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My poor rat was fine a day ago, then last night she was listless, not eating or drinking, not moving very much. She finally passed away during the night. I called everyone and not a single vet treated rats in 4 cities. i have never been so helpless. She was a baby, about a month old, and we noticed she wasn't growing well. she had access to food and water, and the other 2 rats her same age grew well and were affectionate. Their bedding is store bought, paper based, (not cedar) she had a normal rat diet like the others, and was eating fine up until yesterday. She had diarehea like symptoms last week, but it cleared up and she was active and happy. I eventually had to sleep this morning, and placed her in her cage, i woke a few hours ago and found she had passed away. her face looked strange, like she scratched her skin off around her mouth, it was red and raw. The other 2 rats were on top of their igloo this morning, she was inside, they had not touched her. she showed no signs of itching, sneezing,coughing or any type of discharge before dying. I am concerned it was a disease that she came from the pet store with, any ideas? i worry about our 2 remaining rats.

Answer
That is so sad that you lost her when she was so very young.  I'm so sorry for your grief.  It sounds like you did everything right so please don't blame yourself.  I have to tell you though that pet store rats are not bred for health and longeavity the way that rats from reputable breeders are.  That she wasn't growing well was a sure sign of some sort of condition she was probably born with.  Your other two girls are growing so you shouldn't worry too much...do you know if all 3 girls were sisters?  

Sudden death in a baby rat could be caused by a number of things.  It's possible that she was ill before you even noticed any signs, because quite often, rats don't often show signs until it's too late.  What you described (not eating, drinking, listlessness) followed by death within several hours also happened to one of my rats a while back, granted she was a bit older.  It's possible that your little girl had a cardiovascular condition or a brain aneurism.  Since you say she didn't have any respiratory symptoms, I would rule out a URI, which a great number of rats are prone to.  You also said she had diarrhea, so I would probably rule out megacolon, which can claim a baby rat's life.  Megacolon is a condition where a rat cannot pass stool, which backs up until it results in death.

Do you live in or close to a large city?  If so, it surprises me that there is not a single vet that treats exotic/small animals.  You will need to identify a good vet as soon as possible for your other two girls, because when rats are ill, they usually need treatment quickly or death can often follow not long after.  I can help you find the closest good vet that treats rats if you write back with the name of the largest city close to you, or with your zip code.  

The last thing I'd like to say and commend you on is choosing to get 3 rats rather than 2...imagine the sadness and loneliness of the remaining girl if you only had 2 and one passed.  You may wish to seriously consider getting another young rat in the very near future so that you don't find yourself in this sad situation, which I have lived through.  Please consider using a breeder rather than a pet store if you plan to keep rats in the foreseeable future.  Everyone will be happier and healthier in the long run, not to mention the money you will save in vet bills.

Please write back if you need my help finding a vet and/or a breeder in your area, or with anything else at all.

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Irene Murphy

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I can answer a variety of questions regarding adoption and care of pet rats throughout their lifetimes, including questions about their health and well being, temperment, diet, bedding, cages, toys, etc. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability in a timely manner and I have an abundant amount of resources to help me to help you with your pet rats. I love rattie pictures, so include pics with your question if you can. You may ask me medical questions, but please be advised that I am not a vet. I may use my resources to answer some medical questions, however, I will need to refer you to your local vet with medical questions that I feel I am not qualified to address.

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I have been a huge rat enthusiast for many years. Since becoming a rat owner, I have educated myself in all areas of pet rats from every resource I could find including the internet, books, conversations with local exotic vets, as well as several local rat breeders.

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I have a college degree but not in the area of animals. I have obtained my extensive experience and knowlege of pet rats all on my own because in my eyes, pet rats are the most interesting and fascinating creatures you can ever imagine to have as pets. I also am saddened by how mislabeled and misunderstood these amazing and extremely smart animals are by the majority, and my mission in life has become to educate and change as many people's perceptions of rats as I possibly can.

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