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Chloramphenicol is an "ass-kicking" drug in more ways than one. Terms like "Typhoid," "Cholera," and "Staphelococal Brain Abscess" appear prominantly in its indications, as do "Bone Marrow Toxicity" and "Fatal Aplastic Anaema" in its list of possible side effects...to say nothing of profound diarrhea. This is not a drug to be messed around with. Wash your hands after dosing your pet, and NO, I am not kidding.

As the old song goes, “Oh dear, what can the matter be?”

Poor Henslowe isn’t doing well. The old ploppy-saurus has wet, soggy, rattling lungs and a pale white nose, and a batril/doxycicline combo doesn’t seem to even be touching it. He’s been worse since the hot, wet weather broke a week ago in favor of cool and very dry, even worse than that this week as it became very hot again, and he’s truly awful today, after yet another shift into cool and wet. He’s looking really bad, and I’m getting desperate.

Time for a shift in strategy. Time to bring out the big guns.


What a difference a day makes. Henslowe is entirely back to normal, which for him is audible breathing only when stressed or inquisitive. In the “rest” position, his breathing is clear as a bell, which is about all one can shoot for with his old, scarred lungs.

His recovery could be due to the decision to blast the room with a heavy hitting humidifier AND my Vicks vaporizer, but I bet is has more to do with shifting to a combination of Aminophylline to open up his airways and Chloramphenicol to hit the mycoplasma from a different direction.

There is nothing scarier for the pet rat fancier than doxycycline/batril non-responsive myco. Nothing. You’re doing everything you know to do, and they just keep getting worse.

I’m determined that if I hadn’t had that chloramphenicol sitting around from a “failed” attempt when Will and Henslowe were sick last fall, the dear old Ploppy would be an ex-rat by this morning. He had that look about him like he was warming up to join the choir angelic, and believe me, I know. This morning I didn’t dare hope his lungs were as clear as they seemed to be, so I turned off the humidifiers and held him right to my ear to listen to his breathing and feel for a rattle under his ribs. Nothing. Breath in and breath out, quiet as you please. I was just blown away with relief.

Chloramphenicol is the first drug I’ve used that came with stern warnings from my vet, quoted right off of a legal disclaimer card. I know, because one of the things she said to me was “this drug cannot be prescribed to animals destined for human consumption.” Right. Note to self: no Henslowe McNuggets after all. I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear it.

We laughed, but she also said–and this was no laughing matter–that this drug can knock out your bone marrow for good and kill you in a rare (but not rare enough) side effect among a list of additional grave unintended outcomes for the dosser, and that hand washing after dosing your pet was essential, as was avoiding pets or kisses to the face after dosing. Dr. C is not a worrier by nature, but I could tell she’d just as soon I used latex gloves during dosing. Wow. For more info on chlorampenicol and toxicity in humans, see http://medicineoutofthebox.com/2010/09/09/reconciling-antimicrobial-choices-with-patient-safety-concerns/.

So right, old fatty beat the odds again. Amazing. Myco has had his number since he was a wee thing, yet at 2 1/2 he’s still hogging the hammock. Maybe it was the moist air, maybe the illness had run its course and he was due to feel better anyway (I don’t believe that for a second), or maybe the chloramphenicol nailed the sorry, doxy-impervious asses of the bugs in Henslowe’s lungs, shot them where they stood, right through a sea of choking mucus. I like to think of it that way.

However, remembering just WHY the last attempt with this drug was such a housekeeping catastrophe, I am following up every dose 20 minutes later with a heapin’ spoonful of super-yogurt. A rat with mucho yucky diarrhea is not a fun rat or a happy rat. No kidding, this stuff kills EVERYTHING. Wash your hands and spring for the super-duper Greek yogurt with 5 kinds of bacteria in it.

And if the diarrhea shows up after a day or two, just remind yourself how lucky you are to have this problem, move your poor, mortified rattie into a hospital cage, and change the bedding A LOT. Rats are fastidious creatures, and a rat with diarrhea to track through is going to lose the will to live. A clean rat is a happy, healthy rat. I highly recommend augmenting your rat’s normal cleaning regimen with baby wipes at such times, paying special attention to the areas around and under its tail. A babywipe bath after dosing will also take care of any spilled or spat out medicine, keeping you all the safer from any unwanted side effects from handling the meds.

If you’re over a barrel with other treatments and afraid you’re going to lose your beloved sweetie, you might talk to your vet about chloramphenicol. I don’t think they even prescribe it to humans in this country anymore, or not very often. But it’s legal for pets, and the rabbit people have been getting great results from it. Just…yeah, wash your hands really well, and don’t forget the yogurt. You’re probably going to need it.


Bundesarchiv Bild 183-92279-0002, Ruhrepedemie...

Wash those hands, and don't eat your rat after dosing. I'm just saying.