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It is a good idea to keep your rat medicine cabinet stocked!

It didn't take us long to realize that there are some things that are just good to have on hand in the rat's medicine cabinet. These things are much akin to keeping band-aids and tissues around your house for unexpected human emergencies. These things include:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Because a rat's skin is different than our skin, there are some things that are simply not safe to use with rats. You can't, for example, effectively use rubbing alcohol on a rat to clean out a wound because the skin will dry out and die. You also can't use salves such as Neosporin on rat wounds. You can, however, religiously use Hydrogen Peroxide and this is actually a good thing, because once it stops fizzing, you know it's clean! Just a warning though, rats are very confused by the sensations they feel when Hydrogen Peroxide is applied, and they will get very fidgety!

  • Styptic Powder: When I had first read that someone recommended keeping this on hand, I thought they were crazy. When I encountered the first rat-bite-rat hole, I thought they were even crazier. What I learned the hard way is that little holes can lead to the biggest problems, and there is no good way to stop a little rat paw, toe, or foot from bleeding. For those mishaps where a rat rips his toe-nail out, catches his tail on something, or has a sore on his foot break open, styptic powder is the answer, that is, after cleaning the wound out, of course.

  • Children's Chewable Bayer: Rats get sick and feverish every once in awhile and if you think they have a fever, it is a good idea to give him a 4th of a Bayer Chewable aspirin to help break the fever. It is also a good idea in such cases to make a quick follow-up visit to your Dr. Bob to see if your rat should be taking any antibiotics.

  • Veterinary Opthalmic Ointment: If you ask nicely, I'm sure your Dr. Bob would be willing to sell you a tube of opthalmic ointment for those unexpected occasions when a rat nail accidentally (or otherwise) swipes a rat eyeball, or a rat sleeps with his eyeball open on a floor or on wood chips and an infection starts. The sooner you use the opthalmic ointment the sooner the infection goes away and the less chance your rat has of getting a scar on his or her eyeball. These small tubes usually don't expire for 4 years which exceeds the life of your rat. It's worth the $12 investment and will save you $100s of dollars in veterinary bills.

  • Ivermectin Paste: This one is a hard one to track down, but well worth the effort. You need to find a store that specializes in Equestrian goods and order a tube of Ivermectin paste. You will need to do this because one of three possible aspects of chance will happen (or maybe something even more out-of-the-blue): (1) You will feel compelled to buy a cute little baby rat who, unbeknownst to you is covered in bugs, (2) You will take your rat out to a rat show, touch another rat with bugs, touch your rat, and unbeknownst to you, have an itchy fleasy rat, (3) Your next bedding purchase will have come out of an outside storage area and will have very small particles of red lice life in it. If any of the above happens, you probably won't notice it, after all, the little red louse doesn't come out to greet you. What will most likely happen is that you won't see the little buggers, you'll have the new rat separated for a month to wash away any potential spreading of illnesses, you will put your new rat, or your pet show rat in with his friends, and a month after that you'll notice that their appetites aren't all that great, there is porphyrin staining around their noses, but they otherwise don't appear very sick. After all, they're breathing just fine! And you'll give them a scratch and notice that your girls suddenly have dander, or that your boys' dander is suddenly moving, and you'll head out to the kitchen, get a toothpick, dip it in the Ivermectin tube taking out no more than an uncooked grain of rice, and you will feed it to any rats that came in contact with that particular rat and you'll be so happy that you listened to me! What happens if you don't keep it on hand? You feel itchy all over until you find some!

  • Skin Glue: While at your vet's asking to purchase Opthalmic Ointment, ask him if he or she has on hand or can order some Nexaband skin glue. It's a little tube of translucent blue gel that will greatly improve your life and save you a lot of veterinary dollars in the long run. When your rats get in those unexpected fights and put one to two inch gashes in each other, you can clean out the would, shave off a little bit of the surrounding fur, clean the wound again, and glue Humpty Humpty back together again. If you don't think you have aggressive rats so you think you won't need it, think again. All rats have fingernails and all rats with fingernails have a good chance of getting abscesses (see "Abscesses stink.") and those abscesses, without fail, will open themselves to reveal big gaping holes that can very easily be cleaned out and glued together.

  • Scissors: Scissors should be kept on hand for obvious reasons, like trimming the toenails of an older rat who simply isn't scratching enough to keep them down. It also comes in handy when you need to trim away dead skin, hair that is in the way, etc. Short but sharp scissors tend to be the best by the way, particularly the little pocket kind. You have less changes of accidentally snipping something that moved in the way.

  • Cotton Balls and Q-Tips: Cotton Balls are necessary to clean out general areas with Hydrogen Peroxide, and are also good for little sponge baths for sick or ill rats. Q-Tips are great for cleaning out abscesses and infections and for getting to those hard-to-reach places. Q-Tips also come in handy when a rat is apparently choking on something because if you are quick enough, you can clear the obstruction out of the rat's mouth easily with a Q-Tip without causing any damage (of course this also requires prying the rat's mouth open which is often easier said than done). Q-Tips are also good for cleaning out ear infections and/or opening the ear enough to see if there is an infection. Be careful not to push the cotton swap to far in though!

  • Syringes: It's a good thing to have a couple of little syringes handy "just in case." Do remove the needles though! Syringes make it very easy to feed your sick rat some sugar water or baby food to stimulate his appetite when he is otherwise not so inclined.

  • Tylan: Because most rats have or are predisposed to Mycoplasma (see "Mycoplasma is as bad as it sounds," it is a good idea to keep some Tylan on hand for use when your rats become exceptionally sneezy. Tylan will not make the Mycoplasma go away, but it will prevent it from worsening which is why it's a good idea to have it on hand. If not treated immediately, you will witness extreme difficulties with breathing and it could also lead to scared lungs, and ultimately and early demise. You can purchase small packets of this product from the Rat and Mouse Club of America at http://www.rmca.org

  • Water-soluble doxycycline: Because more often than not, the Tylan simply doesn't work. It doesn't work because the sneezing and snortling you're hearing isn't "just" myco but rather myco combined with some secondary infections. You can read more about how to use it here and can purchase it at Global Pigeon (in the DAC Medications section) or at Jedd's Pigeon Supply (search for doxycycline).

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    Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes:

      1) To entertain.
      2) To help avoid repetition of mistakes

      Remember! Your rat is not a science project, he is your friend!

    All content contained herein © 1996-2007 by Andrew Waltz, Nathalie Baldwin, & the rats of RatRaisins, Inc.  
    Use of images and/or text without permission is prohibited.