Rat Illnesses


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Rat Sicknesses & Illnesses
Topics covered on this page.
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Tips Eyes Mycoplasma Pneumonia Temperature Bugs Veterinary Care
Abscesses & Tumors Bumblefoot Sprained ankles/Torn toenails Wounds Degloving/Tail injury
Aggression Ears Megacolon Barbering Old Age


Rat Illnesses:

Rats are like any other living being, they can get sick.
Rats can get injured such as a torn toenail, tail injury, broken or sprained bones or even deep bite wounds.
Rats are prone to respiratory infections and may need medication to aid in breathing and recovery.
It is very important to be aware that at some point in your rats life they may need Veterinary medical treatment -you must be willing to make a commitment to giving your rat appropriate care.
If you are unwilling or unable to pay Vet bills if the occasion arises -please think over your decision of having a pet very carefully, you might consider waiting to acquire a pet until you can afford it.

Rat care tips:

  • A rats nose is supposed to be dry, if your rat has a wet nose it could be a sign of some sort of respiratory infection.
  • A lot of Store bought bedding's contain a large amount of dust and can cause your rat to have respiratory problems. Use a bedding with as little dust as possible. Straining your bedding through a strainer can help eliminate some of the dust.
  • A lot of store bought food and bedding on occasion can contain moths, mites, or other small bugs. To ensure there are no live bugs that will infest your rats, examine each and every food & litter package before purchasing it.
    You can also Freeze or microwave your rat food and bedding to help kill the bugs. (Beware of microwaving some foods and bedding as certain ones have been known on occasion to catch fire.)
    *Never use Pine bedding! Use caution when purchasing bedding, lots of them claim to be dust free and are not. Even ones that say they are dust free, contain dust, especially when they get down to the bottom of the packages. Shredded newspaper, paper towels, napkins, and blankets work well for dust free bedding.
  • Cigarette (Tobacco) smoke around your rats (Or pets in general) can increase the likelihood of your rats having Respiratory problems. Especially Do Not smoke around your rats if they already have Respiratory problems, it can prohibit or extend the rats recovery time. The best thing to do if their is a smoker in the house is to:
    Have the room where the rats are housed, a dedicated "Rat room" where smoking is not allowed.
    Or have one room dedicated to smoking, and no rats are allowed in that area.

    Veterinary Care:
  • Rats may be a cheap pet to acquire but they are prone to respiratory infections and usually will need to be treated by a Veterinarian in their lifetime.
  • If you are unwilling to seek or pay for Medical care for your animal if an illness or injury arises, please do not get a pet!
    If you are to lazy or to busy to drive your sick animal to the Vet or to call around the phone book to locate a vet, Please do not get a pet!
  • Be sure you know of a vet that will see your rat if it becomes sick or injured, most vets do not see small animals (small furries), so it may take some calling around to find a vet willing to see your rat. It is best to find a vet first before any problems arise, so you don't waste time trying to find a vet when your pet needs immediate medical attention.
    How to find a Veterinarian:
  • Pick up a phone book or even go to www.yellowpages.com and enter in your location and start calling down the list of vets, when they answer simply ask "Do you treat rats?", if they say no, hang up and try the next number.
    Once you find one who will treat rats it is up to you if you want to continue calling down the list to see if there are other vets that will treat rats, or if you want to go with the first one you find.
    If you continue calling down the list and find several who treat rats, than you can ask how experienced they are, ask about payment plans and office visit costs.
    *Be open minded when calling around to the vets about driving distance, i called through the phone book and found one who treated rats, so i kept using them, until one day i had an emergency and they were booked, they recommended another vet, who was only another town over that i hadn't even looked for numbers for in the phone book. The Vet they recommended me to was much more knowledgeable than their office was and is now my current Vet.
  • Do not take your rat to a dog & cat only doctor -most Dog & cat doctors have never treated rats and most are unwilling to listen to your suggestions or try medicines they are unaware of.
  • Do not take your rat to an inexperienced vet, they may prescribe the wrong medicines or dosages.
  • Try to find a Vet who has treated rats in the past with success and likes them.
  • If possible call all the local Vet's in your area and ask to speak with the Vet themselves and ask them about their experiences with treating rats and about their willingness to work out payment methods.
  • Make sure to make your financial situation known to the Vet, if the Vet is aware of your financial situation, in most cases they are willing to work with you, and if and when possible give you generic medications instead of brand name ones to help you save money. Also, in a lot of cases Vets will suggest running certain tests that may or may not help, so if they are aware of your financial situation they can better advise you on the appropriate action to take.
    * All to often i hear of people who claim their Vet's offices will not work out payment plans and they do not have the money for treatment so they refuse to take their animal to the vet. Denying your animal needed medical attention is animal cruelty, if you do not have the money or are unwilling to get the animal treatment, please call a local shelter or Humane society and give them your pet and let them attempt to get the animal appropriate treatment.
    *For payment plans: sometimes Vet office's will say over the phone they do not accept payment plans, but that is usually the word of the receptionist and not the word of the vet. When you go to the Vet's office you most commonly check in, get treated or discuss options and then check out, if you do not have all the funds on hand their really isn't much the Vet's office can do except agree to accept a payment plan. Especially in the case of emergency type situations, you may run out of the house so fast you forget your wallet -among other things, so in these instances the Vet really has no choice but to accept a payment plan.

    Rat eyes/Porphyrin:

    Rats eyes and noses release a red mucus from them.
    This Red discharge can come from the rats eyes or nose.
    It is called Porphyrin, it is not blood.
    It looks a light reddish color, while blood is a dark red color.
    It is produced in the Porphyries glands behind the rat's eyes.
    Overproduction of this discharge can be caused by stress or illness.
    Porphyrin discharge can be increased if your rat has breathing trouble, pneumonia or Mycoplasma.
    Some rats never have a problem with red discharge, and some rats may have it their whole lives.
    If you notice your rat has red discharge from its eyes or nose, wash the rats eyes/face with warm water.
    Be sure to trim your rats nails frequently, their nails can grow to long and then when cleaning themselves they can scratch their eyes, which can cause their eyes to get irritated and create more discharge, and make it hard for the rat to see.
    It is also possible that your rat could get dirt, dust, fur, eyelashes or whiskers into their eyes causing irritation and the Porphyrin to discharge.

    Eye trouble/Cataracts:

    Cataracts is usually noticed as a white film or area over the center of the eye ball.
    Cataracts can be caused by a small scratch to the eye or from old age.
    Most of the time treatment is not necessary as the rat can live just fine with it.
    But if the rats becomes bothered or seems to be irritated by the eye you will need to take them to the Vet. Eye ointment or enucleation surgery may be needed.

    Eye trouble/Enucleation:

    For some reason rat's tend to be more prone to eye injuries than other small animals.
    On occasion a rat's eye can get dirt or bedding stuck inside underneath the eyelid. This can cause the rat's eye to swell or get irritated. If you notice something wrong with the ratties eye, try to get a good look inside to see if you see any debris. You can remove debris by holding the rat's eye under warm running water and massaging lightly. Covering the eye with warm tea bags can help reduce swelling.
    If a rat's eye gets scratched or punctured, the eyeball can swell and protrude the eye out of the socket. On occasion the eye can become detached and fall out.
    If the eye is damaged and has fallen out you will need to bring the rattie into the Vet to have an Enucleation. Enucleation is where they remove the rest of what remains of the eye and stitch the eye area closed.
    A rat can live with one eye quite well, in some cases it may take a few days to get used to everything, but in a lot of instances the eye was so damaged before surge they had very little if any vision out of the eye already, so they already have had time to learn to be one eyed.
    If possible for Enucleation surgery ask the Vet to stitch the eye area from the inside and to get disposable stitches. Stitches on the outside can cause swelling, pulling on the wound if the stitches get to tight, or can be ripped out by scratching.
    *My Experiences:
    Fraggle came to live with me as a just weaned baby who had lost an eye. His eye socket was already closing up some and since he was so young surgery probably was not necessary as the socket should close on it's own.
    I did have to clean his eye area and face area daily to make sure the area was kept clean and no debris got lodged inside. He started to close his eye area on his own and eventually it almost became permanently closed. After it started closing on it's own i no longer had to clean discharge from the area and he could get around and clean himself all on his own.

    Psy came to live with me with an already damaged eye. I took him in to get Enucleation surgery, The Vet stitched him up from the outside and inserted some antibacterial gel in his eye area and he was allergic to it, which caused his injury not to heal and caused serious oozing. I brought him back and he had a second eye surgery, they thoroughly rinsed out the gel, and restitched him from the inside. He almost immediately started looking better and he healed up wonderfully.

    Zoomer is a very unique guy. When born his momma got a little carried away cleaning him and he got his toes on one foot and the tip of his tail nibbled off. That didn't slow him down one bit. Just recently his eye clouded over and started bulging out a little bit. I immediately went to investigate and noticed some eye mucus in his eye so i tried to clean it out and put some eye ointment (Neomycin) in his eye to ease the pain. The next day it was still bulging so i went to wash his eye again as he was leaking porphyrin discharge and as i cleaned him up his eye ball popped right out of the socket onto the floor. I was a hysterical mess, Zoomer didn't seem to notice much. I scheduled an appt. for an Enucleation and Zoomer had surgery to stitch the area closed. He recovered wonderfully.


