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Bad alpha = abscesses for all?

Posted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:26 pm
by PaulZero
Hello, new member and owner of three gorgeous rat boys (though I suspect we all say that).

So I have three boys, two are siblings who were introduced with a two month older male as pups (after the older male's sibling failed to thrive). They have always got on reasonably well, there's no clear societal outcast with all rats happy to nap in the same hammock, and obvious rolling ball of rat fights very infrequent (and usually because of food and other stupid things).

They've all been getting abscesses in various areas though. The older male (default "top eared" boy) has had a few abscesses on his belly, and the two dumbos have had a few abscesses each on their necks. I suspect this is down to their chosen fighting styles, the dumbos tend to lunge whereas the top ear tends to reverse towards his foe pinning them with his back leg.

There's obviously a lot of scrapping going on, mostly when I'm out of the room apparently, but I am struggling to find a cause given they seem to get on most of the time. They do have a bad alpha I think, the larger of the two dumbos does just turn up while the other two are sleeping to dominate them with a forced wash and the ensuing squeaks, could this perhaps be what is doing it? I don't want to separate him from other rats because he's always been dreadful with humans (he used to climb up the inside of the cage just to escape me when I opened it, but he's got a lot better with handling, but still not as tame as the other two).

I'd appreciate any thoughts on this, I've dealt with every abscess as required with veterinary treatment when I felt the rat needed it; however I've not had this with previous cage mates and I definitely think this could just be a bad grouping. 🙁

Re: Bad alpha = abscesses for all?

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:58 am
by cyber ratty
It's not normal to have a lot of recurring abscesses, so there may be a nasty bug in them.

I'd also say it sounds like the 'bad alpha' might benefit from being neutered. If the abscesses continue after that, then it could mean there is a persistent bacteria, and it'd be worth having them swabbed and tested to see how to get rid of it.

Re: Bad alpha = abscesses for all?

Posted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:53 pm
by PaulZero
Thank you for your reply, no I didn't think it was normal at all, as I said I've not had this issue before with any rats (my last group lived their whole lives without an abscess between them). I'll get them all to the vet during the week, and discuss options.

The abscesses I'm pretty sure are entirely down to bites, but no, they shouldn't be getting so readily infected.

I've not had any boys neutered before (they've never been problematic, and I've never kept them in mixed sex groups), he's over a year old now, is it going to have a marked effect on his behaviour? I guess I see it as a pretty drastic step, and I'd only want to do that if it was going to have a positive effect on their lives.

Re: Bad alpha = abscesses for all?

Posted: Sun Oct 13, 2019 11:49 am
by cyber ratty
It doesn't matter what age the buck is (although it's not recommended below 6 months), there should be a noticeable effect of them chilling out, just calming down and being more relaxed. It can take up to 6 weeks or so after the op to reach the full effect though.

Any op brings a risk, but if you have a good vet, and the alternative is a rat who is on edge and making his companions' lives unpleasant too, then I feel it's worth doing.