American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Holiday 1998 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.


Bloody Nose; Eye Discharge; Eye & Nose Discharge
Bloody Nose

Q Is it normal or okay for a rat to have a bloody nose? I’ve asked many people including a veterinarian, and they all have different answers. From our files.

Q I work at a pet store that sells mice and rats. I have people come in almost daily and ask me why their rat is bleeding from the eye or nose. There’s no internal injuries, what’s causing this? From our files.

A Rat tears are brown-red in color, so if your rat has a “bloody discharge” from the nose and eyes, it is most likely the porphyrin secretion from the Harderian Gland that helps to lubricate the eye. An increase in tear secretions can be due to stress, illness, allergies, lesions of the eye, tumor of the tear duct, or a plugged nasal-lacrimal duct. Under normal circumstances, most rats do not have a nasal discharge, although Dr. Booth has seen many older disease free rats that frequently have a slight eye discharge. If an animal has a plugged nasal-lacrimal duct (drains from the eye to the nose), your veterinarian can check the patency by placing fluorescein stain in the eye. If the duct is not clogged, a small amount will drain out the nose. A clogged nasal-lacrimal duct is very uncommon in rats, and most that have a nasal or ocular discharge have a respiratory or viral infection. Karen Robbins & Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M.

Eye Discharge

Q I am a holistic health therapist and herbalist. I have an albino male rat who will be 2 years old in October. He has a constant bloody discharge from one eye. I can’t get it cleared up with gentle treatment (goldenseal/rue solution) and I wonder if you have ever heard of it or know of something that would help. He also is blind in that eye and seems to be losing his vision in the other. He does not seem too unhappy with the blindness and it does not hinder him from touring the house. I allow him lots of play time outside of his cage and he goes home when he is ready for a snack or snooze. Jessica Wheeler, (e-mail)

A The most common problems we have heard of with one eye having a discharge, is an infection or plugged tear duct. I really recommend a trip to a vet to determine what the cause is and the best possible solution. Most use an antibiotic ointment with steroids to clear up these types of problems. Being a 2-year-old rat, age could also be a cause of the problem, but the fact he is also losing his sight sounds like something more. Karen Robbins

A Please see the preceding question regarding the normal red color of rat eye secretions. A 2-year-old rat is considered to be very old, and many rats in this age range have pituitary tumors as well as many other tumors. Blindness in rats can be caused by being exposed to too much light for long periods of time. This causes degeneration of the retina which results in the blindness. Rats are really nocturnal animals and have eyes adapted for living in the dark and sleeping in the day. I always keep my pet rats in a room with no or few windows and away from direct sunlight or strong room lights. In industry, there are regulations regarding the candle power of light in rooms housing rodents to prevent retinal degeneration.

The fact that only one eye of your rat has a prominent discharge is more suggestive of a problem not related to any respiratory or viral infection. Your rat should be examined by a veterinarian who can examine the eye, try and determine the problem, and prescribe an topical ophthalmic ointment if indicated. Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M.

Eye & Nose Discharge

Bonnie L. Cook & Tiffinae Hurlle (e-mail)
Q We are hoping you can help us. We have some very sick rats here and don’t know what is wrong or what to do. We live in a very small town and the vets have been absolutely no help at all.

Two of our rats have sores on both of their hands, right where the thumb would be. There is red discharge coming from both the eye and nose area and they are both breathing very loud and laboriously. It looks as if a third rat now has the sores also. We haven’t used pine or cedar bedding, but we have used the aspen bedding, could this have done it?

We’ve given them amoxicillin, a drop each 3 times a day but it doesn’t seem to have made a difference. We don’t expect them to make it through the night but if you have any clues, it could help us in the future with the rest of our group. Thanks for any help you can give.

A In answer to the question, it does sound suspicious for mycoplasma pulmonis, but it could be a number of different agents. How long have the animals been having symptoms? How old are they? How long have the owners had them, and where did they get them from? I would take them completely off wood shaving bedding, switch to a paper bedding, and change the bedding every other day. This will help keep the ammonia levels low. Also, amoxicillin is not the antibiotic of choice for rodents with upper respiratory symptoms. The best antibiotic is enrofloxacin (Baytril). I like to use 5 mg/kg P.O. BID. The injectable can be given orally, it just does not taste very good. The only problem with Baytril is the expense and poor taste. Tetracycline can also be used either orally or in the water. The oral dose of tetracycline is 100 mg/kg of body weight in rats and mice. This is the direct oral dose every 12–24 hours and is not to be added to the water. The only thing about Tetracycline antibiotics being used in the water, is that the water has to be changed daily, and the water bottle has to be protected from sunlight. Carmen Jane Booth, D.V.M. *

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Updated March 19, 2014