It is without contention that rats, like all animals, have the capacity to get sick or injured. However, if an owner is diligent in taking preventative measures and following through with recommended treatment, there is no illness that can’t be combated and conquered.
1. Mycoplasma– A respiratory disease found in most rats, transferred from a mother rat to her offspring as they pass through the birth canal. Sores and scabs develop on the rat’s delicate lungs, resulting in painful wheezing and coughing. A red mucus-like substance called Porphyrin oozes from the rat’s nose and eyes, indicating failing health. Other symptoms include lethargy, rapid weight loss, and in extreme cases, death. Making sure that proper bedding and cleaning of the rat’s habitat are implemented is a good way to prevent Mycoplasma flare ups, as well as making sure there is a good amount of vitamins A and E in the rat’s diet. Mycoplasma can be treated with antibiotics such as Baytril.
2. Bumblefoot– As amusing as the name sounds, Bumblefoot is painful for any rat. When bacteria infect an open wound on a rat’s foot, sores develop on the affected area. Rats that regularly climb about on the wire bars of cages often get Bumblefoot, so making sure that there are soft areas in their habitat for their feet to rest on is important, as well as keeping the area clean.
3. Power Grooming– Rats are finicky by nature, and it’s not uncommon for them to be regularly cleaning themselves. However, too much grooming can indicate some severe health issues. A power grooming rat can groom themselves to the point where they irritate their own skin and patches or hair are lost. Stress can cause a rat to power groom itself, as well as internal illness or parasitic infestation such as fleas or ticks. Putting a power grooming rat in a quiet, relaxed area may help the problem, but if it persists, it’s best to take the rat to be looked at and proper treatment administered.
4. Degloving– A condition in which part of a rat’s tail is broken off, leaving the exposed areas unprotected from infection. In order to prevent degloving, never hold, swing, or pull a rat by its tail for any reason! A rat’s tail can also break if it gets caught between the bars of its cage or in a door. If this happens, disinfect the area immediately with a saline solution, and the rat should be taken to a vet as soon as possible. A course of antibiotics will be prescribed to prevent infection.
5. Ear Infection – Indeed, just like humans, rats are also susceptible to ear infections. A common sign that a rat may have an ear infection is a noticeable tilt in the head indicating discomfort. Other signs include excessive scratching of the inner ear which can lead to a puncture of the eardrums, and incredible amounts of wax buildup. Proper cleaning of the ears with saline solution and a Q tip, along with prescribed ear drops.
In the wild, a sick animal is a dead animal. That’s why a rat generally won’t indicate that its health is failing as not to attract any “predators”. Unfortunately it means that by the time the rat is so sick that it can’t keep up its healthy facade, it’s sometimes too late. If there is any indication that a rat may be sick, precautions should be taken to make sure that the rodent’s health is in good standing.
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