How to Help a Sick Rat: 5 Simple Tips for 2023

Rats often take center stage in the world of small pets as adorable, intelligent companions. However, like any furry friend, your rat can fall sick, leaving you in a dilemma on what to do next. If this is your current situation, you’ll want to know how to help a sick rat regain its health.

Rats are susceptible to a variety of illnesses, so it is important to know how to spot the signs of illness and how to provide treatment.

It can be easy to spot when your rat is sick by noticing a change in its behavior like:

  • Not eating or drinking as usual.
  • Sleeping more than usual.
  • Having a discharge from the nose, eyes, or rectum.
  • Being inactive or lethargic.

The challenge, however, comes in terms of caring for the rat. As such, you might be wondering what to do to make your rat to recover and be happy again. If you’re in this situation, this guide is for you. It covers everything from identifying when your rat is sick to providing proper diet and medical care.

First things first; let’s start by identifying the signs of a sick rat for the best possible care.

Signs of a Sick Rat

Warming a sick rat
warming a sick rat

If your rat is sick, he will portray some of the following signs:

  • Not eating or drinking as usual: A rat that’s unwell will usually not want to eat or drink. This can be due to the fact that they don’t have an appetite, they’re nauseous, or they’re just too weak to eat.
  • Sleeping more than usual: Sick pet rats will often sleep more than usual as they try to conserve energy.
  • Having a discharge from the nose, eyes, or rectum: These discharges can be a sign of infection and should be monitored closely.
  • Being inactive or lethargic: If your rat is usually very active but suddenly becomes inactive and lethargic, it may be a sign of sickness.
  • Breathing harder and faster: If your rat is having trouble breathing, it could be a sign that he has an infection or respiratory disease.
  • Shaking: When a rat shakes, it’s often not a good sign. If your rat is shaking and you notice any of the other signs, he may be having a respiratory illness that’s responsible for impaired breathing.
  • Being constipated or diarrhea: These conditions are usually caused by diet changes but can also indicate an underlying health condition.

With that knowledge, here is how to help a sick rat at home:

1. Administering Medication Correctly and Safely

If your rat is on medication, you should administer it correctly to ensure that he gets the full benefit of them.

Rat medications are usually given by mouth, but there are some that can be administered through injection or topical application.

When giving your rat medication orally, it’s important to make sure he swallows it and doesn’t spit it out. You can do this by mixing the medication with a small amount of food or water.

When administering medications to help a sick rat, adhere to the following guidelines according to the rat and mouse club of America:

  • Make sure to read the instructions on the label of the medicine. If you don’t understand them, consult your vet.
  • Wash your hands before giving your rat any medicines. This will help prevent the spread of germs that can make him sicker.
  • If you are using eye drops, make sure not to touch his eyes with either your fingers or the bottle. This is because there could be harmful bacteria that can infect him further. You should also ensure that you stay well away from his face when administering the drops.
  • Be very careful when handling rat medications as many of them are toxic. If you happen to spill any, make sure to clean it up immediately and keep it out of reach of children and pets.

Before administering medication to a rat, you need to know some rat ailments, their causes, and their signs.

Common Rat Ailments

The table below shows some common rat ailments, their causes, and symptoms:

Murine Respiratory MycoplasmosisIt’s caused by Mycoplasma pulmonis bacteria-Sneezing
-Wheezing noises
-Eye discharge
-Labored breathing
-Bluish gums
-Loss of appetite
BumblefootCaused by an injury or open wound becoming infected-Swollen footpaths
-Reluctance to move
-Discharge from the wound
-Bad odor
TumorsCaused by exposure to cancer-causing agents like radiations, carcinogens, or chemicals-Swelling
-Open sores
AbscessesCaused by a bacterial infection-Red bumps or lumps
-Swelling around the area
-Discharge from the affected area
Rodent ulcerIt’s caused by an infection and can occur anywhere on the body-Bald patches of skin with no fur growth
-Redness and swelling at the site of ulcer
Rat ailments

Some medications used to treat rats and the ailments they cure include:

  • Baytril: This is an antibiotic that treats infections caused by bacteria. It can be given orally or as a topical application.
  • Robenacoxib: It’s used to treat inflammation and pain in rats, especially after surgery. If administered correctly, it works well on sick rats with few side effects.
  • Metacam: This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat pain and inflammation. It can also be used as a postoperative analgesic. It’s commonly used to help dying rats.
  • Ratiosol: This is an oral rehydration therapy that helps rats with diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Compound W: A topical medication used to remove warts in healthy rats.

2. Provide Safe Environment

Make sure that the surrounding is safe for your rat as it affects how he feels.

Sick rats need to have a place where they can rest comfortably and heal without worrying about predators or other dangers. A safe environment for such a rat is characterized by the following:

  • A place to sleep: It is recommended that you provide a warm, comfortable bed for your rat. You can do this by putting a soft blanket or towel in their cage so they have somewhere to rest.
  • Clean and dry environment: The surrounding should be clean and dry to avoid infections. Moisture triggers fungal growth which makes the environment more hospitable for bacteria.
  • Minimize noise and stress: Try to keep the surroundings calm and quiet as rats are very sensitive to noise and stress. Too much stimulation can make them feel worse.

Although your sick rat may not have appetite, you should provide him with food and clean water. As discussed by the Fao Organization, sick animals may have diarrhea which makes them lose water and salt. The consequence of this is constipation which will be fatal for your rat.

Preventing diarrhea and constipation is an excellent way to help a sick pet rat. You can achieve this by ensuring there is enough water and food within the rat’s environment.

