Rats | Common Health Problems
Filed in Small Animals, Rats
As you prepare to purchase your first pet rat, it's important to track down an experienced veterinarian. Veterinary care for rats need not be expensive. I have been charged $35 - $40 per visit at various clinics here in the San Francisco Bay area.
If your pet appears to be unwell, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible. Although rats are hardy little creatures, they can go into decline very quickly, and by putting off seeing a vet you may be drastically reducing their chances of survival.
As a new rat owner, you should be aware of several common health problems. Knowing more about obesity, overgrown incisors, tumors, common accidents, and several types of bacterial and viral infections will help you deal with these challenges should they arise.
Although most pet rats tend to maintain a health body weight, your pet could become obese if you feed him a diet rich in seeds and nuts. You should resist the temptation to feed junk food, including french fries, doughnuts, cookies, or candy.
Commercial diets specifically designed for rats are always preferred, and can be supplemented with hay, whole wheat breads, dry cereal, pasta, fruits, vegetables, and non-fat yogurt.
The incisor (front) teeth of all rodents grow continuously throughout the life of the individual. The continual wear between the uppers and lowers usually prevents overgrowth of the teeth. Rats and rats may need to have overgrown incisors trimmed periodically by an experienced veterinarian or veterinary technician.
Rats are susceptible to the formation of tumors. The tumors may be external or internal. In general, you should seek veterinary attention at once after discovering a lump, bump, or unusual mass protruding from a body opening. The mass can be surgically removed by the veterinarian and biopsied to determine its exact identity which in turn determines the long-term outlook for the patient.
Tumors tend to grow continuously larger and may ulcerate and become infected if they reach a very large size. For this reason, it is always preferable to remove them when they're small.
Chronic Murine Pneumonia (CMP)
CMP, also known as murine mycoplasmosis, is the most significant and serious bacterial infection of rats and mice. It's caused by a bacterium that is hard to isolate. Thus, CMP is usually diagnosed by signs of the illness. Symptoms include sniffling, sneezing, squinting, red-brown tears, rough haircoat, and labored and audible respiration.
Once contacted, the disease can last for a long period of time. It's important to begin antibiotic treatment as soon as the first signs are recognized. Antibiotics can be added to drinking water for long periods. Many times, other harmful bacteria can complicate CMP. This often necessitates use of multiple antibiotics.
The outcome of treatment is unpredictable, and eliminating the organism is regarded as a practical impossibility. Treating the disease is critical to the health and well-being of your pet.
The tail of your pet rat get hurt or pulled out if the rat is lifted from the tip of the tail. The proper way to pick them up is to place one hand over the back, just behind the head, gently grasp it around the ribcage, and lift it upward. Your pet can be gently cradled against your body, using minimal restraint.
When returning your pet to his cage, pay attention to the position of his tail. If it gets caught between the cage and the lid, the tail could be permanently damaged. Never lift a young rat by his tail.
Rats under four weeks of age can get scared when picked up, many times resulting in a leap to the floor. Be mindful of their fear, and keep them near the top of their cage if you're concerned about escape attempts.
On occasion, a rat will bite and draw blood. This is a normal reaction to fear. Wash the affected area, treat the cut with an antibiotic ointment, and apply a band aid.
A wide variety of bacteria can cause illness in pet rats. Your veterinarian is best equipped to both diagnose and prescribe medications for these diseases. Wounds - usually from fighting and other trauma - are commonly infected with bacteria naturally found within the living quarters. Abscesses commonly result from wounds when they have gone unnoticed and untreated. Successful treatment of wounds (especially long and deep cuts) may require veterinary intervention.