    Mycoplasma:

  • Mycoplasma (Mycoplasmosis)is a disease that effects almost every rat, it is basically impossible to find rats that are not born with it.
  • Mycoplasma, is a Respiratory infection that is not contagious, since you can not give a rat something it already has.
  • Most Rats are infected with Mycoplasma, but not all rats are effected by it.
  • Rats born by C-Section are usually not infected by Mycoplasma, as it is transferred to the baby when delivered through the birth canal. But these C-section babies would likely be introduced to other ratties who would carry Mycoplasma infecting them as well.
  • Some lab rats born in controlled environments are Mycoplasma free.
  • Common symptoms are sneezing, wheezing and in later stages of infection it can cause gasping for breath.
  • Other symptoms are a wet nose and Porphyrin/mucus discharge from the eyes and nose. Common things to check for are reddish brown sneeze spots, on their food dishes, bedding, houses etc. -as sometimes the rat can be very cleanly and you will not notice the discharge on them because they clean it off so quickly. Light colored rats will sometimes get a red neck area from wiping the discharge off their head back to their necks.
  • The most common causes for a Mycoplasma flair up, is a dirty cage covered with germs and feces and the wrong type of bedding.
    Never keep rats on pine bedding, pine bedding is very harmful to rat lungs!
  • It can NOT be transferred from rat to human, but both humans and rats can have the disease.
  • The disease -in rats is not curable, but there are several treatments that can suppress some of the symptoms.
  • Making sure Vitamins A & E are in the rats diet is important on preventing the disease from spreading rapidly.
  • Make sure your rats always have drinking water available. (A dehydrated rat is not a happy rat)
  • Mycoplasma causes sores and/or scabs on the lungs, which causes difficulty in breathing. (Congestion -wheezing)
  • Most commonly the sudden breathing difficulties are referred to as "Myco flair ups."
  • Most Rats act normally except for the common heavy breathing, sneezing and wheezing, but they still remain quite active.
  • Mycoplasma symptoms tend to be dry loud breathing that comes and goes.
  • Some rats effected by Mycoplasma symptoms can still live long lives if they are fed and cared for properly. While other rats with decreased immune systems can be greatly effected and their health can decline rapidly.
  • Rats prone to "Myco flair ups" may need to be treated with medicine several times in their lifetimes.
  • Mycoplasma is most commonly treated with the medicine Baytril, sometimes Doxycycline (Generic name) (Brand name) Vibramycin will also be prescribed.
  • It is hard to suppress Mycoplasma symptoms permanently, the symptoms can be suppressed with medicine but it is usually temporary and ongoing or reoccurring treatment may be necessary.
  • Mycoplasma if not treated early enough can leave permanent scarring on the lungs, which can cause them to have Myco flair ups and breathing trouble for the rest of their lives. These symptoms can be suppressed with medicine but most commonly symptoms will be continuous throughout their lives flaring up from time to time.
  • When acquiring a rat from a pet store make sure to check what bedding they are keeping the animals on. Pine bedding is awful for rattie lungs and your rattie is likely to be ill. Rats acquired from rat breeders are likely to be healthier than pet store acquired ones. Make sure to ask questions at the pet store before purchasing your rat to make sure they have knowledgable staff, if you have rats at home already bringing in a sick one can have devastating consequences on your ratties .

    Pneumonia:

  • Rats can have Pneumonia & other breathing problems as well, Which aren't necessarily connected to Mycoplasma.
  • Pneumonia is contagious and can be transferred from rat to rat, most commonly to cage mates or rats within sneezing distance. If other rats are kept on the other side of the room, or another room, and do not have contact with the sick rats they should not be infected.
  • Rats infected with Pneumonia when babies, most commonly will not show symptoms until they reach 3 months of age.

    Common symptoms that your rat may have Pneumonia are:

  • Loud raspy breathing & wheezing.
  • You may notice your rat having a wet/runny nose and a reddish brown runny substance (Mucus) called Porphyrin coming from their nose. (Porphyrin should not be confused with blood -Porphyrin is reddish brown and blood is red.)
    If you notice your rat has a wet nose, continue to dry the nose throughout the day for them.
  • Mycoplasma symptoms tend to be dry loud breathing that can come and go, while Pneumonia symptoms tend to be a congested wet wheezing type breathing. (Such as hearing fluid in their lungs.)

    Vet Recommended Pneumonia Treatment i use/used.

    This Treatment was recommended for my male rats 4 months and older.
    This treatment was for rats 1 LB up to 1 1/2 LBS.
    *Your Rats may not need this high or low of a dose of medicine.
  • .25 cc of Baytril twice a day
  • .50 cc of Doxycycline twice a day
  • Use Nebulizer machine with liquid Albuterol Sulfate inhalation solution.
    To use a Nebulizer, fill up the cup with a 2.5 Mg. bottle of Albuterol solution and plug in and turn on.
    Than hold breathing tube or children's mask over the rats nose & mouth and let them breathe it in twice a day for 5 minutes.
    The solution will last for several uses before having to be refilled -roughly 3 days depending on how many doses and how many rats are using it.
    The Nebulizer is quite loud, and some rats are a bit scared of it.
    To get Albuterol solution you will need acquire it directly from your Vet, or your Vet can write you a prescription for you to pick it up from a Pharmacy.
  • Human Albuterol inhalers do not work well on rats.
    Human inhalers don't work well on animals because when humans use the inhalers we inhale and hold it in our lungs for a few seconds and then exhale -rats don't hold it in they just breathe normally so they hardly get any solution in their lungs.
    However if your rat is having trouble breathing and you have a human inhaler on hand, you can give the rat one puff to help them. The human inhaler puffs tend to only help for about 10-20 minutes, but sometimes will be enough to stabilize their breathing for a short period of time.

    Here is a picture of a Nebulizer, Albuterol Sulfate solution and children's mask.


    Things to do to help your rats breathing trouble:

    Common breathing problems can be caused by the air being dry.
  • Heaters and Air conditioners can dry out the air in a room, To help put moisture into the air you can set out jars or cups of water by and around the heater and vents.
  • Another way to help put moisture into the air is to get a small water fountain that continuously runs water through it. (You will be surprised how often it needs to be filled up.)
  • If your house is dry -do not use a Dehumidifier, these remove water from the air.
  • Setting out Air purifiers, humidifiers &/or vaporizers will help put moisture into the air.
    Air purifiers and Humidifiers usually have fans in them which move the air around, these can cause your rats to become cold, if they are to close to them.
    Vaporizers put out hot steam and if to close to the rats could burn them.
    Setting these appliances at least 5 feet away is a good idea.
  • If your rat is having sudden breathing trouble, a quick and easy way to help is to bring your rats into a closed bathroom with the hot water/shower running. Let the rat breathe in the steam for at least 10 minutes. On occasion rats have been known to sneeze or sort of cough out large chunks of mucus, when steamed.
  • A Nebulizer with Albuterol solution may also be used. (Unfortunately these can be a bit tricky to find and you will need a prescription for the Albuterol solution.)
  • Using a Nebulizer, Vaporizer, Humidifier or Air purifier is not a cure, nor a medicine, it only can help aid in making it easier to breathe temporarily.
  • Dusty bedding is a huge cause that contributes to rats having respiratory problems.
    DO NOT use PINE or CEDAR bedding!
    Pine & Cedar bedding is extremely harmful to rats. The wood contains phenols and can have toxic effects on rats respiratory systems. (Pine and Cedar are softwoods)
    Rats housed with pine or cedar shavings have been known to have excess Porphyrin discharge from their eyes and nose, and have serious difficulty breathing.
  • Aspen is a safe bedding material to use. (Aspen is a hardwood.)
  • Be aware that rats can have allergies. A recent change is bedding, food, litter, treats, laundry detergent, soap, water, or surroundings can cause the rat to sneeze and become congested.
  • A sneeze every now and than is nothing to be overly concerned about, but if the rats is sneezing consistently daily, than the rat is probably suffering from some sort of respiratory infection.
  • Feeding your rats dark chocolate while they are having breathing difficulties can help their difficulties improve. Chocolate contains Theophylline which is known to help breathing troubles decrease in patients with Asthma. Small chunks of candy bars, or chocolate baking chips seem to work well. While your rat is having breathing trouble you don't want to give them a big chunk of food as they may choke. You also need to be careful that the chocolate is not overly sticky -which could cause more breathing problems or choking.

