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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Light, a 1 year 7 month old female rat. No health issues up until what's explained below.

She developed tumours under each arm and a larger faster growing one near her groin. She had surgery to remove them about 3-4 weeks ago. The larger one at the groin was difficult to remove and took some time, however the vet thinks he got it all out. The lumps were sent to the lab and came back benign, however, with a very small chance that the groin lump may contain cancerous cells. (On a side note, Light's sister has cancer, and has had tumour removal twice; doing fine at the moment). After surgery I tried to give Light Sulfatrim as the vet prescribed, to stop her getting an infection. She got about 5 half doses of that before I gave up as she completely hated the stuff.

After about a week after surgery Light started to look ill. She was a bit puffed up and fluffy and went a bit quiet, possibly brewing an infection. She had a check up at the vets about 10 days after surgery and the vet said her wounds were fine, and didn't seem overly concerned that she had gone a bit fluffed up and quiet.

A few days passed and I checked on her, and she was very weak and not good at all. I found she had an abscess at the groin surgical wound site, which had pus on it. She also had pus around her genitals.

My vet has been happy for me to start antibiotics myself for respiratory problems that Light's sister has had a number of times, and as such I had antibiotics on hand. I started her on 1.25mg Marbofloxacin, and noticed the next day she was very ill. I maybe jumped the gun a little, but I upped the dose to the maximum she could have of Marbofloxacin and added in Doxycycline at a high dose. She was also making respiratory noises, which may have been because she was weak or because of a respiratory infection. So in addition to the abscess, she may have had a urine tract infection and a respiratory infection. She was in a lot of pain so I started her on a regular dose of Metacam. The abscess was bleeding too.

I took her to the vets the next day to check if I was doing the right thing. I thought that she could have one day of a high dose antibiotic, with the idea of reducing it slightly or to standard dose. However, the vet (one I had not seen before) said to continue on the current high dose. At the vets, the abscess drained quite a bit of blood.

The abscess cleared up quickly, but Light did not bounce back. She started to become a bit wobbly, and unstable, and very sleepy. Today, 7 days after starting antibiotics I took her to the vets again. She is actually a bit brighter today, and not got her eyes closed as much, but I have noticed a slight head tilt and the eye on the side of the tilt is a little closed compared to the other.

Light, apart from when she has been too ill to eat, has continued to eat well and is getting most her fluid from melon and other fruits at the moment. She is doing the toilet just fine, and passing clear none smelly urine. There is no signs of urine tract infection.

The vet weighed her today and told me she has lost weight and the antibiotics that I put her on (that the other vet told me to keep her on) was too high, as she has lost about 10-15% body weight over the last month. She's probably been getting 15% more Marbofloxacin than the max dose. She's still within the dose limit of Doxycycline according to a dose range on a rat website. I stopped giving her Metacam after her abscess started to clear.

She had also been on Galastop, to help stop the tumours coming back, however I stopped that when she started to become unwell.

The vet today has told me to stop the antibiotics as the abscess has now cleared, and has said that he can't tell me what's wrong with her from the clinical examination. Her lungs are not bad, and he couldn't feel any tumours, and I imagine he felt for enlarged kidneys. He's recommended an x-ray next week to see for kidney size, and to see any tumours, or underlying problems. I have not yet decided if I'll get her the x-ray at this point.

I've no idea what the issue could be, but I guess it could be... a pituitary tumour, too much antibiotics exacerbating an undiagnosed kidney damage issue (leading to ataxia), or possibly neurological issues caused by the medications or the infection/sepsis. Today she's started to perk up a little, which is nice to see, but I'm not so sure what to do. My feeling is whatever has been making her weak is likely to be the infection, and she's maybe only starting to come round. I do not know why she has a head tilt or become unstable, and I can't find a link between that and the infection, other than the longer she has been unwell the more she's become unsteady. As she's been on the combination of antibiotics I doubt it would be an inner ear infection. I don't think she's had a stroke.

One vets told me to give high dose antibiotics for a number of weeks, and another tells me to stop the antibiotics. I'm concerned that she's only now starting to liven up a little due to the antibiotics and if I stop them now then I could make things worse. I'm also concerned that if I keep giving her the high dose antibiotics that she could have kidney damage or other side effects.

Any thoughts, and thanks for reading my looong story :)
 

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When it comes to antibiotics, the important thing to remember is to never stop them until the course is over... unless of course directed to by a doctor. The reason being that if you stop taking antibiotics and the infection (or virus or whatever bug is causing trouble) is now going to be resistant to them, it will become stronger and tougher to beat. This happens a lot with people taking antibiotics. They are prescribed 7 days but they'll only take it for 5 days and stop because "they feel better." Then the infection comes back harder than ever before and hits them like a freight train! And they have to take different antibiotics now because the virus is resistant. MRSA is one of the big issues right now because it has become antibiotic-resistant.

You may have accidentally done this with Light when you stopped giving her the Sulfatrim. I know she hated it- trust me, I have had to medicate one of my boy rats for eight months straight, every day, and he fought me tooth and nail every time. Eventually he started just spitting and dribbling it out of his mouth and refusing to swallow it. Only then did I give up (plus, he had become resistant to them anyway, but that's not the point.)

You also mentioned possible cancer. It could be that with her weakened immune system she is now displaying symptoms of cancer. One of the more common symptoms is weight loss. They'll keep eating, but they just lose weight anyway. Another symptom is fatigue, which you also stated. However both of these symptoms could also just be a really persistent, annoying infection due to her being on-and-off antibiotics several times. Every time you start and stop antibiotics again, you're making her more resistant to them. Eventually they will stop working. This happens a lot with Myco, as the popular antibiotics are Baytril and Doxy.

Rats are also very small. They really should not be on such high doses. If an antibiotic really truly does not work- and it can take WEEKS for them to kick in, for instance the standard dose for Baytril/Doxy combo is 3 whole weeks!- then another one needs to be used instead. But again, please do not start and stop the treatments without knowing exactly what you're doing.

With both vets disagreeing, it is definitely a tough decision. She really should not be on an insanely high dose. However, she should not stop treatment if she still has an active infection. The vet that wants to stop treatment, did s/he offer a different antibiotic instead? If she's still having issues she obviously needs SOME treatment. I might have missed this info in your post, but has she been tested for infection since then? I think they can do blood tests to see if they actually have one or not. If you are concerned about enlarged kidneys I would definitely get the x-rays. You won't know for sure unless you do. What about the "possibly cancerous" cells, is there any way to find out more about that? It could be a pituitary tumor, but it popped up right around the time of the extremely high doses and the infections, so my gut tells me it's the medication not a tumor. However you will have to do whatever tests the vet orders in order to find out.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply.

The Sulfatrim was for after her surgery, and I was told by my vet to give at least 3 days of it to cover for possible infections coming up due to the location of the wound. She got about 3-5 days dose, but hated it. Every time I put it with food and she took the first bit, she would move away and rub mouth/jaw on whatever was closest. When I used a syringe to administer the antibiotic she tried her best to not swallow and let is drip out her mouth, and of course rub her mouth on whatever was there. So after about 5 days of trying I gave up.

This certainly could be why an abscess took hold. She had not been on antibiotics before the Sulfatrim. The vet I saw yesterday told me to stop all the antibiotics as the abscess has cleared, and of course the dose was too high. I don't know if I mentioned in my first post, but although she was getting most the antibiotic this time around, she wasn't getting quite the full dose this time, as what she didn't eat when mixed with food I attempted to give by syringe or was wasted. She however did get a good dose, even if not quite the high dose I had been trying to give.

The vet has not offered any other antibiotics. She's had 7 full days of the high strength ones, like the other vet told me to do, so maybe that's enough to help her over the infection. Though I am worried that as she's not back to normal that the infection could come back. As you said, stopping two courses of antibiotics without getting rid of the infection is going to cause huge problems.

The lab results said that the tumour removed was benign, however, they said there is a small chance that cancerous cells could be present, although none detected. Unlike her sister, who does have a fibrosarcoma (removed twice), there's nothing to indicate cancer other than weight lose and lethargy.

The vet has said blood tests are near impossible on rats and it is too difficult to get a blood sample. You asked if Light has been tested for infection since last time at the vets. She was at the vets last Saturday after starting the high dose of antibiotics. The vet gave her a look over and told me to continue the antibiotics because of the abscess. At this point we were thinking she was ill and in pain because of the abscess. The abscess cleared well over last week and she was at the vets again yesterday, seeing a different vet, the vet that had done her surgery. (Neither vet is the vet I usually go to, who is the one that has operated on my rats four times; he wasn't available.) Considering the abscess has cleared well, the vet said to stop the antibiotics. He checked her lungs, asked questions about eating and drinking. She is passing clear urine without issue, which would suggest it's not kidney failure. A pituitary tumour can increase urination of diluted urine.

For now I have stopped the antibiotics, with the idea that if she becomes more unwell (due to infection) I take her back to get an appointment with my usual vet, who I get on well with (and who has told me he has been happy before when I have started treatment myself) and request a long course of an antibiotic we have not tried. There wouldn't be much other options at that point.

Of course I am hoping that she doesn't become more unwell due to an infection coming back. As I mentioned, the antibiotics cleared up the abscess well, so I am hoping that is enough. I know with respiratory infections that longer courses are advisable. I have usually went for 4 weeks courses with my other rats with respiratory infections.

