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The importance of a proper quarantine!

This was first posted on my old blog on November 10, 2015

I would say by far most pet rat owners do not use a proper quarantine when introducing new rats. I'd even say most do not even attempt to do a quarantine at all. I get it, when I was new to rats I admit i did not either. We tend to get this feeling that anything bad can't or won't happen to us. We shrug it off as some tiny minuscule possibility to worry about. But the truth is that by not doing a proper quarantine every time you are putting your rats health and lives at risk. Are not our babies important enough to put some effort into keeping them safe? I honestly can not imagine the guilt I would feel if my very risky stupid choice ended in their illness or death. That isnt even mentioning the very expensive vet bills that could come with it. I have also heard too many people say something along the lines of- "well I have never done a quarantine in the past and never had any issues" The lack of a problem so far doesn't mean there is no risk. That would be like saying "I've smoked for years and never got cancer" Yeah and the truth is you may never get cancer either, but there is still a huge scary risk that you might!! You may have so far lucked out but the risk is still always there... are you willing to bet the health or lives of your rats on it?? It is really easy to be dismissive of something that hasnt touched us personally. But a quarantine is not some insane overboard step that doesn't really matter. The risk is very real and very deadly. There have been alot of outbreaks lately all over, this is really affecting people. Recently the importance of doing a proper quarantine hit me quite hard. I got to see the brutal reality of what happens if you do not quarantine as well as the very importance as to why you should. Luckily, thank the Gods it did not happen with my own rats. All of my babies are healthy and doing well. I do not want to get into too much detail of the events that transpired because 1) While I am a member of the groups, I was not able to make the meetups this year and did not get any rats from them. So I do not feel that I am personally involved. 2) There is still alot of ambiguity & info is still coming forward so I do not have all the details to share. 3) This post is not about the meetups and I am only mentioning it as why it showed me the importance of quarantine. Anyways, there was a rat meetup where local breeders and some interested parties were invited. People came from quite the distance around actually, several states away and even Canada to exchange rats. The people involved were all mostly well respected breeders. Long story short, there were sick rats. People got sick rats, it spread to other rats. People had to watch the rats get ill, suffer and some die. Some were able to save them with treatment of meds but some will have lasting issues and some were affected hard. You can read about some of it here: Doing a proper quarantine saved their entire mischiefs. It only takes one sick rat for it to spread. Most illnesses/diseases spread very easily and will infect your entire mischief of rats. Sometimes nothing can save them, other times if you act very quickly and treat them all with meds you may be able to save them. I have read so many stories of people losing entire colonies of rats from one little mistake :( It is just heartbreaking. I am also not sure if people have heard but there have been ALOT of cases of sendai out there lately. Many of them coming from pet stores. This is deadly to our rats. There is also the matter of parasites like mites, lice, etc... So what is quarantine & what does it mean? I have seen some people say they just put the new rat across the room from their own rats and think that will be enough. I am sorry to say that no, that is not how you quarantine at all. That will make almost no difference! In this sense quarantine means: to separate and isolate to prevent the spread of disease, including bacterial infections, viruses, fungus and parasites (both internal and external). Quarantine needs to be in a separate rat free location and maintain a persistent quarantine environment. No shared air space and no handling between rats. No using the same items (like cleaning supplies even) between environments. The minimum quarantine time is 14 days (2 weeks). This is a link on proper quarantine that everyone should read. There are two main types of quarantine: In home & separate location. In home if done properly can help against some bacteria and parasites but will do nothing against airborne viruses like SDA, Sendai or Parvovirus. What does this mean? It means ideally your new rats should NOT be kept in the same room or even house as your current rats. Have them stay at a friends or relative. Or they should be kept in something like a heat/air controlled shed or garage that is safe. It also means you need to take precautions:

  • During a quarantine no going back and forth between the rats. Ideally wait three hours, change clothes, shower. That is alot but it is the only way to be sure you wont be passing anything between them.

  • No visiting strange rats, no visiting pet stores that sell live animals. If you do then again do the three hour wait before coming home, shower, change clothes.

  • Absolutely no breaking quarantine. It doesn't matter if the rat(s) are lonely and it makes you sad. It is ok to wait to be safe. Lonely for a bit of time is better then sick or dead.

