Myco! UGH! Learn it, live it and learn to hate it! As a rat owner, the word "myco" will fast become a very unwanted word in your vocubulary. Unfortunately, it is a word that we must learn to define since it is a big part of our rats health and well being.We need to try to understand and even prevent our rats from having an outbreak of mycoplasmosis. The unfortunate truth is, all rats are born to myco and are infected by their mother. There is not much we can do to prevent it other than the obvious which I discuss below. There has been talk in the past about a vaccine in the making but so far nothing has really transpired from it.
There is no cure for myco, but it doesnt mean that your rat will die an immediate death, either. It can be controlled by proper medications and also proper care of their cages, such as keeping ahead of the ammonia build up from their urine, which triggers myco, and also its a good idea if you keep alot of rats to limit them to a small amount of rats per cage unless you have a cage the size of a refrigerator. Even a large ferret nation claims to house up to 16 rats at a time, which I never recommend for various reasons.
Properly treating myco:
One huge mistake made by vets is the way they treat myco when a rat may have an outbreak of it. Typically, vets will only give antibiotics for 10 days and even if there is no improvement the first few days they continue the rat on the same medication without changing it. For starters, the rat should be on the medication for 21 to 30 days. Antibiotics that work with an organism that has no cell wall should be used and if not, these medications wont work since myco has no cell wall. If there is no change in the rats condition within the first three days, the medication should be switched. If it wont work in that amount of time and start to show improvement in the rats condition, it isnt going to work. Any longer and its just wasting precious time that rat doesnt have.
The main reason myco comes back again and again is usually because the rat was not treated long enough and the rat relapses. Each relapse is worse than the next, often causing lung scarring and blisters. It is VITAL the rat is treated for the proper duration with the right medications. The vet must also realize the dangerous part of myco is not myco itself but the dangerous secondary infections it can cause which is why the rat should also be treated for a secondary infection if his condition is severe. A myco flare up isnt severe. Infection secondary to myco IS something to worry about.
Baytril, zithromax and doxycyline are the drug of choice but if there is a secondary infection going on there and if within the 3 day period the rat shows no improvement, doxy should be stopped and either Cefa drops, amoxil or other stronger meds used for strep and other nasty bacteria should be used right away.
Zithromax tends to work better in younger rats while baytril works better in older rats. Also, zithromax should be used in place of baytril in rats under 4 months old. In some rats, zithromax works better on rats that tend to be immune to baytril.
Again, these drugs work on an organism that lacks a cell wall.
Myco is not just isolated to the respiratory tract. It is also found in the female rats uterus which can cause the rat to have an infection and even have some bloodied discharge during this time. Female rats DO NOT HAVE PERIODS. They have too short of an estrus cycle which means there is not enough time for the rats uterus to build up an endometrium lining to shed, which is what human women shed during our periods.
I thought I should add this where the Myco topic is since so many vets prescribe baytril for respiratory infections, be it myco or some other bacteria that is the culprit. Although baytril is the drug of choice to use for myco (since it is an organism with no cell wall, baytril is the drug of choice since it is very effective against that type of organism) However, studies have found that when baytril is used in puppies under 8 months old, it can cause some serious side effects, including problems with the immature skelatal system, to be more specific, it has been known to cause cartilage abnormalities. Keep in mind this does NOT mean your rat will not grow. In fact, you may not notice any kind of changes at all that may have taken place with your rat since they have a short life span. However, arthritic changes have been linked to the problems with the immature cartilage in young rats and many of these changes have been noted in rats as they age. During a study, all of these rats were given baytril under 4 months old.
I should also add that baytril is a very good drug for myco and in some cases, if the benefits outweigh the risks, it is advised best to use the medication rather than lose the rat to death. To be honest, I know alot of folks that have used baytril in young rats with no side effects.You can also check out the rat guide about baytril warnings as well. Click here for more info