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Itching and External Parasites
11 years ago
We recently had problems with mites on our older rats and there's been some discussion about them on other boards so I thought I'd post what I know about them here. My sources are the Rat Health Book, and personal experience. Please feel free to add more techniques, etc. that you've found helpful! _____________________________________ Rats can commonly get fleas, lice and mites. Fleas and lice are usually visible as they're fairly large, but mites tend to be microscopic and often hard to even test for. Symptoms: General sypmtoms can be excessive scratching, thinning or missing areas of hair where the rat can reach, obsessive grooming or small wounds around the shoulders, neck and face. Some more specific hints: Fleas - You may actually see the fleas, which are about 2mm and dark, shiny brown. Also, their droppings look like little crumbs of dirt and bleed red when made wet (as the droppings are just dried blood). Lice - You may also be able to see the lice, which are light tan to brown or red. They're slightly smaller than fleas. They live on your pet wherever it's hard for them to groom, so you can often find them between the shoulders, upper back and neck. It's often easy to see their egg sacks attached to the hair in a silvery coating. Mites - There are a few kinds of mites, but some telltale signs are itching, scabs around the head and neck, and more rarely, wart-like bumps, bumps or blisters. What can contribute to infestations: - Poor health of the rat. Often mites are fought off by the immune system of a healthy rat, but if the rat has a weakened immune system due to illness or stress the mites have an easier time taking over. This can increase the likelyhood of the sick rat's cagemates of being infested too. - Exposure by outside sources. Introducing new rats that have external parasites or letting your rat roam where other animals have been can contribute to them being infested. Parasites can also be brought in with food and bedding that has not been properly sealed or stored. Treatment: - IVERMECTIN. I've had the best results with Ivermectin given orally. Some vets offer an injection but it tends to be much less traumatic and painful if done orally. All rats must be medicated at the same time, usually once a week for at least 3 weeks. You can often hide the medication in a yummy, absorbent food as the doses are small. Ivermectin is my first choice becacuse it exposes your pet to less toxins than topical solutions. - FRONTLINE. Haven't tried it, but the Rat Health Book mentions it. Check with your vet on the doseage. - SELAMECTIN. Topical derivative of Ivermectin. (see - EQUAMECTRIN. Oral. Also known as horse worming paste. (see
Itching and External Parasites, part 2
11 years ago
Other steps: - Clean cages meticulously, discarding or boiling all cloth and rough wood toys and accessories. The parasites can often live for some time off the host, and many lay their eggs on bedding, etc. Use bleach if possible, and rinse thoroughly. Repeat at least once a week until problem is solved. - Vaccuum all areas where the rats have been (especially on carpet). Use a flea/mite spray or bomb if vacuuming alone does not help (or if you want to be absolutely sure). - Don't let your rats play with other rats/animals that may be infested. - If you play with rats/pets other than your own, wash hands and change clothing before returning to your pet. - Use only well sealed and processed bedding. - Freeze bedding/food before use. I haven't tried this yet, but I definitely will! - Keep toenails trimmed to reduce wounds from scratching. - Treat any wounds with antibiotic ointments. - Quarentine all new rats for at least 3 weeks and treat for illnesses/infestations before introducing.
Mites and my rats
11 years ago
I'm not sure if my rats had mites, but I did clean everything with tea tree oil including bathing the babies. TO be sure I went out and got horse wormer (Ivermectin) and dosed them yesterday. I just can't afford a vet visit to properly diagnose it. As it was we tried to do a skin scraping to see if we could identify the mites but after the tea tree oil dip, all of Rocky's sores have healed so it wasn't going to work doing a scraping. They weren't hard to dose and I now have a three year supply of meds if they develop any other parasites. Thanks for quoting the exoparasite stuff from the book, it really was helpful in deciding what to do about the "bite marks" that aren't really bite marks.
No problem!
11 years ago
That's what we're here for! I'll try to post all the info I have as topics are brought up.
7 years ago

I have read that a few grapefruit seed extract drops (you should delute it to about one drop per cup) in some water to rinse them with after their bath will get rid of mites.  I never tried it, because I haven't had a problem with my rat.  Most of the time, they will go away on their own though, unless the rat has a weeker imune system.  COQ10 is a good immune system booster.  I never gave it to a rat before though.  I imagine it would work good, but you would have to use just a tiny bit of the powder out of a capsule.

Ivermectin danger
6 years ago

I keep an open tube of Revolution (selamectin) for use on lice and such. I used to use horse wormer but my first rat died from what looked like a pit tumour but not quite. I read up on a syndrome that affects rats who've been dosed with Ivermectin and decided against using it. Seems only my petstore babies are vermin afflicted. No one else has had problems on the selamectin.

