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Rat Health Guide

Rat Health Guide

Rats are great pets and a lot of fun! However, there are some common health problems rats may suffer from. Take a look at our advice on how to help keep your rats happy and healthy!

Keeping your rats fit and healthy

Get into the habit of checking your rats over every day. It’s a good idea to weigh your rats too. Make this a regular thing and you’ll bond better with your pets – plus you’ll catch any problems early.

Take your rats to the vets for a check up once a year. Rats are prey animals so will hide signs of ill-health. This is why an annual vet visit is important to avoid any illnesses. If one of your rats shows a change in behaviour or in their eating and drinking habits, seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible.

Common health problems

Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections are the most common illnesses in rats. They’re normally caused by overcrowding, dusty bedding, poor ventilation or an unclean cage. If you notice one of your rats has a runny nose or eyes, seems to be struggling to breathe or is losing weight, take them to the vet.



Rats can easily become obese if they aren’t given enough exercise or too much or the wrong types of food. Make sure your rats have plenty of things to do in their housing to keep them active. Feed your rats a complete rat nugget rather than a seed mix. With a seed mix, they tend to pick out the sugary parts and leave the healthy bits behind! Although it might be tempting, try not to feed them fatty or sugary treats.

Red Tears (Chromodacryorrhea)

Red Tears (Chromodacryorrhea)

Chromodacryorrhea is the name for the red or orange staining that can sometimes occur around a rat’s eyes and nose. It can look like they’re crying blood, which is why it’s also called red tears. But it is not blood! The liquid comes from a rat’s third eyelid and helps to lubricate their eyes and protect them against UV light. A small amount around your rat’s eyes and nose is perfectly normal. However, an increased amount can signal an underlying health problem, such as a respiratory problem or eye infection. If you notice an increase, or if you believe they are sneezing blood, speak to your vet as soon as possible.



Parasites are mites, fleas and lice. If you notice your rat is itching, has hair loss or small bumps on their skin, this could be a sign of parasites. Flea treatments are widely available, but it’s best to seek advice from your vet when these symptoms show.



Rats can become easily stressed due to problems in their environment, the wrong diet or if they’re in pain. When rats are stressed, a reddish liquid will often leak from their eyes. If you notice this, take your rat to the vet as soon as possible.



Rats are prone to certain types of tumours. It’s important that you take them to the vet for a regular check up and check them over when you’re handling them.

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Rats need a lot of exercise and stimulation. They love to explore so housing your rats in a large cage is important.

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Rat health check

You know your rats best. Rats love spending time with humans, which gives you lots of opportunities to keep an eye on how they’re acting and feeling. If you have any concerns, it’s always best to seek the advice of your vet.

Rats don’t need to be bathed, you will just need to clean their cage out. Bathing will cause them to become very stressed so never force your rats into water. However, some love playing in water so it’s a good idea to give them a shallow container of water to safely swim in if they want to!

Behaviour: You’ll know how your rats normally behave. Check that your rat’s behaviour is normal – they should be inquisitive, active and playful. Loss of appetite can be a sign that something is wrong

Breathing: Check if your rat is struggling to breathe or their breathing has become noisy. This could include wheezing, congestion, rattling, laboured breathing or gasping

Eyes: Your rat’s eyes should be bright, clear and free from discharge. A bulging eye could indicate a tumour or abscess. If there is bloody discharge coming from the eyes, this is Porphyria

Fur and skin: Your rat’s coat should be full and shiny. If your rat is scratching excessively or they have some bald patches, they could have parasites.

Mouth and teeth: Check that your rat’s teeth aren’t overgrown and aren’t misaligned or chipped. Look out for redness and swelling around their gums

Nose: Make sure your rat’s nose is clean and free from mucus

In addition to completing regular checks at home you should take your rats for a full veterinary check up at least once a year. If your rat’s behaviour or eating/drinking pattern changes you should seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible.

Neutering your rats

Neutering will prevent any unwanted pregnancies. Generally, you should only neuter male rats. Not only will this prevent the pitter patter on tiny rat feet, but it can also help reduce fighting.

If you do neuter your male rat, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them for the first couple of weeks. Make sure they’re not touching the healing stitches and that they’re eating and toileting as normal.

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If you should have any concerns about the health of your pet, always consult a vet.