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Hello! I'm Fletcher, proud parent of a 2 year old little boy named Bilbo. I came here because I'm very worried about him. :'(

I haven't been able to play with him very often recently. Just today (about 10 minutes ago) I got him for some bonding time, and he wasn't enthusiastic. Or more specifically he seemed lethargic.

I'm very worried about him because he didn't seem like he'd been grooming himself, and when i set him down to let him walk around and explore he didn't move very much or he seems to limp. I'm incredibly concerned about his health. I'm going to take him to the vet tomorrow to see if they can figure out whats up. He's also lost some weight recently (he used to be a bit chubby, i used to give him too many treats), and when he did go to eat his dinner he wasn't picking up his food like he usually does.

Does anyone know what might be up with him? Please? I really need help here.. I'm distraught. I'm so worried about my precious baby...
 

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It sure sounds like he is sick! I hope the vet is able to tell you what is wrong with him. I wish I could be of more help.
 

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Here's a list of Diagnositic checks you can do on your guy, which should give you a lot more information to both take to the vet and put up here

Checking for Pain
• Holding them gently manipulate all their limbs one at a time (including the tail), move them around within their normal range of movement gently, check for any squeaks or flinching which might indicate they have a sprain or other damage (note: often swelling is present too, but not always).
• Put gentle pressure all over their body note any flinching or squeaking when certain parts of the body are touched.
• Look at the rat overall when resting, do they sit hunched up and or have their fur fluffed up. Do they look miserable. Are they breathing deeply from their abdomen instead of normally. Does it seem jerky and harsh. Are they turning down food they normally love or just less active than normal (note all of these signs can be linked with them feeling unwell too but they can show systemic pain).

Balance and Coordination
• Put the rat so all four paws are on the palm of my hand and encourage them to stand there, feel for any unevenness of how they put their weight down and hold their feet. For example if the lean to one side, or site on their back feet, or lean heavily on their front feet. This can highlight injured limbs (not weight bearing on one foot) or weakness on one side or front and back (strokes, HLD and other neural problems).
• Set the rat down on a smooth flat surface with a decent amount of space (a table top or floor works well), get so your eyes are level with them and watch them move. The watch them from above. You are looking for any tendency to circle or pull to one side (could indicate and ear infection, stroke or brain issue or an injury). Also watch for a change to their normal gait. Do they move in a jerky fashion (could indicate pain or arthritis), do they stumble (this could mean a possibility of neural problems or weakness) or walk in a flat footed or waddley gate (could just be overweight but may be starting with HLD).
• Encourage them to walk along a reasonable thickness branch or pole (such as a broom handle) are they more wobbly than normal or struggling to balance at all (note if your rat isn’t used to balancing don’t expect them to be brill).
• Can they accurately grab a treat from you, or seem to struggle to locate it. This could indicate ear infection, neurological problem or sight issue.
• Can they grip with their paws properly, especially the front paws (watch them holding and eating something and see if they can grab and hold the cage bars). This can indicate neurological tumours, infections or events.

Breathing
• Hold the rat up to your ear, listening to their chest (across their back is often easiest). Listen for gruntiness or noisy breathing. A bit of very light sneeziness in an otherwise very well rat (especially if they have been exposed to a stressful situation) on its own only needs keeping an eye on, however heavier noises should be investigated. If they are moving a lot (which can make it hard to hear) you should also be able to feel if they are chesty whilst holding them, feel for grumbles or vibration in their chest as you hold them, this is often more reliable than listening.
• Look for excessively deep breathing, the appearance of panting or becoming easily out of breath.
• Look out for them spending a lot of time lying around with their heads hanging over ledges and shelves (this makes breathing easier for them if their chest is congested).
• Encourage them to be active for a while, does this appear to make their breathing worse.

