Rat skin problem

Rat skin problem

The most common skin problem in rats is caused by itching. The rat scratches herself which creates scabs, most often on the neck and shoulders, but sometimes also on the face, chin, or forehead. These scabs are sometimes mistaken for injuries caused by other rats. The causes of itching are fur mites, an allergy, excessive dietary protein (such as fish or cat food), eczema, and a fungus infection. A bacterial infection of the skin may also be involved, but it is rarely the primary cause.

Itching also seems to be related to stress, common for eczema. It’s also possible that some rats infested with mites can keep them under control until their immune system is suppressed by stress. It’s also possible that some rats with mites eventually develop an allergy to them. If you have more than one rat with scabs, it’s probable that mites are the cause.

Regardless of the cause of the itching, when the rat scratches, her back toenails break the skin which can allow bacteria to enter. As the scratches heal, scabs form and can themselves itch which causes more scratching, resulting in a vicious cycle. The first step to breaking the itching cycle is to clip the rat’s back toenails. Trimming off the sharp tips reduces the amount of damage the nails do to the skin. You might need to clip the nails as often as once or twice a week. You can also put a brick or concrete block in your rat’s cage to help her wear down her toenails.

You might also apply a vitamin E cream or an antibiotic ointment to the scabs once or twice a day. Neosporin Plus contains a topical anesthetic which can be especially helpful. This treatment may be sufficient to clear up the scabs. If they recur, you need to look for another cause.

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