Ulcerative Pododermatitis...
AKA Bumblefoot & Squeaky

Jan McArthur, RVN
From the July/August 1998 Rat & Mouse Gazette

I adopted Squeaky at about 8 months of age from Midland Collegeís Veterinary Technology program in Midland Texas, where I was a student in 1996. He was my first rat, but not my last. He was unfortunately infected with Mycoplasma pulmonis. I kept him basically well for the rest of his life with periodic antibiotic treatments. He lived for 2 - 1/2 years total.

After Iíd had him for about a year, I had to go out of town for a week and left him at a veterinary hospitalís kennel in the summer of 1997. When I returned, his cage was filthy and he had injured feet! (So much for the vetís kennel being better than a non vet owned one.) At home I tried to keep his feet clean but the bumbles grew anyway, even though my wire cage is lined in plexiglass. I used old towels for bedding so I could change and clean them every day. Iím sure it didnít help that Squeaky was a bit overweight (my fault, I know). I put him on a weight loss diet (meaning I cut way down on the treats).

I put him on Baytril. It helped his Mycoplasma symptoms, but was no help for the bumbles. He had Tylan, again no help for the feet. I tried a topical treatment of Otomax, the dog ear treatment made of gentamicin, beta-methasone (a steroid), and clotrimazole. The hope was that the steroid would help. Nothing helped.

One day I received an email from Carole Nelson, a Rat and Mouse Club of America member and rat breeder I met online. I was not a member yet, so I was unaware of Rat & Mouse Gazette. She sent me information about Blu-Kote. I had no idea how to order from RMCA at the time, so I bought a product in a local feed store called Blue Lotion. Itís similar to Blu-Kote, but is not the same thing.

Guess what?? It didnít work either. I was so frustrated! The bumbles didnít seem to bother Squeaky, but they would bleed intermittently. I knew that couldnít be a good thing for him. Soon after, I found the veterinarian with the best reputation in our area. I took Squeaky in one day for more medication for his Mycoplasma and this vet thought we should try chlorhexidine soaks twice a day on his feet. He gave me enough for the soaks and for daily cleaning of his cage. Chlorhexidine is a great antiseptic/disinfectant, but even it was not working.


Photo by Jan McArthur

I finally got my hands on a spray can of Blu-Kote from a mail order farm catalog. At the time I still was not aware of how to reach RMCA. I didnít tell the doctor about this and began using it as Caroleís email had suggested; the only thing I did differently was to use it only once a day instead of twice. Using it twice a day seemed to irritate his skin too much. I continued with the chlorhexidine soaks and now and then gave him a bath in chlorhexidine dog shampoo, along with the Blu-Kote everyday. We joked about it being a cheap way to get a Blue rat, as it did stain his white fur.

Within about two weeks of using the Blu-Kote I noticed a change in the bumbles. They were not bleeding as often and looked a bit smaller. I was surprised, so, of course, I kept this regimen up. We went back to the veterinarianís office for a checkup on the Mycoplasma treatment and he wondered what in the heck I was doing to this poor rat. I explained about the Blu-Kote and he didnít believe it would work, but he said keep trying and weíll see.

Over the next few weeks the bumbles were smaller and smaller. I seldom saw any bleeding and Squeaky seemed a bit more comfortable and had lost some weight. The Mycoplasma was getting him down and may have had a little to do with the bumbles healing so slowly. By the fall of 1997, we went to the vet more often and we were keeping him on antibiotics all the time.

One day near the end of his life we had an appointment at the vetís. Squeaky smelled bad so I gave him a partial bath and his feet got very wet. I didnít notice anything was different. We got to the vetís and while we waited in the exam room, I was holding Squeaky and talking to him, calming him down. The doctor walked in and as I put Squeaky on the table we saw blood on my shirt. What was left of the bumbles had come off! The doctor picked him up and then cut away what was left hanging from his feet. He was shocked! He exclaimed that he couldnít believe that the Blu-Kote had necrotized the tissue like that. IT WORKED!!!

The bumbles were gone and the tissue underneath was healthy. Squeaky had finally beaten it.

Squeaky didnít live much longer after that. The Mycoplasma was too much to fight, but he died with healthy feet!

After all this, I found RMCAís website and recently became a member. Iím glad I did!