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Pet Rats/Yellow Skin



Last week we had our pet rat Pippin to the vet because he took a tumble inside his (ferrett) pen and didn't seem right afterward. He became a bit disoriented and kept losing his balance. The vet couldn't find anything (he just used his stethoscope and poked around his body) and assumed it was a neurological problem, sending us home with some Meclazine for dizziness. before the fall, Pippin was completely health and active. He was also only about two and a half years old. Just five days later, we were back at the vet as his condition worsened. His paws and ears were yellow and his urine was also very yellow. At that point, all the vet could do was tell us that they believe it was liver failure and he was beyond recovery. We were left with no other option but to euthanize him last night. We were all devastated--most especially my daughter as he was her "best friend." I writing to you because I believe that they missed an accurate diagnosis and he probably had an infection that could've been treated with antibiotics. Would you be able to tell me what "may have" happened considering what I've wrote here? We have two other rats (all the same as Pippin--Fancy Rats) and don't want the same thing to happen to them...and I don't think that a simple tumble was what caused his demise. But feel free to let me know if the vet was right.

Thank you

Hi Lucy,
I'm so sorry to hear you lost Pippin. I'm sure you are missing him terribly. Yellow skin is a classic sign of liver failure, and unfortunately, in rats there is not much you can do to treat it, so I do think your vet was correct. I don't think the fall caused his problem, I think the fall occurred because he was already disoriented and unbalanced.

You said Pippin was "only" 2 1/2 years old, but the average life span for rats is 2 to 3 years, so 2 1/2 is a very common age for a health problem to occur in rats. Again, I'm sorry for your loss.

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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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