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Pet Rats/Old male rat health


I have a male rat, two years a some months old.  Overall he seems htnito be in good health, he had a tumor removed a few months ago but he bounced back great.  He has been slowing down and I noticed him dragging his feet a little bit so I was thinking arthritis/stiffness or the start of paralysis, typical aging things.  Tonight I noticed some gunk on his penis and I was thinking it was the penile plug that I had read male rats can get when they get older, but when I was working with him I noticed it was pretty fluid and there was a ring of brown around it.  Is this normal and just a sign that I need to start helping him clean now or is this an indicator of a problem.  He doesn't look to be in any pain when I touch him in that area and he was eating and drinking fine today.

Hi Marissa,
It can be normal for the penis to have some black or brown pigment in a ring. It would probably be good for you to check him frequently to see if he is keeping himself clean.

Gradually advancing paralysis is most commonly caused by degeneration of the spinal nerve roots.  No one knows why this occurs, but itís fairly common in older rats.  In some very rare cases, arthritis of the spine may also cause paralysis.  Paralysis that occurs over a period of some weeks can also be caused by a pituitary tumor, which is much more serious.  

The best treatment for the spinal nerve root degeneration is a liquid B vitamin complex.  Give two doses daily, morning and evening, enough so the rat gets 10 mcg of B12 each dose.  

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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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