It's always good to be prepared for the worst case when having pets. Being able to provide basic first aid can be the key to the animal surviving a major injury. And for minor injuries, being able to help your pet without going to the vets is always nice.
Saline is a safe and inexpensive way to clean wounds. Saine unlike many disinfectants is safe for the animals to licks and ingest. This is especially handy with rats as they will groom their wounds even if you dont want them to. Saline doesn't sting and can be used for everything from irritated eyes, to hurt to nails to abscesses to sevear injuries! This is an all around must have for any pet owner, not just rat owners!
BASIC PARASITE TREATMENT
Having beaphar spot on or Harkers harka-mectin availabe is always handy! They have a long shelf life and are an inexpensive way to treat mites! Beaphar is predosed and can be bought from pet stores, amazon and often in wilko! For more on parasite medications, check Rat 101 health.
Unscented baby wipes that are mainly water are a great way to wipe rats of all ages. Especially older rats might need some extra help with cleaning themselves. This little thing can prevent nasty medical conditions such a penis plugs and UTI! Check Rat 101 for more info on these two conditions.
1ML SYRINGE FOR ORAL USE
Having syringes without needless is a must! With these you can make sure you are administering medicine with a clean and sterile syringe. Vets never give enough syringes so its good to have some back up ones!
WHAT CAN I OFFER FIRST AID FOR?
PAIN AND DISCOMFORT
For pain and discomfort, a rat owner can offer over the counter painkillers in the form of childrens liquid ibuprofein 100mg/5ml. Click here for dosing. Childrens ibuprofein is often flavoured so it is ofen easy to give to rats. Use the normal dose for mild and moderate pain/discomfort.
CUTS & SCRAPES
Cuts and scrapes happen and aren't a big deal most of the time as they tend to be very minor. The best care you can give is to just wipe the wound with some saline!
Bites needs to be disinfected well. Bites are very prone to getting infected and turning into abscesses. Disinfect bites with products such a saline, pet first aid spray or purple spray. Remove the biting animal from other animals immidiately to prevent further injuries.
TORN & OVER CUT NAILS
(WORKS FOR BLEEDING IN GENERAL)
These might seem scary as they often bleed. Just like with dogs and rabbits, you can stop bleeding nails with corn starch! Apply corn starch where the bleed is, if it keeps on bleeding, apply another layer without wiping off the first layer of corn starch. Apply gentle preassure.
DRY & IRRITATED SKIN
Sometimes rats get dry skin or just small spots of dry skin. This can be helped very easily! You can apply some coconut or olive oil on the skin. This is safe for the animals to lick, has healthy oils when ingesed and helps with irritation.
DRY & IRRITATED EYES
Sometimes rats get irritaed eyes just like us. This can be due to dry air, seasonal changes and so many other relatively harmless culprits. You can use saline eye drops to help your rat! Apply some on a Qtip and wipe the eye and surrounding are.
In UK, we can buy predosed parasite treatments from pet stores without prescription. Beaphar is a reputable brand that offer spot on for mites, and a spray type solution for fleas, ticks and lice. Follow the instuctions on the packaing. DO NOT BUY BOB MARTINS SPOT ON OR OTHER PRODUCTS, THESE ARE DANGEROUS.
Most fungal infections can be dealt with over the counter fungal creams and other anti fungals such as hibiscrub! Ring worm is the most common fungal infection you will see in rats. Mild to moderate cases can be dealt with over the counter creams.
most abscesses can be fully dealt with at home. Once the abscess developes a head, you can encourage the head or scab to peel off with ease by applyng a warm compress on it twice a day. When an abscess opens, flush it with saline. Carefully encourage the puss to come out with GENTLE pressure. You do not want to apply much preassure as the abscess can still rupture inwards. Once you've gotten fair bit of the puss out, flush the abscess fully with saine once again. Do NOT apply any topical treatments to encourage healing. This will cause the skin to heal fast and trap the infection inside. Abscesses should heal from inside to outside. If the abscess refills, repeat these steps. If your animals has a facial abscess, see a vet instead of treating it at home. Facial abscesses have higher risk of coplications due to being in a very risky are.
These are often seen in older males who are no longer keeping themselves clean. The best way to prevent this is to check them regularly and wipe their privates down with unscented baby wipes if you have noticed hind leg degeneration or lack in grooming.
If your rat get a sprain, place it into a low hospital cage to limit their movement. Apply some cold on the sprain to relieve it. Sprains can be sore so its good to give the animal some pain medication such a childrens ibuprofen.
Bumble foot is most often seen in rats who live on wire floors. This is an infection in the foot that most likely started of as a small scrape but got infected due to unsanitary living conditins. Over weight rats a lot more prone to bumble foot. Sometimes perfectly healthy rats can get this condition too as it's just a nasty infection. The best way to prevent bumble foot is to not have your animals live on wire floors, make sure the animals aren't obease and that their living conditions are clean.
Bumble foot that is caught early can be treated with thing such as purple spray, hibiscrub, Blu-kote and betadine. Apply some of the medication on the infection with a cotton swab twice a day. Blow until the ointment seems dry. Keep in mind many of these medication can stain clothes, so dont wear your best shirt while medicating the animal.
If the animals condition is not improving or it is getting worse, seek vet assistant as this indicates of a stubborn infection that will need a course of antibiotics.
You should NEVER let bumble foot get sever, there is no excuse. The preventing and treatment is not very challenging. In sever cage the animal may need surgery or even euthanised.
WHEN TO SEE A VET AND HOW SOON?
This is NOT all inclusive. These are the most common situations people ask about.
MODERATE RESPIRATORY DISTRESS
Vet should be seen ASAP.
a non-emergency appoinment preferably in the next few days.
SEVERE RESPIRATORY DISTRESS
Vet should be seen ASAP
Emergency appoinent if vet has no times for the same day.
If a wound needs to be stitched up, the golden period is the next 6 hours. After 6-8 hours, the stitching process becomes more complicated.
ACTIVELY BLEEDING LARGE WOUNDS
Vet should be seen ASAP.
If a large wound is actively bleeding and won't stop, the animal should be taken in as an emergency.
Facial abscesses should be seen by a vet as they have a higher risk of complications.
Non-emergency, should be seen some time in the following days, within the same week.
If an abscess refuses to heal after several drainings and saline flushes. it is a good idea to see a vet for some antibiotics.
Non-emergency, vet should be seen within the week.
MISS ALIGNED TEETH
Miss aligned teeth prevent the rat from eating properly. Make sure to offer soft foods while waiting for vets.
Vet should be seen within the next 48h.
If the teeth are cutting wounds into the animals mouth, vet should be seen the same dya.
If the rat is actively bleeding from its genitals, vet should be seen as an emergency.
If the animal is not actively bleeding, but you can see occasional blood staining from their genitals, vet shouold be seen within the next 48h if you have no reson to suspect pregnancy.
WHATS IN OUR FIRST AID KIT?
An example first aid kit
Qtips & Cotton pads
First aid spray
SELF ADHESIVE WRAPS
Wet catfood / Baby food
Syringe needles & caps
MITES SPOT ON
Flea, lice, tick spray