How to Treat Ear Infections in Rats

Rats are great pets. Not only are they intelligent, but they’re highly social. Like all pets, rats suffer from a variety of ailments, including ear infections. Unfortunately, ear infections can be difficult to treat in rats. But by knowing the symptoms of an ear infection, seeking the help of your vet, and taking care of your rat while it recovers, your little friend should be back to normal in a few weeks.

EditSteps

EditDiagnosing Ear Infections

  1. Look for a lack of balance. Watch your rat to see if it seems to be off balance. If your rat has trouble walking straight or doing things it normally does, this could be an indication that your rat has an ear infection.[1]
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  2. Watch for lethargy. While being tired or lacking energy doesn’t by itself mean that your rat has an ear infection, combined with other symptoms, it may. If your rat seems to be tired and is less active than normal, you should contact your vet.[2]
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 2.jpg
  3. Note if your rat tilts its head to one side. If you notice your rat tilting or leaning its head to one side, your rat probably has an ear infection. Head tilt is one of the most notable and symptoms of ear infection in rats. If your rat has a head tilt, you need to contact your vet immediately.[3]
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 3.jpg
  4. Look for drainage from the ear. Rats with ear infections may have bad-smelling liquid draining out of their ear. Typically, if a rat has drainage coming from their ear, their infection is somewhat more advanced. If you notice drainage from your rat’s ear, contact your vet as soon as you can.[4]
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 4.jpg
  5. Watch to see if your rat scratches its ear more than normal. If your rat has an ear infection, it will probably scratch or touch its ear more than it does regularly. This is a sign that your rat is uncomfortable and needs to visit the vet.[5]
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EditWorking with a Veterinarian

  1. Schedule an appointment with your vet immediately. Make an appointment with your vet when you first suspect your rat has an ear infection. To prevent long-term problems for your rat, you need to make sure your rat’s ear infection is treated as quickly as possible. Don’t worry, though, your vet will do everything they can to help your rat.[6]
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    • Your vet will ask you questions about your rat’s health and symptoms.
    • They’ll examine your rat.
    • They might run diagnostics like blood tests to see the extent of a possible infection.
  2. Talk to your vet about the cost of treatment. Because the treatment of ear infections may be an involved process, you should ask your vet for an estimate of the treatment cost. Without asking first, you may be shocked at how much you wind up paying after a couple of visits. Ask your vet if they:
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    • Offer a payment plan option.
    • Have suggestions about where to purchase medicine and other supplies at a discounted price.
    • Know another vet who may be able to treat your rat for less, like a budget animal clinic.
  3. Give your rat antibiotics orally with a syringe or dropper. If your vet prescribes antibiotics, you’ll need to use a syringe or dropper to drop antibiotics into your rat’s mouth. Antibiotics will help kill the bacteria that is causing your rat’s ear infection.[7]
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 8.jpg
    • Make sure to complete the course of antibiotics. If you don’t, the infection could get worse.
  4. Put anti-inflammatory drops in your rat’s ear with a dropper. In addition to antibiotics to fight the infection, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drops to reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatory drops will reduce the discomfort your little friend is experiencing during its ear infection.[8]
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 9.jpg
    • Some anti-inflammatory medications that are safe for rats include prednisone and dexamethasone.
    • Only use anti-inflammatory medications that have been specifically prescribed for your rat.
  5. Drain your rat’s ear with a cotton wick. If your vet recommends it, create a thin wick out of cotton balls or soft paper towels. Then, insert the wick a little bit into your rat’s ear. Don’t push it hard. Simply place it into the ear and withdraw it. If the wick is dirty when you take it out, discard it and create another.
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 10.jpg
    • Avoid pushing the wick into your rat’s ear with force. This could damage your rat’s ear drum or compact any wax or other debris.
    • Don’t use Q-tips or cotton swabs to clean your rat’s ears.
    • If you’re nervous about cleaning your rat’s ear, ask your vet to do it.[9]
  6. Flush your rat’s ear with a dropper. Your vet may recommend an ear flush. Typically, you’ll have to flush your rat’s ear every day. To flush your rat’s ear, use the dropper that comes with the specific product and follow the directions your vet gives you. The amount of flush you will use depends on the specific product.[10]
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  7. Use a dropper to put essential oils in your rat’s ear. Your vet may also recommend giving your rat essential oil drops in its ear. They’ll most likely recommend the essential oil of basil. To give your rat essential oil, use a syringe to drop the essential oil into your rat’s ear.
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 12.jpg
    • Consult your vet before using any essential oils on your rat.[11]

