Health issues in rats

Rats can be a fantastic pet for families. Their relatively small size and high intelligence can make them an easy to manage and fun pet to add to your family. As with any pet they can have some health issues. Here are some symptoms to keep an eye out for, as well as some tips on how to treat these issues. 

Head tilting

Sometimes you may notice that your rat starts tilting their head dramatically to one side. This can indicate one of two issues; ear infection or stroke. While head tilting only happens at the later stages of an ear infection, it can still be cleared up relatively easily with an antibiotic injection and potentially some ear drops. These can be prescribed by a vet. If your rat has had a stroke it's important to get a vet to assess how serious the injury has been, and you can then make an educated decision on how to proceed with euthanasia or palliative treatment.  


Lumps on a rat can come from infected bites, or benign or malignant tumors. Bucks that are housed together may end up fighting which can easily lead to infected bites particularly if they feel threatened or crowded. Vets can easily treat these abscesses by draining the growth and dosing with antibiotics. 

It's important to visit a vet to allow them to assess the lumps and see whether they need to be removed and how the wound should be treated going forward. 

Skin problems

Another common issue for rats is skin issues, where the rat may develop scabs or scratch marks. These can come from fighting, but if the rat is housed alone this is more likely to come from lice or scabies. These can be very mild when the rat is adopted from a pet store but quickly develop once the rat is bought home. It is relatively easy to heal with a skin treatment from a vet, but as the creams need to be dosed according to weight it's important to get the animal assessed professionally before you start treatment to avoid overdosing. 

If you treat your rats well and give them attention and appropriate housing and food you can expect to have a happy and affectionate few years together. Be sure to take them to a vet if they seem unwell as many issues can easily be treated if caught early. Consider veterinary consultations if you would like more information on protecting your rat's health.