Q & A

From the March/April 2001 Rat & Mouse Gazette

I just read the drug chart in an issue of the Gazette. It said that the recommended dose for Baytril was increased four times to 5mg/lb twice a day. My vet has prescribed one-eighth of a tablet twice a day. The tablets are 22.7 mg. Does that mean I should increase the dose twice, or more? I'm confused. Also, do I have to know how much the rat weighs and adjust the doses accordingly?

The dose stated on the drug chart was increased after the dose stated in veterinary books was failing to provide adequate treatment. Dr. Daryl Mabley of Arbor Animal Hospital in Irvine, California, worked with numerous rats over a period of time to determine that the quadrupled dose was what was actually effective.

However, we still don't believe that Baytril is always the way to go, or that it always has lasting results. Because of this, we recommend using Baytril in combination with Doxycycline for treating respiratory symptoms in pet rats. To answer your questions, and hopefully clear up your confusion, YES, you always have to know the weight of the rat you're treating to determine proper medication doses. All drug doses are based on weight and you must know the weight to adjust the dose for each particular rat you are medicating. For instance, if you are treating a one pound rat with Baytril, you would give the rat 5mg twice daily, but if the rat weighs one and a quarter pounds, the dose would then be 6.25mg twice daily, a two pound rat would be 10mg twice daily, and so on. It's very smart to keep a postal scale on hand when you have pet rats for this reason.

As you can see, this would be very difficult to do with the pills your vet has given you. It is almost impossible to crush and separate a pill into equal piles and be sure of how many milligrams of medication are actually in each pile. Hence, it is not practical to use pills. We recommend using the injectable form of Baytril orally since you can draw out exactly the dose you need without difficult calculations. However, the injectable form tastes pretty nasty and many rats fight or refuse to take it.

Diane Newburg has been very successful getting her rats to take injectable Baytril by putting the dose in a small amount of peanut butter and jelly. You may want to experiment and find out what works with your own rats. If you are forced to use pills, however, then all you can do is give it your best shot. Crushing a 22.7mg pill and separating it into four equal piles will give you approximately 5-1/2 mg's per pile (but it will never be exact). Determine the weight of the rat you are treating and remove or add powder as necessary.

We can only hope that there will be an easier, more palatable Baytril product in the future.

~Mary Ann Isaksen

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I was told I need to bathe my rats before a show, but not too soon before a show. When and how am I supposed to do this?

You don't have to bathe all of your rats prior to a show. Most females stay pretty clean and have nice, soft coats that don't need bathing at all. You may just have to clean a female's tail up before taking her to a show. How ever, that's not normally the case with intact males.

Males that still have their testicles produce a lot of testosterone, which can cause some males to have extremely oily coats. You will see this as a yellow-orange, almost waxy substance on the rat's back, from about the center of his back to his tail. Rats with this problem definitely need to be given a bath before showing them in either the pet or show classes. Judges always like to see a clean rat on the show table, but it is imperative that the rat in a standards class be clean or points will be marked off. This is not normally the case with rats entered in the pet classes (individual clubs may vary on this rule), but still, judges don't want to see an incredibly dirty animal on the table at any time.

If you are going to show your pet, be sure to give him a bath about one week prior to the show. This allows some time for some of the oils to come back and make his coat soft and shiny. If you bathe him too close to the show, his coat will be dry and fly-away, and will not look nearly as nice. You're likely to get marked down for that in some clubs.

Many people use different methods for bathing, and some find it to be a terribly difficult task, but I have found it to be very simple if you take the simple approach and do it quickly. Be gentle, but firm. You may want to clip your rat's nails before bathing him as well.

Get all of your supplies ready before you start - towel, washcloth, pet shampoo or dishwashing liquid, a soft toothbrush or nail brush (if necessary), and a plastic glass. Using a double kitchen sink, fill one side to about three inches with warm, soapy water and the other side (to the same depth) with clean, clear water (make sure the water is not too hot!).

Next, lovingly carry your rat out to the kitchen sink, talking softly to reassure him that everything will be okay. Gently lower him into the soapy water, getting his whole body completely wet, but avoiding his head area. You don't want to chance getting water (or soap) into his eyes or ears! When he is completely wet, squeeze some pet shampoo or dishwashing liquid onto his back and begin lightly scrubbing with your fingertips. Pay particular attention to the oily area on the back. This area may require use of the toothbrush or nail brush if the oils are particularly stubborn. Make sure you do not scrub too hard and hurt his delicate skin. Scrub his entire body (again, avoiding the head area). You may also need to use the toothbrush to lightly scrub a stained tail.

Now that he is clean, lift him and gently place him into the clean water side of the sink. If you're able to run the water to rinse him off, it will go a lot quicker, but some rats totally freak out if you try that. If you can't run the water, fill the glass with water and gently pour the contents over his soapy coat to rinse him off. Clean his face using the washcloth, just wet enough to do the job. Still, be careful around the eyes and ears.

Wrap him up in a nice soft towel and cuddle him a bit while you lightly dry him off. You can try completely drying him using a hairdryer, but most rats don't like that. Put him back into a clean cage and allow him to groom himself and dry off naturally. Make sure there are no drafts while he is wet.

~Mary Ann Isaksen

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