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Pet Rats/Suddenly sick rat


Hi, we have a pet rat named Milo he is turned two years old in August. Milo is our little king and he rules the house. Tonight he was on the bed with us and we noticed that he started dragging his back feet, when I took a closer look I noticed that his testicles have a blue hue like a bruise. He is drinking and grooming but he is really struggling with his back side it looks like paralysis but he appears to have some movement on his right side. Last year we had to take him to the vet for a respiratory infection but other than that he has been a perfectly healthy rat. He does not seem to have trouble breathing but he seems like is little lathargic. Please let us know what you think I am planning on taking him to the vet in the morning but a second opinion would be great. Than you in advance.

Hi Anna,
I'm so sorry for Milo's problems. I would suspect that he might have a blood clot in his spine that is causing the paralysis and some poor circulation. Other causes could be an injury to his spine, like from a fall, or a stroke. I hope Milo gets better.

Here is some info about strokes from my Rat Health Care booklet, which you can read about on the books page of my website at

Strokes are more common in older rats, but they can occur rarely younger rats too. A stroke can be caused by either a cerebral hemorrhage or by a blood clot in a brain artery. More rarely, a stroke can also be caused by a brain abscess or tumor. The most common sign of a stroke is weakness or paralysis, which can affect the whole body or only a part of it. A massive stroke can cause loss of consciousness, convulsions, and irregular breathing. A rat can also have a series of minor strokes that cause increasing symptoms. A hemorrhage from a pituitary tumor can cause symptoms similar to a stroke, but in this case there is usually rapid improvement after each attack.
Even after a massive stroke, a rat can recover either partially or completely, so donít give up on a rat who is suddenly paralyzed. It may take a week or more to see any improvement. However, if the rat keeps getting worse instead of improving , the problem is most likely a pituitary tumor, and not a stroke.
A severe stroke can leave a rat too weak to move or eat on his own, so you will need to hand-feed him. Wrap your rat in a towel and hold him upright on your chest. Mix up some powdered soy infant formula (see Nursing) and put it in your ratís mouth a little at a time with an eyedropper or syringe (without a needle). You may have to experiment with the consistency of the formula; it might work better thin or thick.
Feed your rat at least 3 times a day. A 1-lb. rat can eat about 10 ml of formula at a time, and needs to take in about 30 ml of fluid each day. A smaller or larger rat will need proportionally more or less formula. The formula should supply all the fluid he needs; additional plain water is not usually necessary.
A stroke patient may also need help with warmth and hygiene. See Warmth in Nursing , and below for hygiene.
Gentle physical therapy may be helpful to help a rat recover from a stroke. Try moving the patientís limbs and encouraging him to exercise 2-3 times a day. You can also use neurological therapy by stimulating reflexes which can help exercise the nerves and muscles. For instance, gently touching or tickling the rat near the paralyzed section, such as on the ear or face, can cause him to shake his head or otherwise react. Try repeating the stimulus 10-15 times 2-3 times a day.

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Debbie Ducommun


I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.


I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

BA in Animal Behavior

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