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4 years ago

Rats are prone to a number of health problems and most people agree that vets bills are the biggest expense associated with keeping rats. Although getting your rats from a reliable breeder can reduce the risk of health problems, it is by no means a guarantee and anyone thinking of getting rats should be prepared to fork out a lot of cash for vets bills, should it be needed. You may get lucky and never need to see a vet at any point in your rat's life but chances are, you will, particularly as the rat ages. Below are the most common ailments rats suffer from. It should be noted that I am not a vet and my advice is based on experience and the knowledge I've gathered over the years. If in doubt you should always see your vet. However, it is important to find a rat knowledgeable vet before you actually need to use one. A lot of vets know very little about rats, but are still willing to take your money, which is part of the reason you need to do your homework. Do not assume for one second that by taking your rat to a vet, you will always see someone who knows more than you. There are some wonderful vets out there, but also a lot of shoddy ones who have little to no rat experience. I feel I must mention this as on more than one occasion, my rats have been misdiagnosed by vets, or I've been told they couldn't do anything to help because the animal was a rat, yet I've still been charged full price for their 'services'. Some people have huge difficulty finding a vet they trust to work with their rats. Fortunately, I have now settled on one particular vet who is very good with my rats, but it took many years to come by him. The general public trust their vets to have a good amount of knowledge on their pets, but when it comes to rats, this often isn't so. If your rat is ill, by all means take him to a vet, but do research yourself online (assuming the ailment is not urgent. Any animal in serious distress needs to see a vet straight away) Don't be afraid to challenge your vet if you have picked up different information via your research, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he is incorrect or uninformed, and a good vet will appreciate the knowledge you can share with him. Respiratory Infections (Mycoplasma Pulmonis) Rats are very prone to respiratory infections. Mycoplasma Pulmonis (myco for short) is a bacteria that ALL rats have from birth. It is passed from the mother to the babies in the birth canal. This is why all lab rats are born by caesarean section. SPF (specific pathogen free) lab rats are myco free because they are delivered in this way. It's important for lab rats to not have any health problems that may affect lab results. But all other rats, including wild ones, have Myco. Do not listen to anyone who tells you to seperate your rats as a result of myco, or who try to tell you it is contagious. All rats have it, therefore, isolating them from one another is utterly pointless when it comes to Myco. Myco lays dormant in the rats system until something causes it to flare up and become 'active'. Triggers include stress, bad breeding (resistance to active myco is partly inherited. Good breeders will only breed from rats that show good myco resistance) or bad husbandry. Myco can flare up and then settle down again and never cause another problem. Or it may flare up and stay there for good. Once active, Myco affects the lungs and if not treated, causes blisters on the lungs, pneumonia and eventually death. Myco cannot be cured but it can be controlled with antibiotics, and many rats that have active myco can live perfectly normal lives. However, Myco has a tendency to develop a resistance to antibiotics so your vet may need to try many different types over time. The first signs that your rat is having a myco flare up are sneezing or any noises from the lungs. Rats should not make any noise when they breathe other than the natural moving of air. Any rattling, clicking or snuffling noises should be watched closely. Of course all rats sneeze and there's no need to start panicking if your rat starts sneezing more than usual. It doesn't always mean myco. Some rats have allergies or are ultra sensitive to their environment and it's worth considering if you have changed anything recently such as a new air freshener, carpet, a new litter in the cage or anything along those lines. Some rats go through a sneezy period when they're first brought home; this is due to stress and often settles down within a few weeks. If the sneezing continues for a long time, or is accompanied by any respiratory noises and any red discharge around the nose or eyes, it's a good idea to get your rat checked by a vet. I recently heard someone describe their rat's myco noises as 'coffee percolator' noises which is pretty accurate! The red discharge is called porphyrin and is often mistaken for blood. It's not. It's a secretion that rats produce when ill or stressed. You'll notice that rats may produce it after a bath or vet visit or other stressful event. Myco is the most common rat health problem closely followed by........ Tumours Female rats in particular seem to be much more prone to tumours than boys, though it's not unheard of in males too. My boy Seven had a mammary tumour. These are the most common types of tumour in rats since they have so much mammary tissue. Most turn out to be benign and can be removed; however, they can grow back. Again, tumour resistance is something breeders breed for. Some rats have one tumour, have it removed, then never have another problem, some have to keep having them removed for the rest of their life. Needless to say, this gets costly. Price of tumour removal varies depending on the size of the tumour, how its attached, and the vet practise doing the operation. Seven's tumour was the size of a grape when I had it removed and it cost me £56. However, Ada's tumour removal cost me £107. If you know you want to opt for surgery, get it done as soo

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