Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to Tell If Your Rat is Sick


Rats can get sick just like you and I and when we get sick we go to the doctor, you should also seek out the advice of a doctor for your rat when he gets sick. A Veterinarian that specializes in exotics will be the best one to take him to. They will already have had previous experience with others rats and will be more helpful than a Vet who has little or no experience with exotics.

Respiratory Infections
Respiratory infections are the most common ailment seen in rats. They can get them from being in bad bedding such as Cedar or Pine shavings as well as getting too cold or chilled and being around other rats with an infection. These infections can be fatal so getting them to a vet's office right away is essential. A vet will most likely give you antibiotic medication to give to your rat with a dropper or you can mix with food. The vet will show you how to administer the medication before you leave. If your rat is sneezing a lot, making wheezing noises or you hear crackling coming from his chest you should get a vet's help.

Tumors or cancerous growths are very common in rats as well. Sometimes they can be removed. If your rat develops a tumor and he looks like he is in pain or stops drinking or eating and his health isn't good enough for him to make it through a surgery, your vet can humanely euthanize him. While you are playing with your rat you should routinely check him for lumps each week. Sometimes they can be found before they progress too far and your rat will likely make a full recovery after surgery.

Skin Problems
Scabs, cuts and small sores are the most common skin problem with rats. Small cuts can be caused by a rat cleaning himself and his nails being too long or sharp. You can trim rat's nails with baby toenail cutters or by taking a nail file and filing down the very tips of the nail. Scabs should be looked at more closely as they can be signs of a bigger problem. Sometimes scabs are the result of mites or lice and this can be treated with over the counter sprays and medicines from most pet stores, but if it doesn't work you will need to take your rat to a vet to get proper care. A vet can clear up lice and mites very quickly.

If there are two rats in a cage and one of them has bald patches of hair, they might be doing what is called barbering. One rat may excessively groom another rat to the point of his hair falling out. Most times they do this because they are stressed, bored or sick. Giving them plenty of toys, lots of time out of the cage and affection will keep them from getting bored. They may also get abscesses on their feet, also called Bumble Foot. These abscesses will look like small dark sometimes red or brown lumps on the bottom of their feet. Most times a vet can get rid of them by lancing the wound, cleaning it out and giving them topical and/or oral antibiotics.

Broken or Bleeding Toenails
It's quite common for a rat to break or partially rip out a toenail. Their toe will bleed and you may think its worst than it actually is. If this happens the best thing you can do is rinse the nail off, use a styptic pen or powder to stop it from bleeding. Most veterinarian offices will have it and can give it to you. If you don't have this you can always use a small amount of flour. You can also put a small amount of antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin on the wound. Do not pull off a toenail that is hanging on. You rat will do this himself when he is cleaning or it will fall off on its own. A rats toenail will heal surprisingly fast so a vet's visit is rarely needed unless it gets infected.

When a rat gets sick they seem to go downhill very fast so getting them the professional help they require in time is essential. Most rats will make a fast recovery if treated by a professional and you will have many more days with them. Knowing before you get a rat or any animal that you may have to spend money at a vet's office is something you have to think about. Once you bring an animal home you are responsible for their health and well being. Being responsible means being able to take care of all their needs when the time comes.


  1. Respiratory infections are the most common ailment seen in rats... I knew it... I'm a rat. And a big blue one at that! :(

  2. Poor little furry fellers. Nice tips here. It hurts us to see our pets sick, doesn't it?

  3. Never fun for anyone when they get sick. Have to keep an eye on them indeed

  4. Ouch. There is a lot to look for. I hope yours are all healthy.

  5. I am thinking about getting a pet rat, your site has been remarkable in helping me educate myself on these wonderful little creatures, one question, I see no cedar or pine bedding what would recommend?

  6. poor babies. they seem susceptible.

  7. I've had many students who have had rats as pets. They brought them to class, with no "eeewwws".

  8. Blue- aww are you getting sick a lot? Poor thing.

    Keith- it does. Rats don't live a long time but they will live longer is kept healthy.

    Lady Lilith- Mine are all doing fine right now. Thanks for asking.

    Debbie- Pine and cedar are really bad for rats so most rat parents use either paper bedding like Carefresh or fleece blankets. I use fleece blankets as well as cotton baby blankets and just wash them each week. It's much cheaper too. If you do get a rat I would suggest getting a cage big enough for two because they like to live in pairs. Here's a link to a post I did about fleece bedding.

    TesWiseGirl- They are but we can keep them healthy for a long time if we are good about it.

    Susan- That's wonderful!


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