Lice, Mites and other Parasites
Like us and other animals, rats get lice, mites, fleas and other parasites. This is not a sign of being looked after poorly or bad living conditions, but it if left untreated they can lead to other issues. Lice, mites and other parasites are very common and they need to be treated regularly just like you would a dog or cat. Now you are probably thinking if I have treated them already, doesn’t that mean they are gone? Sadly no… Rats can come into contact with the problem again via things like other rats, and litter. Litter usually sits in warehouses and pet shop for long period of time, these places are a common factor for carrying things like lice and other parasites.
Common symptoms of lice and mites are itching and scabbing, most common around the neck and shoulder area. Lice are hard to spot unless you take the time to find them or the problem has gone untreated for a long period of time. Mites on the other hand are not visible to the human eye, your vet will probably take a skin scrapping to verify that there are parasites present, however these tests often result in a false negative. So you should consider treatment to be on the safe side.
Ivermectin ( ivermec) or Revolution are the 2 most common treatments that are prescribed to rid of the parasites. I personalty don’t suggest the ivermectin be injected. This method of dosing can often lead to an overdose which can cause permanent nerve damage or kill your rat. In my opinion ivermectin should be dosed topically or orally. Injectable ivermectin may be used topically by placing the correct dosage on neck of the rat and allowing the rat to groom itself, hereby ingesting the medication. The dose will be different per rat due to their weight and size, always check with your vet before dosing your rats to make sure you are giving them correct amount.
Do not dose babies or pregnant/nursing doe’s without first consenting with a vet.
To make treatment successful you will need to treat all rats in your colony, even if others are not showing symptoms. Like us some rats will react differently to the parasites, so just because they don’t seem to show signs of them that does not mean they do not have them, treat one…. treat all. You will also have to make sure you treat the rats living area, you will need to thoroughly scrub the cage (1 part bleach to 10 parts water is recommended, make sure the cage is completely dry before you return the rats), throw out all litter, wash any cloth material and plastic toys in the cage and throw out any wooden/cardboard toys or boxes they have come into contact with. If you have any bedding or litter that has not yet been used, you should freeze them for at lest 24 hours before using to kill off any lice or mites that may be living in them to avoid further contact.
You should notice less scratching and fewer scabs within 2 – 3 days of the first treatment. Often a bath will help to sooth the skin of the rat while waiting for the medication to kick in. Trimming the nails of the itchy rat may also help the scabs to heal faster.
What is bumblefoot you ask? Bumblefoot is where the rats foot becomes swollen and develops tiny red calluses type blisters under the foot.If left untreated they become quiet large and will bleed and scab over. As you can imagine this will cause the rat a lot of pain and restrict their movement and ability to look after them selves.
While a lot of people are yet to decide weather bumblefoot is a genetic issue or a care issue, I believe it is better to be safe then sorry. Prevention is always the best place to start, so how can you try and prevent this from happening to your fur babies? Make sure all cage surfaces are clean, smooth and dry. Walking around in there own mess is said to be a big factor in how the issue starts. Any rough surfaces in their cage can cause injury’s to their feet, the tiniest of scratches can become infected and this is more likely to occur if they are covered in mess. Make sure you cover all wire grill floors and shelves with things like fleece, lino, tiles, fluteboard etc and keep them clean and dry as best as you can. If you do these things along with a good healthy diet and lots of exercise you should have no issues.
If you do however find that your rats have bumblefoot, no matter how bad it is, please take them to the vet and get them treatment. Don’t leave it and hope it goes away, as it wont and will get worse, and it can lead to other health issues if your rat is not able to get them self to there food and water bottle.