How to Spot and Treat Ear Infections in Rats
Rats, like any other animal, will occasionally get sick. An ear infection is not very common in rats, but is easily treatable.Knowing the signs of an ear infection and getting treatment immediately will prevent the issue from becoming a serious one.
Spotting an Ear Infection
Look for rubbing or scratching of the ear.If the rat’s ear is hurting, then it’s going to start rubbing its ear against the floor of the cage. It might even start scratching at its ear.
- Make sure your rat isn't injuring itself when rubbing against the cage floor or scratching its ear. Catching the condition quickly will help prevent the rat from hurting itself.
Watch for poor balance.If your rat is stumbling into its cage walls or is having trouble walking towards you or around its cage, then it might have an ear infection.
- Stumbling and even circling are signs of an equilibrium imbalance, something often caused by ear infections.
Pay attention to any facial paralysis.In severe cases, your rat’s facial nerves will become paralyzed. Look for drooping features or a constantly blinking eye.
- In extreme cases, rats suffer enophthalmos, or a recession of the eye. This would happen on the affected side.
Look for head tilt.There are three different causes of head tilt, the most common being an ear infection. Unfortunately, head tilt doesn’t occur until the ear infection has progressed, so you will need to bring your rat to the vet immediately.
- The second most common cause of head tilt is a Pituitary tumor. There is no cure for PT, but you can treat with prednisone. Again, you will need a veterinarian to confirm if your rat has a tumor.
- A stroke can also cause head tilt. You won’t be able to tell the difference between a stroke and an ear infection, and both have the same treatment.
Pay attention to any pus in the ear.Check your rat's ears for any discharge, fluid, or pus. If there is any, then the rat is suffering from an ear infection.
- The pus, discharge, or fluid is going to smell foul or sweet.
Treating an Ear Infection
Bring your rat to a veterinarian.For any infections, a rat should be brought to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. The veterinarian will be able to answer any questions you have and will confirm whether it’s an ear infection or something more serious.
- Many rats are born with Mycoplasma pulmonis, bacteria in the upper respiratory and reproductive tracts which can cause infections, such as respiratory infections. Symptoms of a respiratory infection include sneezing, sniffling, and discharge from the nose. Ear infections are usually signs of the respiratory infection spreading, something a vet needs to handle.
Flush the ear out as a first step.Flushing the ear should be done in conjunction with any other treatment. The flushing will start to get the debris and any additional wax out and can start the healing process.
- Use a warmed, preservative-free normal saline or an ear cleanse, such as Epiotic or OtiClens.
- Pour solution into the ear until it's almost spilling out of the ear.
- Massage the base of the ear for one minute. You might hear a squishing sound; that's normal. The massaging breaks up wax and debris in the lower ear canal and helps push it all up to where you can access it in the upper ear canal.
- Use cotton balls to start cleaning out the ear. Keep wiping out the ear until no debris comes out. You might need to put more solution in if the ear is particularly dirty.
- If you are going to use a cotton swab, be careful with the inner ear. You don’t want to cause any abrasions. Only clean out the crevices that you can see.
- Wait at least two hours before administering any other ear medications, especially topical ointments.
Use topical agents for less severe cases.Make sure the ear is dry before applying the ointment. There are a number of different topical agents, such as Treasaderm or Gentocin Otic, that the veterinarian might suggest.
- Your veterinarian will be able to determine which agent is best based on an examination of your rat.
Treat with antibiotics for more severe cases.Your veterinarian might prescribe a topical treatment, oral antibiotics, or steroids, such as prednisone. The veterinarian will also tell you the dosage, how to administer the medication, and the length of the treatment.
- If the ear infection was caught late and the rat was suffering from head tilt, the rat might suffer permanently from head tilt. Usually, though, the rat will make a full recovery.
- Keep your rat’s cage clean, especially during the healing process.
- Make sure the rat’s food and water are within easy reach.
- Contact your veterinarian if the condition worsens or if the rat starts to lose weight or have a decreased appetite.
Video: Ear Infection
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