Pet rats make great pets! Anyone who has owned one will agree wholeheartedly how much they love their pets, but did you know that there are several viruses going around in the fancy rat's environment that are effecting their health? Some of these virus's such as KRV, and SDA and their secondary infections, like "Myco," can cause serious problems for your cuddly little pet. It is true, some of these illnesses can even cause death.
In order to try and promote the health and well being of our beloved pets, the more established breeders and numerous exotic pet veterinarians are suggesting all other breeders and pet rat owners follow some very strict guidelines of quarantining properly when bringing home a new pet if you already have another one at home.
If you run a rattery and are bringing in breeding stock from other ratteries and selling your rats to other ratteries, or the general public, the proper quarantine practice is as follows:
An absolute minimum quarantine of 21 days away from any other rats. Not just another part of your house but a complete quarantine off the premises, maybe in another building or over to a friends house, who loves animals but doesn't have any pet rats living there. There are even foster homes willing to help you quarantine your new additions and you can find these individuals through listings on the Ratster or through organizations like the RSA or one of their affiliated clubs.
For a rattery owner there aren't any exceptions allowed in proper quarantine. The purpose of quarantining is to eliminate these viruses that are effecting the well being of the general pet rat population. Some of these airborne viruses can be eliminated over time, if the virus can be stopped from being spread from rat to rat.
If you are just a pet rat owner, I know this quarantine may seem very hard to achieve. I've had people who have purchased ratties from me say they just don't have anywhere to take them, and don't feel comfortable leaving them with a stranger. I truly understand their frustration.
If you are a pet rat owner with no intentions of ever breeding or giving your ratties to anyone else, or being around anyone else who has pet ratties, you can achieve a fairly adequate quarantine if you can keep these new pets in a different section of the house. The further away from your existing ones the better. Then you will need to close off the heat register(s) to this room (actually cover it up, not just close it), and block the bottom of the door off, so air from this room can not circulate in or out. Bring in a space heater or fan if you need to keep the room a decent temperature.
When going into this room and handling these ratties, wash your hands right afterwards, spray the area around the outside of the door with a disinfectant like Lysol or Oust and don't go down to handle your other ratties for at least two hours or longer. Following these steps are the only way you can lessen the chance of these new ratties transmitting something to your existing ones.
Please understand, the standard and recommendation for proper quarantine, is a total 21 days, off the premises, away from all other ratties. I'm not promoting anything less than that, but I am being realistic. I would rather see the average pet rat owner make an attempt at some kind of quarantine, than be so frustrated or discouraged by the requirements, as to not do anything at all.
Another thing a pet rat's owner can do to help eliminate these viruses from the rat community is by NOT buying pet rats from anywhere but an established, reputable rattery. Boycott any pet stores selling rats, period! Viruses can be brought home on your clothes from pet stores that house rats that have not been properly quarantined before being brought there.
I know when you see them being sold for snake food, such as at Petland, Petco, or Soldan's, you want to rescue them all. The same thing happened to me when I first started out, but Rattery owners work very hard at, keeping records of health and temperament and pedigrees of bloodlines. They provide medical attention and keep their pets free of parasites. At least the reputable ones do, anyway.
Most ratteries owners have a wealth of information available to those willing to learn and many are very willing to mentor a new pet rat lover. I can't stress enough the importance of eliminating these virus's starts by, not purchasing your pet rats from pet stores!
Pet Supply's Plus is the only store I know of in the Lansing area that sells supplies for pet rats without actually housing rats in their store. Order online, or go to Meijer's or Walmart's to get pet supplies rather than one of the places I've mentioned above. Also, avoid buying any pet rats from Puress's Animal House in Haslett, Michigan. Even though they are the only pet store I'm aware of in this area, that will not sell a pet rat as snake food, they appear to have other issues.
I've had several people who have purchased ratties from me tell me they had problems with temperament, lice, mites and fleas from pet rats they have gotten from there. One lady just recently told me she picked up a baby rat that was far to small and young to have even been put up for adoption and it was shaking like a leaf, scared to death. I've spoken to the Manager of this store about his choice of breeder and the problems I've heard from my customers. The information only caused him to speak to me in a defensive manner, denying any wrong doing. (As of this writing 1-11-05, they have a litter of pet rats under quarantine for a possible flea problem and one person returned hers for mites.) He never did anything about it and the problems are still being reported to me. Boycott this establishment!
If your pets show any signs of respiratory problems like frequent sneezing, have a red discharge coming from their nose or eyes, (porphyrin), or their eyes seemed "bugged out" or their necks seem swollen, seek medical attention immediately with an exotic pet doctor.
I live in the Lansing area, below are several exotic pet vets in and near this area. In the future I will add to this list with the help of other breeders throughout Michigan.
Cedar Street Animal Hospital
4902 S. Cedar St.
Town and Country Animal Hospital
3110 S. Cochran
Web Site: www.t-c-animalhospital.com
Karen Hinkle DVM
Comprehensive Animal Hospital
4410 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Web eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cedar Creek Animal Hospital
2295 Williamston Rd.
Eastside Animal Hospital
2643 E. Grand River
East Lansing, Michigan
Mary Seager DVM
Get your pets treated as soon as they show symptoms to help the rat community rid these viruses from the environment and improve the lives of our little furry friends.
Improving the longevity of our pet fancy rats is a responsibility of everyone who owns one. We all know how sad it is to lose our beloved friends so we must all do our part to stop these deadly illnesses.
For more information about KRV, SDA and Myco, please check out the links in the article entitled: Caring For Your Fancy Rat, found under the topics of interest page of this web site.