    Cold & Allergy Medicine:

  • You can give small amounts of cold or allergy medicine to your rats to help with their breathing trouble until you can get them into a Vet.
  • Do not use Adult medications, use Children's liquid cold or allergy medications.
  • Do NOT give your rats cough suppressant medicine.
  • Do Give rats cough decongestant medicine.
    Cough Suppressant medicine suppresses the symptoms, prolonging the condition, while Cough Decongestants loosen up the mucus and phlegm allowing it to be discharged from the body.
  • Do NOT give your rats cough medicines with Alcohol in them.
  • Do NOT give your rat cough medicine that causes drowsiness.
  • When administering cold medicine to your rat, start out with small dosages, gradually after several days if the medicine appears to be working you can up the dosage.
  • For how often to dose your rat, follow the cold medications directions on the bottle/package.
    For example: If the package says for a human not to take more often then once every 4 hours -do not dose the rat more often than that.
    Also look and see if the medicine sets a time frame of how long it lasts. (such as 4 hours, 8 hours etc.)
  • Start out giving your (adult) rat .10 cc. (Give younger, smaller rats less.)
    Observe the rats behavior, usually breathing improvements can be noticed within 10-20 minutes. If the breathing improves on the next dosage you can consider upping the dose to .15 cc.
    Please consult a vet before giving your rat any medicine!
    Another good place to consult about rat medications is
    RMCA.org drug chart


    Rats & colds:

  • Rats can't catch colds -like us humans get, therefore they can't catch them from humans.
    However they can have cold like symptoms -but that is likely due to other respiratory problems such as Mycoplasma, Pneumonia or other illnesses or factors in the rats environment -such as smoke, dirty cages with strong urine smells or poor ventilation.
    Since a lot of times Vets are unable to find the cause of the rats sneezing or wheezing they commonly may say your rat has a cold -but this is usually due to the fact that they have no exact cause to tell you for the illness. So, they need to find a "Name" to call what your rat is being treated for.

    Streptococcus Pneumoniae (Pneumonia):

  • Rats can get Streptoccus Pneumoniae.
  • Strep pneumonia is a significant pathogen in rats and can cause death within DAYS of exposure.
    If a human has strep pneumonia, they have a very high fever, a bad cough, and various other respiratory symptoms -they are WAY more ill than a case of Strep throat -(strep Pyogenes).
  • Strep Pneumonia is not the same thing as strep throat.
  • Rats CAN catch Strep Pneumonia from humans. (Caused by Streptococcus bacteria.)
    If you have Streptococcus Pneumonia stay away from your rats, if you are the only care giver for your rats -find another person to take care of them, contact with your rats can cause them severe illness and probable/possibly death.

    Rat Temperature:

    Rats can overheat in warm weather and have heatstroke.
    Rats can freeze in cold weather and get hypothermia.
    How to tell if your rat is dehydrated:
  • Squeeze (tent) your rats skin together (lightly! Do not hurt them) if it goes back into place quickly, your rat is not dehydrated, if the skin stays raised, your rat is dehydrated and needs to be re-hydrated.
  • If you are concerned about your rat being seriously dehydrated you can bring the rat to the vet to get Vitamin shots to help re-hydrate them.
  • If the weather outside or in your house is to hot or to cold for you, it is probably the same for your animals.
  • Be sure your animals have plenty of warm bedding available in one area, and then another area where they can cool off, such as a bare floor with no bedding. This way they can choose were they want to be.
  • Rats will pant, with their tongues sticking out of their mouths (Like dogs) when they are really hot.
  • Some rats will sleep on their backs when they are hot.
  • Some rats if they have water dishes available (most commonly in the free range areas) will dip their tails into their water to help cool off, since they sweat through their tails, dunking their tails is a quick way to cool off.
  • Do not keep your rats near windows or doors with drafts.
  • Rats like fans. However, it is not a good idea to have a fan blowing on your animals all of the time. It is best if you have one they can walk over to or one that rotates.
    *On warm days i have had many of rats who loved to walk over in front of the fan, stand up and sway back and forth! Furry rats tend to like fans much more than hairless, but i did have one Hairless rat, Trip that absolutely loved dancing in front of the fan.
  • Putting a little bit of water on a rats head and rubbing it into their fur can help cool them off.
  • Hairless rats tend to get much colder than furries, so it is VERY IMPORTANT that they have warm towels or blankets available at all times!
    *I had a hairless rat, Sid who loved to find a heater vent to sleep near on cold days.
  • Rats also like ice cubes, you can give your rats ice cubes to help cool them off, they like to chew on them and also like to push the ice cubes under them and sit on them until they melt. Putting ice cubes into the rats water bottles or if you have extra water bottles you can keep in the fridge and exchange with the warm water ones is also helpful to cool your rats down.
  • If you are worried about your rats Vitimin intake you can purchase Vitamin drops that you add to their water. These vitamin drops can discolor the water and sometimes be rather smelly, they also loose their potency after being in the water to long and the water needs to be changed frequently.
  • Vitamin drops aren't necessary if your rat is healthy and eating a varied diet.

    * "Vita drops", are "high potency multivitamins for hamsters, rats, mice & gerbils." (available at pet stores.)


    Rat Bugs/Mites/Fleas:

  • If you notice your rat scratching or bathing excessively your rattie may have bugs.
  • Common signs you may have bugs are white tiny little eggs sacks on the ratties hair, or black speckles on the rats body -some can also be seen as red once they fill up with blood.
  • You may also notice scabs on your rat (check the ratties nails also to make sure they are not to long and causing the scratches.)
  • Rats can get mites, lice, fleas and other small bugs.
  • All rat mites, fleas & lice are species specific, they need a rat to survive, they can jump onto you or other animals but they will die without a rat to feed off of.
  • Mites, lice, maggots and fleas can develop from dirty cages or living conditions. So cleanliness of the rats environment is very important.
  • Bugs can also be brought into the home on just about any product that has come from a warehouse -such as food, bedding, boxes etc.
  • If you suspect your rattie has bugs immediately clean the cage and wash all the washable bedding and discard any cardboard. Wood houses can harbor bugs and/or the eggs in the small crevices, wood needs to be soaked in bleach to get rid of the bugs or discarded.
  • Just because you don't see any bugs doesn't mean there aren't any, as most come in 3 days cycles from eggs to adult.
  • Most "Rat bugs" tend to stay on rats and not transfer to humans or other animals.
  • Lice can stay embedded on the rats hair even after the rat is treated and the lice are dead, Can use a small toothed comb to help brush the dead bugs off of the rat. (Lice comb)
    Treatments:
  • It is not uncommon for rats to get a small red bug infestation, no one seems to know exactly what kind of bugs theses are but i have found ""Hartz control Flea and tick repellent for kittens" spray formula works well to treat the red bugs.
  • How to use the "Hartz Control Flea and tick repellent for kittens", you simply spray it onto the rat, rub it in, make sure to get in the armpits and behind the ears and all other hidden areas, leave it on for 5 minutes. Then rinse the rat thoroughly. The spray has a light smell and the smell will stay on for about a week. After the first treatment wait a week and then treat again, to make sure you have gotten all of the eggs. (Please follow exact directions given on bottle.)
  • Sevindust is a very good product to keep around. It is a white powder that you sprinkle in your garden to get rid of bugs. If you sprinkle a little bit into the bottom of the animals cage this will kill mites, lice, spiders and other insects/bugs. This is usually available in the Garden section. The product is safe to use directly on animals and can also be sprinkled around the house and/or on dogs. Sevindust is very inexpensive and is usually under $5 for a bag and available at most Walmart's.
  • One Treatment is not enough! These treatments usually only treat the live bugs, they do not kill the eggs, so treatment will need to be repeated 3 days after the first initial treatment to ensure all the bugs are gone.
  • If you have a colony of rats and you notice bugs on one you should treat the whole colony, or the bugs will just keep jumping from host to host.
  • Make sure to clean the cage, wash all bedding and disinfect all toys in the rats areas if you notice bugs on them. If you just give them a bath and then put them back in a cage or with bedding that has the bugs on them, the bugs will jump right back on the rat.
    Make sure to especially soak all wood materials in very hot water or run them through the dishwasher.
  • "Frontline" can also be used -use one pump's worth on a cotton ball and rub on 1 to 3 rats. The Alcohol type smell will be strong so make sure the room is well ventilated for several minutes. Treat every 7 days for 3 weeks.
  • I am told you can also use "Advantage flea repellent for cats & dogs" to treat rats with fleas. You dab a small grain of rice size onto a toothpick and than dab it onto the rats neck. (I have not personally used this method and am not sure on the number of treatments.)
    Here is a picture of the "Hartz Flea & tick shampoo" & "Sebolux" shampoo.


    Ivermectin

  • Ivermectin horse wormer paste can be used to get rid of mites, body mites & ear mites.
    You can get it at
    www.countrysupply.com or a few other stores online, it costs usually under $5.

    Ivermectin comes in a box, the box reads "Ivermectin Anthelmintic and Boticide paste 1.87%."
    Inside the box is a syringe filled with enough paste to treat up to a 1250 LB. horse.
    To use:
    Empty the whole syringe into a small container (a film canister or small pill bottle.)
    Mix up the paste with a toothpick very thoroughly.
    Dab a toothpick into the paste and dose a small grain of rice size for an adult size rat. For smaller rats use a slightly smaller dose.
    Do not use too much, you can overdose your rat.
    You can try to get the rat to lick the paste off of your finger or mix the paste with applesauce or yogurt or even smear the paste onto a cookie.
    Treat the rat on day 1, day 8 and day 15.
    Store the unused paste in a leak proof container, it can be stored on the shelf or in the refrigerator.

