By Debbie Ducommun
Ibuprofen is an NSAID, a non-steroidal anti-inflamatory. It is a more effective pain killer and anti-inflammatory than aspirin or acetaminophen. It interferes with blood clotting but only while it is in the system. Chronic use can cause bleeding, ulceration, and perforation of the stomach. It can cause fluid retention and decreased blood flow to the kidneys, so is more risky to use in the elderly, with heart or kidney disease, or with diuretics. The dose is 15-60 mg/lb 2-4 times a day. Lower doses are for analgesia, higher for inflammation.
You can use you can either crush up a tablet or use liquid baby medications if they do not contain sorbitol, an artificial sweetener that rats hate. Sorbitol will be listed under the inactive ingredients. Most rats like berry flavored Motrin. To figure out the dose, look on the bottle to see how many mg/ml. Figure out how many ml to use to give your rat the proper number of mg. It’s a good idea to give the rat a treat afterwards to mask the bad aftertaste that may cause your rat to refuse the medication the second time. For tablets, you can grind them up into a fine powder on a small plate with a spoon. For capsules, pull the halves of the capsule apart and dump out the powder. Grind it up if necessary. You can then mix the powder in liquid or food. To mix in food, mix the powder well and divide into little piles, each containing the proper dose. Then you can scrape a pile into the food. Some suggestions include baby food, pudding, mashed avocado, yogurt, brown sugar and carob powder, honey, peanut butter mixed with jelly, moistened graham cracker, non-fat cream cheese, margarine, Nutri-Cal, pasta sauce, and as a last resort, ice cream, frosting, cheesecake, or even butterscotch or chocolate syrup! Use only enough food to mask the taste of the medicine so your rat will eat it all immediately. Adding a bit of salt will help counter the bitter flavor of medicines. If your rat refuses to eat the doctored food voluntarily, those in paste form can be smeared on his mouth, or even on the backs of his ears so he will groom the paste off and eat it.
The dose most vets prescribe for rats is too low. Metacam (generic name meloxicam) is an NSAID, and therefore works the same way as ibuprofen. The liquid sold by vets is for dogs, and since dogs do not metabolize NSAIDs well, the dog dose is very low (only 0.1 mg/lb). Rats metabolize NSAIDs very well, in fact, so well that the dose of ibuprofen for inflammation in rats is 60 mg/lb 2-4 times a day. (Exotic Animal Formulary, AAHA, 1995, 2001 and Drug Dosage in Laboratory Animals, 3rd ed. Borchard et al, 1990)By comparing the human dose of ibuprofen to that for rats, and then looking at the human dose of meloxicam (which is 7.5 to 15 mg a day), it appears that the best dose of Metacam for rats is 1 to 2.25 mg/lb. Since the concentration of the Metacam liquid is 1.5 mg/ml, a 1-lb rat would need 0.6 to 1.5 ml. In addition, although meloxicam is only given once a day to humans and dogs, because the rat’s metabolism is so much higher, it needs to be given more often to rats. I recently talked with a rat owner giving Metacam to a rat with severe pain, and she reports that once a day was not often enough.