Injuries, Illness, and Parasites

Rats are prone to a variety of illnesses. It's best to have an exotic vet chosen as well as money set aside for vet bills.

If you are concerned with your rat's health, please consult a veterinarian immediately. The information on this page is a resource only and does not replace a trained professional.

Click an illness below for more information


Red discharge near the eyes and/or nose



Porphyrin looks a lot more serious than it actually is. It's often confused for blood due to its red coloring.


A small amount of porphyrin is not cause for alarm, but excess amounts can indicate illnesss, stress, or poor diet. 

If porphyrin is accompanied by sneezing or chirping noises, this may indicate that a respiratory infection is present.


Most commonly, hairless and double rex rats create porphyrin to clean their eyes from debris since they have little to no eye lashes. Mine have red rimmed eyes after each nap and they clean it right when they wake up! This is perfectly normal.


Most rats clean porphyrin away by themselves, but you can use a damp washcloth to wipe away any that they've missed.





Mammary Tumor


Fast growing masses, most common with females



Mammary tumors form on the stomach, chest, groin, or armpit areas. They are fast growing benign tumors that take the blood and nutrients from a rat, causing them to become skinny and can impede mobility. Mammary tumors are very common, and the chance of a female rat getting at least one in her lifetime is quite high.


Surgical removal is a great option for rats that aren't too old and are still in good health. If your rat survives surgery, it will extend their life. However, new tumors may grow. The second option is to let your rat live the remainder of their life with the tumor. You will need to take them to a vet to be euthanized if and when your rat becomes lethargic, has a difficult time walking, or if painful wounds form on the tumor.


The best ways to avoid mammary tumors are to provide a healthy diet, ensure proper breeding, and getting your female rats spayed.


Ear Mange Mites


Reddish-brown spots on ears. Crusting and scabbing. Jagged edges of ears.


If not treated, mange mites will continue to worsen until the ears are crusty and jagged. These mites burrow under the skin.


You can treat mites and other parasites (fleas, lice, etc) with Revolution for kittens or cats. Treat all of your rats as mites are easily transmitted from rat to rat.

For dosing information and a link to the medicine, visit our page for Revolution.

Beginning Stages of Mange Mites

Small spots on the ears

Mites if left untreated


External Parasites


Signs include itching, hair loss, scabs, and seeing lice or nits. May cause anemia.


Lice is species specific and will suck the blood from your rats, potentially transferring diseases or internal parasites. You can see lice and their eggs (nits) with the naked eye. Signs include itching and hair loss.

Any fleas (dog and cat) can transfer to your rats and may transfer internal parasites or diseases. Signs of fleas include itching and scabs. You can see fleas and their droppings (black spots) on the skin and fur.

There are 3 types of mites - mange mites, fur mites, and blood sucking mites. Signs of mites will include crusting, scabbing, itching, and bald spots. Mites are invisible to the naked eye. Rats can have mites without showing signs, so it's best to treat all rats in the house at one time.



You can treat mites, fleas, and lice with Revolution for kittens or cats. Visit our medication dosing guide for information on how to properly treat your rats with Revolution. Otherwise, a vet visit is necessary. 


Degloved Tail


The skin is pulled from the tail and bone is exposed



Degloving is common and may happen if your rat's tail is caught or if you grab their tail (never pick a rat up by its tail).


If minimal damage is done, the area will likely dry out and heal on its own. However, if an inch or more of the tail bone has been exposed, you will need to wrap the tail in a towel to control bleeding and visit an emergency vet immediately.

Minimal degloving is rarely life threatening, but may be painful for your rat.


Keep the tail clean and apply antibiotic ointment if available. Ensure that the cage is clean as well. To control the pain, you can give your rat Children's Ibuprofen. Please visit our medication dosing page to learn how to properly give your rat pain medication.

For extensive degloving, amputation may be necessary. Consult a veterinarian immediately if an inch or more of the tail has been degloved. You rat may go into shock or suffer from blood loss.






Wound or inflamed bump on the foot that can include crusting, blood, or puss. It appears as as an abrasion or abcess most commonly on one or both back feet. 



Bumblefoot is a bacterial infection on the foot that is painful for your rat. It must be treated immediately to avoid further infection that can lead to death.


Bumblefoot may be caused by wire flooring or rough bedding that creates scratches on our rat's feet (which is why all wire or mesh shelves should be covered with fleece). An unsanitary cage and wet or dirty bedding are common causes of this bacterial infection.



I recommend scheduling a vet visit as it's often difficult to treat bumblefoot successfully. Your rat may need antibiotics, an antibiotic ointment, and their feet cleaned or soaked everyday until the infection is no longer present. If you'd like to try treatment on your own, visit our medication page for Amoxicillin.


Sprain or Break


Inflamation or bruising of the feet or legs



Rats have small feet that may get caught or injured, resulting in a sprain or a break.

These injuries need to heal on their own and there is often nothing a vet can do to treat your rat. Pain medication will help your rat and should be given immediately.



Give your rat Children's Ibuprofen to relieve the pain. Please visit our medication page to get the proper dosing instructions.

It's also recommended to have a hospital cage for your rats. A hospital cage should be one level, allowing your rat to avoid jumping from high areas and injuring themselves further.



Infections in the form of fast growing lumps that move along with the skin.

Once it comes to a head, it may pop and leave a crater or hole.



Abscesses are common and easily treated. However, abscesses located on the face or mouth can be more seriously and require vet attention.

An abscess is usually painless and is fine if left untreated.


When an abscess comes to a head, it will pop, oozing puss. Your rat will likely clean it out, but if not, you can clean it with a q-tip or damp washcloth.


Let the abscess progress on its own. This may take a couple of weeks depending on its location on the body. The abscess will get a dark head before it is ready to open and drain. If you'd like to speed the process along, you can do daily treatments with a heated compress (hot washcloth). Once open, clean the puss out with a q-tip and keep the area clean until it has fully healed.



Respiratory Infection


Sneezing, coughing, wheezing, chirping, excess porphyrin, lethary, etc.



A respiratory infection is the most common illness a rat can get and if left untreated, it is deadly.

Most rats will have a respiratory infection at least once during their lifetime due to their sensitive respiratory systems or because of the disease, Mycoplasma pulmonis. All rats (except for labratory rats) are born with this disease so it's important to pay close attention to your rat's health, and to treat them as soon as symptoms show.

If left untreated, the infection can scar their lungs and they will be more prone to more repiratory illnesses in the future. 

If your rat goes into respiratory distress (heaving and heavy breathing), take them to a vet immediately as it's stressful and your rat may die within hours if left untreated.



Use an oral antibiotic to treat respiratory infections. Amoxicillin is usually sufficient for treating a secondary infection, while Baytril and Doxycycline are recommended for treating Mycoplasma itself.

Visit our medication dosing page for instructions on how to treat your rat with Amoxicillin or Doxycycline. If you are uncomfortable with home treatments, make an appointment with your vet.