A bacterial infection can be relatively minor, and not even require treatment. As a matter of fact, the owner may never know that the rat was ever sick. In other cases, illness can be so bad that the rat fails to thrive or survive. Proper testing and diagnostics is key, as no one wants to increase the likelihood of drug resistant bacteria through unnecessary drug use, OR lose a rat to a very serious infection.
Different classes of antibiotics are used to attack different strains of bacteria. Some of them are relatively easy to fight off. However, some stronger strains require much more fighting to get rid of them completely. If the owner isn’t careful, he or she could put the rat in a difficult position; owners should always consult a vet if they are not sure of what they are doing. NOTE: This post is for educational purposes ONLY. Do not treat your rat without contacting a veterinarian for proper tests and evaluations. A sick rat requires a professional veterinary exam.
Common Bacterial Infections That Rats Suffer From
The only way to treat a bacterial infection is to identify exactly what the rat is suffering from. While there are different conditions, there is not always just one antibiotic to use. Some conditions even require treatment with two different medications. Nearly every type of infection can be caused by a multitude of different bacteria, which is what causes varying symptoms.
When bacteria become out of control inside of the urinary tract, the rat may begin showing symptoms that involve urinating. As the infection advances, pain may become apparent as well as extended or secondary infections. E. coli, klebsiella, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and mycoplasma are all potential bacterial (and microbial) causes of a urinary infection. The antibiotic of choice will all depend on which strain turns out to be the culprit after the urine culture.
Mycoplasma pulmonis is a bacteria that exists in nearly every rat. It makes itself known when the rat’s immune system is compromised, just like many other naturally occurring bacteria species do. Doxycycline and Enrofloxacin (Baytril) are highly recommended with these infections, but it is important to know that this bacteria cannot be successfully eradicated. The only rats who do not have this infection are sterile lab rats who are born into sterile conditions via cesarean section.
Inner Ear Infections
Otitis Media (middle ear) and Otitis Interna (inner ear) inflammation is most commonly associated with infection. Psuedomonas aeruginosa, Streptobacillus moniliformis, and Mycoplasma pulmonis are all capable of causing these infections. The inner ear infections are usually conceived when the rat has been battling a respiratory infection. As the infection spreads from the throat and esophagus, it finds its way up the Eustachian tubes into the rat’s ear. Thus complicating an already serious infection. These usually require extensive treatment plans including dual antibiotics (typically enrofloxacin, doxycycline, or amoxycillin), along with steroid creams or ear flushing solutions.
This condition normally occurs via infection from bacteria that are naturally found in the vaginal canal of a female rat, or through bacteria that are causing a urinary infection. Pyometra occurs when the uterus becomes infected and filled with pus. If it is not treated promptly, it will turn deadly quickly. Infection can rapidly make its way to the blood causing septic shock. This can occur due to a hormonal imbalance between estrus cycles, or shortly after birth. In many cases, a foul, pungent discharge will be seen coming from the vaginal opening. This is called “open pyometra”. A wide spectrum antibiotic will be needed, as well as an emergency spay.
CAR Bacillus Infection
This infection presents itself with similar symptoms to a mycoplasma infection. However, this one is quite a bit more serious. Head tilt, rattling and wheezing, rapid weight loss, and lethargy are all common symptoms. Once this infection is contracted it can never be eradicated. Antibiotics can only be used to calm symptoms and provide a better quality of life for infected rats. It is HIGHLY contagious, further proving how important it is to quarantine new animals. Antibiotics used for Mycoplasma will show the best results, but it cannot be killed currently.
Commonly Used Antibiotics that Are Rat Safe
Here, we have a list of the different antibiotics that can be used for rats that are being ravaged by bacterial colonies. Depending on the bacteria that is causing the infection, from streptococcus to staphylococcus and everything in between, there is an antibiotic to help fight it off.
Some medications may require a small syringe for feeding the antibiotic to the animal. I commonly use kitten milk replacement formula to mix the antibiotic in. It can also be mixed into other foods and liquids, such as thinned out peanut butter, yogurt, or other items that your rat finds delicious. The tastier the food, the easier it is to get the rat to take its medication.
This cheap drug is another great option for Mycoplasma infections. It doesn’t have a wonderful flavor, so it is suggested to mix something sweet with it due to bitter flavors. It can be injected as well if you are properly equipped to give your rats injections.
Amoxycillin (or +Clavulanic Acid): Bactericidal
Amoxycillin is one of the most popular antibiotics on the market, even for human beings. It is a broad spectrum medication that is easy on the wallet, and is most useful for minor infections or to keep the rat healthy after becoming prone to infection. This might including injured animals, those who have just been fixed, or a rat who is already sick.
Sulfamethoxazole Trimethoprim: Bactericidal
Another wonderful cheap antibiotic for use with urinary infections. Be sure to mix it with something tasty to keep the rats from rejecting and fighting when you administer the medication. It will not work with a Myco battle.
This antibiotic is one of the best treatments for Staph or Strep infections. Because it is known to cause GI tract problems in rats (mostly just an upset tummy or loose stool), it is better to use other antibiotics for conditions such as respiratory illness.
This awful tasting drug needs to be mixed with something delicious in order to get rats to take it willingly. In addition, it is no longer as effective against Myco as it used to be. However, when used in combination with other antibiotics, it can help to work a miracle.
This cheap antibiotic is currently one of the most popular lines of defense, especially against mycoplasma or urinary infections. It is commonly used in combination with other drugs, such as Baytril. It is closely related to Tetracycline.
Chloramphenicol (Palmitate & Sodium Succinate): Bacteriostatic
This really expensive medication is highly effective in treating difficult to reach infections. It can cross barriers that other antibiotics cannot, giving it the ability to treat the nervous system and eyes of the rat. It should NEVER be used with Zithromax, Tylan, or Erythromycin, combinations which may cause adverse reactions.
This fairly cheap antibiotic is a go-to for post surgical antibiotics. Rats are at risk of infection after surgery, so this particular medication will help to keep them safe during the recovery period. It is also useful for urinary infections.
This antibiotic is a broad spectrum, and seems to have the best effect with younger rats. For some reason, it seems to be less effective with aged ratties. It can get expensive, but takes a heavy toll on a Mycoplasma pulmonis infection!
This broad spectrum antibiotic is found to be wonderful for secondary bacterial infections. Rats should always be encouraged to drink water with this medication to reduce the risk of kidney damage.
This is an expensive medication that shows a lot of promise with respiratory infections. due to the potential of kidney damage, it should only be used when other antibiotic options have failed. Definitely a good choice for extreme respiratory infections.