This is a follow up to the previous anon question about new bald spots showing up on the rats:
Yeah it sounds to me like overgrooming. It’s a hard habit to break once it starts unfortunately :/ But it’s not harmful at all- it’s just like biting your fingernails.
Do a thorough check for mites, fleas, lice, etc by examining their skin for actual fleas, looking for flea dust, bites, raw areas, redness, etc. Monitor them to see if they’re itchy or anything. If not, it’s just overgrooming and you’ll just have to leave it alone and hope they stop! I tried everything with my overgroomers with no success
Gah this is one of the biggest things people get confused about with rats. This is going to be a complicated explanation so bear with me and feel free to ask follow up questions.
The short answer is put her back in with the others- she can’t give a URI to the other rats. If she gets it again, put her on more meds and don’t separate her. Here’s the long answer as to why:
Virtually all rats have a bacteria in their body called mycoplasma (myco). It lies dormant in their lungs and can “flare up” in reaction to stress, other illness, strong perfumes and odors, etc. When you hear that rats have “sensitive respiratory infections”, what they’re saying is that rats are prone to myco flare-ups. These flare-ups are actually secondary infections, otherwise known as Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs). The symptoms are sneezing, porphyrin discharge from the nose and eyes, wheezing or clacking breathing, lethargy, trouble breathing, appetite loss, etc.
I’m assuming you took your rat to the vet when it started showing these symptoms (which is awesome, btw- a lot of people just ignore it). Then you got meds and I assume your vet told you to keep it separate because myco is contagious. While they’re not wrong, keeping them separate is useless because virtually all rats have myco so your other rats can’t catch what they already have.
Myco is extremely contagious to other rats- so contagious that all rats actually get it in the womb or the birth canal from their mother. Except for some isolated lab rat groups, all rats- both wild and domestic- have myco in their bodies. Certainly any rat in the pet trade has it- there’s not much doubt about that. So while it is contagious, you can’t get something you already have.
A somewhat good comparison is herpes simplex 1 (cold sores) in humans: A huge percentage of the human population has oral herpes, otherwise known as cold sores. Whether or not we get visible cold sores is somewhat genetic but that’s besides the point. Lets say person A and person B already have oral herpes and occasionally get cold sores. Herpes lies dormant in your body- it never goes away. A cold sore is just a flare up and it will go away, but that doesn’t mean you’re free of herpes. Person A gets a cold sore and kisses Person B. Even if Person B doesn’t actively have a cold sore, they already have herpes in their body so Person A can’t give person B a cold sore. So they’re happy yay! (Keep in mind that if the other person doesn’t have herpes, it does spread, but this scenario only refers to two herpes positive people. Also note that there are many strains of herpes so this scenario also assumes they have the same strain)
So if that made any sense, your sick rat isn’t going to get the other rats sick because they aren’t immunocompromised and their bodies are keeping the myco at normal levels. The baytril your sick rat got removed the URI symtpoms by fighting the secondary infection but it will still have myco in it’s lungs. So you aren’t actually getting rid of it- you’re just knocking it down. Which is why rats get recurring or chronic respiratory issues. They aren’t being reinfected, they’re just compromised and it keeps flaring up.
I hope that was easy to understand. I have a hard time explaining that point. Your vet probably just doesn’t realize how pervasive URIs are in rats. I’ve heard it so many times that vets want you to separate the sick rat but it just isn’t necessary. Good luck!!!
So exciting! I had the exact same situation when I got my first pair of rats. But we got them and my roommate fell in love with them! When I moved back to Maryland, we actually split our group of 6 rats into 3 and 3 so she could keep the 3 she liked best :P So you never know!
I would show them some cute pictures of the ones at the humane society. Also show them this awesome video of rats performing tricks! You can explain to them that rats are clean and groom themselves more than a cat. They are like small dogs in personality and affinity for humans, etc. If they are willing, bring them to the humane society and have them meet the rats. Often people have an idea in their head of a “sewer rat” and then when they see what rats actually look like and get to see their face and whiskers and paws up close, they realize that they are much more delicate and cute then they thought.
Also please please please get at least 2 rats! They are social and need rat companions. Do your research and invest in the proper cage and all. While they don’t have long lives, they do live 2-3 years so if you are moving away after college or something and won’t be able to take them, don’t get them :P I have an FAQ section that will help answer a lot of questions for first time rat owners. Good luck!
Ferret.com usually has the best prices- link here. Good luck!