Illnesses & Behavior

Common Illnesses

Upper Respiratory Infection
All rats carry a bacteria in their system called mycoplasma. This bacteria causes the majority of URIs in rats. Symptoms include a red discharge called porphyrin (not blood) around their nose, eyes, and ears. rats will make wheezing, crackling, gasping noises, and have difficulty breathing. Rats with URIs can have sucked in sides, puff up their fur, and can be lethargic. Antibiotic treatment is required and includes amoxicillin, baytril, and doxycycline.
It is common for rats to get sniffly within the first week of moving to a new home. These new-home sniffles should go away within two weeks.

Abscess
Abscesses are extremely common in rats. They begin as a large lump. If an abscess is suspected, a warm compress a few times a day will help it come to a head and burst. Abscesses must heal from the inside out, or it risks infection getting trapped in the body. Rats heal amazingly well from these wounds and generally need very little intervention. If you wish, the wound can be rinsed with sterile saline and sprayed with Vetericyn spray. Do not use neosporin or hydrogen peroxide.

Parasites
Good news: Rat mites and fleas are species-specific and won’t be passed on to you or other pets.
Bad news: they can travel in your pet’s food and bedding.
There are many options for parasite control, but the best option is to purchase cat/kitten Revolution from your vet. Give your rat one drop of the solution behind its head once a month. Dose every rat living in the cage. It is important to find a vet willing to treat rats. They are considered exotics, and not all vets will treat rats. Be sure to find a vet for your pet rats prior to bringing them home.

Ear Infections
Inflammation of the middle and inner ear is often associated with upper or lower respiratory infections, or in some instances may be an extension of inflammation of the outer ear.

Symptoms include:
Head tilted or rotated to side.
Rubbing head against floor of cage.
Scratching at ear.
Poor balance, and circling.
Foul or sweet smelling drainage from ear in more advanced infections.
Facial nerve paralysis, blinking of eye, or enophthalmos (recession of eye) on the side affected.

In most cases, when treated promptly with systemic antibiotics to combat infection, as well as a corticosteroid to reduce the swelling of tissue, the head tilt will disappear in a matter of days. However, it is not unusual in some cases for the head tilt to remain throughout the rat’s life. This permanent “tilt” does not seem to pose a significant problem for rats, as they are able to adjust to it very quickly. Where left untreated, the condition could worsen resulting in the loss of balance for the rat, rolling rather than being able to stand or walk, and the inability to feed or care for itself.

For more in-depth information regarding rat health and illnesses, visit: http://ratguide.com/health/ for reputable information.

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