Far and away, my rattie’s favorite time of day is “CANNN-DY TIME!” Each night before I go to bed and just as they are getting up, each and every rat over the age of six or seven months gets a delicious treat in the form of a flour-coated peanut butter ball about the size of a garbanzo bean, cleverly laced with doxycycline. The daily dose helps prevent outbreaks of mycoplasmosis or pneumonia. It has not failed to register that my recent loss came at the end of a week in which I had run out of medication and was not diligent about replacing it quickly.
According to the excellent Rat Guide:
The prognosis for rats with pneumonia is very grave, and will require long term antibiotic therapy. Due to the belief that Mycoplasma is probably never eliminated entirely from the airways in rats, and because it is a contributor to the development of pneumonia, it often becomes necessary to use pulse antibiotic therapy (long term, intermittent, dosing), or a continuing maintenance schedule of antibiotics for rats with chronic Mycoplasmosis.
I don’t think that pulsing really gets the job done for rats with a tendency toward mycoplasmosis. Call me a reactionary war-mongering Texan, but I’m for bombing the little bastards into a parking lot and keeping them that way. I’m all about daily dosing, which has worked wonders on my troops. Fear not: for whatever reason, rats don’t seem to develop immunity to doxycycline over time the way humans do.
Medi-balls are easy to make and are so tasty that they make rats literally jump for joy. It’s worth it to mix up peanut butter treats even if you aren’t medicating them, and I do so when I have rats that are too young for doxycycline, a drug which can adversely affect bone development in rats that are still growing. Otherwise, the babies feel left out.
There are several recipes on line, but mine’s the best and the easiest. I will be mixing up a batch as we go along to make sure I don’t forget a step, such as “mix in medicine.” Forgive the stream of consciousness style of my instruction. I’m nearly as tall a Julia Child and will, for the amusement of my dogs, cat, and rats, all of whom are looking on, use my “Julia” voice whenever it seems appropriate.
YOU WILL NEED:
- A small bowl or ramekin for mixing
- A fork or tiny whisk for blending meds w/liquids before forming dough
- Optional: a pastry cutter for ease in mixing flour into peanut butter
- A sharp knife for slicing up properly sized balls before rolling them in your hands
- Snack-sized zip lock bags or very small containers for storage of balls in refrigerator
- Powdered doxycycline in capsule form (100 mg per capsule is the most economical)
- An ounce or so of water as needed to activate doxy powder and keep peanut butter mixture wet enough to work with
- A few drops of vanilla-butter-nut flavoring (optional but tasty!)
- Smooth peanut butter (I prefer the ultra-tasty Naturally More brand, which I eat myself and which contains loads of additional goodies and nutrients. Available in normal grocery stores)
- White flour for mixing into the balls and also for dusting the rolling surface and the finished balls (How much? Your peanut butter mixture will tell you.)
TO MAKE DOXYCYCLINE MEDI-BALLS:
RECOMMENDED DOXY DOSAGE: 2.5 MG PER KG OF RAT (Up the dosage to 5 mg per kg of rat if you are treating an active case of respiratory distress.)
1) Plan to make enough balls for a 14 day supply. Carefully separate the top from the bottom of the capsule and allow powered medication to spill into the ramekin.
2) Add about an ounce of water to medication and use a tiny whisk or a fork to thoroughly blend medication with water. Take care that all of the medication has completely dissolved in the water.
3) Add a cap-full or so of the vanilla-butter-nut flavoring, which will somewhat lessen the medicine smell of the mixture and turn it (insert “Julia” voice here) a lovely saffron color.
4) Use the fork to mix any separated oils back into the peanut butter in the jar and lift a big glop into the bowl of medicine. How much is a “big glop?” Well, that depends upon the strength of your medication. If you use 50 mg capsules, you need less; 100 mg capsules, which will make twice the number of balls, require more so that the balls are not too tiny to easily work with. Remember, we’re shooting for garbanzo-sized balls. Blend liquid and peanut butter until you can sleep the sleep of the just knowing you have blended the medication in evenly and thoroughly.
5) Put the lid back on the peanut butter jar before you leave to answer the door, so that your pernicious little fox terrier bitch does not eat up half the jar by the time you get back. Damn and blast.