Grapefruit seed extract is great to kill any bugs. It is really strong. Good in the water bottle too, to keep the algae out and healthy for them.

Grapefruit Seed Extract
6 years ago

I used some on my ratties today, they were itching alo, dont know if it is mites, but just in case. They are no longer itching, I notice it alot in the two I adopted from a young lady who was giving them up to go to grad school. I rescue and have a few from a breeder. Well, they all loved the bathe/shower, well, one cried and pooped in the sink, but the male put his head under the water that was steadily falling, and just closed his eyes, he loved it!
Well, I sprayed them all down with Grapefruit Seed Extract I have in a form of first aid spray, especially the male, he has a few bite wounds from an over energetic female, and has some bite marks on his shoulder, that is her favorite place to get him, and he doesnt fight back, yet. They all feel so soft and even seem to feel better, more comfortable.
The two rescue were treated as soon as I brought them home, and my vet saw them both. WE both seem to think the itching is from the cheap food they were on both at the petstore and at their former home. Their skin just seemed dry, and uncomfortable to them.
So, I am not sure if the extract works on mites or not, I am sure tea tree oil will, but I have none with me right now. The shampoo was Halo, a good shampoo I use on my cats also, lemon balm , and lavender, and more good esential oils to help with pests. It is also a skin softener.
How much would you put in the water bottle? I put echinacea in it off and on, and that helps also. But I am fighting respiratories on the two rescues, one with a head tilt, and another rescue has a bad heart. The last one I adopted from the breeder, she has strange behavior, so no one would take her, I love her, but she is fiesty, get resiratories off and on, but they are really slight. I just dont want to keep them on antibiotics forever, heck, my cats dont ever take them, I supplement their food, and make tinctures, but am collecting herbal advice for rats yet.
Any input is very welcome.

Good News!
6 years ago

I sprayed three of the itchy ones daily for three days with a weak mixture of grapefruit seed extract and tea tree oil, it was highly diluted as it is for human first aid, but was all I had on hand. I used it for three days, no more scratching, just regular grooming. I froze all the litter, washed everything in hot water and scrubbed the cages down with a mixture of vinegar and vegetable based detergent, diluted with water.
I bought an extra botlle just in case, but everything seems fine now. They are still really soft and smell good from the bathe. I love it!

I broke Down
6 years ago

Two of the rescues I took in became completely infested, and have ni real immune system to help fight them off. After a week, at least, of spraying them down, cleaning everything daily, freezing litter sometimes for two days in a row instead of just overnight. I gave in and ordered some ivermectin. They recieved their first dose last night, and are feeling much better now. I once again changed and washed all bedding and cages.
The three from the breeder are first generation babies that no one wanted, bad haircoats and overly energetic behavior, but sweet as can be. They are doing good on the grapefruit seed extract and tea tree oil, but did get some ivermectin last night as I want to clear up everyone as soo as possible. I have 4 cats also one with a bad immune system, and really dont want that.
I always try to go the natural way, and it seems to work great for the cats, but rats are just harder to treat at times. So all animals are now mainly parasite free and resting easy.
I still keep two bottles of gse around just in case.

I Think Vet
6 years ago

Something is wrong! Three doses of ivermectin, freezing litter, washing veggies really well, cleaning cages and fleece bedding in hot soapy water, spraying down the litter, and they still itch, not as much, but they still do, and not regular grooming either. I am washing down two more cages today, the other one tomorrow--it is a big one, and takes alot out of me, and i have to wash hammies today. Going to try some neem oil on them today, works great on the cats and me. The only one not itchy, is the new rescue I took in. I treated her the day I brought her home with me, and last night when she was introduced to two other very social rats that will be her cagemates as soon as I clear this up. Looks like their vet will be getting a call tomorrow, might be something else going on here. Strange though, three are first generation breeders who I adopted and spayed/neutered. Their immune systems are strong.

I hope I got it
6 years ago

I talked with another breeder, and a natural health worker, and with what I know, we all decided they should be rinsed down with olive oil. I did treat one of my cats with olive oil when I suspected ear mites, then rinsed her with yellowdock. Well, it seems to be working, I am so glad they are not scratching themselves that bad anymore. I massaged the oil in after I wet them down with warm water--they really loved that---then let them dry and groom themselves, then sprayed them down really well with Grapefruit seed extract, and tonight they are hardly itching. One Sunday I will massage more oil on them, and spray again. Only 6 will let me do this,two others freeze and will fear bite, and the other is a rescue brought in a few days ago, and she seems ok, and will bite agressively if touched--she was mistreated by a kindergarten class whos teacher left them unsupervised with her---so now she is scared of everything. She is young yet, so I am hoping that time and love will do the trick for her temperment. Anyway, the infestation is seeing an end. I never had one this bad before, usually one or two ivermectin treatments and a good bath does it.