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Discussion Starter #1
Hi there, my 9-month-old black rat Fred's coat is quite rusty-brown looking. I was wondering if it could be related to a dietary insufficiency. If so, what is he missing, and how could I supplement his diet? He is otherwise perfectly healthy. Even though he's the smallest of our rats his coat and eyes are shiny and he is energetic and friendly. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No, he was definitely blacker (completely black) initially. The reason I posted this is that I remember reading a thread here where somebody made mention of something similar (rusting being linked to diet) but I can't find it. Maybe they were mistaken, but I'm hoping the feeding fundis can chime in.
 

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That was me! It was my little River. Turned out to be just a molt, so she's black again, but if it's not just genetic rusting you could try upping protein with chicken liver once a week was the advice I got.
 

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Is he shedding? Rats usually keep themselves extremely clean so not that noticeable. Black haired animals, when the hair dies and falls out turns kinda a dark brown/rusty color.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hmm, not sure if he's shedding. If so I haven't actively noticed it. He is very clean and lovely <3 His coat has been rusty for quite a while, so I'm not convinced it's linked to shedding though.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yes webspinnr, that rings a bell. Copper? What foods are a good source of copper for rats, does anybody know?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Oh, silly me - liver would be good for him then? I have never bought any before (either for me or for them) but maybe I should start. Shudder!
 

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Yup! I gave some to River. She was SO cute! She loved the taste but hated the feel so she'd juggle it from hand to hand while trying to eat it!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the mental image, webspinnr! :) I googled high-in-copper foods, and he does eat quite a few of those mentioned, especially chickpeas and other cooked beans, which he loves. But maybe I should bring in the big guns with seafood or liver...hmm...
 

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It may just be genetic rusting, which copper wouldn't help. I'm sure you can find the thread if you go to my profile and look at threads I started.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I suspect it may be genetic then. I will check your thread. Fred is not a well-bred rat; someone just loved their rat and wanted babies with him, and Fred was one of the offspring. He's an absolute sweetie, but no pedigree.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Yeah, I don't mind what colour his coat is, as long as it doesn't have negative health implications for him in other ways. I would hate something to be wrong with Fred. He is the friendliest rat - to be near him is to be licked by him!
 

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Yup I expressed the same feelings. She was my little calico for a while! But all the research I did seems to suggest the rusting itself isn't dangerous at all it's just not good in show rat lines. The only reason to pay attention to it is the concern about other genetic problems. He sounds like a sweetheart!
 

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Rusting is down to a number of different things;

age/genetics : older rats do tend to have some level of rusting regardless of other factors. I'd expect this around 18 monhts plus though in most lines (it is dependant on there genetics to some extent)

Diet: copper deficiency is the main cause of this, there is a genetic element too, for instance some rats genetically need more copper than others (we had a litter which all needed a bit more copper than normal to stay their right shade)

exposure to sunlight: a rat who gets out in the sun more often will generally rust earlier.

The only one that can be problamatic (unless your showing) in that list is copper deficiency. Copper is one of those minerals which does lots of little things. ONe of the most major is its involvement in the produciton of certain pigments (hence rusting) but it does have other functions including neural ones which are less well understood Whilst rusting isnt a big deal i would always try and rule out a copper deficiency first. As mentioned liver is one of the best ways, as is certain sea foods. Whilst chickpeas and other pulsas are classed as high copper foods they arent massively over a rat diet target of 10mg/kg (with the understanding the rat needs to absorb about half of that, not all minerals are absorbed) so unless your rat eats a lot they wont get much of a boost from chickpeas etc. Liver is much higher than that, as are dried mushrooms if your rats will touch them. I find the easiest way to get copper in as a short term boost is through liver paste (sold as a dog treat) or home made liver busicuits (i can give you a recipie) which are much more pleasent than raw liver (which smells and feels icky). Longer term make sure they get a good amount of dark green leafy veg regularly, this will help top them up, and i try and give a liver treat every week to mine
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Isamurat, I would appreciate the liver biscuit recipe! I don't give the rats seafood or liver at all, simply because it's never around in the house. I would totally be up for buying some liver, making biscuits and freezing them to dole out occasionally, though. Thanks for your input.
 
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