Q & A

From the Jan/Feb 1999 Rat & Mouse Gazette

I have a rat that always seems to be full of energy. I take him out when I watch television and let him crawl on my stomach and face, but lately I do it less and less often because of school. I have one of the balls where he rolls himself around in, but he hates it and won't move. I also bought a wheel, but he doesn't know how to use it. I tried helping him but he's too stubborn. Any suggestions?

Rats are very intelligent and most donít like rolling around in hamster balls, and the majority of male rats don't run on a wheel. I would suggest making the time for your pet and taking him out when you get out of school. Spend as much time with him as possible. Depending on his age and how aggressive he might be towards another rat, you might even consider getting him a playmate as rats are very social and need companionship from their own kind. However, they would have to be introduced slowly or he could attack and kill a youngster.

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My rats skin has been really irritated lately. I read something that said it could be too much protein, but we cut down on that and he is still bad. What else can it be?

It sounds like you may have a mite problem, if you have cut back on the protein and there are still scabs. You need to get some Ivermectin. You can order it through RMCA or you can go to your local feed/tack store and pick some up. Brand names to look for are: Zimecterin, Rotectin 1, Equalvan, or Equimectrin. These brands are a horse wormer paste that contains 1.87% Ivermectin. Give the rat the size of a grain of uncooked white rice once a week for three weeks. You may also want to give the rat a bath and get some aloe vera vet cream to rub on the scabs to aid in healing.

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My rat has been acting strangely after I give him his nightly snack of a small piece of wheat bread. Shortly after he eats the bread, he'll start to drool a yellowish liquid. His mouth is full of this stuff and it coats his chin. He pushes his face around the floor of his cage; I assume he's trying to wipe the gross liquid off. He also demonstrates displays of pain - hunching, poor coordination and strength, fluffy fur, and a pained look in his eyes. He'll try and lick up the yellow stuff or cough it out, but it seems to keep renewing itself. Then, when the flow abates somewhat (usually within five minutes of eating), he tries to make himself comfortable, bed down and fall asleep. Within a half hour to an hour after these frightening symptoms appear, they're completely gone and he is fine. What could be happening?

It definitely sounds like your rat is choking on the bread. This is not uncommon, but is most common with things like peanut butter. Anything thick or dry can cause it, though, and some rats are much more prone to choking than others. He may be a gobbler instead of a dainty eater. My advice would be to wet the bread a bit if you're going to continue to give it to him or choose another treat altogether.

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I have a group of pet mice in the same cage that are all starting to lose their hair. They are all four week old litter mates and their mother recently died of a tumor. I have a sister also living in the group from a previous litter and she is losing the hair on her stomach and the hair on her back looks oily. I have about five other cages with mice in them and they all are doing fine. I did change brands of mouse food from a Wal-mart brand to a pet store variety in the last week and I am now back to the Wal-mart brand. I did notice that the pet store brand had oats in it and the Wal-mart brand didn't. They don't have any scabs or bleeding, but they seem to be scratching more than normal. Can you tell me what this might be?

I haven't had this particular problem, as you described it, but some similar cases.

Unless this is an unusual food allergy, the hair loss probably isn't related to food. Foods high in oils can cause oily coats, but not hair loss. Oats are good for mice, although I don't know much about the other parts of the food mix.

Perhaps they have mites? (Look for tiny, sticky white spots that don't come off when you try to brush them off.)

Perhaps it is another parasite, either inside their bodies or outside. Only a vet can perform a test to be sure.

Maybe this line of mice have an inherited hair disorder, as in mice derived from the Astrex coats. If they have curly whiskers, this may be the case. Nothing can be done if this is the case, just don't breed more.

-- Roxanne Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald's Fancys

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I recently purchased a grey hooded rat, and all the trimmings for her new little apartment. I lined her house with pine shavings and I have noticed she has been doing little sneezing sounds. Could she be allergic to this?

Pine shavings are toxic to all small rodents and they do frequently make them sneeze, in addition to causing lung and liver damage. She may also have a slight respiratory infection which is common in rats. My advice is to get her off of the pine shavings right away and get her on Aspen or a paper product like CareFRESH, Yesterday's News, Kitty Soft, Cell Sorb Plus, Eco-Bedding, etc... If you can't find any of those, you can use corn cob bedding or rabbit food pellets as litter. They are less desirable, but they're healthy. After you have her on new bedding, watch her for about a week to see if her sneezing stops. If it doesn't, or if she gets worse prior to the week being up, get her to a vet to evaluation and to get her some antibiotics.

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