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Common Diseases and Disorders of Pet Rats

Updated on May 30, 2017
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GalaxyRat is fond of rats and writing. And dark poetry. She knows that people don't like all these things together... but who cares?

Digestive Disorders

Intestinal Parasites

There are a few different parasites that can effect a rat's intestines: pinworms, tapeworms, and Taenia taeniaformis (cat tapeworm). Anyway, what are ways to prevent these unwelcome 'guests' from entering your poor rat's body, and namely, the intestines?

For the pinworm, you barely have any signs from your Rat, but your Rat can affect others with his contaminated feces. However, a heavy infestation can cause poor Rattle to have diarrhea, and that's when you should call your vet, who will test the feces. She will find the worms and eggs in the feces, and perscibe the appropriate treatment. However, you should disinfect the cage a lot during Rattle's infection, because pinworm eggs are light and can float in the air.

Tapeworms are a little more uncommon, and, like the pinworm, there is usually no signs that Rattle is infected. But, also like pinworms, under heavy infestation, Rattle may have weight loss and diarrhea. It can be spread to humans if you ingest the tapeworm, so don't eat your Rat's feces. Tapeworms are indirectly transmitted through cockroaches, bettles, and fleas. Treatment is somewhat similar to a pinworm infection's: keep the cage clean, and let your vet give the appropriate treatment.

The cat tapeworm always resides in the rat as the immeadite host, and cats can be affected when they eat the rat. But, rats can also be affected when coming into contact with an infected cat's feces. Cysts embed in the rat's liver, which becomes larger. As the Merck Manual says, "It is important for those who both own rodents and cats to eliminate potential sources of infection"... how? By keeping your house disinfected!


This does not usually infect rats, and protozoa rarely cause disease. However, if it infects a stressed or young rat, you will see signs of diarrhea, lethargy, rough hair coat, weight loss, and sometimes fatal heavy bleeding. The Protozoa cannot always be eliminated, but it can be controlled with the correct drugs.

Sialodacryoadenitis and Rat Coronavirus Infection

Highly contagious, these diseases affect the nose, lungs, Harderian gland (behind the eyes) and salivary glands of rats. It can be spread through direct contact, airborne virus particles, and contaminated objects in the cage. Wash your hands before handling your Rat if you handled pet shop animals or a friend's rat. Your Rat will avoid bright or direct light, sneeze, look like he has mumps, and reddish brown "tears" will be seen around the eyes. You may feel enlarged salivary lands and lymph nodes, and inflammation of the cornea or the conjunctivitis may be visible. Sadly, there is no treatment, but most Rats recover in time.

Keep cat bedding and feed away from your pet rats... your poor Rattle could become infected with the cat tapeworm!
Keep cat bedding and feed away from your pet rats... your poor Rattle could become infected with the cat tapeworm!

Brain, Nerve, and Spinal Cord Disorders

There isn't much to say about this subject, except the fact that rats older than two will have spinal degeneration, and their hind limbs will be paralyzed. Consult your vet see what she says about the subject, and ask what you can do to strengthen your Rat's remaining limbs.

Where is the "Skin Disorders" Info?

It is impossible to list all the skin Disorders of rats in a simple Hub such as this, but here is the most common, dear reader.

Barbering and fight wounds occur mostly in male rats. Barbering is when the alphas chew the fur and whiskers of the omegas of the mischief (pack of rats in a cage). Street and boredom can make a lone rat do it to himself, and others also do it to each other. Female rats also barber. There is no need to be alarmed unless the barber sites are inflamed, which is when you should talk to your vet about treatment. Fight wounds are similar, but much more cause for worry. It is best to separate fighting rats, and note where the wounds are. Always get treatment for these.

Rats can also have fleas, ticks, and mites, and the treatment is like that of any other animal. Always ask your vet.

Lung and Airway Disorders

Chronic respiratory disease, a bacterial infection, is transmitted through sexual, direct, and airborne contact. It can also be passed to a mother Rat's litter. The infected Rat may have a rough hair coat, sneezing, sniffling, lethargy, labored breathing, weight loss, head tilt, and reddish brown stains on the nose and eyes. This is what I believe Templeton has, although he doesn't have labored breathing, head tilt, weight loss, or lethargy, because signs can vary. Infection can become more severe with other illnesses, and the ovaries and uterus can be infected in female Rat. There is no cure, but with good care, and maybe a few antibiotics, Rattle can live two to three years. Keep your Rat's home clean.

Templeton, my Rat with chronic respiratory disease
Templeton, my Rat with chronic respiratory disease

Kidney and Urinary Disorders

Chronic progressive nephrosis is a common diease of older rats, and involves inflammation of the blood vessels in the kidneys. It occurs earlier and much more severe in males than in females, and it is always fatal, with no cure, for both sexes. Treatment may help decrease the signs.

Leptospirosis is just as sad, as a bacterial infection of the urinary tract. "Treatment is not recommended because of the risk of human infection", states the Merck Manual,also noting it can be transmitted from wild rats and mice to humans and rats.

Roundworms and uroliths infect the bladder and kidneys in rats. Roundworms are rarely reported, and the treatment is like that of pinworms. "Kidney stones" (uroliths) can occur in older rats, and usually they can pass them on their own. If they are infected, they may have blood in the urine, and inflammation and infection in the bladder. If the bladder is obstructed when the stones are passed, it can be fatal. Sometimes surgery can remove the stones.

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Information Comes From the Merck/Merial Manual

Copyright 2007 by Merck & Co., Inc.


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    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 7 months ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Ha, why would you do it anyway? But, that also can apply to other pets who eat poop. Thanks for reading!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      Poor little rat-a-tat-tats. You provided some good information here for rat parents. I like the part about not eating your pet rat's poop.

    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 7 months ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Feel free to comment. I can't really stop you, because otherwise, I would've not made a comment section. :)