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Health Check – Healthy Rats

A regular health check is vital in order to recognize an illness in your rats in good time.

The first clue to your rats’ health is their behavior. When the rodents feel good, they are active and curious. Normally, when they are fed, they come running up and eagerly eat their fresh and dry food. If, on the other hand, the animals withdraw, lie apathetically in a corner or show other behavioral problems, these are serious indications of a disease. You should therefore check the behavior (e.g. degree of activity, social and eating behavior) and physical changes in your animals on a daily basis. This includes checking both feces and urine. Be alert to changes in the size, shape, and color of the feces. Greasy droppings and diarrhea indicate a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. But even very small, solid droppings are an indication of digestive problems.

Eyes, teeth, and nose During the health check you should also pay attention to the eyes, nose, and teeth. If the eyes are sticky, purulent, red, or swollen, this can have various causes (e.g. infectious disease, injury, or dental disease), which you must investigate together with your veterinarian. The same applies to a wet, sticky nose, repeated sneezing, and wheezing. Rats are very susceptible to respiratory illnesses and need immediate medical attention if they become infected, either bacterial or viral. Mycoplasmosis, which can only be suppressed with early antibiotic treatment, is particularly common so that the sick animal can live symptom-free again. Dental problems are also not uncommon. Misaligned teeth incisors or molars that are too long are a common reason why rodents lose weight and eat less or only soft food.

Coat and skin change Changes to the skin and coat can be recognized by hair loss, matting and discoloration of the coat, reddening of the skin, scales, crusts, and swelling. Frequent scratching (= itching) of the skin or the ears, for example, is also a clear sign of an illness. Skin and coat changes are mostly caused by an infestation with skin parasites (especially fur mites, lice, and notoedres mange). Flea infestations are less common. Some parasites, such as sucker mites and digging mites, also spread to other small mammals and even humans. For this reason, you should take a sick rat to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Injuries to the skin are mostly bitten injuries that occur during fights for hierarchy within the rat pack. Depending on the degree of injury, antibiotic treatment (using an ointment) may be necessary. Therefore, check your animals regularly for wounds and incrustations. In addition, it is recommended that you regularly palpate your rats’ skin for thickening (abscesses and tumors).

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