American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the July–Oct. 1993 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Rat’s Teeth Can Kill

By Pat & Mike Bromberek, Portage, WI

Iwould like to share the following experience with fellow AFRMA members: Your rat’s teeth can kill! We associate the only problem that affects rat’s teeth is malocclusion (upper and lower teeth not in an even bite). As a result, the teeth grow to where the rat is unable to eat. Wrong! An abscess in this area is very sneaky and when it does show signs of trouble it may be too late.

Unfortunately this happened to our rat Sweetheart. She was a 2½ year old Black Hooded beauty whose appetite was very healthy. As a result with her love for food, her figure was a little on the plump side. One day I noticed her not eating so zestily like she would normally. I checked her teeth, figuring I’d find malocclusion. Instead I found a “cottage cheese-like” substance bulging out from her right lower jaw. It appeared to be in her cheek. I gently applied pressure around the area and this smelly mass came out. I then cleansed the affected area (via a Q-tip dipped in hydrogen peroxide) inside her cheek thoroughly to make sure all this stuff was out. Sweetheart then began to chow down and well, I thought the problem was over and done with. I surmised that she may have gotten some food trapped inside her cheek, causing it to abscess.

Several days later her lower jaw began to swell, so off to the vet we went. I explained what I had found several days before and told him what I did. Looking into her mouth there was more “cottage cheese” in the same area where I had found it. He then wiggled the left bottom incisor. It was normal. The right incisor was not right, and by using a tweezer he gently pulled it out, or should I say it fell out readily, root and all! Left in its place was “cottage cheese.” The problem was not food in the cheek but an abscess to the lower right incisor. He thoroughly cleansed out the area, gave her a shot and liquid antibiotics that I would give her for the next 10 days.

By that evening Sweetheart was eating heartily. About 5 days later the swelling in her jaw grew quite large (it never went down 100 percent). By evening the infection had burst its way out of her system by splitting the skin open by the area of her jaw where her right incisor used to be. I cleaned the area out thoroughly and called our vet to tell him what happened. The swelling was now all gone but it didn’t mean the infection was out of her system yet. It did appear the abscess was confined to this one area and this is why the skin split like it did, but our vet warned us that some of it could have gotten into her blood stream. Sweetheart, meanwhile, seemed OK but didn’t look too perky as she had with previous bouts with this problem. I gave antibiotics and cleaned the area daily but Sweetheart was not getting better. She slept a lot. She ate enough just to get by. And when she was awake, she just wanted to be held. By the fifth day we knew we were going to lose her. She was waiting for us to say goodbye when we got home. We held her, kissed her, told her how we tried to save her, told her how much we loved her. She passed on shortly after, her face serene and peaceful. She no longer was suffering, Pat and Mike were.

If caught in time, this condition can be cured. In Sweetheart’s case the abscess was already advanced. She is gone now, leaving a void like all our pets do when they pass on, but she did leave a valuable message behind that may save the lives of other rats in the future: Your rat’s teeth can kill!

Sweetheart: 7/90 to 3/15/93
She lived to eat. Loved to sit in my potted plants.
We miss you!
Pat and Mike *

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July 7, 2014