy and confused post-op rats.)

If you're determined to feed raw, I'd definitely get a copy of this and read it before you do anything else: https://shunamiterats.co.uk/the-scuttling-gourmet/
I'd also strongly recommend reading through the rat chapter of Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals; it's not the last word on rat feeding since it is based on laboratory animals, which have a quite different lifestyle and therefore different nutritional needs than pet animals, but it's the only real data we have:

I suspect if you do feed predominantly raw then you'll need some vitamin and mineral supplementation, particularly for copper, calcium, and vitamin D. Whilst it is possible to get all those through carefully chosen fresh foods, I find it quite difficult to limit phosphorus and protein whilst doing so, which becomes very important once rats pass middle age.

Fleece bedding is generally not recommended as it gets smelly very quickly and doesn't allow for digging/foraging behaviours. Scatter feeding is generally recommended both as an enrichment activity and also to increase exercise and prevent over-eating, hoarding of food, and selective feeding. If you do want to use fleece then it's strongly recommended to get a digging box to allow for digging and scatter feeding.
Poo-shoveller to: Calyn, Din, and Zephyr Mick Jagger (Edgeworth).
Fondly remembering: Zephyr Donovan (Phoenix) the big dope, Xeltan, Lita (NLA32), Lia (NLA28), Zephyr Delanynder (NLA28), Falere (NLA36), Mirala (NLA36), Zephyr Opold, and Rila.

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