There are many ailments that can cause a pet rat to become dehydrated where you may have to give him a subcutaneous injection of sterile saline. If your rat has surgery to remove a tumor or repair a broken bone, you could be sent home with the supplies to give your rat a subcutaneous injection should he become dehydrated.
Symptoms of Dehydration
The easiest way to tell if your rat is dehydrated is by gently pinching up or 'tenting' the skin just above the nape of the neck. The skin should immediately relax into its normal position. If however the skin remains 'tented' up longer than what would be a normal duration, your rat is dehydrated and is in need of fluid therapy. A dehydrated rat may also appear to have sunken eyes and may be lethargic.
How To Give A Subcutaneous Injection
Your veterinarian will give you the materials and instructions to give your rat fluids if he becomes dehydrated but here is the easiest way I've found to give the injections. Subcutaneous injections usually cause minimal pain and can be done quickly as long as you are ready with the supplies before taking your rat out to give him the injection.
Gather all your supplies together in one place to fill the syringe with saline.
You will need:
Small gauge needle, usually an insulin needle.
Blunt fill needle (This needle is only to fill the syringe and should never be used for injection)
Sterile saline vial that should be at room temperature, not refrigerated.
Take the cap off the vial of sterile saline and discard. Open alcohol swab and wipe off top of sterile saline bottle. Take syringe and blunt fill needle out of plastic and attach the blunt fill needle to the syringe by twisting it on. Take the cap off the blunt fill needle and insert it into the top of the sterile saline solution vial. Draw up the amount of fluid your veterinarian told you to, usually between 2 and 3 ML.
Discard the sterile saline bottle and snap cap back on the blunt fill needle, then twist it off the syringe and discard. Take the insulin needle out of the plastic and twist onto the syringe. Take the injection needle cap off, the shield will still be in place. Hold the syringe upright and gently tap it then gently push the plunger up to remove any air from the syringe until a few droplets appear on the tip of the needle.
Now take your rat out of his cage and talk gently to him. The easiest place to inject fluids is into the loose skin right above the neck over the shoulders. Unlike with humans it's not necessary to swab the area with alcohol beforehand because you will most likely only get the fur and not the skin itself and prolonging the time you have to restrain your rat may cause him to panic. Before you pick up your rat, carefully push the shield away from the injection needle and set aside until you are ready to inject the fluids.
If you have not done this before you may want to ask another person to help hold your rat in case he moves. Place your rat on a table either on a blanket or towel and grasp him around the back of his body with your right hand if you are right handed and with your thumb and forefinger grasp the loose skin over the shoulders and tent it up between your fingers. The injection needle should go just under the skin not into the muscle or meaty part of your rat.
Pick up the syringe with your other hand and insert the entire injection needle in one quick motion into the center of the tented skin you are holding with your thumb and forefinger, now slowly push the plunger of the syringe all the way down until all of the fluids have been injected. When the syringe is empty, pull the injection needle out at the same angle you put it in and let go of the skin. Flip the injection needle shield up until it snaps into place, this means the injection needle is now protected.
Gently pet your rat and talk softly to him, he should perk up after getting the fluids if he was dehydrated. Try hand feeding him some water until he is drinking on his own again. A rat who is in pain or sick will sometimes stop drinking from the water bottle which can lead to dehydration and a simple subcutaneous injection of sterile saline can make a big difference.
Fluid replacement therapy is quick and easy to perform, and can be lifesaving.