    Abscesses:

    What is an abscess?
    An abscess is a small pus filled lump which can be located anywhere on a rat.
  • Abscesses are fairly common in rats and if treated can be easily cured.
  • If an abscess is left untreated they can become life threatening.
  • Abscesses most commonly are caused by your rat getting bit or injured by another rat. More than likely if the rat is bit by another rat or has been lying on some food or uneven surface and you notice a lump it will be an abscess but occasionally it may not be.

    How do I determine if my rat has an abscess or a tumor?

    So, you noticed a lump on your rat and are wondering what to do?
    Things to look for:
  • Abscesses are usually close or even to the surface of the skin (Like a zit), they can grow very deep but are usually visible from the surface.
  • Both tumors and abscesses start out rather squishy and soft and then after a week (sometimes more or less) they can develop into hard lumps.
  • Abscesses need air/a location to drain from, if the abscess is kept open the pus inside will stay soft, if it is allowed to close up, the pus will form into a hard chalky type substance.
  • Tumors can be deep under the skin or near the surface, but usually are not above or even with the surface (like an abscess.)
  • Abscesses need to be drained, they can become life threatening if not properly cleaned, drained and cared for.
  • Abscesses tend to be rather foul smelling, while tumors do not have a smell unless they have been there for quite some time and have become scabbed over and/or infected.

    Please seek medical attention as soon as you notice a lump and get the appropriate care to insure your pet the best quality of life.

    If you suspect you have an abscess:

    Abscesses can be treated quite easily at home if you are familiar with them.
    Basically, to get familiar with them you will need to watch what the Vet does, and then if you feel confident and knowledgeable enough to try it yourself, you can give it a try, if you have another abscess appear in the future.
    Please consult a vet if and when possible.
    If you are not experienced or are a bit skittish around needles or wounds please do not attempt to treat your rat at home. Bring the rat to the vet.
    For first timers dealing with abscesses, i would suggest bringing the rat to the vet and watching the vet procedure, so you can perform an abscess drain in the future if necessary.
    Most abscesses heal up quickly with proper care and cleaning, Abscesses tend to keep reoccurring if not cleaned and cared for properly.
    Healing time depends on the size of the wound and could take as little as a few days or a month or longer, depending on the severity of the infection.
    If an abscess has a severe infection a Vet may need to prescribe antibiotics to speed up the healing process.

    To Drain an abscess:

    You will need Rubbing alcohol, a medical needle, cotton balls and/or gauze.
  • Clean and sterilize the lump area & needle with alcohol before starting.
  • You can use a sterile medical needle (Make sure it is sterilized with alcohol -even if it is brand new out of the package) (available at most Drug stores.) to puncture a small hole in the abscess to let it drain.
  • You can also use a sterilized sewing needle, but these tend to not be as sharp as medical needles and tend to have some resistance puncturing the skin.
  • If the abscess is filled with liquid pus it will usually immediately start to drain right after puncturing.
  • If the abscess has turned into a chalky type substance you will need to lightly squeeze the area and coax the pus out.
  • When puncturing the skin with the needle, it will usually slide in easily on abscesses while with tumors it will be harder to puncture the skin.
  • If you experience resistance when trying to insert the needle, STOP and do not continue, you may hurt your rat.
  • Do not puncture the lump more than once, UNLESS you are positive it IS an abscess and it needs another place to drain from.
  • Abscesses need to be drained out and will be filled with yellow/green colored pus (which can be smelly.)
  • If after the initial puncture, no pus comes out, leave the area alone, sometimes the area just needs a place to be able to drain from. After a few days it should be ready to drain out, sometimes it even drains by itself.
  • Abscesses can also contain a small amount of blood.
  • Lightly squeeze the abscess if necessary to help empty it out.
  • It is better to flush the wound out with wound cleaning solution, rather than squeezing it.
    Squeezing the abscess area can cause the skin to become slightly red and irritated.
  • After draining the wound or to help drain the wound, clean the wound with Nolvasan solution (Chlorehexadine)(Available from a Vet or farm supply stores, such as Fleet Farm.), salt water, saline or other wound cleaning solution. (you can use Hydrogen Peroxide but it is not recommended because it kills healthy and dead tissue and can cause the skin around the abscess to become irritated and more sensitive -causing a longer healing time. If using Hydrogen peroxide be sure to wash the wound with water afterwards and dilute the Peroxide with water, to prevent stinging.
  • Wash out the wound twice daily until it completely heals, you may have to drain it out several times before it starts healing. (It is best to have a plastic syringe that will allow you to squeeze the cleaning solution right into the wound.)
  • Using a warm tea bag held over the abscess can also help the abscess come to the surface and start draining on its own or make puncturing it easier.
  • Occasionally after puncturing the lump, it will not drain right away, making it appear to be a tumor and then several days later by applying pressure to the area the wound will start to drain.

    Here is a picture of a plastic syringe used for cleaning/flushing out abscesses & wounds.


    If you suspect you have a Tumor:

  • Tumors are quite common in rats and CAN and ARE life threatening.
  • Females rats tend to be slightly more prone to tumors than males.
  • Tumor likelihood can be attributed to inbreeding, blood lines & parents history with tumors.
  • Female rats are more likely to get Mammary tumors, but male rats can get them as well. These can be located anywhere on the rat -usually on the underside of the rat.
  • Tumors can be very fast growing and turn life threatening in matter of days in some instances.
  • Tumor removal surgery is an option that should always be considered.
    Having tumor removal surgery can provide your rat with a longer, happier life.
  • Having tumors removed as early as possible is very important!

    Cancer preventatives:

    Mycoplex Coriolus:

    Mycoplex is a blend of Coriolus Versicolor & Coriolus cordyceps Mushrooms. Commonly referred to as Turkey tail mushrooms. Small doses of this mixed with the rats water or with their food can help reduce tumor growth. Starting the Mycoplex treatment as soon as possible after noticing the lump is best.
    Some herbal stores do sell Turkey tail & Mataki mushrooms from time to time -both known to help respiratory problems and slow tumor growth, so if you are able to acquire them that way -or by picking or growing them yourself that works as well (As the brand name Mycoplex can be a bit spendy).
    Let the mushrooms dry, grind them up in a grinder, and mix 1/4 Tsp with food or water. Mixing the mushrooms with applesauce, pudding or yogurt works well. If mixing with food, it needs to be put in some sort of food everyday, which can be a bit bothersome, so i usually give my rats two water bottles, one with mushroom water and one with regular water. The mushroom sediment does tend to settle a bit, so the bottle may need to be shaken a few times during the day, and if not ground fine enough may clog the mouthpiece.
    Tamoxifen/Maxigen:
    Some people have had success adding Tamoxifen/Maxigen -Shark cartilage to the Mycoplex dose. Give 1/5 dose twice daily for 2 weeks than once daily for 1 more week. Many people do not like using this product due to the fact it is Shark cartilage.
    Grape seed Extract:

    Grapeseed Extract helps Prevent Heart disease. It is also a cancer detourant, which neutralizes cells that cause formation of cancer/tumors. It is also known to fight skin disease, slow cataracts, lessen allergy symptoms and slow aging.
    Unfortunately i have no idea where to acquire this product.
    Apricots & Grapes:

    Dried apricots & Red seedless grapes have cancer fighting Beta carotene. Grapes help shut down the growth of abnormal cells.

    There are two types of tumors:

  • Benign tumors, which usually are soft tissue tumors, usually grow on their own in the rat, not connected to organs or tissues.
    Benign tumors usually can be removed successfully with surgery and aren't always life threatening.
  • Benign tumors are also commonly referred to as a mass. (Example -Mass removal surgery)
  • Malignant tumors or cancer tends to grow rather quickly and most of the time is life threatening.
    Malignant tumors tend to grow rather rapidly and can quickly damage nearby tissues and organs causing the rat to have health problems.
    A lot of the time Malignant tumors can not be removed since they are near or embedded with vital organs.

