Rat Health Care
**Warning/Disclaimer - Please Read**
I am NOT a vet. I don't even play one on tv. I have never attended veterinary school. I am NOT an expert. I am a loving rat mom, who has done research herself and talked to other rat owners and have gotten advice. If your rat is sick or even has symptoms I highly suggest seeing or talking to a vet first. Take information you see online with a grain of salt, anyone can post anything they want online. That all being said, sometimes home care is safe and can help save money, time and your babies lives. On the other hand dosing yourself could go horribly wrong. Use the advice below on your own accord. I (& Once Upon a Mischief Rattery), Take NO responsibility for the health or safety of your animals when using this information. So self medicate at your own risk.
There is NO substitute for proper vet care/advice!
Rats have a short lifespan. They often live between 2-3 years, while some may only see a year and rarely you will see them up to 5. Even with a short life they deserve to make the very most out of it. They are NOT an expendable pet where you just let it die then replace it before your kid knows. This is a living creature that deserves the very best care and love. Before getting any pet you should make sure that you have the money for vet emergencies that may come up. Also keep in mind that it may be more difficult to find an exotic vet near you and that the vet may charge high fees, often more so then to see a cat or dog!
Whenever you bring a new rat into your home (when you have other rats or other pets) you should do a quarantine. Quarantine means keeping your rats isolated and separate to prevent the spread of disease and other health issues. Illness can spread very easily and quickly and infect your entire colony!
The best way to quarantine is to keep them in an unshared airspace for three weeks. Keeping them in just another room can still allow airborn pathogens to infect your colony. Ideally they would be kept at a friends/relatives home or an outside heat/ac controlled building, though ofcourse this is not always possible. If you must keep them in the same house, keep them as far apart as possible. Also make sure you keep up with handwashing before and after handling your rats. Some even suggest changing clothes inbetween handling.
You should always have an extra cage handy for quarantines or incase any issues come up such as fighting.
I highly suggest even when buying from a breeder and/or myself that you still quarantine just to be completely careful. I guarantee my rats health but it is always a good practice.
See my post on the importance of quarantine here.
Setting up a first aid kit is a great idea. It is better to have most things you need in case of an emergancy. Some items like medicines you may not want to buy ahead of time as they may expire before they are ever needed.
Getting a human or pet first aid kit is a great start. It will have much of the basic items you could need already in it.
Have a small box, like a plastic storage bin, perhaps show box sized or alittle larger to put your first aid kit supplies in, so you can grab it in an emergency.
Have an index card taped to the front with important info like your vets address/phone number. You can also add index cards or a paper with important mixing/dosing info.
Have a hospital/temp cage ready always! (make a small bin cage for this or a small carrier)
Raw Honey (this must be real raw honey. Most honey they sell is not)
Pedialyte (make your own homeade)
Syringes (no needles. 1cc/ml)
Scale (any kitchen scale is fine but make sure it weighs by 1g or less and has a tare function)
Small scissors- toenail scissors are a good size
Blue Kote (antispetic is a must)
Children's or Infants Motrin
I made an amazon wish list to show some supplies. I can not speak of the quality of all the supplies on the list. It is merely to give an idea of the products. Read reviews and shop around.
Animal Poison Control
(888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.
Red Eyes and/or Nose secretions.
It can be quite traumatic the first time you discover red discharge coming from your rats eyes or nose! It is often not as scary as it seems. Porphyrin can be caused by many factors:
Environmental Factors such as bad bedding, smoke, air fresheners, etc...
First look at the factors such as stress and environment, if it doesn't go away you may need to visit a vet.
This is a common problem in rats. While it may not be serious you should pay careful attention and take it seriously. Rats are prone to respiratory issues.
When you first bring a new rat home it is common to have them be alittle sneezy for the first week or so. They will be adjusting to new smells and often new bedding. If it persists or gets worse definitely get them to the vet.
Environmental issues can also cause respiratory issues, such as cigarette smoke (never smoke near or even in the same room as your babies), candles, incense, air fresheners, and a well ventilated area.
If you are keeping them in a tank, it can be very bad for them as the ammonia can build up very quickly and has bad ventilation. Please do not use a tank!
Also check what bedding you are using, as it could be very dusty. Also keep away from pine or cedar as it is not safe for rats.
If all of that is fine then you need to consider that your rat may have an URI (Upper Respiratory Infection)
As I said before rats are very sensitive and prone to respiratory issues. All rats carry Mycoplasma bacteria which is the common cause for most URIs. It is brought on by a weakened immune system and left untreated can be very serious leading to pneumonia, damage to the lungs and death.
Symptoms for a URI include:
If your rat has these symptoms contact a vet right away!
