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Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:28 am
Very concerned rat mum at the moment. Essentially, one of my boys, Finch got really sick over the weekend, and was put to sleep yesterday because of what looked to be a really bad respiratory problem. They are all currently living with my mum whilst I'm at uni because of problems with my landlord etc - so it's difficult to tell exactly what happened, but he really quickly declined over the course of a few days even with a combo course of antibiotics. Our vet said that it was most likely mycoplasma, and that it's likely that all of them are carriers and that we should possibly think about separating them, and definitely should not get any more rats until after they have all gone.
It's difficult to tell without being at home, but I'm not sure whether it is mycoplasma, or if it's just the only bacterial infection that the vet can put a name on. I know it's obviously very common in rats but I was under the impression that all rats essentially have it from birth and it can present at random times, hence they sometimes get flare ups. Is there any way that they can tell without testing? She also said that his brother, Hobie, who had to be put to sleep before Christmas for what I thought was some sort of neurological issue (see post http://www.fancyratsforum.co.uk/viewtop ... 38&t=30280
) could have had mycoplasma as well, because it was the same rapid decline with lethargy/lack of movement, but I'm not sure because he had no respiratory symptoms.
The current advice she's given is to keep them very isolated and possibly invest in a nebuliser, giving a course of antibiotics whenever there is any sign of discharge or wheezing. I'm really not sure what to do if I'm honest, having not been there for Finch going downhill and having spoken to the vet personally, she might be perfectly right, but I know a lot of the vets up there don't really have any knowledge of rats. Arthur, the last of the brothers does get noisy breathing occasionally, but it's never concerned me enough to give him any antibiotics, and so I don't know now if I was wrong in doing so - the vet said he could be a carrier rat and had infected the others.
Very sorry for the long post, I just am at a loss for what to do. I'm absolutely terrified that the others are going to go downhill and there's nothing I can do to stop it. Both boys who died declined so quickly with no prior warning. Would really appreciate any advice/observations.
Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:53 pm
Onthewires wrote:It's difficult to tell without being at home, but I'm not sure whether it is mycoplasma, or if it's just the only bacterial infection that the vet can put a name on. I know it's obviously very common in rats but I was under the impression that all rats essentially have it from birth and it can present at random times, hence they sometimes get flare ups. Is there any way that they can tell without testing?
I'm not an expert on respiratory issues but to my knowledge you are correct: mycoplasma is incredibly common in pet (and wild) rats, and it should be assumed that all pet rats carry it regardless of whether or not they're symptomatic. There's no way to be 100% certain whether or not your rats are carriers without testing, but if one of your rats has/had mycoplasma then all of them will have it now. The same almost certainly goes for any other infectious disease, however, so regardless of what Finch died of, I don't think there's any point separating the rest now unless it's necessary for behavioural or care reasons, e.g. if one of them is weak and being bullied. Even then I would try to keep them in pairs at least.
Re-reading Hobie's thread, your vet is almost certainly correct in saying that Hobie "could have had mycoplasma as well", but I don't think that's what he died of! It definitely sounds like it was something neurological and quite unrelated. I also don't think you're wrong to have not given antibiotics to Arthur so far. Antibiotics cannot completely eliminate mycoplasma, only (hopefully!) kill off enough of it that the rat's immune system can control the rest, at least until the next flare-up. Since antibiotics are not a permanent solution, and their excessive use leads to resistant bacteria developing in the rat, it's a very sensible policy to only resort to them when the rat is more than just a bit sneezy and sniffly.
How old are/were these brothers? Sudden illnesses and rapid declines are unfortunately very common in small animals due to their fast metabolisms. It would be entirely reasonable to monitor the remaining rats closely, not take on any new rats, and limit contact with other animals for the time being, but if a few weeks goes by and the others don't show any signs of developing respiratory issues, then it's unlikely that whatever Finch died of is going to be a problem for other rats, including any new rats you might take on.
Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:21 pm
Hi there, thank you for the reply
I think the vet was possibly just trying to put a name on what he had, I knew that mycoplasma can cause extremely rapid decline however I'm not sure whether it was this that took him in the end or if he did have an episode similar to Hobie's which then triggered the resp problem. The brothers were rescues, so not sure of their age, probably around a year and a half, possibly older, but aside from this were extremely active and healthy. I was really shocked when my mum called and said that Finch had gone downhill - It's difficult to know without being there, but based on a video my mum sent, he did seem a bit uncoordinated, but not as severe as Hobie, so who knows.
The others were taken to the vet as well today so the vet could check for any signs of resp issues in them, but said they seemed fine. There's only the two of them left now, Arthur, the last remaining brother, and Bea who is from an entirely different rescue - again I've never seen any problem in her either. It's absolutely heartbreaking, as these guys appeared to be some of the healthiest I've had, having had rescues before with eye issues, constant respiratory problems, hernias, lumps and all manner of things. They were all in beautiful condition which only makes it harder to accept that they've declined so quickly and so close together. I think it's going to have to be a case of keeping them as a pair for now, its honestly been really rough dealing with so much loss over such a short time - I only got the boys of the beginning of last summer and then Bea and her sister shortly after - so from 5 down to 2 in less than a year. Obviously just something we all have to accept with their very short lifespan, but still such a shame.
Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:18 pm
All rats have myco because they catch it from their mums, and even if your rats were born by ceasarian section and handraised they would have caught it in some other way by now.
Vets don't get trained on rats, so some don't have a good understanding of the interplay of different infections.
Onthewires wrote:I think the vet was possibly just trying to put a name on what he had, I knew that mycoplasma can cause extremely rapid decline however I'm not sure whether it was this that took him in the end or if he did have an episode similar to Hobie's which then triggered the resp problem.
Myco in itself does not cause an extremely rapid decline - otherwise rats would have died out. Some rats are more susceptible to the effects of myco and may suffer from chronic symptoms, and eventually die as a result from being worn down by it (not rapid), but most rats have occasional flare ups or none at all.
However, if a rat acquires another infection which is severe enough for their body to need all it's resources to deal with (or is placed in a very stressful situation), then they can suffer from secondary infections, and myco is the most common one to take the opportunity to flare up, and that's what can seem like a rapid decline. It's often the secondary infection which will be the actual cause of death, but the cause of the secondary infection is the one you need to guard against. That's why quarantine is so important if there is a risk of bringing in something like sendai or sdav.
Whatever the initial cause of Finch's illness was, the other rats will have all been exposed to it already, and separating them is not only pointless, but far worse than leaving them together because of the stress that would result. (Sadly, it's something that inexperienced vets often advise, and may be responsible for additional and unnecessary deaths.)
Nebulisers are another thing that seems to be very fashionable for vets to recommend - but there's no evidence that I've seen of them being helpful, and some (most?) rats could get very distressed in the enclosed space. I would reserve antibiotics for if Arthur were to seem ill, rather than treating for minor noises.
Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:45 pm
Thanks for the reply,
cyber ratty wrote:Nebulisers are another thing that seems to be very fashionable for vets to recommend - but there's no evidence that I've seen of them being helpful, and some (most?) rats could get very distressed in the enclosed space.
I did think this, when my mum rang after their visit I told her to hold off on it for now because I wasn't sure. A friend who had boys with continuous resp issues went to a specialist vet who recommended nebulising (which they did on-site) and I never saw it make any considerable difference, only cause stress through long car journeys and time away from cagemates. I just want to ensure I'm doing all I can, but I definitely think it would do more harm than good - Bea in particular hates being caged in general and so I can only imagine what she'd be like in a tank!
Obviously I'll be keeping a very close eye on them both - but if either goes downhill, is there anything specific I can be doing/advising the vet to do other than combination courses of antibiotics? It all happened very quickly with Finch, and so I don't think there was anything that would have improved his condition enough for him to recover. I just want to make sure I give them the best chance if it's something that is contagious/hereditary.
Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:53 pm
It could be worth adding Bisolvon, it's a decongestant so will relieve the worst of the symptoms and may make it easier for them to eat and drink. Just give a few granules once a day.
Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:05 pm
I've heard of corticosteroids being used alongside antibiotics for severe respiratory illness, usually as a dexamethasone injection at the vet, possibly with prednisolone tablets to follow at home: http://ratguide.com/health/lower_respir ... umonia.php