    Things to know about tumor/mass removal surgery:
  • It is important to find an experienced vet who treats/specializes in small animals (small furries) and who has performed surgeries on rats successfully in the past. Be sure to ask questions, such as the risks, Vet experience and aftercare requirements, etc.
  • An inexperienced vet can give the wrong amount of anesthetic, which can cause many complications.
  • To much anesthetic can cause your rat to have minor personality or behavioral changes.
  • It is best and less risky to your rats health if tumors are removed as soon as possible.
  • Catching tumors early is very important.
  • Some tumors can be life threatening and can not be treated because it would be to dangerous, such as if they are growing next to or around an artery, blood vessel or vein.
  • If you have an elderly or sick rat the risks of surgery are greater.
  • Some tumors will be near the skins surface and can get infected and scabbed over if the rat drags their body or chews on where the tumor is.
  • If the tumor becomes infected or is on the surface it can become very foul smelling.
  • Be sure to clean the visible tumors with wound cleaning solution or Nolvasan solution and consult a Vet.
  • Rats can live sometimes months with a tumor and sometimes only a matter of days.
  • A Rat can have more than one tumor at a time.
  • In some instance rats can have a tumor removed and then several months later develop another one in a different location.
  • If your rat gets multiple tumors at the same time, if you are thinking of surgery try to get them all removed at the same time, to save the rat the stress of several surgeries.
  • Operating on more than one tumor at a time is more risky, then operating on one since there may be multiple incision wounds and infection is risky.
    Some Vets will not operate on more than one tumor at a time.
  • If your rats tumor is inoperable, commonly the only thing you can do is to let the rat live until their quality of life diminishes, and then sometimes the kindest thing to do is euthanasia.
  • Rats commonly have their hair shaved around the tumor removal area.
  • Rats are known for chewing or removing their stitches after surgery on their own, make sure the Vet, sews up the incision site very well.
    Having the incision stitched from inside out can help the stitches hold better, and make them harder for the rat to remove.
  • Some rat owners have attempted to use Elizabethian type collars to prevent the rats from chewing at their wounds, but usually they cause the rat discomfort and make them incredibly frustrated.
  • Rats have a tendency to chew their stitches when the vet is closed -so be sure to monitor them closely. :)
  • It is best if you can have the wound site stitched and glued, that way if the rat chews through the stitches the glue should still hold until you can get them back to the vet.
    It has also been suggested that glue and staples make a hematoma less likely to occur.
  • On occasion the rat can develop a hematoma or a seroma after the tumor is removed.
  • Hematoma -a mass of usually clotted blood that forms in a tissue, organ, or body space as a result of a broken blood vessel.
  • Seroma -A Seroma is fluid that has accumulated in a dead space left from the tumor removal.
    This is when the body tries to fill in the empty space of the rats body.
    The area will appear to be a lump and can be filled with pus, liquid and blood.
  • It is not recommended to drain a Hematoma -which was what most vets did in the past but have found that by letting it absorb naturally back into the body without draining it helps it heal quicker and faster.
    To help heal a hematoma faster, if possible, wrap the area with a bandage to apply a small amount of pressure. In most instances hematoma's will absorb back into the body within a weeks time.
  • Hematoma's can appear and disappear for several days before disappearing completely.
  • Pineapple contains Bromelain which can help reduce Hematoma's.

    Beware of Bumble foot:




    Bumble foot is another name for Ulcerative Pododermatitis.
    It is a bacterial infection usually caused by Staphylococcus Aureus.
    Bumble foot is a foot problem that is on the bottom pad on the back of a rats foot. (usually only on the back feet)
    It is caused by rats walking on hard surfaces, wire cages & unclean living conditions.
    It is also suspected that Bumble foot can be caused due to the rat having sprained or injured their legs/feet earlier in life.

    *We suspect this was the case with my hairless rat, "Sid." He sprained his ankle, then it healed and the next week he sprained his other ankle (He was not the most skilled climber) and then about 2 weeks later the bumbles appeared.

    Bumble foot is very hard to treat and usually can not be cured.
    Medicines can be prescribed to help heal the wounds but they are usually unsuccessful by themselves.
    It is referred to as Bumble foot because of the sore like bumbles that appear on the feet, the sores tend to bleed from time to time, and are commonly misdiagnosed as tumors.
    Bumble foot is most common in birds & Guinea pigs.
    Bumble foot should be cleaned once to twice a day, everyday with Nolvasan solution or other wound cleaning solution -This is an absolute must!

    Tips to avoiding Bumble foot:

  • Make sure your rats cage and living space is safe. (They will not catch their toes or feet on or through any of the cage materials, they can not easily fall, the floor is not wet, etc.)
  • Make sure that their feet and bodies can not fall through any part of the cage.
  • Make sure shelves, houses and ladders are secure and will not be easily tipped over by a fat rattie.
  • Make sure there are flat surfaces available.
  • Provide plenty of blankets, towels and soft bedding to cover surfaces.
  • Some Hairless rats have very sensitive skin and can be more prone to skin conditions -such as Bumble foot.
    Hairless rats need lots of soft bedding materials.

    To stop bleeding Bumbles:

    The bumbles can get sore and worn away from normal walking and may bleed from time to time.
  • Apply light pressure to the bleeding source and try to hold the rat still so their blood can clot.
  • I find it easiest to wrap the rat in a towel so they can not escape.
  • Dip the rats foot/bumbles in flour to stop the bleeding.
  • Hold ice or hold the rats foot under cold water for a few minutes. This will help slow the circulation and can help slow the bleeding.
  • Sometimes the rat will loose quite a bit of blood and will not have much energy for a few hours. If you notice your rat has lack of energy be sure their is plenty of food and water around for them. The rat will usually get their energy back within a few hours.
  • Another trick i have found that works is to put the bleeding rat onto a pile of shredded newspaper and let the paper get stuck onto the bumble, let the paper stay on the bumble until you are sure bleeding has stopped, than remove paper.
    *My Rat, Sid was always getting paper stuck onto his bumbles, so you frequently saw him running about with newspaper feet. :)

    Bumble foot surgery:

    Surgery to remove the rats bumbles from the feet is an option but is only viable in certain cases.
    Bumbles can be very hard to remove surgically as the rat may not have enough skin around the area to properly close the incision.
    Bumbles have also been known to form again only days or weeks after surgery.

    Bumble foot Blu Kote Treatment

    Some people have had some success in decreasing the bumble wounds, by using the below 3 step process.
  • Washing/soaking the bumbles once to twice a day in Nolvasan solution (A wound cleaning solution.)
  • Giving oral antibiotics prescribed by a vet to help fight the infection from the inside as well as out.
    *My Rat "Sid" was given "Clavamox drops" (Amoxicillin) to be given orally to try to help fight the Bumble foot infection from the inside, but "Sid" got ill from the medicine causing diarrhea and his appetite to decline, so we had to stop using the medicine.
  • Coat the foot once to twice a day using a product called Dr. Naylor Blu Kote.
    The Blu Kote can be found at some feed stores or can be ordered on line from the
    RMCA website.
    You may have to call a few feed stores before finding one that carries the Blu Kote, Blu Kote is a product used on horses hooves.
    Blu Kote is blue and comes in the U.S.A in a yellow bottle with a applicator tip. In the U.K. it is purple & comes in a spray bottle.
    It is very important to try to keep the Rat, rats feet and rats area clean to prevent further infection.
    The Blu Kote will stain everything, your hands, your rats feet, fur, body & towels blue or purple.
    There are other products with Blu in the title but you want the "Blu Kote."

    *I tried the Blu Kote on Sid, at first it made the bumbles harden up and look more like scabs than soft tissue and it was hard to tell how healthy the tissue was because it was so discolored blue for the Blu Kote. After about 3 months i stopped the treatment and Sid's feet became soft again. Also his tissue began looking healthier and peeling off. The Vet said his feet looked much healthier after i discontinued the Blu Kote treatment and to just keep soaking/cleaning his feet everyday with the Nolvasan solution to prevent the infection from spreading and killing off more tissue.

    Bumble foot Veruco freeze Treatment

    This Treatment will need to be done by a Vet.
  • Wash once to twice a day with Nolvasan solution. (wound cleaning solution)
  • Veruco freeze -Veruco freeze is a freeze treatment used to freeze off warts or skin abnormalities.
    Veruco freeze comes in an aerosol type spray can.
    To make spraying the solution on the feet easier you may want to wrap cardboard or some sort of wrap around the feet to make it spray only on the bumbles and not on the healthy skin or flapping tails.
    Spray onto the bumbles and cover them completely with the spray. You can freeze the skin different depths depending on how much you use.
    The frozen bumbles will be cold to the touch for several hours and sometimes days.
    The skin on the bumbles will start to deteriorate and peel away. You can help remove the extra skin if possible, the best way i have found to remove the dying tissue is to wash the rats feet under running water and gently rub the bumbles, the loose skin will usually fall away on its own.
    Be careful and don't remove the peeling skin before it is necessary, it may cause bleeding.
  • After cleaning the feet, apply Kerasolv cream (Vet prescribed) onto the bumbles once to twice a day.

    *My Rat Sid received 5 freeze treatment and then we decided it was not working, at first it appeared to be decreasing the size of the bumbles, but after the third treatment the bumbles began to grow larger again, and by the 5th treatment we decided it best to stop the treatments. We think maybe if we would have stopped at less treatments and possibly spaced them apart farther the treatment may have worked better.

    Here is a picture of "Dr Naylor Blu Kote"


    Here is a picture of Nolvasan wound cleaning solution
    (Available at most vets & some farm/feeds tores -such as Fleet Farm.)