3. Monitor the Temperature

temperature monitoring thermometer for sick rats
temperature monitoring thermometer

Rats are nocturnal. This means that they can’t endure heat. Moreover, they don’t sweat or pant to cool themselves. The situation is worse when they fall sick.

Rats use their tails to release excess heat. They send more blood towards the skin surface to radiate heat from the body. This means that tailless rats are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

To help a sick rat, make sure that the temperature in the room is comfortable for your rat. You don’t want it too hot or too cold as this will worsen the situation.

Sick rats should not be kept in temperatures above 90 degrees. The temperature should be even low for female rats with chronic respiratory disease as they’re more sensitive to heat.

The lowest temperature you should subject your sick rat to is 18 degrees. If it goes below this, your rat may freeze and this might cause death.

How to Keep an Optimum Temperature for Your Sick Rat

You can keep the optimum temperature for your sick rat by doing the following:

  • Checking Temperature Regularly: Checking the temperature regularly is important to ensure that it is comfortable for your rat. Place a thermometer or an armband monitor close to the rat’s cage to monitor its temperature.
  • Using Heating Pads and Blankets: These should be used to keep your sick rat warm during winter. When covering the rat with a blanket, make sure to leave breathing space.
  • Using a Cooling Pad: If the temperature becomes too hot for your rat use a cooling pad. You can also use air conditioning and fans to cool down the room.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Avoid placing your sick rat in direct sunlight as this may cause overheating. Instead, make use of a shaded area.

You can tell how warm your rat is by feeling his or her tail. Under normal circumstances, a rat’s tail should be cool. If on touching it you realize that it’s hot, it means your rat is feeling the heat.

4. Provide a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is essential for your rat’s overall well-being, including when they are sick. You want to get the right nutrients into their body so that it can fight off disease and infections. 

Here are some tips on how you should feed your sick rats:

  • Feed them a balanced diet that consists of fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as good quality rat food like the Oxbow Essentials Regal Rat Adult Rat Food.
  • Make sure there is always water available for your rats. dehydration can make them more susceptible to illnesses.
  • If your rat isn’t eating, you can try tempting him with his favorite foods like cheese or yogurt.
  • Ensure that the food is clean and free of contaminants.

Rat Treats to Help a Sick Rat

There are some rat treats you can give your sick rat to help him recover. Here are some of them:

  • Yogurt Drops: These drops are made with natural ingredients like yogurt, honey, and flaxseed oil. They are also free of artificial colors and flavors which makes them safe for a healthy rat.
  • Dried Banana Chips: Male rats love bananas. These dehydrated banana chips have no added preservatives, chemicals, or sugars making them a healthy option to give your sick rat.
  • Sweet Potato Chews: When looking for ways to help a sick rat, it’s always a good idea to give them something they love to eat. These sweet potato chews are made with real sweet potatoes and are a great way to get your rat to eat something nutritious.
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a healthy grain that is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which can help boost your rat’s immune system.

If your rat is refusing to eat or drink, you’ll need to develop mechanisms to ensure that they eat. A good example is mixing a small amount of water with Pedialyte or Gatorade and syringing it into his mouth. If he doesn’t open his mouth, you can gently pry it open.

5. Get Veterinary Care

The final tip on how to help a sick rat is by seeking specialized treatment.

Your pet rat requires specialized treatment from qualified practitioners, just the way you visit a doctor when you fall sick.

When your rat falls sick, you should have a veterinary doctor assess him soon as possible. The vet will diagnose the rat effectively to identify the cause of his ailment.

After the diagnosis, the vet will prescribe the most appropriate medication to heal the rat. The medication can either be delivered through an injection or orally.

Some illnesses like those that affect the respiratory tract and tumors can be treated with antibiotics or surgery respectively. However, some conditions like cancer are incurable and could lead to death.

What You Should Do as a Responsible Pet Owner

  1. If your rat is in pain or experiencing other symptoms of serious illness, do not wait for it to get better by itself. You should act fast and rush your rat to the vet for proper treatment.
  2. As a responsible pet owner, you should take out time and visit your local veterinary clinic so that they can put you through when caring for a sick rat.
  3. You must also know how to identify health problems in rats early enough to get proper treatment. This will help prevent your rat from suffering and becoming vulnerable to attacks by other animals, humans, or even death.
  4. When you suspect that your pet is sick, take it to a vet for diagnosis and medication as soon as possible. If the rat’s illness worsens before you can see a vet, make sure he gets into a warm and comfortable place where he will not be disturbed.
  5. Administer the rat’s medication according to the vet’s instructions, and keep an eye on his progress. If you see any improvement, continue with the treatment until your rat is completely healed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you help a rat with respiratory distress?

The best way to help a rat with respiratory distress is by administering a subcutaneous (SubQ) injection of aminophylline. The purpose of this injection is to open up the rat’s breathing passage so that air can flow easily and eliminate difficulty breathing. If the rat has lung inflammation, a second dexamethasone subQ injection will be necessary. These are the best ways to treat respiratory disease in pet rats.

How do I know my rat is dying?

Most of the signs that signify the death of a rat are similar to those that signify a sick rat. In most cases, you can know if your rat is dying if you notice:

  • A body that’s shutting down.
  • A prolonged lack of appetite and thirst.
  • Insensitivity to touch.

What does a sick rat sound like?

A sick rat produces a wheezing sound similar to that of humans. The wheezing sound of your rat is an indication of a respiratory disease caused by a bacterial or viral infection

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