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I have to put my three posts in before I can post in the rat health area, but I figured I'd ask my questions now in case someone can give me some advice.

I have 5 rats now, because my oldest died two days ago. We adopted her only a few months ago and it was clear that her age was pretty advanced so I didn't have a lot of expectations for her length of time with us, but still, I feel like I should mention her loss. Her name was Lily and she was a gray dumbo with a white face, a very sweet, quiet rat, that took quite a while to warm up to us.

The other five are the big girls Luna and Cleo (Cleopatra), and the "babies", Artemis, Zelda, and Minnie (Minerva). I'll have to get some pictures up another time.

My concern today is about Minnie, my young albino. She's not fully grown yet, most likely less than 6 months old, around 5 is my guess. We've had her probably about 2 months but I'm not positive about that. She's very ill and I'm not sure what it is or what I can do, so I'm turning to the people with more experience!

About a week and a half ago I took Artemis in for a respiratory infection. My vet put her on chloramphenicol but it didn't seem to be clearing up so we decided we should bring her back because he said if it failed he'd put her on prednisone, which he did. At the same time we decided to take Artemis in, Minnie started acting strangely. Honestly, she's usually the most active one of the "babies" and it seemed like she was a little lethargic. I noticed this on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the day we decided to bring in Artemis, Minnie didn't get up from the bed the babies sleep in together until after I called a few times (VERY strange for her) and since this is the same thing I noticed with Lily just before she passed I was really, really scared and decided to take her to the vet also. I also saw just a little porphyrin around her eyes and nose. Readying her for transport it was clear she was very sick because she would just lay on my arm and cuddle with me, and she has never sat still that long the entire time we've had her.

The vet wasn't sure what was wrong, threw out a few options. She had a high respiratory rate, a little lung noise, and a heart gallop, but the gallop is something that doesn't always amount to anything in animals. He ended up putting her on chloramphenicol (while Artemis was put on prednisone), he said it might be a certain virus (he gave me a specific name i can't remember) since she got it after Artemis got sick. In that case, he said it'd probably have to run its course.

Today, Thursday, Minnie seems a lot worse. :( There's a lot more porphyrin around her eyes and she doesn't seem to want to eat or drink. All she wants to do is sleep. I've been giving her her medicine with banana baby food but I'm worried at this rate that she won't take the next dose. I tried to give her a little juice with salt in it in case she has an electrolyte issue but she wasn't interested at all. I'm super worried. Any advice?
 

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I would go back to the vet and speak to him about putting Minnie on Baytril and doxy. Generally speaking, antibiotics need up to 5 days to show effects but Baytril and doxy are a better combination and if this really is a virus, you need to act fast and get the secondary infection under control.
At this sudden and high rate of illness in the colony, the sickness most definitely points to something viral. Your vet is right about the virus needing to run its course, however, it is really important to treat any secondary infections in the mean time. An otherwise healthy rat can fight off a virus and live to tell the tale (We have been there and done that with our own boys!). If it is a virus like SDA, it should clear up within 10 days (with a safety quarantine period of 3 weeks). The two most important things for your sickly rats right now is hydration and warmth. Their body temperature must stay within normal limits and they have got to be drinking. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for the sick rats to stay hydrated. You can help by offering high water content fruit such as melon, grape or apple and can also syringe feed liquids should any of them fail the skin pinch test. You can check hydration by lightly pinching the skin between the rats shoulder blades and observing how fast the skin pings back (this is the skin pinch test). If it pings back slowly or stays in place, the rat is dehydrated and needs fluids immediately. When we had a virus in the colony, we almost lost 2 of the three rats we had just given a home to, it was horrific. Finn (the sickliest) went from respiratory noises to open mouth breathing within days (and that was on antibiotics). It was so scary to see such a tiny rat go through respiratory distress and it broke our hearts. However everyone managed to pull through in the end. My advice is to be as proactive as you can. Do as much research as you possibly can on viruses and URI's, arm yourself with knowledge and see your vet at any sign of a downhill battle. Even if your rat is seemingly on her final breath, she can pull her back with nebulizer treatments and steroid shots. Many people have lost several of their rats to viruses however you can minimise casualties with knowledge. It is a really, really rough road and, unfortunately, it will get worse before it gets better - but you can pull through.
Here are some links to get you started. http://ratguide.com/health/viruses/sda.php http://www.rmca.org/Articles/dchart.htm http://ratguide.com/health/bacteria/mycoplasma_mycoplasmosis.php http://ratguide.com/health/lower_respiratory/pneumonia.php I apologize if the format in my reply is hard to follow. I am not at my PC and it is difficult to type.
 

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Also, if she is refusing to eat or drink, the priority should be on getting her to at least drink something. You can purchase Ensure and mix it with some baby cereal or mushed up lab block and see if she will take that. Syrups are another good thing to mask the taste of bitter medicine. There was a point where we were administering medications 5 times a day per rat (zithro, baytril and metacam) so you can say I am quite the queen of hiding meds. Meat flavored baby foods are usually a hit and for when Finn was feeling really poorly and started to refuse the antibiotics, I put his meds on a dish with baby cereal and chocolate syrup until it was just a super sweet mix. You can also look online for recipes for peanut butter medicine balls which I hear work well too. Normally all of this stuff would be way too high in sugar but since it is really important that the rat takes the medicine, you can pull out all the stops. If all else fails, you can administer the medication forcefully via syringe. You can check out the YouTube link on this thread on the how. http://www.goosemoose.com/rfc/index.php?topic=4087526.0;wap2
It makes you feel like a monster but as a last resort when all other methods have been exhausted... Worth a try.
 
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