At Home Treatments:
Some treatments will not cure a URI but can help in the meantime before you can take them to the vet.
Giving small amounts of quality dark chocolate
Keeping them hydrated by using something like Pedialyte
Using a humidifier
Please read my disclaimer/warning listed at the top of this page before trying any medications without a vet.
When treating your rats you will always want to weigh them so you can properly dose. I do not suggest guessing or estimating. You can get a very cheap kitchen scale at most every store, including walmart, often for $10. It should have a tare function. You can just put a basket or bowl on the scale, tare away the weight of the bowl/basket and then place the rat inside.
I suggest reading this page on myco, which gives medication advice and dosing info.
This page as well.
The facebook group Real Rat Lovers Want to Know also offers great suggestions and advice on medication and dosing. (make sure to follow their strict rules on posting!)
The main medications used to treat a URI are:
amoxicillin: this can be found sometimes as fish meds or even for humans.
The two meds most often suggested used by themselves or often together for URIs:
In the US you need a prescription from your vet to get them for your rats....but you can also buy them without a prescription from many bird supply stores online as well as ebay. Make sure where you are getting your meds from is a legit site and that the meds are not expired or opened.
Online shops I suggest
From Real Rat Lovers Want to Know
Doxy - 12 packets at 100mg
Doxy - http://m.ebay.com/itm/FishLife-100MG-60-Capsules-Doxycycline-Aquatic-Antibiotics-Fish-Doxy-/281369024638
Fish Enro (Baytril) - 12 capsules at 25 mg
Baytril 10% (liquid)
Baytril 10% (liquid)
When giving medication I highly suggest also giving your rats yogurt to help balance the bacteria in their tummy that the meds will destroy. It also helps to make sure they stay hydrated and feeding them extra healthy nums to keep up their strength and energy. Moving food/water near their bed is a good idea too.
Treating Mites or Fleas
Symptoms can be itching, dirt spots (bug poo), or scabs.
I highly suggest not using any home remedies for getting rid of parasites. Most do not work very well or at all and some can be dangerous. Why take the risk or waste your time?
The best way to get rid of mites or fleas is to use Revolution. Revolution is only available in the US by prescription from your vet. Again please read my disclaimer above and getting meds from anywhere other then your vet can come with risk.
You can order Canada non prescription Revolution
You want to get the puppy/kitten formula
Use about one drop per pound of rat
Place the drop directly on the skin (without rubbing it in) on the back of their neck.
You may need assistance of someone to hold the rat while you apply it or use a syringe (without a needle) to apply just one dose.
Make sure to wash all bedding as well and keeping your pets indoors and away from strange pets will help as well.
You can buy Nix, it is a liquid treatment for human lice that can be bought at most drug stores. Mix 1 bottle of Nix with 1 gallon of water. Mix well and add to a spray bottle. Lightly spray the bedding and rats.
Read my page on Tumors here
Overweight and Obesity
I have a huge issue with overweight animals. If someone wants to eat all they want that is their own choice to do so. But an animal is under our care. They are like a child in that way where they are not going to make the most healthy choices and it is our responsibility to make the healthy good choices for them!
If you offer a child nothing but mcdonalds, cookies, cake and cheetos they are going to more then likely take it happily without a second thought. Rats are the same way. Rats can eat most things we can eat but that doesn't mean they have to... I often see people asking if they can give their rat this lick of icecream or these cookies. And while I do not think little nibbles are a bad thing, the truth is that your rats are not going to be missing out on anything by not getting it. They will be more then happy and even excited to get a carrot, peas, some broccoli, or cheerios.
I also see many people say such things as "they have such short lives why not let them be happy". I am not sure why people think being over weight will make them happy. It can cause joint pain and make it harder for them to run, play and climb which rats love to do. It can also help lead to issues like bumblefoot. You should be making the most of everyday of their live not taking away from it. Food does not equal love. Make them a big salad and they will happily enjoy it.
If your rat is gaining weight first look at treats you are feeding and cut back or remove some that are more sugary/unhealthy.
The Health of My Lines
If any breeder tells you their lines are 100% won’t/can’t develop tumors, myco, URIs they are either lying, scamming you or sadly just do not understand how those health issues work.
Every breeder would LOVE to be able to say that but rats are very prone to these issues and yes good breeding/genes play a huge role in a rats health but the main importance is their home care and environment. Good breeding will help rats be more resistant and better suited to fight off health issues but it does not make them immune.
I will always be open and honest about any health issues in my lines.
In Feb 2017 I had my rats tested for both Hantavirus & Sendai. My rats tested Negative!
See my blog post on it here: http://www.onceuponamischief.com/single-post/2017/02/17/The-Seoul-Hantavirus