    Sprained Ankles/torn toenails:

  • Rats can break or sprain their legs or ankles by jumping or by falling, so try to make their environment sturdy and safe.
  • Rats often get off balanced and can often fall if they are overweight, have poor eyesight, broken whiskers or are getting old.
  • A Broken bone can be extremely painful and your rat will need proper medical attention. The leg may need to be wrapped, bandaged, and painkillers may be needed.
  • A broken bone can usually be seen by a protruding bone or your rats lack of mobility. A Rat with a sprained ankle will usually still get around pretty well and may limp some.
  • Rats can sprain their ankles, most commonly a sprained ankle will swell up and get very large, sometimes many, many sizes larger then their healthy foot. Sprained ankles tend to heal quite quickly. Day 1 is usually minor swelling, day 3-4 the ankle usually gets quite large swelling to very large proportions. By day 5-6 the ankle is usually fully healed and pretty much back to normal.
  • Rats can also occasionally get their toenails snagged or caught onto things or nipped on by another rat, which can cause a lot of bleeding, to try to help stop the bleeding you can use flour or cornstarch. (Sprinkle the flour or cornstarch over the wound and rub it in.)
    If your rats toenails or injury (Specifically leg injury) starts swelling you can run the rats foot under cold water to reduce swelling and if they will let you put a cold compress on their injury this will help as well. If your rat will not tolerate cold water or a cold compress you can get a towel wet and cold and let them lay on it for a while. Most rats also enjoy playing with ice, so if the rat has a injury on their front hands giving them ice will allow them to get their hands cold and can help.
    *My rat, Sid sprained his ankle, he limped around for about a week, using mostly his other 3 legs, then the next week he sprained his other ankle! His ankle and foot got very red and a bit swollen and he would squeak when we touched his foot, he still ran around everywhere and recovered fairly quickly.
    *I Once had a rat, Squatter who was sleeping and he started having a bad dream and kicked his foot out, he kicked it into a wood door on my headboard and it got very, very swollen (About 4 times the normal size) and appeared infected. I brought him to the vet and they said it looked like he would never recover and might have permanent damage to his foot. They said they could do an expensive x-ray but that even if they confirmed his foot was broke or sprained they didn't really have anything for us to do for him, as far as treatment. Well, Squatter spent most of his time lying down for the next 2 days, hardly walking around, we soaked his foot in Nolvasan solution several times a day and tried to wrap it in gauze the best we could. Squatter was walking on his foot again after about a week, but the foot remained swollen and reddened for about 3 weeks.

    Rat Wounds:

    Rats, especially when babies, are very active and love to chase, tackle and pin one another.
    Occasionally things can get out of hand and a rat ends up with a big bite.
    If the Bite is really bad, injuring deep into the skin, a visit to the vet may be needed.
    Be sure to clean the wound regularly and keep the rat clean.
    Bite wounds have a great potential for infection as bacteria can be transported under the skin from the rats teeth during the bite.
    You do not want to risk getting an infection, it can be very dangerous.
    Clean the wounds with wound cleaning solution or Nolvasan solution. Hydrogen Peroxide can be used but is not recommend since it kills both dead and healthy tissue. (If you use Hydrogen peroxide be sure to rinse with water after a few minutes or dilute with water before disinfecting.)
    If the rat has lost hair during the fight, their hair will grow back if the wound is properly cared for and is small.
    Large wounds can leave scars and permanent hair loss growth in certain areas.

    Here is a picture of Zombie after his brother took a big bite out of his side.


    Tail Degloving:

    Degloving is when a part of your rats tail breaks off from being pulled to hard.
    Parts of the tail can break completely off or be left only partially connected, turn black and blue or the skin can fall off only leaving bone and muscle exposed.
  • To Prevent Degloving:
    Never pick a rat up by their tail!
    Never swing the rat around by the tail!
    Never pull on the rats tail!
    Also degloving can happen if the rat gets their tail caught in between cage bars or caught on something in the cage or play areas.
    If you need to get a hold of the rat very quickly to prevent escape or injury try to grab for a foot rather than the tail.
  • Degloving Treatment:
    If your rat experiences a degloving or tail injury, be sure to clean the wound with wound cleaning solution, such as saline solution, Nolvasan Solution, Chlorehexadine, or Hydrogen Peroxide diluted with water.
    Most rats who suffer from a degloving or tail injury NEED to be seen by a Vet immediately.
    In some cases the tail may need surgery, stitches and/or amputation.
    Antibiotics will most likely be needed to prevent infection from starting or spreading.
    A rats tail is directly connected to the spine, and if a serious tail injury is left untreated infection can set in and proceed into the spine which would cause great pain, discomfort and eventual death.
    If you leave a tail injury untreated an infection might start and spread throughout the rats body causing Gainge green and other bacteria infections which could result in the rats death.

    Rat Aggression:

    Rats come from all types of backgrounds and sometimes will show aggression to humans if they have been abused or mistreated.
    Rats may bite when they feel scared or threatened.
    Sometimes loud unexpected noises can startle your rat and they may bite.
    Try not to sneak up on sleeping rats, you may startle them.
    When you first bring a new rat into the home, they may act scared and weary and occasionally bite.
    Most rats will come around and lose their aggression after they have time to adjust to the new home, new food, new living areas and new people.
    Their are many forced socialization methods that can be used to help socialize you rat.
    A few Forced socialization ideas:
  • Wear an old shirt (Make sure it is a shirt that is O.K. to be nibbled and chewed on by your rat.) around all day and then put that into the rats cage, this will help the rat get used to your scent.
  • Take the rat out of the cage and continuously hold the rat for 15-20 minutes. You can put the rat on your shoulder and walk around, cuddle with the rat and just hold the rat. But don't let the rat get away for at least 15 minutes. Do this everyday several times.
  • If your rat is overly aggressive where it is hard to handle them, you can wear gloves.
  • Many rats will overcome their aggression when showered with a little much appreciated love.
  • Rats love to chew on band aids and fingernails and can get carried away chewing on them and bite you.
  • A rat bite can be very painful.
  • Immediately after being bitten, put a compress (Kleenex, towel etc.) around the wound until it stops bleeding.
  • Next, Clean the wound with wound cleaning solution and wrap with gauze or band aid.
  • If the wound is serious please consult a doctor.
  • Make sure to clean the wound everyday to prevent infection.

    Ear infections:

    Rats can get ear infections.
    A common sign your rat may have an ear infection, is if you notice a head tilt -otherwise known as Wry Neck.
    Pink eyed rats commonly will sway their heads from side to side because they have poor day vision and this helps them focus. Swaying is usually normal, but shaking can be attributed to an ear infection.
    Other signs of infection are frequent shaking of the rats head and/or digging in their ears frequently with their feet.
    Ear infections can cause the rat to scratch around their ears, which could cause scratches, scabbing and bleeding around the ears.
    Ear infections can also cause the ears to have excessive wax build up and cause the ears to smell foul.
    In certain instances the rat could scratch at their ears so frequently that it could puncture or injure their ear drums causing the ears to bleed and have trouble clotting.
    If you notice excess wax in your rats ears you should clean them with a q-tip or a cotton ball.
    If you notice a head tilt you should bring your rat into the Vet asap to get some medication. If an ear infection is left untreated the infection can spread through all the sinus cavities. Head tilts should be treated as soon as noticed, if they are left untreated for to long the rat may stay tilted and never fully recover.
    On occasion it has been known for severe respiratory infections (Pneumonia/Mycoplasma)to spread through the nose and ears and cause an ear infection.
    A common prescription for ear infections is an oral dose of Baytril and an ear drop ointment called Baytril Otic.
    Most ear infections can be easily treated with ear drop antibiotics prescribed by a vet.
    When putting ear drops in your rats ears, hold their head still for several minutes and try to massage the medicine into the ears.
    They love to shake their heads and spray you in the face with the medicine!

    Cleaning rat ears:

    It is important to keep your rats ears clean to prevent infection, and dirt from getting or becoming trapped inside the rats ear.
    Rats ears should be cleaned frequently to prevent excessive wax build up and infection.
    When cleaning rats ears, you want to clean out the dead skin and wax.

    There are a few ways you can clean your rats ears:
  • You can use a Q-Tip and clean the outer ear and just barely put the Q-tip into the ear canal -be very careful not to insert the Q-tip to far, you could puncture the ear drum if the Q-Tip is inserted to far.
  • You can take a cotton ball and get it slightly damp and rub it inside the rats ears to clean out the dead skin and wax.
  • You can also use a wet wipe and/or baby wipe to clean out their ears.

    A few things to be aware of to help prevent Ear infections are:
  • Try to avoid getting water into your rats ears (Example: when you are giving the rat a bath, try not to get water in their ears, and if water does get in their ears, dry their ears with Q-tip and towel, and try to make them shake their heads so the water does not stay in there.)
  • Be careful when you are cleaning the rats ears, you could puncture the ear drum.
  • Bite wounds on or near the ear can cause ears to get infected.
  • Another reason for rats to be scratching at their ears, is if they have ear mites. (Which can only be seen under a microscope.)
  • Make sure to keep your rat and their areas clean, if a rat gets feces on their hands and then scratches their ears, it could be transferred into the ear and cause infection.

