You can help your pet rat have a long and healthy life with proper care. Make sure your pet has a proper diet, clean water, a safe home, plenty of toys, lots of attention, and at least one other rat to live with. Even with proper care sometimes illness or injury will still occur.
Symptoms that will let you know your pet is ill are constant scratching, scabs, bald patches, hunching over, wounds, loss of appetite, lethargy, head tilt, fur standing up, dull eyes, sneezing, weight loss, red secretions around the eyes and nose or diarrhea. In the event of illness or injury, contacting your veterinarian is always recommended. Below is a list of some of the more common health problems found with pet rats.
Abscesses are caused when bacteria enters an open wound and the wound becomes infected. A soft lump under the skin and swelling are signs of abscess. The abscess must be drained and antibiotic treatment started.
Cuts & Bleeding
Rats can get injuries from bites, cuts, and torn nails and toes. Injuries on the ears, feet, and toes will bleed a lot. You can stop bleeding with a towel and gentle pressure on the injury. You can also use ice or flour to try to stop the bleeding.
Your rat may be hunched over, lethargic, thin and will refuse to drink water. Give water, sweetened with a little sugar, by eye dropper directly into your rats mouth.
Diarrhea is often caused by feeding your rat too many greens. Removing the greens from his diet may solve the problem. Moving your pet rat to an area he is not familiar with can also cause temporary diarrhea which will clear up on it’s own when he is returned to familiar surroundings.
Ear infections are usually caused by a cold or respiratory infections. If you notice your pet rat tilting his head to one side or swaying while standing suspect an ear infection. If left untreated, an ear infection can destroy the inner ear. An ear infection usually requires an antibiotic for treatment.
Eye infections can be caused by sharp shavings, dust or injury. In albinos with pink eyes sunlight can cause an irritation. Move your pet to an area out of the sunlight. Watery eyes or eye protrusion is often a sign of infection.
Greasy, Yellow, Scaly Areas
This is caused by excessive secretions of the oil glands. This is not harmful to your pet. Giving him a bath in mild shampoo should clear this up.
Hair loss in your pet can be caused by many different things. Your pet could have the rex or hairless genes in his background. Your pet could be chewing his own hair, his cage mate could be chewing his hair as a sign of dominance, excessive rubbing or itching, an allergy or it could be a behavioral trait.
Rats can overheat quickly in temperatures over 90 degrees. Your rat will lay flat on his stomach or stand up with his stomach pressed against a glass cage in an effort to cool his body. He will pant with his eyes opened widely. He may drool, refuse water, and even become comatose. Remove your pet from the heated area and sponge him down with cool, not cold, water. A plastic bottle filled with frozen water placed into his cage every day can help prevent heatstroke.
Rats teeth grow continuously and can over grow. Symptoms of overgrowth are loss of appetite, swollen jaws and weight loss. If this happens the teeth will need to be clipped by your veterinarian.
Patchy Coat Colors
A patchy coat color is a sign of molting and normal. Adult rats will molt about every three months.
Red stains on your rat’s hair can be caused by bedding or saliva and will wash away. Rat saliva is reddish in color which can get on his coat while grooming himself. The red saliva is normal.
Rats are prone to respiratory infections and excessive sneezing is often a symptom. Respiratory infections are highly contagious so if you have more than one rat in a cage it may be necessary to isolate them. It is often necessary to treat the illness with antibiotics.
Ringtail is a disease caused by low humidity in the air. The tail will look constricted, scaly and the tip may fall off. The damage is permanent and may require medical attention.
Scabs can be caused by mites, lice, food allergies that cause itching and injury.
Most growths are benign and harmless and these tumors attach to fatty areas in the rats body. Malignant tumors usually attach to the internal organs of the rat. The type of tumor can only be determined by a veterinarian.
If your pet rat is pregnant this could be a sign of approaching labor, miscarriage or labor distress. In a non-pregnant female this could be a sign of tumors.