Even though I started the treatment myself I'm a little disappointed that the vet I saw last Saturday didn't weigh Light and notice that I'd given her a little too high dose and that a bit of a reduction was needed; I knew she had lost weight, but I didn't adjust my dosing accordingly - my fault. I even said to the vet that it was a high dose for that first day, and that from now on she should be on a lesser one, but the vet disagreed. I doubt that the high dose has effected her kidney function as there is no evidence of kidney damage.

The surgery, infection, and high dose antibiotic's side effects may be why she has been weak recently. I have thought that maybe the antibiotics have caused neurological damage or neurological side effects, which may reduce now they are stopped. Although that is me just taking a guess here. It could be that a pituitary tumour could be present, suggested by the fact that she is at the age to get them and she has had mammary tumours removed. Which would suggest why she has ataxia. One of the antibiotics can also increase intracranial pressure, which could effect the pituitary tumour further, if one is present, or may cause similar symptoms.

You mentioned getting the X-ray. At the moment I don't feel that it is kidney damage, and while an x-ray may indicate if it is or not, it won't be a cure. She's been on a more kidney friendly diet for sometime, but I will be a little more strict from now on. I will see how she goes over the weekend and into next week, and see if her ataxia changes or any signs of infections come back. Not sure what else I can do. The next treatment would either be antibiotics or x-ray.

Today, I woke her up, put her down, she passed urine which I think was quite diluted, and due to slight head tilt and just being woken, walked a bit in a circular motion (towards the head tilt). Both suggesting pituitary tumour (unfortunately undetectable with x-ray).
 

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I'm not going to weigh into a debate between vets when it comes to antibiotics. But I will tell you that one vet told me that her tumor removal surgical survival time was about 3 weeks with older rats. And no I didn't have her do any surgeries on my rats. She told me that the rats she operated on generally survived the surgery well and then just faded away within about 3 weeks. I don't know if this is common.

But if you are giving your rats lots of antibiotics you might want to give them some yogurt to help them with their digestion.

Lastly, I've noticed that older rats sometimes go into a shutdown condition and start fading away out of "boredom" or "depression". Keeping them active and engaged can snap them back. Naturally "active and engaged" for a postoperative rat doesn't mean doing something that might hurt them...

I know that doesn't address your antibiotics situation, but it's all I've got to offer.

Best luck
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks.

I've noticed that with Light her ear on the side of the tilt doesn't move when I call her, but the other one does. She seems depressed and in discomfort. If she still has an infection, despite being on antibiotics, it could be an ear infection.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
She's pretty much the same as yesterday, but I have noticed that she shakes her head like something is bothering her. I've noticed that if I stroke her okay ear she isn't bothered, but if I stroke her ear that she doesn't move on the tilted side, she seems bothered by it and does the shaking head thing. That kind of makes me think it's more an ear infection or some sort of infection rather than paralysis caused by stroke or pituitary tumour.

Anybody else think maybe the same?

I decided yesterday that even though she missed a dose of her antibiotics, and even though the vet told me to stop the antibiotics as the abscess had cleared, that I was going to keep her on antibiotics (at a slightly reduced dose so I wasn't overdosing her) as I think it might be an infection and not a stroke or pituitary tumour.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I started her on 0.33 mg of prednisolone (divided into 2, 12 hours apart) yesterday to help incase it is an ear infection, stroke or pituitary tumour. She's no better today. Probably a bit worse than a few days ago. I know the pred will take a few days to work if it is going to. She weighs 395g. I can't give her Metacam as she's on pred.
 

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They shaking and tilting may be an ear infection
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Here's a video of her today. I didn't film her washing herself, but she rolls backwards or sideways when she tries to.

 

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It's been suggested that it's probably a pituitary tumour. She's currently on antibiotics, but I've heard Amoxacillin may have some effect at temporarily reducing pituitary tumours, so may see about changing the antibiotics. She was on Cabergoline, but I stopped that when she had her abscess, as she was on a lot of meds. I will restart the Cabergoline at the rate of 0.17mg/lb every 3 days (The recommended dose is 0.27mg/lb every three days for pituitary tumour, however 0.17mg/lb is 0.5ml of Galastop twice daily. A 15 ml bottle costs £33+ and more than 0.5mls might be a bit tricky twice a day. If she does well on it I could increase the dose...) She's currently on 0.33mg Prednisolone once daily (dose split), and I will up this to 0.5mg once daily (again split). Hopefully I'll see a bit of an improvement during this week, and can discuss a treatment plan on Friday at the vets, with a possibility of increasing the Prednisolone dose. That's my plan anyway. Wish me luck :)
 

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Light was worse today. I think the pred and carbergoline were just a little too late for her. I knew it was time so I took her to the vets and she passed away peacefully.
 

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Oh no, so sorry to hear that... It sounds like you tried to do a lot for her to help extend her life and make her happy again. I'm sorry it didn't work out as you hoped.
 
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