    *My Experience with an eardrum puncture. I had one rat "Sativa" who started having a bit more ear discharge/wax then usual coming from his ear. I started cleaning his ears out daily. After about a week of the increased amount of wax discharge, i awoke one morning to find him, with blood coming from his ear, his blood was not clotting properly and was coming out in blood clumps. He was continuously shaking his head which would spray blood all over the place. We rushed him to the vet who confirmed he had an ear infection and he had stuck his foot so far in his ear trying to clean it, he punctured his ear drum. The vet gave us "Tresaderm" ear drops to drop into his ear twice a day for 4 weeks. We also had to clean out Sativa's ears once to three times a day as needed. For the first week his ear discharge still had hints of blood in it. After 2 weeks the blood was gone, but there was still a lot of wax build up, so his ears still needed cleaning everyday. Sativa recovered but did have excessive ear wax/discharge in his ears for the rest of his life, so he needed frequent ear cleanings once to three times a week.

    My Experience with Head tilt/Wry neck -Respiratory related. I had a rat "Raindrop" whose lungs were compromised with a severe respiratory infection -Mycoplasma & Pneumonia -due to bad Genes in her bloodline. She was being treated for both. We got the infection to subside but her lungs were so scarred and compromised from the congestion she continuously was having respiratory problems. We noticed her starting to have a head tilt, we put her on med's and treated her for months with little improvement. She straightened out a bit but was crooked for the rest of her life.

    Ear Hematoma:

    Stormy's ear before surgery. (notice Gambians ear's stand straight up and can usually swirl all the way around, her ear is drooping over and she can't really move it around.)

    Ear hematoma's are quite rare in any animal. Most commonly occurring in dogs than in other animals, but on occasion can happen in rats.
    I personally haven't heard of them occurring in regular rats but my Gambian Pouched rat, Stormy developed an ear hematoma.
    At first i noticed Stormy's ear was becoming very swollen, i thought she might have pinched it in between something or possibly an abscess could have been forming -i tried to puncture her ear with a needle as the ear appeared to be filled with pus -however only a tiny small amount of pus would drain out and the ear was becoming more swollen.
    I did some research on line and found some pictures of dog hematoma's, and Stormy's ear appeared to be the exact same thing.
    So, i made a vet appointment for Stormy, and she had to have surgery on her ear. The Vet cut the ear down the center to drain out the pus that had filled inside. Than the Vet sewed the ear downward on both sides of the slit. That would allow the ear to continue to drain -connecting stitches would not have allowed it to drain. Stormy was also prescribed Baytril for a week. After 10 days the stitches were removed.
    Stormy's ear had a lot of scar tissue that was created by the hematoma and now appears wrinkled and will be that way for the rest of her life.
    Stormy's ear after surgery -and how it looks now.


    Mega colon:

    Mega colon is when an animal develops an enlarged Mega colon / Large Intestines.
    Mega colon can be genetically passed down from Parents and other relatives.
    Rats with Mega colon to be known in their bloodlines should NOT be bred.
    Some signs of Mega colon are:
  • An extended stomach/abdomen.
  • Bloated or enlarged stomach/abdomen.
  • Failure for the animal to thrive or grow as fast or as large as the rest of their siblings.
  • Abnormal, limited or the inability to have bowel movements.
  • Diarrhea, constipation or foul smelling stools.
    Most animals will not live very long with Mega colon and will suffer and have a very poor quality of life, the kindest option is to have the rat euthanized.
    Some people have treated Mega colon with minimal success that can at least help prolong the rats quality of life a little longer.
    Treatment requires feeding the rat a special diet of soft foods and giving the rat Enemas to help bowel movements.
    Check out the Rat Guide for more in depth Mega colon information.


    Barbering -Power Grooming:

    Barbering is when your rat chews off their hair in certain areas of their bodies by chewing it off.
    Power grooming is when your rat is over grooming themselves, causing hair loss.
    Most commonly rats will barber themselves on their necks, & wrists.
    Rats can barber themselves if they are sick or scared. (such as they might over groom themselves on their arms, you don't know why and then a few weeks later a tumor or lump appears on their arm.)
    Rat's may also do this out of stress due to recent cage, cage mates, environment, food or litter changes.
    If you notice your rat chewing off their fur, another possibility could be bugs, such as lice, mites or fleas.
    A few things to do to help try to persuade your rats to stop power grooming or barbering is when you notice them doing so or notice patches or hair loss clean the area with wound cleaning solution, bathe them, and put cortisone on the area.

    Old age symptoms:

    Rats tend to live 1 1/2 to 3 years.
    If you have a rat live to be 2 years old you are considered lucky, if you have a rat make it to 3 years old you are considered, very, very lucky. A rat does not necessarily have to be "Old" to die from old age type symptoms, as sometimes they- like humans, can age differently.
    A few signs of old age are:
  • Many rats have sudden breathing problems that develop a few days or hours before death, you can hear their loud breathing, and see them struggling to breathe.
    They can also make loud gasping, gagging sounds. Occasionally when really struggling to breathe you will hear a clicking sound coming from the rats throat.
  • It is common for elder rats to lay in one place and then all of a sudden become frantic, turn in circles, jump and hop around.
  • Old rats tend to urinate on themselves, and you will need to give them baths frequently to get rid of the urine smell and the yellowing of their hair.
  • As rats age their appetites tend to decrease.
  • Elder rats teeth and bones can become sore causing them to no longer want to eat their dry rat food mixes and only wanting to eat soft chewy foods.
  • Elder rats tend to loose weight quite rapidly and their bones start showing.
  • Elder rats tend to slack off on their grooming habits and their hair tends to be messed up quite frequently.
  • It is common for old rats to loose the use of their legs -also referred to as hind leg paralysis.
    Hind leg issues can come in different levels.
    Some rats will occasionally tip over when walking.
    Some rats will get turned about quite easily and have trouble determining where they are trying to go.
    Some rats will learn to cope with the loss of their back legs and learn to drag themselves around quite effectively.
    Others will be overwhelmed with the lack of mobility and go down hill.
  • *My vet recommended doing leg exercises with rats who have mobility trouble.
    Stretch out the rats legs, slowly bend at the knee, (sort of like the riding a bicycle movement) rub the rats legs gently massaging the muscles, this will help the rat maintain circulation in their legs, hopefully helping them to maintain some use of them.
    When rats start experiencing old age symptoms it is important to make their environment safe and adaptable for their current condition -such as a lot of elder rats have trouble climbing so make sure food and water is available on lower levels so they will be able to eat and drink even if they can not climb to the higher levels. Also make sure ladders and shelves are sturdy so they don't slip and fall.
  • If your rats appetite starts to decrease feeding them applesauce can help hydrate them very quickly. Applesauce is great to give sick or ill animals because it is healthy and is a food and has lots of water in it, which helps hydrate them quickly.
  • If your rats appetite is decreasing and they are hardly eating or drinking on their own you can syringe feed and water them.
  • If it is cold outside, be sure you rat has plenty of bedding material to keep them warm, as their circulation starts slowing down they will be less likely to be able to maintain a normal body temperature.
  • If you notice your rat becoming cold, you can use heating pads, or electric blankets under the side of the cage (not in the cage) to help keep them warm.
  • If it is warm & humid outside make sure your rat does not overheat, if your rat is ill, overheating can quickly become life threatening.
  • Older rats tend not to be able to clean themselves as well, so they may need your help keeping their ears clean.
  • Older rats may also stop trimming their own nails, so trimming them might become more frequent.

    Here is a picture of Sid & Rebel, you can see from the picture Sid's bloated body and his showing bones from old age.

    *Sid's Story: Sid was a hairless Dumbo male at about 1 year of age he developed Bumble foot and we tried many methods to try to cure it without any success, Sid was barely effected by his bumbles and got along quite well. At about 2 years of age he started experiencing hind leg paralysis, this made him very unmotivated and depressed. He stopped eating dry hard foods and would only eat soft foods. He would rarely drink on his own and when he did, he was so dehydrated he would drink for several minutes trying to re-hydrate himself. We started feeding Sid applesauce and water through a syringe. Sid also would eat yogurt drops and Raman noodles on his own, if in small enough pieces. I would feed him about 4 syringes full of applesauce about 3-4 times a day -depending on how much i had seen him eat on his own each day. After about a week of syringe feeding him, Sid finally developed enough strength in his front arms to be able to start pulling himself around again. After he was able to pull himself around, his appetite increased, although he still was only eating mostly soft foods, he improved and lived happily for another 4 months. At 2 years 4 months of age, Sid's health and appetite began decreasing again, he began to get very skinny, with his bones protruding the skin, he appeared to be rather bloated, he continued pulling himself around and eating up until his last day. On his last day he stopped eating and drinking all together and was breathing so heavily it was very difficult to try to syringe feed him, he passed away later that day.
    I tell this story to inspire others that in some instances their is something you can do, if we had not pampered and cared for Sid when he first developed hind leg paralysis he would not have learned to cope with his disability and would have passed away, but since we fed and watered him and cared for him, he held on and lived another 4 happy months.

