The Information section contains the following articles on health related issues:
- First aid for rats
- Diabetes in rats
- Corynebacterium kutscheri (CK)
- Choosing a vet
- Anabolic steroids
- General infection and safe practice
- When to take your rat to a vet
Q: My rat looks like he's bleeding from his nose. What's wrong with him?
A: Rats naturally secrete red mucus because it contains a substance called porphyrin. When you see red staining around his nose or eyes this is often an indication that he is producing more secretions than normal, or feels too poorly to clean himself properly.
This porphyrin staining can be due to stress or illness. Keep a close eye on your rat for any other signs of illness such as sneezing, rattling, laboured breathing, hunched posture, spiky coat or being off his food. If any other symptoms occur, or if the porphyrin staining does not resolve in a day or two you will need to get him checked out by your vet.
Q: On of my two rats is covered in scratches and wounds. I think the other rat might be hurting her, but I never catch them fighting. What should I do?
A: The most likely cause for your rats multiple wounds are that she has mites and is hurting herself when she scratches excessively. Mites are microscopic parasites that you cannot see. The tend to really affect rats who are stressed, ill or run down.
The treament is straightforward. She needs some Ivermectin from your vet, or in the over the counter spot on medication by Beaphar (make sure you get the one for rats). Either way the medication is dropped onto the back of the rat's neck at skin level. One dose should be enough to treat mites and only the affected rat needs treatment.
You can also help her by trimming her nails (or getting the vet to do this) so that she doesn't damage herself when she scratches.
Q: My rat is holding his head at a funny angle all the time. Apart from this he seems to be fine. Is something wrong?
A: Yes. Your rat is probably developing an ear infection and needs to see a vet as a matter of urgency. If he is treated quickly permanent damage is less likely. The treatment is antibiotics and steroids. There are other conditions that might also cause this symptom such as pituitary tumour, stroke or encephalitis, but your rat would be showing other symptoms too.
Q: My female rat is about 18 months old and seems to be getting a lump under her right front leg. Is it cancer?
A: Cancer is not that common in rats, at least not the kind that spreads to other parts of the body. Most lumps in females are either abscesses or mammary lumps (mostly overgrowth of fibrous or fatty tissue). From the position you describe a mammary lump is most likely. These can be easily removed by an experienced vet providing your rat is otherwise well. It is generally best to wait for a short period and see how the lump behaves as some only grow very slowly and may not need removed immediately. The benefits of delaying surgery in a rat of this age are that more lumps may appear which can then be removed under a single anaesthetic. However some lumps grow very quickly and are more complex to remove if they are allowed to get too large. Having the lump removed before it is the size of a large grape is advisable.