Q & A

From the July/August 2000 Rat & Mouse Gazette

Can I get Salmonella from my rat?

Salmonella is not endemic (present in a predictable, continuous pattern at all times) in domestic rats and mice.

According to the Eighth Edition of the Merck Veterinary , Salmonella may cause illness in rats and mice, just as it does in people. Salmonellosis can be introduced into a domestic colony by feral or wild rodents or by contaminated feed or bedding products. Salmonellosis is rarely seen in commercially-bred rodents.

It is possible that you could get Salmonellosis from your rat if your rat contracts it. Your rat would typically show symptoms of illness, though. Clinical signs include anorexia (not eating), rough coat, weight loss, conjunctivitis, and sporadic deaths.

Salmonella is endemic in some reptiles. It is possible for keepers of both reptiles and rodents to cross-contaminate the rodents after handling reptiles. Good hygiene, such as washing hands with antibacterial soap after handling reptiles and things in their environment, and frequent disinfecting of all cages and fomites (toys, hiding-boxes, food and water containers, etc.) may help prevent cross-contamination.

Use the same precautions in handling your pet's food as you would in handling your own food. Salmonella is most often found in animal products, so be especially careful when feeding your rats eggs, chicken or other meats, mayonnaise, and any other foods that may have been stored or prepared near those foods.

~So Cal Scurrier

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I had two mice that had pneumonia - a pregnant female who recovered after being given antibiotics (Clavulox), and a male, who deteriorated rapidly. He went off food before medication started and became skeletal within two days. I was afraid he would die of starvation before the antibiotics had a chance to work.

Another vet suggested I forcefeed him with Glucodin dissolved in water. I gave it to him for several days and then stopped when he was eating reasonably well. After five weeks he had almost all of his weight back, but it was unstable and he didn't seem to advance further. Then he had a relapse, but with more treatment, he seems to be better - still not 100%, however.

Since he first became sick, he had lost his mousey smell and is still completely odorless. He also doesn't mark anymore. Does this mean he has become infertile? He's such a darling - I would clone him many times over if I could. Do you think that if he gets his full weight back again that I would be able to let him mate?

First, I'm not familiar with the antibiotic that you were given, or what the glucodin is that you spoke of. Maybe they named differently in the United States. The Clavulox sounds like it is probably akin to our Clavamox here in the states. If that is the case, it is a drug in the penicillin family (amoxicillin) and is not really effective against mycoplasma, which is the most common cause of respiratory disease in rats and mice. It is possible that the female recovered because there was a secondary infection that the Clavulox took care of which allowed her strong immune system to fight off the mycoplasma. It is also possible that the male's immune system was very compromised and was not strong enough to fight off the mycoplasma on its own. Another antibiotic may be more successful (perhaps Doxycycline). However, his lungs may already be so damaged from the infections that he will never fully recover.

It is entirely possible that he has been rendered sterile by the infections he suffered. High fevers frequently accompany infection and is commonly the cause of sterility in males. Even if he is not sterile, it is not a good idea to breed him. For the obvious reason of risk due to overexertion, but more because he has already proven not to be resistant to disease, which is a genetic trait that you shouldn't knowingly pass on to future generations.

~Mary Ann Isaksen

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I have two rats, one is thin and the other is extremely overweight. I think my fat rat is cuter and friendlier, and my thin rat is more active and inquisitive. Should I worry about the health of my fat rat as he gets older? When is fat, too fat?

Technically, the same rules that apply to obesity in humans apply to rats. Though the cuddle factor is much higher in fat rats. They are fun and squishy, as any fat rat owner knows. Some rats bulk up naturally even when on a low-fat, healthy diet.

Activity plays a big part in your rats weight, as well as genetics. As a general rule, female rats tend to be more active and don't really start getting heavy until they are older.

Just like in humans, overweight rats can have problems with various things like deteriorating joints and cardiovascular health, among other things. There is also a study that shows rats and mice kept five to ten percent below their "normal" body weight live longer than rats and mice fed regularly.

But who wants a rat that looks like Ally McBeal? Each rat's metabolism is individual, just like humans. Some are naturally thin and some have a tendency toward obesity. You may want to give your fat rat a little extra activity outside his cage and reduce the snacks a bit. A nice, active, alert rat that climbs and plays is always good, but there is something to be said for those rare tubby, squishy rats - they are incredibly special, too.

~Stacy Goff, Twitchin' Whiskers

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