You are here:

Pet Rats/baby rat shakes head


QUESTION: Hello. A friend of mine recently gave me a rat since he knows I already have one of my own. The problem is that he bought her from a pet store and the rat is a baby. She still needs to be with her mom, she has to be about 3 weeks. My biggest concern is that she keeps shaking her head. Im starting to think that it might be an ear infection. However, she doesnt scratch at her ears. All she does is shake her head. Ive heard about head swaying but I dont think its this because she shakes her head with her eyes closed. Is this typical young rat behavior? Or is something much more serious? Other than this she seems healthy. If it makes a difference she is a champagne hooded. The closest i can compare the head shaking is that of a dog when it is wet. But its only her head and i doesnt last that long. Thank you Im very worried over the little one.

ANSWER: Dear Yosilin,

I am guessing she was supposed to be a feeder-- I can't imagine any pet store being so dumb as to sell her early? Even if she is eating solid food, but especially if she isn't, she should have soy infant formula. You can soak a piece of bread in it, or a Wasa cracker or crisp bread, and let her eat it how she likes. Of course you need to change it several times a day. Your other rat will probably be happy to have some too.

She should definitely go to the vet. Something is wrong-- ear infection certainly being a major possibility. Make her an appointment as soon as you can. She is probably not very comfortable.

In the meantime, I am throwing out the question to some other rat people, but anyone will say go to the vet. Make your vet appointment; and if anyone writes anything useful I will "amend" this answer with the new information, and you will get another notification.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you Natasha!
I would take her to the vet but it seems like all the vets near me arent experienced with ratties. Not only that but from past experience I can tell you that they dont want to deal with small animals and they usually only give the option of putting them down. It doesnt seem too bad because she isnt walking in circles or tilting her head like many other resources state. Putting her doen Is not an option.Upon further reaserch the possibilty of mites came up. Would mites in her ear cause her to shake her head? She has just started to scratch at her ear and she scratches her body. On the side of her neck by her ear she has a "line" where you can see her skin. The day I got her i noticed that it felt like a scab. There wasnt any red but today it seems that the thing that felt like a scab is gone. However the line is still visible. Im assuming it was a piece of her skin. I dont know whether to think its an ear infection which resulted in her causing the scab or if she has mites that have crawled up to her ear. She does scratch all around.
than you so much for your time

Dear Yosilin,

You need to find a vet that specializes in "exotics" or "pocket pets."

If you go to a regular vet and they are open to information, here are my suggestions. This is after conversation with 4-5 experts.

I want to treat for both mites and an infection. The reason I think it makes sense to do both is that since this is a pet store rat, it could have all kinds of problems. These treatments will stop many problems before they start.

1. Treat for ear infection. Have the vet prescribe Baytril for you. If you can get it flavored, the rat might even like it; otherwise you can mix it in food or as a last resort, scruff the rat and use an eyedropper. Dose: One drop.

2. Treat for mites. There is a prescription-only medication which goes into the rat's blood and kills pretty much everything that bites the rat for a month. It is called Revolution, and your vet may not know if it is appropriate for rats. It is. There is one ear mite which needs a different treatment, but that would be if the ears were crusty and rough.

You should get the kitten or cat dose and apply just one drop to the back of the rat's neck, on the *skin* and not the fur. Then don't let the rat wash itself for ten minutes.

Of course at the same time you redo the cage, wash everything very thoroughly with hot water or bleach water, and freeze (for two days) or toss anything you can't wash.

In other words, get the vet to give you Baytril and Revolution. You can treat at home. If the vet is uncooperative, go to another vet and tell them you have a kitten and need a kitten dose of Revolution. Hopefully this will work. You would then have to get the Baytril too. That is only possible by calling (not online) Jedd's Pigeon Supply:


I have been told to ask for Greg, but if that does not work, maybe anyone would do it.

This is the website, but it is not on it because it is now illegal for poultry.

Best of luck and health to the little rat.



Pet Rats

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Natasha Millikan


Consider me a sub, when no one else is available. NOTE YOU MUST NOT HAVE ONLY ONE RAT. JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUP (because there are smarter people than me there!!): ***** ***** Excellent sites: **** **** **** **** **** ****


I have had rats for 3-1/3 years and have researched them extensively. I am a mouse expert with 40 years' experience with mice. The two species are similar and yet also quite different.

My Facebook group is Rats (and Mice) are Awesome.

I have a Bachelor's and two Master's degrees in Linguistics

Awards and Honors
I am honored that my rats love me!

Past/Present Clients
My Facebook group, Rats are Awesome, serves at the moment 5300 members, and, considering all the huge rescues, probably averages 5 rats per member. That means my clients are about 25,000 rats!!!

©2017 All rights reserved.