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My new rats were sold to me with URI's. Since then they have been treated and are doing much better. I was wondering if there was any kind of rat vitamins, specific food, or so on I could give them to prevent them from getting sick again or just maintain overall health? I want them to be well. If you guys have any suggestions please let me know.
 

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My vet recommends Oxbow food and Carefresh litter. I use a different recycled paper litter in their litter box but she says that's okay since it is such a small amount and I use fleece as the main bedding.
 

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The best way to prevent a URI is often environmental.

Do not use a tank as a cage.
Use a nondusty and safe bedding
Keep the cage clean
Do not smoke in the house or around the rats
Do not use airfresheners or light candles, etc... near the rats

If you bring new rats home always quarantine. Limit exposure to unknown rats and even pet stores.
Try to keep your rats from being stressed.

Diet is extremely important to their overall health. I would feed high quality food. A good lab block- oxbow, native earth or mazuri. I prefer oxbow myself but any is fine. A good mix of fresh veggies daily as well. Keep treats and junk food to a minimum. And keep them at healthy weights.
 

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My girls came to me with URIs. After they finished their antibiotics, I chose to go with children's echinacea. One week on, 3 weeks off to keep their immune system strong.
 

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We take our rats outdoors and they never get sick. I think that something they pick up from the ground helps build a strong immune system... so perhaps you can just bring in a pot of dirt and let your rats dig in it to get the same effect??

Keep in mind rats aren't meant to be hot house flowers... they live in dumps, subways and in all kids of hostile environments and I think they have evolved to need some natural bacteria to stay healthy.... our rats are practically bomb proof, friends with hot house rats tend to rack up some pretty major vet bills... and their rats always tend to be sick or about to get sick... no matter how clean and sterile their people make their environment...

I know this seems counter-intuitive... and I almost expected our first true shoulder rat to have health issues with going outside and eating garbage off the ground she found and going where wild rats go, but quite to the contrary she was remarkably healthy... as was our part wild rat who lived outdoors for a whole summer on her own... My mom once said that kids can't grow up healthy unless they play outdoors and get dirty... maybe this is true of rats too...

I'm not saying I have scientific proof to back up my theory... but our rats don't get sick... except for mammary tumors which is genetic and our latest two from a better breeder don't even have those so far...

Maybe we've just been lucky? But after seeing the moldy and disgusting things our rats have found and eaten outside or rolled around in... you would swear it should have killed anything, instead they became bombproof.... kind of like wild rats are...
 

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You do need to be careful with allowing your rats to go around where wild rats have been, they carry a lot of things that could cause major issues in the pet rat community if they became widespread such as leptospirosis, hantavirus and rat bite fever , not to mention a host of parasites. All cause no issues to the rats but could cause issues to there humans, then in turn cause major issues to the keeping of pet rats (though lepto and rat bite fever are easily wiped in with a course of antibiotics). Wild rats can also be the source of viral infections like SDAV and Sendai which can devastate even quite strong rats. Whilst I am an advocate of letting my rats get out and exposed to minor issues (via rat shows in my area, though they don't tend to have contact with the other rats), I would be keeping wild rats away from mine.

Moonkissed's list a great one, I would also add;

* try and keep them in a cool environment, so under 20 deg c where possible (but over 10)
* aim to keep them in a room with minimal soft furnishings and carpets (these carry a lot of dust)

and one for the future
* try to get your rats from a good source, e.g. a breeder who selects away from health issues like myco.
 

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I suppose I should add that I'm pretty lucky to live in an area where there haven't been any cases of the kinds of issues Isamurat mentioned. The wild rats around here are pretty healthy as best as anyone can tell.... but, yes I suppose there are certain areas where there are bad things going around that rats can catch and spread... Sometimes I forget that people from all over the world come here to discuss their rats and what's perfectly safe for me in my area is a bad idea for other's elsewhere....

Still... I tend to think that a sterile environment prevents rats from obtaining the proper immunity and perhaps good bacterial flora they need to be healthy.... And yes... I do keep my girls away from hot house rats, just in case they are carrying something that they are immune to...

As to staying away from where wild rats go... Fuzzy Rat used to sniff for the trails wild rats left behind, especially the boys.... You would be surprised where wild rats live... around schools and food establishments are major hot spots for rat activity.... You might think that wild rats are more likely to live in more pristine environments... but not so... mostly she found their trails right around human habitation... We're getting exposed to wild rat activity a lot more than we realize...

Where there's warmth, food and trash, there are wild rats...
 

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Keep in mind rats aren't meant to be hot house flowers... they live in dumps, subways and in all kids of hostile environments
Sometimes there is just luck involved.... our pet rats are domesticated and in that sense removed from their wild relatives. I do not think we should treat domesticated pets anywhere like they are wild.

In the essence that their wild brethren did something so its ok for them to, could literally be said about every animal and even humans. And it is absurd. My ancestors didn't go to the doctor or eat safe healthy foods but we have learned that some things are important and safe and some things are not. We should do the very least to put that same knowledge forth towards our beloved pets. Wild animals do not have long healthy lives. Most develop sad healthy issues, injuries and death.

People use the same absurd logic to let their pet cats roam outdoors. All 7 of my cats are very happy and safe indoor cats. I have worked with shelters. I have seen the very real dangers that outdoor cats face. They have proven that cats that are allowed outdoors and indoors live years less then a cat kept indoors only. It is never cruel to keep an animal safe and protected. If you give them a fulfilling indoor life they will be more than happy.

