Early detection of health problems by performing health checks can be a matter of life or death for your ratties. I have created these checklist in a PDF form that I can email you upon request and suggest printing out these checklists, slip them into those plastic page protectors and hang on a clipboard or if you really feel like being fancy, put them in a photo frame and hang on the wall near your rats’ cages. Then you can just glance at the list as you perform your health checks.
Keep a small spiral notebook or binder close by and be sure to date each page, jotting down any symptoms or signs of illness or injury you may observe.Then, should your rat need vet care, you can bring along your health check records and have accurate information as to when symptoms first appeared.
This same notebook can be used to jot down when medications were administered as well. Its also a good place to keep information on each of your rats such as birth dates, adoption dates, vet info, pet store addresses and hours, etc. In case of an emergency in which you must evacuate (I live in Florida where hurricanes sometimes require evacuation), be sure to add this binder along with other important paperwork. If you ever need to have someone “rat-sit” while you are away, let your rat care givers know of its location and be sure they can continue health checks and notes while you are gone.
Anyhow, those just looking for the info, this is my health checklist. Hope it help! 🙂
THE RAT WHISPERER HEALTH CHECKLIST
Look for red discharge, swelling/bulging, cloudiness or ulceration. Eyes should be bright, clear, and free of discharge.
Check for red discharge and cross check with breathing symptoms. Noisy breathing and nasal discharge are common signs of upper respiratory infections or stress.
Place rat’s chest up to your ear, known as the “rat phone”- listen for noise (wheezing, rattling, grunting, clicking, chirping, etc.) Note any abnormalities such as labored breathing, gasping, etc.
Check for scabs or crusts which could indicate sarcoptic mites. Also check for discharge, odor, or growths. Check the color for either paleness or heightened skin color.
Look at the teeth and check for misalignment or overgrowth, gum swelling, redness, or broken incisors. In adults, the upper incisors should be dark yellow-orange and the lowers are yellow. White teeth are usually a sign of illness or poor diet. Check that the incisors are even and not piercing the cheeks or gums. Check for signs of swelling along the jawline and throat (i.e. facial abscesses). Scratches and scabs along the chin could indicate mites or dietary problems.
Massage the rat’s body and check for lumps, swelling, or areas of sensitivity that might indicate growths, swelling or pain. Pay careful attention to the abdomen, underarms, and groin- all common sites for mammary lumps, tumors, abscesses, or enlarge organs or lymph nodes. Visually inspect for any bleeding, cuts, bites, bruising, etc.
The coat should be clean, smooth and glossy except in rex and hairless varieties. Hairless rats’ skin should be smooth, supple, and soft. Part the fur and check for fleas, lice, and nits, paying close attention to the neck and shoulders for scabs (mites) and the back and hindquarters for parasites (lice), and the overall body for patches of hair loss (excluding those of patchwork rats) which is characteristic of parasites, fungal infections, and skin allergies. Grasping the skin in a pincher grip, can help determine if the rat is dehydrated- the skin should snap back immediately. Yellow staining of the fur could indicate inadequate husbandry or urine infections.
Check females for discharge or blood (uterine infection, cysts, or tumors). Check the penis of males for discharge.
Check the nails to see if they need trimming and the soles of the feet for redness, sores or wounds (bumblefoot). Also check for red staining on the front feet, common of rats that wipe porphyrin away from their noses and eyes. Examine the tail- it should be smooth and clean and rounded, free from lesions or inflammation (ringtail). Check the color for either paleness or heightened skin color.
Weight: take note of excess weight gain or loss
Intake/Output: note any increase in water intake (rats drink about 20-30 ml per day) as excess thirst could indicate diabetes or kidney disease. Urine should be clear- check for blood in the bedding (urinary tract infection).
Odor: learn your rat’s “normal” odor. A bad smell could indicate infection or diabetes, or inadequate husbandry.
Temperature: learn your rat’s normal temperature so you can recognize when the rat feels too cool to the touch or fevered.
Movement: take note of any trembling, limping, tilting, circling, weakness, etc. Note the general posture and activity level as a “hunched” or lethargic rat could be ill.