Even though many people have aphobia of rats, they really do make fantastic pets. Rats are often described, temperament-wise, as ‘small dogs’ as they are interactive, have plenty of personality and enjoy playing with toys. If you have rats, or are getting some, it is important to ensure that they are happy and healthy. Here are five different checks that you can do to ensure that your rat is firing on all cylinders.

Check their nose, eyes and ears

It is easy to perform a little health check on your rat at home. Healthy rats should have no discharge coming from their nose, eyes or ears. 

The eyes should be clear, open and free from debris. With some infections and other conditions, a red substance can come from a rat’s eyes. Do not panic, in most instances, this is usually an infection and not blood. Your rat will however need to visit a veterinary surgeon.

A rat’s nose should be clean and the nostrils should be clear. Occasionally, a small amount of dirt can build up around the nostrils, but this should be nothing substantial. Sometimes, a respiratory infection can cause a red-coloured discharge to come from the nose. If this occurs, book an appointment with your veterinary surgeon.

The ears should be clean and free from any discharge. If the ears are dirty, then they can be cleaned with a small amount of warm water and something soft, such as kitchen roll. However, do not insert anything into the ear, such as a cotton bud.

Check their weight

A healthy rat should be of a good weight, with males weighing around 250 – 300 grams and females weighing up to 520 grams. It is common for females to weigh heavier than males. 

It may be beneficial to routinely weigh your rat on a weekly basis. This way, you can keep track of your rat’s weight to see whether they are putting on or losing weight. Obesity in rats is actually quite common and can cause a variety of secondary diseases. Refrain from overfeeding your rats to avoid health conditions like obesity.

Examine the teeth

If you’re feeling brave, take a look at your rat’s teeth. Most rats are super friendly and will not mind you having a look at their teeth. Do not be alarmed by the yellow colour, it is normal for a rat’s teeth to be yellow.

Rats’ teeth are continuously growing throughout the entirety of their lives, so they should be given plenty of toys to chew and harder foods that help to keep their teeth at a good length. Overgrown teeth are common in rats, especially the incisors, which are the teeth found at the front of the mouth. The gums should be pink and moist.

If your rat’s teeth are curling or broken then you should book an appointment with your veterinary surgeon. If your rat is struggling to eat, or the gums are any colour other than pink, it is also worth seeing your veterinary surgeon.

Check your rat’s breathing

Watch your rat from afar and monitor how they are breathing. A small movement in the chest can usually be observed and there should be no noise being produced by the rat.

If your rat is breathing quickly, or the breathing is laboured, take your rat to your veterinary practice immediately. Rats are prone to respiratory infections which usually present with symptoms such as loud breathing sounds, red discharge from the nose and sneezing. If you are worried about your rat’s breathing, book an appointment with your veterinary surgeon.

Examine your rat’s fur

The fur of a rat should be clean, free from dandruff and there should be no bald patches. The fur should not be greasy and should have no mats.

Take your rat out of their cage and run your fingers through the fur. Make sure that you can’t see any parasites, which often look like white or black grains of sand which move quickly. Ensure that there are no bald patches or areas of redness. This may also be an indication that there are parasites present.

Barbering in rats and mice can be common in groups of rats. Similar symptoms to a parasite infestation can occur such as baldness, redness or open wounds.

If you are concerned about the condition of your rat’s fur, speak with your veterinary surgeon.

Final thoughts 

Rats make brilliant additions to any family. It is important to check on your rats routinely to ensure that they are in good health and are not suffering with ailments such as obesity, dental disease or parasites. If you are worried about your rat’s health, or have any questions regarding rat care, contact your veterinary surgeon for more information. 

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