Q & A

From the September/October 1997 Rat & Mouse Gazette

My friend keeps telling me that my rat looks like she is in pain, but I don't think she is. How can I tell if she really is in pain?

If your rat cries when she moves or when you touch her or pick it up, or if she winces when you try to touch her, then she is probably in pain. Rats are very stoic, so if your rat is truly showing signs of pain, then the pain must be severe. If this pain is associated with a known injury, you can ask your vet about possible pain medication. If you do not know of any injury, you will need to take her to the vet for an X-ray to determine if there is a hidden injury or tumor somewhere causing her pain.

It has been determined that household drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen have no real effect on rat pain due to their high metabolic rate, and, therefore, should not be used. Heavy duty opioid analgesics such as Butorphanol and Morphine administered frequently are considered to be necessary in cases of severe pain. Less severe pain should not be treated with medication at all as the pain ensures that the rat will stay calm and speed the healing process.

Pain medications should only be used when there is severe pain caused by an injury or other problem that can heal or be surgically repaired. In cases of severe pain caused by tumors that cannot be removed, the most humane course of action is euthanasia.

If you decide euthanasia is best, be sure to discuss with your vet the most humane method. Insist that your vet use an inhalant anesthesia such as Halothane or Isoflurane prior to giving the lethal injection. Lethal injections cannot be given in a vein on an animal as small as a rat and instead are given in the abdominal cavity or directly into the heart. These injections are extremely painful and are therefore inhumane. Don't let the vet convince you otherwise.

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How many different colors of rats are there?
There are many variations of each genetic color, and different ones are recognized by different clubs around the world. These clubs, for the most part, don't agree on what each color should be called or which variation of the color should be recognized. This results in an awful lot of confusion among even the most serious exhibitors.

RMCA formed a Standards Committee and had planned to try to establish a worldwide Council of Judges to help eliminate this confusion by working towards an international standard. The starting point was with the southern California clubs but, unfortunately, only three of the four wanted to particpate. The other one was satisfied with their standards and was unwilling to compromise for the advancement of the rat and mouse community.

Time and busy schedules put the Standards Committee on hold, but hopefully in the future we can again work towards an international standard so the rat and mouse community as a whole will understand exactly what the other person means when they say Coffee or Irish, etc...

Currently, RMCA recognizes the following rat colors: Beige, Black, Blue, Blue-Beige, Champagne, Chocolate, Coffee, Lilac, Mink, Platinum, Russian Blue, Silver, Black-Eye White, Pink-Eyed White, Agouti, Amber, Blue Agouti, Chinchilla, Cinnamon, Cinnamon Pearl, Fawn, Lynx, Pearl, Himalayan, Blue Point Siamese, Seal Point Siamese, and Silvered rats in any recognized color. We also recognize the following markings: Bareback, Berkshire, Capped, Dalmatian, Hooded, Irish, Masked, and Variegated. Odd-Eye rats, Rex rats, Tailless and Hairless are also recognized. As you can imagine, this makes for many, many different combinations!

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I just noticed blood coming from the vagina from my one year old rat for the first time. Do female rats have a period?
No, female rats do not menstruate, so if your female is bleeding vaginally then something is wrong and you need to get her to the vet.

Vaginal bleeding can be a symptom of a uterine tumor, genital mycoplasmosis, a urinary tract infection, a miscarriage, or the beginning of labor. If you can eliminate a miscarriage or labor from this list, and if after antibiotics have been given to rid her of any infection she is still bleeding, then the only treatment left is to have her spayed.

Spaying will eliminate the problem altogether and may extend her life. Be sure to find a competent vet to perform the surgery. It should cost in the neighborhood of $65 to $150 for the entire procedure. Also make sure that your vet gives you post surgical antibiotics to prevent possible infection.

Remember, this surgery involves going into the body cavity and should not be decided upon without considering the risks. If she is a young rat then the benefits will probably outweigh the risks, but if she is very old, it may be best to let her live out her life in peace. I have seen some females bleed vaginally on and off for over a year before leaving this world.

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Rat & Mouse Gazette
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PMB 302
Westminster, CA

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