EditCaring for Your Rat at Home

  1. Feed your rat a nutritious diet. Give your rat a diet that is rich in vitamins and nutrients. A proper diet can help your rat’s immune system fight off ear infections. When feeding your rat, remember that:[12]
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    • Commercially formulated rat food should have about 20% fat content.
    • Rats should eat fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Good fruits and vegetables to give your rat include apples, bananas, berries, carrots, broccoli, and cucumbers.
    • Rats will also benefit from cheese (given as a treat every day or two). However, make sure to give your rat plain cheese, like American or Swiss.
    • If your rat won’t eat, tempt it with unsalted roast beef, chicken, or turkey.
  2. Provide your rat with plenty of liquids to drink. Put a second water bottle or bowl in your rat’s cage. In addition, mix a non-citrus fruit juice (like apple juice) with Pedialyte and put some of the mixture in another water bottle in the cage. This mixture should be at a ratio of 1 to 1. By giving your rat extra liquids, you’ll increase the chances that your little friend will make a quick and full recovery.[13]
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    • Discard and refresh the fruit juice and Pedialyte mixture every 6 to 8 hours.
    • Don’t give your rat more than 2 to 4 ounces of juice mixture every day.
    • Consult your vet before giving anything other than water to your rat.
  3. Relocate your rat’s cage to a warm room. Aim for a room with a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius). Cooler temperatures could limit your rat’s ability to recover quickly from its ear infection. In addition, cool or cold temperatures may make your rat uncomfortable.[14]
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 15.jpg
    • Consider placing a reptile heat rock or pad in your rat’s cage while it is sick. This way, it’ll be able to get extra heat if it wants.
  4. Move your rat’s cage to a quiet area. In addition to moving your rat’s cage to a warm area, make sure that it is in a quiet place. When your rat is sick, it will probably want to rest a lot. If it is noisy in the room, your rat won’t be able to rest.[15]
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    • Relocate your cage from a family room, kitchen, or child’s room to an office, unused bedroom, or another quiet area of your home.
  5. Clean your rat’s cage every week. While you should do this under normal circumstances, it is especially important when your rat is fighting an illness. When cleaning your rat’s cage out:
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    • Discard and replace substrate (wood shavings or whatever you use to cover the bottom of the cage).
    • Wash out the cage with warm water and a mild dish detergent.
    • Soak plastic toys and other plastic items in warm/soapy water.
    • Launder fabric bedding and cloth (plush) toys.[16]
  6. Stay in contact with your vet. Schedule a follow up appointment with your vet after one or two weeks. In addition, call your vet if your rat’s health is getting worse after several days of treatment. The more closely your vet monitors your rat’s condition, the better they’ll be able to help it.
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    • You should schedule an appointment with your vet for about month after the initial visit, as well. This way, your vet will be able to confirm that your rat has recovered from its ear infection.
  7. Prevent future ear infections by treating illnesses immediately. Ear infections in rats often develop as secondary infections. As a result, all infections should be treated as soon as you notice symptoms. Contact your vet immediately if your rat shows signs of any type of infection.
    Treat Ear Infections in Rats Step 19.jpg
    • Pay special attention to respiratory infections. Common signs include difficulty breathing, sneezing, and lethargy.
    • Look for eye infections. Eye infections can quickly spread to your rat’s ears. Signs include red eyes, runny or watery eyes, or green or other color discharge from your rat’s eyes.[17]
    • Treat skin infections. Untreated skin infections could lower your rat’s ability to resist other infections, like ear infections.

EditSources and Citations

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