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Bloating - Some Tips

This has happened to me only a small handful of times but it's happening to others as well so I'll give you some ideas about what to do if your rat turns from sleek to ballish overnight (and she's not pregnant).

Your rat's belly may bloat for a number of reasons, all of which are "bad" (so don't take it lightly) but some are "worse." It's bad because one needs to poop and that's the sole premise of the ideas and suggestions that are to follow.

If there is an obstruction (or, in the case of megacolon, a slow-down or shut-down of gut motility) your rat will stop pooping. Once s/he stops pooping, the GI tract starts to shut down: The muscles that normally push matter out stop pushing, the matter backs up more, and toxicity levels increase internally potentially affecting kidneys, liver, etc (which is really bad).

So you must also ask yourself why you're rat is not pooping:

    Is it genetic? If so, the ideas that follow will only provide your rat with relief but there is a much bigger underlying problem (click on the link labelled "genetic" above for more info).

    Is your rat "over 2"? If so, the blockage you are looking at may be a result of an internal growth (again, a much bigger underlying problem for which the tips below will only provide temporary relief).

    Or did your rat just eat something s/he's simply not passing? If this option, the tips below will solve the problem.

Most of these ideas I picked up from having rabbits but they work and they apply to our rat friends as well. The goal is to get the mass to break up and move out and to get that motility back:

    1) Heating pad (cover it with a towel): Depending on whether s/he's maintaining a proper temperature now, set the heating pad to "Low" (s/he is maintaining a proper temperature) or to Medium/Medium-Low (s/he's a bit cooler than normal - reduce the setting to low once s/he starts "carrying" the temperature). Plop his/her tummy right on there. If you have another rat, use him/her as the gauge for determing "normal" body temperature and use the skin temperature, tail temperature, ear coloration and temperature as indicators (note: If you notice a significant difference in body temperature, if the bloating rat is very cold, massage every inch of skin to improve circulation and just go to the vet - your rat is in shock).

    2) Simethicone: You need to try to reduce the swelling. If s/he's blocked up, a good portion of the bloat you see is probably gas. If you're in the US, you can get a children's product called "Little Tummies" which is pretty palatable and most rats will drink it. Try giving .2 - .3 cc once an hour every hour for 6 hours then once every 4 hours after that. You can't overdose on simethicone so that's not a concern. Gas is painful, however, and could be a big contributing factor of his/her lack of desire to eat (as well as the pain that is causing him to not poop).

    3) Gentle abdominal massage: Start from his/her rib cage and gently knead downwards (you can do this while s/he's on the heating pad with one hand on each side). At first s/he'll probably react with discomfort as things go blourping around but this will follow with appreciation. In kneading you'll probably run into some "hard lumps" - two, most likely. Kidneys feel like olives, one is located upwards into the rib cage (you may not run into this one) and in the middle on the sides. Other non-olive lumps may be blockage. Try to gently knead those to see if their structure fluctuates - if s/he seems uncomfortable in a particular area, keep moving downward and return later. Gentle is the key. This will help him/her re-acquire the motility necessary to pass whatever it is....assuming it's not attached. Do this as much as you can (with ample breaks in between for him/her to "relax and (hopefully) pass" but if you don't see immediate results, don't give up.

    4) The Big Pile of Smelly Stool: This is something you actually want to see. If you saw a big pile of stool, there's more; if you haven't yet seen a big pile of stool, prepare for it (thus one reason for the towel on the heating pad). S/he's probably not going to be entirely cleared out until you start seeing light browns. With diarrhea ("big pile" is generally followed by "diarrhea dribbles") comes dehydration so make sure s/he's drinking. If s/he doesn't seem to be drinking enough, get some pedialyte or gatorade (electrolyte beverages) and give him/her that by syringe (unless they'll drink it willingly, of course).

    5) Probiotics: As tempting as it is to make this the first step, it's really vital that you save this for later. You want him/her to poop out the blockage first - you don't want to make them constipated then try to work that out. So, once you do get "the big pile," you'll need to replenish the good bacteria in his/her belly that help digest the matter. Bene-bac works. If you can't track that down immediately, some health food stores (Wild Oats if you have one) carry chewable probiotics and liquid (that you could flavor up). Another (much easier and just as effective) option is Yogurt with Live Active Cultures (if you go the yogurt route: They love blueberry Yoplait - but whatever you choose, make sure it says "live active cultures" and don't give more than 1 tsp at a time otherwise it'll make him/her more runny).

    6) Aftermath: If the above tips solve the problem, you should be good to go. If the above seems to help but you're just not getting him/her to return to normal or if normalcy was only temporary, take your rat in for an X-Ray to see if there is anything physically causing this problem so you can decide where to go from there.

And remember: Everything s/he eats while s/he's stopped up will have an impact on your results. Broccoli (flowers) makes one very very gassy. If you're trying to alleviate gas, you don't want to feed broccoli. Complex proteins (chicken, beef, etc) take a lot more effort to break down than simple proteins (soy, dark leafy greens, etc) - if the kidneys are overwhelmed with processing toxins (as a result of an obstruction) you don't want them working over-time needlessly, so you don't want to feed them McDonald's hamburgers quite yet. Sugars can build up, so you want to avoid that too (for the time being) no matter how badly you feel for them. Lastly, FIBER GOOD!

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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.  
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