PLEASE HELP! Recently, my girls started sneezing, so I started them on Doxycycline. It is the third day of use, and their little noses are covered in poryphin! Poryphin that wasn't there prior to the medication. What's happening? What should I do? A vet is not an option until I'm not Xmas broke.

How are you dosing the doxycycline? It should be dosed based on the weight of the rat. Have you had someone else double check your calculations? I have heard that baytril goes well with doxy, and it can be ordered online, without a prescription from a vet. It may take a few days to get there if you cannot pay for expedited shipping, but respiratory disease can kill rats very quickly, so it's good to have on hand, if not for this incident, then for the future. If you need recommendations on where to order Baytril, let me know and I will post some websites. Dosing instructions can be found by searching the name of the antibiotic on Baytril dose is also based on the weight of the rat.

A laundry list of things that can cause porphyrin:

  • Smoking (cigarette smoke, etc.) Does anyone smoke in the house? Do you have holiday guests who are smokers? (The smell can cling to their fur).

  • Stress: Did a recent change in environment cause stress? Guests? Child guests who have been manhandling them? Parties? Loud noises? Has their cage been moved? Loud noises? New animals in the house (including new rats, which can bring infectious illnesses even if the rats are kept on a different floor in the same house). Cat smell? My rat acts scared whenever my boyfriend's mother (who has cats) visits, presumably because the cat smell is on her clothing.

-The humidity of the room. Heaters in the winter can dry out the air. Do you have a humidifier you can use? Some rat owners say that to ease respiratory symptoms, bring your rats to the bathroom (possibly in their cage if they are nervous outside of it) and run the hot shower for a while until the room gets steamy. The steam can help rats in respiratory distress to breathe easier, similar to how steam helps people breathe when they are sick with a runny/stuffy nose. If you don't have a humidifier, boiling/simmering water in a wide/flat pot (so there's more surface area of the water exposed). Of course, don't leave this unattended because the water can boil off. This can humidify a room very well until you can get your hands on a cheap humidifier.

  • Allergies to dust. Did you recently switch bedding? Some paper bedding has a lot of dust in it and can irritate rat lungs. I have read that paper bedding is superior to aspen and pine. I personally would never use aspen or pine. Some say aspen may be okay, but I am not comfortable with using it after reading about the results of a small a experiment regarding rats kept on paper or aspen. If you want links, let me know and I will provide them.

  • Allergies to fragrances or dyes. Rats are said to have sensitive respiratory systems, and may react badly to the fragrances or dyes in laundry detergent, perfume, or other washing agents. Did you recently switch perfume/deodorant/shampoo? What sort of washing agents do you use on their cage? Do the rats get hammocks/towels/cloth items that are washed with regular detergent? One of my rats used to have really bad respiratory symptoms, but I have since switched my laundry detergent to the fragrance-free and dye-free kind. Many name brands sell this type of detergent - Tide, Purell, to name a few. I've found it in multiple grocery stores and drug stores. It's usually called "clean and clear" and they usually come in a white bottle, regardless of brand. It's great for people, too, as allergies to fragrances/dyes can cause all sort of problems from itching to sneezing. My boyfriend and I prefer it for our clothes now, too.

  • It has been said that female rats younger than 8 months showing respiratory symptoms are likely to be suffering from a secondary infection, instead of a mycoplasma infection. The premise behind this is that mycoplasma is a supposedly slow acting disease, and that even when the rat has mycoplasma from the day it is born (as mycoplasma is usually transmitted during birth from the mother's birth canal), the disease is so slow acting that symptoms that arise in a rat younger than 8 months is likely due to some other infectious, non-mycoplasma agent. The standard treatment for this is an antibiotic called amoxicillin, which can also be purchased online, without a prescription from a vet. I can link you to places you can buy it from if you like. I got my first rat when she was 3 months and she was sneezy and had lots of porphyrin, both of which went away when she was on amoxicillin. When she was older, I had her on baytril and doxy.

  • Diet. It has been said that arginine, an amino acid, can trigger a mycoplasma outbreak. Foods high in arginine include seeds and nuts, including MANY other things. So that means.. sunflower seeds, peanuts...things that are very common in pet store rat food mixes. See what they're eating, and try to see if it has a high arginine content. Luckily, you will find many resources on the internet that will show you how much arginine is in certain foods - this is because a diet high in arginine and low in the amino acid lysine has been reported to trigger herpes outbreaks in humans, so many people suffering from herpes have to watch what they eat. For herpes, though, they need to make sure to eat very little arginine and much more lysine. I don't think that this is the case for rats suffering from mycoplasma-based respiratory illness, but I am NOT sure. I err on the safe side and do not feed my older rat seeds/nuts very often at all. She gets one maybe every 2 months.

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