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Pet Rats/Rat eye Infection


Niles\'s right eye
Niles's right eye  
QUESTION: Dear Debbie,
My pet rat Niles seems to be having an eye infection in his right eye. The first day I saw porphyrin and noticed the eye area experiencing fur loss. A few days later it became worse and his right eye is red and bulging now. My vet will be only available in three days time. In the meantime, I cleaned his eye with gauze by dabbing gently and compressed with warm compress and administered some eye drops previously given by the vet. This doesn't seem to improve his situation. His appetite is good but he clearly is having problems closing the bulging eye. Is there anything I can do in the meantime before he see the vet this Friday? I am enclosing pics so you can see for yourself his condition.

ANSWER: Hi Usha,
I'm sorry to hear about Niles' eye problem. You could try giving him some ibuprofen, which will help reduce any swelling. You'll find instructions for giving it in the First Aid article on my website at  Here is some info from my Rat Health Care booklet, which you can read about on the Books page of my website.  Good luck!

An enlarged eye will indicate glaucoma, but you must distinguish between an enlarged eye and a protruding eye, which will only appear larger. A protruding eye is usually caused by some sort of pressure behind the eye. This can be caused by bleeding, edema, abscess, cyst, or a tumor.

This disease results from the accumulation of too much fluid, and therefore pressure, inside the eye. There are many causes, too many to tell what the cause might be in a rat. The onset is usually rapid and the symptoms include a watery eye, a cloudy appearance to the cornea, excessive blinking, pain, and a dilated pupil which doesnít contract in response to light. This can make the patient very sensitive to light, although there will also be a loss of vision in the affected eye.  
The eye may or may not be enlarged but if it is, it is likely that the problem is irreversible and severe damage has already occurred to the eye. Glaucoma can be treated with drugs in other animals, but this may not be practical in rats. If treatments arenít successful and the eye seems to be painful, the eye can be removed to eliminate the source of pain, however, I have never seen a case where it was necessary to remove a ratís eye.

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

QUESTION: Debbie, Thank you for your prompt response. Does this mean Niles has glaucoma based on the photos I sent? Could it possibly be just a bacterial infection or other things?

If it is not practical to treat glaucoma in Niles what else can I do? Do I still send him to the vet or do I just give him Ibuprofen? Are there any medications to help him? I know he is in discomfort.

ANSWER: See what happens with the ibuprofen, and if that doesn't make him more comfortable, then take him to the vet.  But don't let the vet just prescribe Metacam, because that does exactly the same thing ibuprofen does.

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

Last question I promise. His eye is turning for the worse and I see it as a red mess. Bulging and seems like its bleeding. Is it blood or porphyrin? I am worried sick. Does he need a vet immediately? I just fed him Ibuprofen.

No problem!  You are also welcome to email me at  If the red is inside the eyeball, it is bleeding into the eye, which is not necessarily a big deal. However, ibuprofen does interfere with blood clotting, so it would be better to stop that and give him acetaminophen instead. You can give 90-140 mg/lb every 4 to 12 hours. It doesn't help as much for inflammation, but is of course a pain killer.

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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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