American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Nov./Dec. 1995 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.


Head Tilt; Eye Problem

By Nichole Royer

Head Tilt

Valerie Greco, Ontario, Canada
Q Is there any method of prevention for inner ear disorder which causes severe neck tilt, circling, and disorientation in rats? Is there a predisposition for this condition in Beige Hooded rats?

A This type of inner ear disorder is usually the result of a respiratory problem, and is caused by an infection. The best prevention is protecting your rat from becoming ill in the first place. This can be done by quarantining new animals when they come into your home. Also, good husbandry practices, a healthy diet, and good sanitation are essential. There is good evidence that cedar and pine bedding could contribute to this problem, so I would avoid those products. When inner ear disorders do appear, rapid treatment is essential. Often if caught early enough and treated with antibiotics, the symptoms will completely disappear. Tresaderm ointment and Gentocin Otic Solution have been recommended. (Consult your vet for the best treatment for your rats.) For more information on inner ear infections, see the “Medical” section in the M/J95:18 issue of Rat and Mouse Tales. As far as we know there is no connection between color/markings and inner ear disorders.

Eye Problem

Carol Shepherd, Keizer, OR
Q Does anyone know what is causing my Beige Hooded rat’s eye to ooze out rusty–colored liquid? Two vets have been unable to clear it up and don’t know what it is. It has gone on for about 3 months. Batril, Panmycin, Doxycycline all had no impact. He is not ill but did go through several weeks of intense constant scratching. At that time, when he was near my face/neck, I would break out in red itchy bumps. I dipped him twice, once in Lym Dip and once in kitten dip (diluted). This did not help. My other nine rats did not have the problem. Batril brought the itching to him and me some relief; almost cleared it up, but his eye still runs. I have tried eye ointment, but rarely can get enough in his eye to help.

AThere are many possibilities that could cause a rat’s eye to do this. It could be an allergy to the bedding you are using, or to some other substance. Also, dust in the bedding could cause this. You might try another bedding and see if it helps.

Because the problem is only in one eye, there is the possibility that there may be something wrong with the tear duct. Possibilities include lesions of the eyelid, a plugged tear duct, or a tumor of the tear gland. Your vet can check for a plugged tear duct by placing fluorascein dye in the eye. If there is no problem, the dye will come out of the nose.

Keep in mind that the natural color of the discharge from a rat’s eye is red, in fact it usually looks like blood. It is not uncommon for a rat that is under stress for some reason to develop a ring of this red discharge around one or both eyes. Often the stress can be from an illness, or injury, but it can also be caused from aging, and some rats just seem to be prone to it. In older rats, and rats who are just prone to this, it is often a recurring problem with no real solution. Based on the fact that your rat has been on antibiotics that should have taken care of any infections, I would hazard a guess that the stress of his recent health problem may be causing this chronic condition, or he may just be prone to it. I would check all the other possibilities first however, before making any assumptions. *

See the Jan./Feb. 1996 article for more on the Head Tilt/Eye Problem

Updated March 19, 2014