Companion rats are often presented to veterinarians for respiratory difficulties. Dyspnea in rats is most commonly due to infectious pneumonia, and thoracic neoplasia can go undiagnosed ante mortem due to a mistaken interpretation of pneumonia. In domestic carnivores, pulmonary nodular patterns have been shown to correlate with lung neoplastic diseases and infectious diseases. The main objective of this retrospective case series study was to determine whether certain radiographic criteria could be correlated with the presence of thoracic infectious disease and neoplastic disease in companion rats. A secondary objective was to determine whether the patient's sex and age were different between rats diagnosed with infectious versus neoplastic disease. Medical records and thoracic radiographs of dyspneic companion rats presented to the University of California at Davis, William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital during the time period from January 2000 to December 2014 were reviewed. Rats with postmortem confirmation of thoracic lesions were included in the study. Thoracic radiographs were evaluated for positioning, lesion distribution, lung lobe involved, pulmonary pattern, mediastinal and pleural lesions by three observers blinded to diagnosis. Thirty rats were included in the study, including 23 rats with an infectious disease and seven with neoplasia. Mediastinal lesions were significantly more prevalent in the group diagnosed with thoracic neoplasia (P = 0.031), in particular cranially (P = 0.048). Although there was an overlap between the two groups, findings indicated that the presence of cranial mediastinal lesions may be helpful for differentiating neoplastic from infectious disease in rats.
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