I have first hand experienced with working with large groups of feral cats. Cats who have for several generations been born into feral colonies. The amount of health issues and injuries- often caused by wild animals is scary. Parasites are huge issue. Their fur & skin is awful. Parasites would be one of my biggest fears. Diseases spread rampant in the wild. It is so not possible for you to know if the wild rats near you are healthy and disease free. lol

I think the whole gotta get some dirt in ya to be healthy is not really applicable with a creature that lives a few years at most. I keep my rats indoors and never had any URIs or health issues either. We can not wrap them in a bubble of protection. Things do not have to be perfect and hospital clean but some logic and common sense goes a long way. Would u let your child play in disgusting unsafe environment or eat spoiled food they found? Why is it magically ok for the pet? lol I am all for sharing personal stories but passing it off as good advice....is just irresponsible.
 

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I think the health of a rat really has more to do with genetics than anything else. Sure, the environment that the rats are in does play a role, and as responsible pet owners we should do our best to keep them healthy, but I think certain things are just in their DNA.

I have 3 male rats, all living in the same cage, all exposed to the exact same things, all fed the same food, and all the exact same age (given a week or two). However, two of them are from the same litter, and one of them is from a different litter. In the 3 months that I've had them, the 2 that are from the same litter have had one abscess each, and one of them also had a URI. The other rat who is unrelated: nothing.

I just think it's an interesting outcome, and it's really made me think that genetics play a much bigger role than we realize.
 

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It plays a massive role, its something I actively work with and look into a lot, given that I'm attempting to breed away from a lot of issues. Even in our lines which are generally pretty good and well bred you can get litters that just don't work, where certain issues are commonplace and theres a clear genetic weakeness. You then have to outcross to another family / line / strain that doesn't have these issues then inbreed to help select those rats that have inherited the "none susceptible" gene. Its challenging and touch as a lot of the issues are more complex than recessive / dominant genetics (for instance cancer appears to be a threshold trait and needs a certain amount of stuff to all line up).

There is a big impact good husbandry and conditions can have though. I realised I forgot to put the main one on here. Along with diet you really need to keep your rats at a good weight and in good condition. Overweight or obese rats are far more likely to suffer from a lot of issues, in particular tumours, however it has an impact on heart, resp and a lot of other issues too. Keeping your rat fit and slim is a real help to them.
 

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As to genetics, you just can't beat good genes. My neighbor was a 99 year old pack a day smoker and former miner, who no one ever saw without a beer in his hand... I think he made 100 before passing away. He was never sick a day in his life or at least so he said....

Moonkissed, you make all valid points... My friend had a semi feral cat, that lived around 20 years... it came home every few years and stayed for up to a year or two at a time, he lived in the state forest, but to be fair, who knows if the cat actually lived in the woods or with other humans when he was away from home... But yes, we have lots of scroungy looking feral cats around our house and they don't seem to last anywhere as long, they tend to come and go...

I actually don't recommend that most people take their rats outdoors, there are lots of dangers out there and sickness is only one issue. That's why I suggested that people try and bring some "pro-biotic" bacteria indoors for their rats. In terms of domestication, rats have only been domestic pets for around a hundred years, and while that's a lot of rat generations, compared to the millennia they have spent "in the wild" it's still a drop in the bucket.

I was born when all germs were generally considered bad... now it's pretty common knowledge that humans have and need good bacteria in their digestive systems, sinus and even on their skin to offset bad bacteria proliferation and even do certain other chores for them. We get inoculations of bad bacteria in small doses or in attenuated form to boost our immunity and we take flu shots for granted. Native American populations were decimated by European diseases they had never been exposed to before when the Europeans first immigrated to this continent. And most of us have seen the new home sneezes that rat pups get when they move to into our homes.

I realize my thoughts on this subject are far from proven facts... And when we started taking our rats outside I almost expected some possible increase in health problems which is what made me so keenly aware that our rats didn't get URI's or otherwise sick. And that's when I started to notice what I term the "hot house" phenomenon. Rats that lived in almost sterile environments tended to get sick more often.

I suppose, as advise, it has limits... I wouldn't take my family to West Africa and expose them to Ebola, but I do let my daughter go to public school aka 'public germ exchange' every day. And I do suspect that there there are good and useful bacteria that rats have evolved to benefit from in nature. Likely after some generations of shoulder rats my house is likely already full of all kinds of bacteria the rats have picked up... And perhaps most homes already have lots of wild bacteria that comes in under our shoes our rats can benefit from. So perhaps it's more of a shared observation at this point than great advise... Theoretically, I should be seeing more health issues, instead our rats are significantly healthier than the the hot house rats I've met... Or you can call it luck... maybe it's a little of both. But I might add, that I've worked with other folks in training shoulder rats and they seem to have a similar experience... But folks have to pick and choose the "advise" they feel is right for them.

And as to dang parasites... we've got mites again... turns out my daughter took a school trip to a petting zoo and she got to handle and touch small animals there... and came home to play with our rats... thank goodness for Revolution. And health risks... Misty has started making a habit of diving through closing doors to get downstairs or outside without being noticed... really, with rats sometimes you just can't win... It's the threats you don't see coming that will get you every time.

Lastly as to diet, I do believe that diet and genetics go hand in hand, but eating healthy has never hurt anyone... ever. Some of our rats have gotten fat and other's haven't eating the same diet... I believe the tendency to get fat is also genetic, but obviously the food has to be there. I tend to mix up the diet, and try not to go overboard either way. I prefer to feed our rats whole grains, but somehow they have both learned the words "snickers" and "candy" since Halloween, which is likely not a good sign... So although I'm not a strict follower of the "best diet" approach, I absolutely don't disagree with those folks that are.
 
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