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Rat Health and Care Information
Rats are in plastic cages with solid floors. Care should be taken to prevent escape. Bedding may be paper (Care Fresh Pet Bedding), wood chips or shavings. It should be non - allergenic, dust-free, absorptive, nontoxic, and clean.
Frequency of cage and litter pan changing is a function of animal density. Solid-bottom cages should be sanitized at least once a week.
Temperatures in rat rooms should be 18o – 27o C (65o-79o F). Low temperatures may result in gastric erosions and tail auto-amputations. High temperatures can cause infertility in males due to testicular atrophy. Relative humidity should be 40% - 70%. Nocturnal rodents do fine in dimly lighted rooms. Excessive light may cause retinal degeneration in albino rats.
Conditions Requiring Veterinary Attention
Murine Respiratory Mycoplasmosis (MRM) – caused by Mycoplasma pulmonis. The most important disease of both laboratory and pet rats. All agents that damage the protective capacity of the respiratory epithelium, such as ammonia, sulfur dioxide, bacterial infections, and viruses, predispose the animal to this disease.
Sialodacryoadenitis Virus (SDAV) – coronavirus: one of the most common viruses in rats. Rats may exhibit porphyrin – pigmented (red stain) discharge around the eyes and nares. Early clinical signs mimic MRM.
Fur Mites - Radfordia ensifera, the rat fur mite, the most common and clinically significant ectoparasite of rats. Clinical signs include hair loss, self-trauma, skin ulceration, and itchiness.
Tumors - Tumors has a reported incidence of up to 87 % in rats over 2 years of age. The most common tumor is the mammary fibroadenoma. They are usually well tolerated until mass hinders locomotion or sepsis/toxins results from the ulceration. With surgery, the prognosis is good.
Malocclusion - Genetic, dietary, infectious, and traumatic factors can cause malocclusion and incisor overgrowth in rats. Incisor overgrowth can result in trauma to the tongue and mouth and cause slobbers, weight loss, and starvation.
Heat Exhaustion - Predisposing factors are ambient temperatures > 28o C (85o F), high humidity (>80%), poor ventilation, and overcrowding. Hot rats salivate profusely to wet their hair coat for cooling, which increases water consumption.