Respiratory Infection in My Pet Rat, Nonnie
This is Part 1 of a blog about Rattie Nonnie's respiratory infection. You
can read Part 2 by clicking HERE.
Respiratory Infection in My Pet Rat
On December 8th, I realized Rattie Nonnie had a respiratory infection. Since my vet had already warned me that the two primary reasons pet rats die is tumor growth and respiratory infection, I knew I needed to act quickly to get her some help.
Rattie Nonnie is thirteen months old and has been healthy and active her entire life. Between Mr. Bender, Rattie Miso and herself, she is the bravest, most affectionate, and most active. I noticed a few days ago she explored less when I opened the cage for free range time. Since I do in-your-face-photos about every day, I know her symptoms had just started.
About Respiratory Infections in Rats
Most, if not all, pet rats carry a bacteria in their upper respiratory system called mycoplasma pulmonis. The organism is spread from mother to babies through the placenta, by direct contact or by air. The bacteria lays dormant in the respiratory system until it is triggered by a lowered immune system caused by illness or stress. The cage environment can affect a rat's general health, so unclean conditions and bad cage practices are also associated with respiratory illness due to fecal matter, old urine (which emits ammonia, a respiratory irritant), and insufficient air circulation. Once sick, a respiratory infection can move quickly to pneumonia, then death.
My Realization That Something Wasn't Right
As I do each day when I wake up, I went directly down to the rats' cage to check on their food and water, and to say hello to each of them. Everyone seemed okay, and Rattie Nonnie came to the shelf edge to say hello. As soon as she took a few breaths close to me, I knew.
It's hard to explain the noise, but when she breathed, I could hear a low snorting sound, like a person would do if they tried to sniff through their nose and it was clogged. I held her up to the light and checked her nose and, directly next to her two nostrils, there were tiny drops of moisture, which is not normal. Each droplet was tinged pink from the porphyrin secretions.
I immediately put Rattie Nonnie back in the cage and called the vet. It was 4:45 p.m., so I knew they couldn't get her in that day, but I was hopeful for a next-day appointment. I called and the receptionist had an appointment the next day, or the day after the next. I chose the earliest appointment possible, which was December 9th at 11:45 a.m.
Our Trip to the Vet
The next day, I got the pet carrier ready with warm fleece pieces and placed it in my Jeep and carried Nonnie out in the hood of my sweatshirt. She was curious, as she's only been on a few rides in a car (although taken for walks frequently), but she didn't try to escape my hood. I chose to let her ride in my hood while I drove. She bruxed almost the entire way, I assume from laying against my neck and looking at the scenery, and I hoped she wasn't too nervous. By the time we were in the vet's office waiting, she had fallen asleep in my hood.
Up until this time, I hadn't heard Nonnie snort or sneeze, but in the silence of the exam room, I could hear a little stuffiness and a few tiny, almost inaudible sneezes.
So, funny side story!! We waited longer than normal in the exam room; this veterinary office generally is quick to see you. Today, however, they were slow. I heard a woman in the hall ask, "Has the doctor been in room six yet?" Moments later, a young lady looked in and apologized for the wait and asked if I'd like water or coffee. I declined. Her voice woke Nonnie up andhe walked down my arm and began to explore the exam table.
She went directly behind the computer, turned towards me, and made "the face." We all know when our kids have to use the bathroom and our pets are not any different. She walked away quickly, leaving a puddle behind her, then walked up my arm and went back into the pocket my hood created. I was so thankful she didn't pee on me and I was quick to clean the little puddle from behind the computer!
The Vet's Diagnosis and Treatment Plan
When Dr. Bean came in, he gave Nonnie a good once over. She weighed 330 grams, a good weight for her build, he said. Her teeth, coat, feet, and general condition, looked healthy. Without much delay, he explained mycoplasmosis to me and the pet rat's quick decline from minor stuffiness to full-on pneumonia, which would lead to death. He said she would never be fully cured, but her respiratory "flare-ups" could be managed.
Dr. Bean recommended an aggressive course of antibiotics, followed by another exam to assess her condition and whatever future treatment plan we needed to make. At this appointment, Rattie Nonnie would receive an injection of doxycycline, an antibiotic, and two medications to take home. She would need to return weekly for three additional appointments, to receive additional injections of doxycycline.
Dr. Bean prescribed two oral medications, Baytril, an antibiotic, and Metacam, an anti-inflammatory. Both are administered in very small amounts using a syringe; Baytril twice a day and Metacam once a day.
Nonnie was taken to the treatment area for her shot and brought back to me a few minutes later. The vet technician said she was not happy about her shot. I could tell; Rattie Nonnie burrowed down the front of my shirt and lay against my skin and wouldn't come out until we left the building. She's never hidden in my shirt before!
The next day, December 10th, Nonnie seemed to be feeling much better. I didn't hear any wheezing or sneezing and her nose looked clear.
I'm hoping that because I spend so much time close to these little guys that I really did catch her infection just as it started. I feel good about this. I'll be sure to keep the cage extra clean this next few weeks (although it's already cleaned twice a week and it's HUGE for three rats) by changing out their favorite bedding, scooping the litter boxes, and wiping down all the surfaces each morning. They're going to be so mad at me for destroying their well lived-in cage every day!! I love those guys!
I'll update as we see the vet.
See below for a breakdown of the veterinary costs for this visit.
Thank you for reading,
Hammocks and Animal Accessories
$59.50 Exam fee
$28.50 Doxycycline injection
$ 6.00 OSHA biomedical waste fee
$34.00 Dec 17th follow-up doxycyline injection
$34.00 Dec 23rd follow-up doxycycline injection