When your pet rat is sick, you may find yourself questioning whether it's serious, or something you can handle by yourself at home. While vet attention is never a bad thing--it's always best to know that your rat is okay for sure--some health symptoms do point to a more urgent veterinary problem. In rats, this is even more important; their small size and fast metabolism mean that infections and illnesses can quickly overtake them if left untreated for even a short amount of time. In this article, you'll learn about two serious sick rat symptoms that always warrant immediate vet attention and why.
Bleeding From the Genitals
Whether your rat is male or female, bleeding from the genitals is a severe sign of illness in rats. Though some pet owners attribute genital bleeding to the rat version of a menstrual period when it occurs in females, this is a myth; female rats do not menstruate. Instead, both male and female rats who experience bleeding from the genitals are likely to be suffering from one of the following conditions.
In males specifically, the bleeding can be due to a stuck proteinaceous plug--a waxy build-up of lubrication and/or sperm that grows too large to escape the penile shaft without assistance. This is especially common in older males or overweight rats who may not be flexible enough to clean themselves well.
In females specifically, the bleeding can be due to a broad range of conditions and may be difficult to diagnose without x-ray or ultrasound. Pyometra is one common cause; this condition describes an infection or gathering of pus in the uterus itself. This condition is more common in does over the age of one who have been diagnosed with mycoplasma; the bacteria itself can eventually invade other organs, like the uterus, in addition to the lungs.
Both male and female rats can experience genital bleeding if they are suffering from a urinary tract infection. In some cases, your rat may also have strong-smelling urine or an inability to hold his or her urine during out-of-cage playtime. Urinating a few drops of blood on a constant basis is the first symptom.
Because it is so difficult to diagnose the cause of genital bleeding with the naked eye alone, any bleeding from the genitals should be considered a veterinary emergency. A stuck proteinaceous plug can eventually block off urine, causing damage to the bladder and kidneys, and pyometra can quickly produce sepsis if untreated. Urinary tract infections can also cause permanent kidney damage, bladder and kidney crystals, and sepsis if left untreated.
Thankfully, your vet can successfully treat most cases of genital bleeding if you seek prompt attention.
Pale or Blue Extremities
A rat's heart beats between 330 and 480 beats per minute. In ideal conditions, this provides the rat with enough energy and circulation to stay warm and active throughout the day and night. Good circulation is easy to verify in rats; their feet, tail, nose, and gums will all appear light to dark pink. When pressure is applied, the tissue should turn pale for just a second or two until the blood returns.
Likewise, a rat with compromised circulation is also very easy to spot. Look for white, blue or even purple extremities, including the ears and tail. These areas will often feel cool or even cold to the touch, and your rat may lose some or all feeling in the same tissues at the same time. These symptoms signify that your rat's circulatory system isn't pumping blood as it should.
In older rats, the most common cause for pale or blue extremities is congestive heart failure, a condition where the heart isn't able to pump blood effectively. CHF is caused by injury, such as that received in a heart attack, or disease processes like cancer and infection. In most rats, the early stages of CHF are quite easy to treat with medication. However, the need for prompt treatment cannot be overstated, Untreated CHF is always invariably fatal, and the condition can worsen in a matter of hours.
Cardiomyopathy is another common cause of poor circulation in younger rats; this genetic condition occurs before birth and results in permanently deformed ventricles in the heart. Poor circulation is a side effect of cardiomyopathy; the ventricles can't pump blood effectively due to the deformation. This condition can produce chest wall pain and will also increase your pet's risk of heart attack and stroke. It also increases the risk of fatal blood clots.
Advanced mycoplasmosis--a condition that most experts agree is present in all but laboratory-sourced rats--can also cause blue or pale extremities.
Unlike heart-related illnesses, the blueness found in advanced lung conditions like mycoplasmosis is not related to the heart's ability to pump blood or the effectiveness of your rat's veins and arteries. Instead, it's a side effect of the fact that excess fluid in the lungs reduces the amount of oxygen your rat can take in at any given time. Your pocket pet's cardiovascular system requires a high degree of oxygen saturation in order to support proper circulation; without it, the tail and ears very often lose their pinkness.
Advanced lung disease often comes with a host of other symptoms. Your rat may be gasping for breath, lethargic, or open-mouth breathing. Or, the only symptom may be excess discharge around the eyes and nose. Alternatively, your rat may have previously been diagnosed with mycoplasmosis prior to you noting the circulatory issue. Either way, blue, cold or pale extremities are a sign that your rat's condition has deteriorated; seek prompt treatment for the best chance of recovery.
Though many people think of pet rats as easy first pets, the truth is that these delicate little creatures can actually require a higher degree of care. They are exceptionally sensitive to environmental triggers and highly prone to illnesses, especially when sourced from pet shops and breeding operations where genetic stability may be viewed as less important than sheer volume. Understanding these two frightening but important symptoms of illness will help you to help your pocket pet get the treatment he or she needs to recover before the problem becomes too advanced. If your pet is experiencing symptoms of illness, schedule an appointment with a local veterinary clinic like Gwynedd Veterinary Hospital.Share
20 May 2016
Hello, my name is Marissa. Welcome to my site about veterinarians. I decided to buy myself a puppy for the holidays. I searched my community for a breeder and picked up my puppy right away. Unfortunately, within a day, I noticed my puppy was not feeling well. The poor animal picked up a virus on the way home due to the lack of proper vaccinations. The vet was able to save my puppy and give her all the correct vaccinations. I will use this site to explore viruses and other conditions that vets prevent through precisely timed vaccination schedules. Thanks.