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Rats can be prone to lots of small accidents, and as they heal from small wounds very quickly, there are some injuries and conditions that don’t require vet visit. In emergencies, it’s useful to have some items ready in a rat first aid kit to help a rat while you get it to a good vet.
It’s important to make sure your rat is registered with a vet with good rat knowledge, and some kind of after hours care. Never treat a rat at home if it needs to see a vet. For small mishaps though, you can keep a good rat first aid kit at home to help a sick or hurt rattie.
As a responsible rat owner, your rat first aid kit will also help you to care for a rat after a visit to the vet.
You should have a spare cage to keep a sick or injured rat in. This should be low, with not much option for climbing to avoid further injury. A small hamster cage is ideal. This cage can also be used during introductions, so it’s very handy to have. Make sure you have enough cage furniture to set this up quickly in an emergency. Be sure to offer plenty of bedding and a cosy place to sleep for a rat who is being temporarily kept alone. If your rat is struggling to keep warm, you could offer something like a Snugglesafe Heat Pad.
In your kit, it’s useful to keep basic items like tweezers, nail scissors and cotton buds. These can be used to trim bandages, or for gentle cleaning of ears or any wounds. Digital scales are a handy tool too, for weighing your rat to work out medication dosage, or if you’re trying to help your rat lose or gain weight. A pill crusher is useful to break pills down into rat friendly sizes, and to measure out correct portions of pills.
Save any small syringes from medication (not the needle kind). Syringes are often the easiest way to persuade your rat to take a medicine. You can just squeeze the liquid straight into their mouth. They can also be used to quickly get fluids into a struggling rat.
Keep a small towel with your first aid kit. It can be used to warm a cold rat, to protect you from the claws of a scrabbling rat or for draping over hospital cages. Always know where your rat towel is!
Urine dipsticks designed for humans can be a useful diagnostic tool. While they’re not perfect, they can help you investigate why a rat is under the weather or not itself. With these, you can rule out things like various kidney issues and Diabetes.
It’s wise to keep some topical treatments and medicines in stock too. Harkametcin (sold in the UK for pigeons!) is an effective treatment of parasites, and available online. A spray containing
chlorohexidine is very useful for spraying on open wounds as an antiseptic. There are lots of options out there, but we like Gold Label Purple Spray. Hibiscrub can be used to clean wounds too, or as an anti-bac.
For small injuries, like sprains, that will heal on their own, you might like to keep a painkiller on hand. If you’ve been prescribed Metacam (usually given for cats or dogs), keep any leftovers in your rat kit. Be sure to check the dosage before giving it. The Rat Medication Guide covers most common meds with dosages. If you don’t have Metacam, Calpol or an own brand alternative children’s suspension can be used. Again, check your dosage first. Always be very, very careful when dosing a rat yourself. If you’re not sure, don’t risk it, and see your vet.
A good first aid kit will also contain some foods and supplements. A pro-biotic like Bio-Lapis is useful for rats with stomach upsets, or those upset by anti-biotics. Look for ones sold for rabbits and rodents. Some sort of wet, tasty, high value treat is excellent for hiding medicine in. You could use something like malt paste, liver paste or yogurt. The bonus of the pastes is that they don’t have to be refrigerated. For a very sickly rat that you’re struggling to persuade to eat, a sachet of baby food is useful to have on hand. Pick something low on sugar. Brands like Ella’s Kitchen (or the knock-off version Aldi sell) are great. Don’t feed this to a rat regularly, but it can be good in a pinch so your rat has something.
You will also need a variety of bandages. Cohesive bandages can be used to cover serious wounds in an emergency while you get the rat to the vet. They can also be used post-surgery to cover wounds and prevent the rat from bothering stitches. Tubagrip can go over bandages to hold them in place (be sure it’s not too tight).
Remember that home care should only be used for minor injuries, or as emergency care before you can get your rat to the vat. Never use only home care instead of a good vet. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, don’t attempt to treat a rat.