Be mindful of where you get your rats from and pay attention to any signs or symptoms of illness. Pet stores have been known for selling sick rats, some back yard rescues do not follow proper quarantine, and yes while most breeders should be great about it and have healthy rats- sadly not all breeders do. Not all breeders are created equal. Being a breeder in itself doesn't make one ethical. Making sure the breeder you are working with is legit and responsible helps alot. Do not be afraid to ask your breeder what their quarantine situation is, if they brought in any new rats, if they have had any illnesses and if they have tested for anything. A good breeder will be open and honest and shouldnt mind the questions. But still IMO always quarantine. Even the best can make mistakes. Ok but I don't have a summer home to quarantine these guys away??? It is true, not everyone is able to do a proper quarantine. You do not have an outside space, no friends/family able/willing to do it. etc... Well that shouldn't mean that you just dismiss the quarantine all together. 1) Be aware of the risks. Understand the risks. Learn about the different illnesses, their symptoms and any signs. Be prepared with meds and a vet. Time is a huge factor on if your rats will live and recover or die. If you can not afford meds and a vet I would honestly suggest not bringing in new rats at that time. Save up! 2) As I said above be mindful of where you get your rats from. No place is 100% safe. Ask around to see if there have been any outbreaks in the area. 3) Do the very best quarantine you can. Take every precaution possible. Doing an In Home Quarantine To repeat myself: In home if done properly can help against some bacteria and parasites but will do nothing against airborne viruses like SDA, Sendai or Parvovirus.

  • Keep new rats in a separate room, as far away as possible. With no direct airflow in between is best.

  • Limit anyone from entering the room if possible, including other pets.

  • Never share anything between rooms- nothing inside the cage or even cleaning tools. People often forget and use the same gloves or broom.

  • Try to limit the handling of your new rats during the quarantine.

  • Wait 3 hours between handling rats.

  • Wash your hands/shower/change clothes if possible between handling

  • Keeping the new rats in a tank or bin cage just during quarantine may help limit the spread a bit more than with an open aired cage.

My rats and quarantine practices. I had someone ask me during a recent litter if they had to quarantine the babies they got from me. I will NEVER tell someone not to quarantine. My terms even have a health guarantee stating: I guarantee the health of all my animals before they leave. All adopters are expected to quarantine their newly adopted rat(s). If said rat(s) get ill or have health issues during the two week time from the date of the contract, I will give a full refund on return of the rat(s) or death. The adopter may need to give proof of quarantine at my discretion. That being said... all of my rats are healthy. I have had zero health issues within my colony. I I do not visit outside rats or even pet stores. I haven't brought in any new rats (at this time). So I told her I felt safe but that the decision was hers to make. I will always do a proper quarantine. If I ever have any health issues crop up, I would retire those lines and never adopt out sick rats. If I bring in new rats, they again will be quarantined but I will gladly have that information given. If, for example something had happened to me with like this event. Say I had gone and had received sick rats. They would have been quarantined so my rats would not have been at risk. But if illness had cropped up in the quarantined rats I would still share that information. I would also have my rats tested as a precaution. I believe in being open and honest above all else, even if it doesnt have any affect on my rats I have for sale. Ok so my quarantine practices are as follows 1) I have a basement to my home that has no shared airflow. It is more like a cellar and has an outside entrance that isnt even really connected to my house. 2) I quarantine all new rats in that basement. I only enter/exit through the outside entrance. I never handle the rats back to back. I always change clothes/shower after handling them. 3) I do a 3 week quarantine if there are zero symptoms present. If any symptoms show up they stay in quarantine while they are treated and the quarantine will begin anew after they are finished with their meds and last a month after that. 4) All rats in quarantine would be treated even if they didnt have signs and stay in quarantine 5) No new rats entering quarantine until the ones in it are done. 6) Pristine cleaning practices 7) I have a strict no rats in or out for 30 days around my adoptions. So I have a litter who is to be up for adoption, I will not bring in any new rats for 30 days prior to that. 8) I keep a closed rattery for this very reason as well. I do not visit pet stores and if I have outside contact with rats i do follow the 3 hour rule with a shower/change of clothes. If anyone has questions or concerns about my quarantine practices feel free to ask :) More on Sendai & SDA Sendai and SDA are 2 highly contagious and deadly viruses that can kill entire colonies of rats overnight. SDA is short for Sialodacryoadenitis virus or Rat corona virus. SDA, SENDAI Contagious Rat Viruses: Rat & Mouse Gazette: Sendai, Not Just a Mouse Disease Finn Mouse: Sendai Virus (scroll down) RMCA: Dos and Don'ts of Sendai and SDA Quarantine here is also a list of SOME recent known outbreaks Myco Parasites CARB From Rat Health Guide:

Signs of illness may include but are not limited to any of the following:

  • Porphyrin secretions from eyes or nose

  • Sneezing

  • Wheezing

  • Rough coat

  • Labored breathing

  • Lethargy

  • Hunched posture

  • Swelling on neck or body

  • Abscesses

  • Scabs or itching

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Lack of appetite

  • Eye ulcerations, bleeding, or swelling

  • Visual identification of parasites including lice nits

  • Abnormal odor from the rat

  • Abnormal smelling feces or urine

  • Respiratory distress

  • Head tilt or abnormal gait

  • Thinness

Health Check: Advance Health Check In the end...just be careful, be safe. Know and understand the risks, be aware of outbreaks near you, know the signs of illness, have a vet ahead of time and know what meds to ask for. Take all precautions you can, every single time.

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