As we learned in our Signs of Illness post, rats can be very good at disguising illness and pain. In this guide, we will learn how to do a rat health check, so you can keep an eye out for any problems.
There are two kinds of rat health check. There are some quick things to check as you handle your rat on a daily basis and a more in-depth health check that can be done about once a month.
Daily Rat Health Check
Is your rat behaving ‘like itself’? As you interact with your rat as normal, be alert to any unusual signs. Is the rat more withdrawn than usual? Does your rat normally appear immediately at feeding time, but today seems reluctant to get out of bed? A change in behaviour can be a sign of your rat not feeling well.
Give your rat a quick look over. Are its eyes nice and bright? Are the eyes and nose free from porphyrin? Are the ears and nose clean and free of discharge? Are there any visible cuts or wounds?
As you handle your rat, be alert for any unusual lumps and bumps. Does your rat protest if you touch a particular spot? Is the fur as it usually is, with no signs of dryness, greasiness or evidence of mites?
During free-range, watch how your rat moves. Is it avoiding putting any weight on one of its paws? Is it walking comfortably? Do they seem less active than normal?
Monthly Rat Health Check
Roughly once a month, it’s a good idea to give your rat a more thorough check over.
As with the daily check, look at the eyes, ears and nose. Check the teeth for breakages. Top and bottom teeth may differ in colour, but the pairs of teeth should be a nice, uniform colour, and should be opaque. Is their mouth looking nice and pink inside?
Give the rat a more thorough feel for any lumps. Roll the loose skin between their legs gently in your fingers, and give them a good scratch all over to check their skin for any bumps.
Listen to the ‘rat phone’. This just means listening to your rat’s breathing by holding them to your ear like a telephone. If your rat is extra wiggly, across the back can be easier. You’re listening for any noisy breathing or wheeziness.
Check the groin area for any unusual swelling, discolouring or discharge. As with the daily check, check the body for any ‘sore’ spots, including the soles of the feet.
Check the fur condition, as you would in daily checks, but take a closer look at the hair follicle for signs of mites or lice. Check the tail for any wounds, or unusual kinks.
These easy checks will help you keep your rat in top condition. The more you know your rats, the easier it will be to spot any problems.