5) When you’ve blended all of the liquid into the peanut butter, stir vigorously, which will thicken the mixture to roughly that of room-temperature cookie dough.
6) Add as much flour to the mixture as you can mix into the dough without making it crumbly, first with the fork (or a pastry cutter, if you prefer), and then by kneading with your hands. Remember, flour must be thoroughly and evenly cut in before you start kneading, so that the doxy will be evenly distributed.
7) Role dough into a ball. You will know you have used enough flour if the dough ball is not noticeably oily and yet not so dry that it cannot be easily worked. If it is too dry and crumbly for the little bits at the bottom of the bowl to be easily worked into the big ball, spread it all out in the bowl again, add a bit more water, and re-blend. Crumbly medi-balls are a problem.
8 ) Give yourself a headache while figuring proper dose per ball based on the weight of your rats, and then mathematically computed number of balls you ultimately want to end up with, depending upon the strength of the medication and the number of capsules you emptied into that ramekin. It’s probably a good idea to do this before you start. Um, yeah. Next time.
9) Having forgotten how many capsules you used for this batch, sort through disgusting kitchen trash until you’ve counted up empty capsule shells. I used two 100 mg capsules this time, apparently.
10) Note: there are two points in the process of making medi-balls that involve a certain amount of “fudging,” and this is one of them. My smallest doe, the diminutive and whip-smart Bluebell, weighs a mere 400 grams (.88 lbs) at eight months of age, while my largest buck, the porcine Henslowe, tips the scale at a whopping 720 grams (1.58 lbs). Merciful heavens, what a fatty! Right. So fudge #1 is to split the difference and decide upon an “average” weight for dosing purposes. Fudge #2: don’t sweat it if some balls end up larger than others. I make “doe balls” and “buck balls,” which are about a third larger than those I make for the does. So here we go: two 100 mg capsules at 2.5 mg/kg of rat, figuring an average rat weight of 500 grams or .5 kgs (because it’s easy to equate), means I should get 28.5 (let’s say 28 so I don’t have to shoot myself in the head at this point) balls per capsule, which means I need to end up with 56 balls when I’m done. Piece of cake.
11) Recover from splitting headache from trying to figure out the dose and proceed to form the dough ball into two, three, or four equally sized smaller balls as needed to work with more easily. If you’re OCD, you can use a gram scale to compare sizes of dough balls, but I just go with a visual check and how they feel in my hand. Opinions about proper dosing for rats varies somewhat, anyway.
12) Place one of the balls onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an evenly sized log with your hand. Slice the log into the correct number of evenly sized chunks. Form chunks into balls by rolling in your hand and coat each ball with flour so that they don’t stick to each other when stored.
13) Put floured balls into a ziplock bag (the smaller the better–too many balls create too much weight and press together into a floury mess). I always put a few tablespoons of flour in the empty ziplock and toss the balls like shake-n-bake as they go into the bag, so that each is liberally coated with flour and will not stick.
BON APPETIT, RATS AIMÉS!
♥ Doxycycline balls will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Make enough for two weeks when you make them so you aren’t having to whip up a batch any more often than necessary.
♥ MAKE CERTAIN that each rat eats his or her own ball entirely and that no thuggish cage mate (Bluebell!!!) mugs another for her treat. If a rat can steal a medi-ball, a rat will steal a medi-ball.
♥ Do not give doxycycline to rats that haven’t finished growing unless they are seriously ill, and then only at the instruction of your vet. I start rats on the doxy regimen at somewhere between six and eight months of age.
♥ You should include yogurt containing active cultures in the diet of any rat that is on an antibiotic regimen to keep the gut flora healthy.
♥ Explain to your vet that the doxy prescription is for prophylactic care and ask for refills on the original prescription. You shouldn’t have to call the vet each time you need a refill. Conversely, don’t purchase more doxy than you can use in a year, and be sure to check the expiration date carefully on your drugs.
♥ Dose ratties at the same time each day, or close to it, for maximum drug efficacy. Your rats will soon begin “reminding” you each day that it’s CANNNN-DY TIME, never fear!