Sick Rat: Best Ways How To Tell Your Rat Is Sick?

How To Tell Your Rat Is Sick?

Sickness is one of the most dreaded issues any pet owner can face, but unfortunately it’s a part of life. Animals become vital members of your family and you want to do what’s best for them, even if sometimes it’s heartbreaking for you.
Luckily there’re certain things to watch out for if you think your pet is sick. Rats can tell you a lot with their behaviour or the way they look, so it’s important to know the most common symptoms of rodent illnesses.

Lack Of Appetite

Rats are big foodies and hardly ever refuse tasty snacks, especially treats they like best. If your rat stops eating completely or just picks at his/her food, it might be a sign of illness. You can observe your rat and try to give him/her mushy food like porridge or baby purees, but if the lack of appetite persist, you should see a vet to assess whether your rat is sick.

Weight Loss

Elderly Female Rat, Marble
Source: @ratsandcrafts Instagram

Sometimes everything might seem as usual but your rat is continuously losing weight. If they appear to eat as normal, it could mean that the nutrients from their food aren’t absorbing into their bloodstream. You should weight your rat regularly and record the results, in case you need to visit a vet.


Most of the time, lethargy is the first sign of your rat being sick. If your rat seems to be sitting or laying down in the same spot for hours without much movement or isn’t interested in any toys, playtime, food or even interaction with their cage mates, there’s something wrong. Rats are usually inquisitive and will happily engage with you, so if the lack of interest continues, your rat is most likely unwell.


You should examine your rat’s skin and observe their cleaning habits to determine whether they are not suffering from mites or other parasites. Red skin, bloody patches or extensive scabs are often signs of some form of infection and persistent itchiness. Of course, rats groom their bodies extensively many times a day but that shouldn’t lead to wounding themselves. Diagnosing mite infestation can be fairly simple as on most occasions you can see them with your naked eye and treat them at home with a drop medication.

Head Tilting

Is your rat tilting its head to one side? While an occasional movement of this kind doesn’t mean illness, observing it many times a day can be a sign of inner ear infection which is quite common in rats and can be treated effectively with ear drops. It’s best to consult with your vet before starting any treatment just to make sure there’s no other underlying neurological issues going on.

Red Discharge Around Eyes And Nose

Porphyrin is a red coloured mucus substance that occurs naturally in all rats, especially around their eyes and nose. However, if you notice more of it than usual, it’s highly likely that your rat is unwell. While porphyrin might seem like blood and be quite a scary look, it’s most often associated with respiratory illnesses, which can be treated with various medications prescribed by your vet.


Respiratory infections are quite common in rats and can present themselves as elevated, wheezy breathing or frequent sneezing. If you can hear a whistling noise when your rat takes his/her breath in or they start to use their whole body to breath in and out, it’s definitely connected to an issue in their airway. A course of antibiotics like Baytril or even longterm medication might be needed for your rat to get better.


Look out for red, callus like wounds on your rat’s feet. It’s caused by bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus or E. coli and most of the time is linked to unsanitary conditions in your pet’s enclosure. Uneven cage surfaces like wire floors or ‘spikey’ bedding can also cause your rat’s feet to develop bumble-foot. It often starts out as red ‘bumbles’ on rat’s soles and the infection that comes with it can be deadly if not treated.


Tumor on pet rat's abdomen
Source: @shekanasrats Instagram

Pet rats, especially females, are prone to develop tumors along their mammary glands, so it’s really important to check your pet’s body regularly by ‘massaging’ it. You can feel around for any lumps and bumps, focusing on the areas under your rat’s chin, arms and legs, as well as sides. Not every bump you find will be cancerous. Abscesses and cysts are also quite common and can be treated with medication. If you do notice something worrisome, don’t panic! Observe the growth to check whether it’s getting bigger and consult your vet if needed.

Does Your Rat Appear Sick? It’s Not Always Bad News!

These are just a few common issues that are known to develop in pet rats. Checking your rat regularly can be vital in early diagnosis and therefore more successful treatment. And if you are unsure of anything, contact your vet and seek advice on how to proceed. Just remember: rats are resilient and can come back from the worst conditions!

ratinfo If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with your friends and on your social media! Also leave us a comment below with your thoughts or questions.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments