We all hope it doesn’t happen, but no matter how much of a good rat owner you are, there will be a time when you find yourself nursing a sick rat.
The first decision to make is whether you are going to move your sick rat into another cage. If he is not too sick and the disease is not contagious, it is best to leave them in with their companions. It will be less stressful and your rat will feel better being around his friends.
If your rat is very ill, or has a contagious disease, you should move him into a separate cage. This way he will not spread the illness and he will also have peace and quiet, in a space where he can recuperate.
Make sure the cage is extra comfy for your rat. Use old jumpers, or towels for bedding, so that your rat can snuggle up.
If your rat has a respiratory disease he may get rather cold, so make sure you take steps to keep him warm. Put a heating pad under the cage, covered by a towel. Do not put it inside the cage, or your rat will chew the wires. You can also get a microwaveable heat pad. Keep the pad over one side of the cage, so that your rat can move away if he gets too hot.
Make sure you change the bedding in your rats’ cage frequently. If it gets dirty your rat’s illness could get worse. Clean the cage with a germicidal cleaner, such as Parvasol, a mild bleach solution.
Drape a towel over one half of the cage, so that your rat can retreat to a dark place to hide. Make sure that your rat doesn’t get too hot and that he stays hydrated.
Remember your rat may not be able to clean himself when he is sick. Use a damp cloth to clean off any urine or waste. Whatever you do don’t rinse him under the tap. It will be too stressful. Make sure to dry him thoroughly and gently with a towel.
Your rat may not be eating much, or may not be able to eat the same foods when he is ill. Try soft foods such as avocado, thinly spread peanut butter, eggs, baby food and bananas.
Vanilla mixed with banana will be really tasty.
You may need to hand feed your rat. Use a syringe if he will not eat. 3cc, 6cc or 12cc are best.
Give your rat a pea sized blob of a vitamin supplement such as Nutrigel, along with his other food.
You may also need to give water by hand. Mix the water with a teaspoon of sugar and syringe feed it to your rat..
Use a damp tissue to gently clean any food off your rat after each meal.
You can also use a syringe to administer your rat’s medication, or if he is eating you can add the meds to his favourite liquid food (yoghurt or Soya milk).
If your rat is very ill, you may need to administer injectable drugs. Gently pinch the skin on the scruff of your ratties neck and slide the needle under the skin. Massage the area before you do this. If possible, try not to get antibiotics in pill form, as they are hard to administer.
Check that your rat is not dehydrated by gently pulling up your rats skin and then releasing. It should ping back straight away. If it takes time, your rat is not getting enough water and you should give it water by syringe.
Keep a careful eye on your rat and if his condition worsens seek advice from your vet