    Tips to keeping a rat healthy:

  • Overweight rats are more prone to health problems, such as diabetes & heart conditions.
  • By feeding your rat a Healthy diet, this will keep your rat from becoming overweight and keep them from having obesity health related illnesses.
  • Mushrooms, broccoli, peas, potato's & other healthy foods in variety will help keep your rats vitamin intake at a healthy level. Try to give them frozen and cooked vegetables.
  • Giving your rat mushrooms -such as Mataki or Turkey tail mushrooms can help reduce the likely hood of tumors and respiratory illnesses.
    If the rats will eat the mushrooms fresh or dried out whole then you can feed them that way, otherwise you can grind them up in a grinder and mix them with applesauce.
  • If your rat is dehydrated a quick way to help re-hydrate them is to feed them applesauce. Applesauce has lots of water in it and helps to feed and water them. I have seen Applesauce help many of rats feel better.
  • It is important for your rat to be healthy in order to fight off infections.
  • Health issues can arise if your rat is kept in unclean conditions, so try to keep rat areas clean.
  • If you have several rats that live together try to bathe them all on the same day.
  • Do not keep your rats by fans or by windows, Drafts are not good for them.
  • Smoking around your rats, especially rats with respiratory problems can increase the likelihood of Myco flair ups, Pneumonia or other lungs problems. Also the smoke can cause the rats sneezing and wheezing. If at all possible, have a rat room dedicated to smoking, or a room in the house dedicated to smoking that the rats aren't allowed in.
  • Make sure your rats bedding, food, litter and environment is as dust free as possible as dust can irritate their noses and cause breathing trouble.
  • You can add small animal vitamins (such as Vita drops) to your rats water to help them keep their vitamin intake high.

    Brief Medication information:

    Medication can come in many forms, such as concentrated liquid, tablet form and reconstituted liquid.
    Liquid medications are the easiest to administer and can be given several different ways.
  • You can administer medication through an eye dropper or through a needle-less syringe, fill up the syringe to the recommended dose amount and slowly squirt the medicine into the rats mouth. First try to get the rat to eat the medicine straight from the syringe by squirting it slowly in their mouth, if they are weary, then you will need to restrain the rat and forcefully squirt the medicine into their mouths. When giving large amounts of medicine to a resistant rat it works well to give them half, and than wait a few minutes and than give the rest, this allows the rats to swallow the first dose, to help ensure the rat is indeed eating the medicine and not spitting it out. When you try to give the whole dose at once the rat tends to spit medicine all over, and most of it ends up on you rather than in the rats mouth!

  • If you are having quite a difficult time administering medicine, you can mix the medicine with soft food, such as yogurt, applesauce, mashed potato's or other foods. If there are several rats that are living together and only one needs medicine or several need medicine, make sure to separate them and give the ones who need medicine separately -to ensure the others don't eat all the medicine and possibly overdose.
  • *The only food item i have found that guarantees my rats will definitely get all of their medicine is if i drip the medicine over a cookie chunk -they always eat the whole chunk -no matter how much medicine is on it!
  • If you happen to get pills, they usually need to be cut in 1/2's or 1/4's and also need to be mixed with water, it can be a little tricky trying to get the medication to absorb into water, so if you have a choice liquid medicine usually works better.
  • Baytril & Doxycycline are two of the most commonly prescribed medications for rats.
  • Lots of vets will add flavoring to medicine to help it taste better, most commonly cherry or banana flavoring.
  • Doxycycline (Generic name) (Brand name) Vibramycin -Can come in injection form needing to be injected into the rat (most commonly in the tail or back area) and can also come in oral form.
  • Doxycycline/Vibramycin can be used in conjunction with Baytril.
  • DO NOT let Pregnant rats or rats under 4 months old take Doxycycline/Vibramycin and beware of using any medication in the tetracycline family on rats under 4 months old.
    It can cause fetal development problems, retardation, adversely effect bone and tooth growth & other serious problems.
  • Do not let pregnant mothers or rats under 4 months old take Baytril. (New studies (mostly studies on dogs so far) are showing it can cause development problems.)
    But if Baytril or Doxycycline is all your Vet has available and the rat is in a life or death situation, by all means it is up to you to use the medicine or not. Using the medicine for a day or two until another type of medication can be ordered by the Vet should be alright.
  • If you have a rat that is under 4 months old that needs medication, Zithromax a less well known drug is safe to use for young rats.
  • Zithromax can be used to treat respiratory problems with the recommended doses being 4 mg per lb. twice daily for two weeks. Than once daily for another two weeks.

    Click here to read an article about the effects Vibramycin causes in Pregnant mothers.


    Transporting your rat to the Vet:

    Here are a few suggestions on how to transport your rat to the Vet:
  • Small animal carrier, The plastic kind with a wire door.
  • Canvas duffel bag type carrier.
  • Small cage or aquarium
  • Well ventilated Cardboard box
    If the rat is going to be in the carrier longer than an hour, it is important to provide drinking water.
    Some Vets will suggest that your rat not eat before surgery, but rats do not have a gag reflex so in most cases it is alright for them to eat beforehand.

    Euthanasia

    Please do not euthanize any animal unless it is absolutely necessary.
    Please, Do not take the decision of putting an animal down lightly!
    Please, Do not use home euthanasia methods! Most of these methods are untested, can be faulty and can cause the animal to needlessly suffer. Please use a trained experienced vet.
    Preferably use a vet who will let you hold your rat throughout the whole euthanasia process, as opposed to a vet who will take your animal away to a back room where you can't be sure how the animal passes.
    Please try to treat the rats medical condition if at all possible before making the decision of putting them down, Rats are full of perseverance, i have seen many of rats look like they were on the brink of death and than make a full or partial recovery.
    If your rat is still eating, drinking and mobile than the euthanasia decision should be put off until the condition worsens.
    Your animals lives are in your hands, please make the best decision you can.

    Vet/Lab tests on deceased animals:
    If your rat suddenly becomes ill and dies and you are curious as to what the cause of death was, In some areas, Vet offices will offer to have a necropsy done, to find the cause of death.
    In some cases if you have a lot of rats and suddenly a bunch of them become ill and you are unsure as to what the illness is, a necropsy is a good idea, so you can properly treat the remaining rats.
    Having a necropsy done usually entails, that your rat will be sent off to a lab, (Usually a University) to determine the cause of death.
    The tests can be pricey and in most cases you will not get your rats remains back.

    Human Medical issues related to Rats:

  • Humans can be allergic to rats.
    Most commonly humans will be allergic to the dead skin or dander in the rats hair, sometimes allergic reactions can come on suddenly. Sometimes humans will start sneezing suddenly after having the rats for a while, this may be because your rat has dandruff or the bedding your rat is on has a lot of dust which has gotten onto your rat. In most cases humans can take over the counter or prescription allergy medications and can still live peacefully with their furry friends.
    If you are unable to treat your allergic reactions to rats and it is hard to live with them you can always get hairless rats!
  • Don't confuse the occasional sneezes when cleaning rat cages with being allergic to your actual rats. Rat urine can smell rather strong, which can irritate your eyes and your nose. You could also be sneezing because of the rat bedding itself or because your rats have thrown their food everywhere causing dust.
  • Rats can cause humans to occasionally have arm & hand rash's.
    Rash's can be quite common when handling your rats, most of the time the irritation is caused by your rats toenails being long or sharp and it causes your skin to become red and causes small bumps. The rats tail can also sometimes irritate the skin. The "rat rash" as i like to call it usually goes away after about 20 minutes, washing your hands and sometimes applying lotion helps also. If the rash gets worse or causes you trouble you can always wear long gloves or long sleeved shirts when handling your rats to help prevent getting the rash's.
  • Humans can also get rash's from their rats on your face or other skin areas.
  • *I had a skin infection on the skin between my eyebrow and my eye lid (some people do not have skin there). It was very red, scratchy and peeling. I went to the Doctor and he insisted i had a stye in my eye, but i knew that wasn't the case since i had stye's before in the past and it wasn't my actual eye that hurt. I started doing research trying to find what the problem may be after many failed doctor visits and continued discomfort. I found that you can get skin irritation from Seborrhea dermatitis (another name for dandruff.) While my rats have suffered from dandruff and i had been given "Seboloux" dog shampoo to wash my rats with from the vet.
  • A few recommended suggestions i was given to clear up the rash was to wash my face 3 times a week with Baby shampoo. (The baby shampoo label says it helps "Seborrheic dermatitis.")
  • Use cortisone (Hydra cortisone or cortisone 10) twice a day or as needed until rash clears up. (Also on the label it says it helps Seborrhea dermatitis)
  • It was also recommended to try "Elidel" cream. This is a prescription cream and would need to be Doctor prescribed.



    Disclaimer:

    The knowledge and information on all of my rat pages is based on personal experience or is general information i have collected from other rat owners and may not be true in all cases.
    I am putting this disclaimer, as recently i have been receiving numerous emails trying to disprove some of the information contained on these pages.
    If i find information others are telling me, to be true or feel the information i have provided on these pages may be misleading or not contain vital information, i do update/edit the information. However, please consult a Vet when and if necessary or possible to ensure your rat receives the best care.
    I also want to point out that my pages are to help fellow rat pet owners and the information contained on these pages does not necessarily relate to a breeder views.

    Questions/Comments
    Email: DiscoPanth@earthlink.net



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