Eating, drinking and Weight
• Are they drinking more or less than normal (try overall as a cage then putting them in a small cage or carrier for a few hours on their own)
• When you pinch the loose skin at the back of the neck does it immediately spring back or slowly return to normal. A slow return indicates dehydration
• Are they eating more or less than normal.
• Has their tastes changed (so previously loved something they now ignore or actively avoid), this can be linked with neurological problems or something making them feel nauseous such as a stomach problem or kidney failure.
• Do they appear to eat in a strange manner, pulling faces, pushing items around, avoiding hard bits or having a sudden aversion to certain textures
• What is their weight doing? Rapid gains and losses should be investigated. Note if you actively weigh your rats make sure you do so at the same time each day (in relation to when they are fed and active), also more often than once every 2-3 days may not be very accurate. A one off reading showing it to be massively different is not indication in itself, however weight loss of more than 20g a week maintained for 2 weeks or more is enough to be cause for significant concern.
• How do they feel compared to normal, have they lost body tone, feel much thinner or light weight (a sign of weight loss and/or inactivity) or suddenly feel much firmer after weeks of feeling gradually thinner (can be linked to fluid retention later on in an illness).

Behaviour and Personality
• Has their activity levels changed, was this sudden or gradual - a sudden change can indicate an injury, fast progressing illness or a neurological event like a stroke, a gradual change is more likely to be caused by a slow progressing problem such as HLD, heart issues, respiratory problems, tumour or other illness.
• Has their personality changed, so a previously happy go lucky rat appears withdrawn or nervous, a previous licky gentle rat starting to bite or be territorial etc. This could indicate a hormonal issue, them experiencing pain or feeling unwell and grumpy or a neurological problem.
• Do they appear confused or unfamiliar with their surroundings, a littler lost or just generally upset (typically linked with neurological issues, but could be related to them feeling uncertain with a recent change too).
• Are they pulling funny faces (more so than normal rats), is this when they are relaxed or doing something. This could indicate some level of facial paralysis which may be associated with a neural problem.
• Are they grooming excessively, blinking lots or not at all (can be a sign of eye/ear irritation or neurological issues), or shaking their paws lots (can be a sign of numbness or tingling in paws).

Other useful checks
• Put them in a clean carrier or show tank with some kitchen roll on the floor. Leave them long enough until they urinate (more than just marking) and check for any redness or swirls of colour in the urine.
• Are they urinating or passing droppings more or less frequently than normal (this can be a good indication of amount they are drinking and eating as well as how well they are working overall).
• If you keep in urine dipsticks encourage them to wander around a clean none absorbent surface until the urinate properly (again not just marking), check for protein, sugar and blood content above normal ranges. Try and check this more than once to confirm any readings.
• Check their droppings, are they dryer and more rough than normal (could indicate light constipation or dehydration), are they not passing anything (constipation) wetter than normal (can be a stress reaction, a reaction to new foods, more protein or fibre than normal or a sign they have a stomach problem) or is it a funny colour (similar to the last one, however do check that they haven’t ingested anything brightly coloured like a pencil crayon or bright food, these can dye their droppings very funny colours).
• Check how your rats smell, some illness can be identified by a change of smell, a sweet smell can be associated with diabetes, a foul smell can indicate an abscess somewhere. This is particularly useful to check their mouth and ears. If they have squishy wet droppings this also generally has a strong smell about it and is normally what I spot first).
• Are all extremities such as their tail and paws a nice even pink colour and generally not cold (note if a rat has been running on cold surfaces they probably will be without it being a problem).
 

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Hi ismurat, is this in a sticky? If not I think it should be. Very useful for a lot of first time or newbie rat owners. I an new here but not new to rats, but compared to you and so many others I know very little. I think many, especially young people that haven't had the experience to know when something is wrong or not, would love to have quick access to this. Thanks for posting!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
thank you very much for the checklist! I went to the vet and he lost some weight, and he has a respiratory infection. He's on antibiotics and I'm going to hand feed him for awhile since hes having a bit of trouble eating. Thank you all very much for answering!
 

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It's not a sticky yet I think as its the first time I've remembered to post it lol, I did a whole thing on health checking I must put on my website and for a local rat club mag. If the admins want to sticky they are welcome too

Glad he's got antibiotics bilbotherattie, it's worth letting us know what and how much as sometimes vets can be using out of date reference books and so have the wrong dose or not give the best antibiotics
 
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