Pet rat is down in the dumps

Posted on February 14, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Dear Dr. Forsythe:  My rat Dennis started breathing funny this week.  I don’t know what the cause is, I usually don’t even let him out of his cage, except to sit on my shoulder or watch TV.  I don’t think I can afford to go to the vet, much less all the medications they would need to do.  Do you think he has a cold?  Is it dangerous or is it something that might clear up on its own?  Please let me know, I don’t want anything to happen to him.

Chris, Sonoma

Dear Chris: Respiratory disease is common in the rat.  Often they can suffer from Mycoplasma pulmonis, a serious infection that can be fatal if left untreated.  In addition, rats can succumb to cilia-associated respiratory bacillus (CAR), so I would suggest that you have Dennis examined as soon as possible.  With pocket pets, having a “wait and see” attitude can result in an  “I wish I’d called the vet” outcome.  I understand that we are living in tough economic times, but even small pets like rats and hamsters are precious companions.  They provide so much fun and comfort.  Often a course of antibiotics will bring them around to good health again, so I urge you to have him seen and try and avoid a sad outcome.  Good luck!

Dr. F

Dear Dr. Forsythe:  I have seen your column in the paper and thought that perhaps you could answer a question about rabbits (if you know).  I have a French Angora and she is not eating very well.  Yesterday, I noticed that her teeth are DARK brown, the front teeth hang way down and face away from each other like long fingernails that are overgrown. I have no idea how she is able to chew with them like that.  Could that be her problem?  Does she need to have them pulled?  Are they infected?  Nobody ever told me my rabbit needed dental care when I got her last year. I guess you should sign us: Long in the Tooth, Lucas Valley

Dear Long in the Tooth:  Thanks so much for contacting me.  One very big cause for digestive problems in the rabbit is overgrown teeth/malocclusion (often secondary to infection with Pasteurella).  Your bunny needs to be checked out by your veterinarian and the teeth need to be “floated” or trimmed down so that they don’t impede her ability to chew.  If there is any infection or abscess in the mouth, that can be treated with antibiotics.  Depending on the condition of the rest of the mouth, other teeth may need to be extracted, along with any tooth spurs that may be present.

When I hear a person say “nobody told me…” about the requirements of caring for a certain breed of animal or type of pet, I hear the blame game.  This compels me to remind people to once again remember that getting a pet should be preceded by doing extensive research and completing due diligence: make sure you know what you’re getting into.  As a pet “collector” myself, I am a little overwhelmed at times with the number of animals I have to feed, care for and medicate… dogs, cats, a parrot, a snake.  Please remember that no matter what type of pet you decide to get, regular veterinary care should be part of your plan (and budget) to make sure the pet stays healthy and happy. Regular checkups for your Angora should prevent those long gnarly buckteeth from presenting again.  Good luck.

Dr. Forsythe

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA