Sick domestic rat: 6 unmistakable signs


Although robust, the rat is susceptible to developing a number of diseases and disorders. It is important to know how to quickly detect if the animal is sick in order to act accordingly. So we’ve put together a list of the 6 signs that help you identify health problems in your rat.

You observe changes in your rat’s behavior

Like any animal, a healthy rat is an animal active, especially since the natural character of a rat leads him to seek exchanges and play. If your rat remains prostrate in a corner of his cage, if he does not come towards you when you approach, then you have built an emotional bond with him, something is wrong.

Generally speaking, any change in behavior is suspect. A rat is not aggressive, contrary to popular belief. If he becomes, it may be that he is afraid but also that he has a health problem. An animal does not have many possibilities of expressing pain. If he is in pain, he will rather have the reflex not to let himself be approached. It is also very common for the animal to change the way it feeds, no longer eating and no longer drinking properly. The animal can quickly lose weight and even its life threatened if you do not react. Malocclusion or tooth abscess are fairly easily identifiable causes, but many other problems can lead to this change in behavior.

More spectacularly, you may be faced with a epileptic crisis. It is a neurological disorder that causes fairly brief seizures (about 3 minutes). They can lead to different behaviors: the rat runs like crazy in its cage, or on the contrary, it seems to have difficulty moving and its muscles stiffen. The rat can also remain staring into space, without moving and without reacting to the caresses. This is not serious in itself, but if a seizure lasts too long or if the seizures are too frequent, it is best to see a veterinarian quickly. As the animal can injure itself during these seizures, it is advisable to inspect it in detail once the seizure has passed.

Your rat is struggling to walk

Some wooden litters react with rat urine to produce ammonia. This considerably irritates the paws of the rat, especially as staphylococci can take advantage of the context to proliferate. This promotes what is called a pododermatitis : the rat has one or more red, irritated or even swollen legs, depending on the stage of development of the disease. The vet will treat your rat and give you all the advice you need to make the necessary changes to your pet’s environment.

Your rat is scratching or you notice hair loss

The coat of a domestic rat should be clean and shiny. This is a sign of an animal that properly maintains its own hygiene. If any areas are depilated, the rat should be examined to try to understand what is causing the problem.

He can have the scabies, a disease that most affects young rats. They catch it from other rodents that are themselves sick. Different parasites are responsible for mange in rats. Whatever the origin, the animal scratches itself to the point of irritation. It pulls out hairs and scabs form on the skin. Precautions must be taken because this disease can be transmitted to humans. A scratching rat can also be infested with lice. Initially, the rat does not scratch itself, but it is when the infestation is heavy that the itching appears. They settle on the rat’s body in winter, at the head and neck. From fleas can also explain itching.

A fungus at the origin of ringworm causes hair to fall out or make it brittle. This happens more in the neck, on the back and at the base of the tail. On the depilated areas, one can observe redness, dandruff and scabs. Ringworm is contagious.

Given the risks of transmission to humans, it is preferable to take the rat to the veterinarian quickly, taking precautions to transport the rat. Only a targeted and well-dosed treatment can relieve and cure the animal. You may also have to treat your home.

You feel lumps on your rat’s body

Rats can develop tumors. You see or feel lumps under the skin on the stomach, flanks, testes in males, or mammary glands in females. They are generally the result of genetic predispositions. While most are mild, some can be more serious. Their development can be rapid without this presuming its malignancy. Surgical removal of the tumor is indicated when the rat is hampered in its daily activity.

Your rat is struggling to breathe

Respiratory disorders are quite common in rats. The animal is predisposed to it but a bad quality of the environment will favor the development of such disorders. If you observe your rat sneezing, experiencing a runny nose, or having difficulty breathing, especially because of his noise, don’t delay in seeing the vet. This can quickly develop into pneumonia and respiratory distress: the animal is motionless, its head bowed and its paws spread. In this case, it is an emergency.

Your rat constantly tilts its head to one side

If drafts are frequent, the rat may develop otitis. This can be seen quite easily because the rat is embarrassed, like us, and tilts its head to the side that is causing the problem. He can be aggressive because he does not appreciate being petted near the ear. You may also smell an unusual strong odor coming from the ear. Only a visit to the vet can prevent irreversible damage.

Take care of your rat!

Prevention is better than cure … The healthier the rat’s environment, the more the animal will be protected from infections. You must therefore guarantee him a balanced and quality diet, respect his rhythm of life, and in particular sufficient times of rest and activity, an environment without drafts, in an atmosphere neither too dry nor too humid. Respiratory problems will be avoided with dust-free litter. Straw, hemp and corn are generally preferred. You must also ensure perfect hygiene of your rat’s cage.

The particular case of leptospirosis

Particularly present in rodents, it concerns all mammals, wild and domestic (pigs, sheep, horses, etc.), including men. Hunting dogs and those living in the countryside, particularly at risk, are already vaccinated against leptospirosis. This disease is caused by bacteria that are spread quite easily through mucous membranes and damaged skin (through a sore, scratch, and even healthy skin softened by prolonged soaking in water) via urine. This is why, in addition to hunters, sewer workers or veterinarians, people bathing in fresh water, moreover in areas without sanitary controls, are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated.

In Europe, most countries have less than one case per million people. But France has more cases than the European average, and 600 cases were recorded in 2014. The increase in the number of domestic rats seems to be responsible. Gold, no symptoms does not tell if your rat has it. Since the disease is difficult to diagnose in humans, if you are considering adopting a rat, it is a good idea to protect yourself by getting the vaccine.