Rats are social, inquisitive animals that make great companions. They very rarely bite so they are often great pets for children. Rats should be kept together in at least a pair although sometimes they may fight and need to be separated whereas spaying and neutering usually helps. Males should not be kept with females unless they are neutered because they breed readily and have large amounts of babies.
Rat bite fever is an infectious disease in people caused by the bacteria Streptobacillus moniliformis. People become infected either by being bitten by a rodent carrying the bacteria. While any person who comes into contact with the bacteria is at risk of developing the disease, children under 5 years of age, adults over 65 years of age, and immunocompromised people are at higher risk.
A rat that sneezes a lot, has more tears than normal or has crusty eyes, or has an audible wheeze or crackle, is showing signs of a respiratory infection.
Respiratory infections in rats are often caused by viruses. Many times the viruses are harbored in older rats that aren’t showing any outward signs of infection yet they are still capable of infecting younger rats. This is one reason why it is important to avoid mixing rats of different ages and different origins together.
Rats are prone to a variety of lumps and growths beneath their skin. Many times these are abscesses or infections that accumulate pus beneath the skin. In older rats, typically 18 months or older, cancerous tumors are more common as the cause of bumps. The tumors may be benign ones such as adenomas or lipomas, or they may be more serious ones classified as adenocarcinomas. Most tumors are readily removed at a small size and many of them do not return if the surgery was able to completely remove the growth. If you see a bump on your rat, don't wait until it gets big to get it checked.
If you decide to get a female rat as a pet in the future, it is very important to have it spayed when it is around 3 to 4 months of age. This eliminates the chance of ovarian disease and greatly reduces the chance of other reproductive diseases. This also greatly reduces the chance of a rat developing a mammary tumor develop as she ages. It is one of the most important things you can do to extend her life.
Below are some pictures from spay surgeries on rats, some of which were performed due to a medical problem.
Pets may be sent home with liquid medications. An oral liquid medication must be given by mouth to be effective. An injectable liquid medication must be given by injection beneath the skin to be useful. Some injectable medications require that the medication is inserted into the muscle to be most effective. It is important that you understand how to read the syringes that are sent home so your pet gets the proper amount of medication at each dose.
All exotic pets, even ones that appear to be outwardly healthy, have the potential to carry and spread contagious diseases that can impact the health of people. This sort of disease is called a "zoonosis", "zoonotic disease", or "zoonotic infection".