Strokes In Rats

What’s going on when a rat is weak and lethargic to the point that it struggles to walk?

Strokes are very uncommon in pet rats but whole body weakness due to illness is more likely to occur. Via Alexey Krasavin/Flickr

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS


My pet rat Ronnie (female) is ill! She has porphyrin around her eyes and nose, isn’t drinking or eating as normal, she’s lethargic and she’s struggling to walk — it seems like she’s dragging herself. She’s normally very active, but even when I get her out she just lays there. I took her to the vets and they didn’t seem like they knew about rats. They just gave her two injections. The next day she was a lot better, but now she’s deteriorated back to how she was. I would appreciate any advice, and also any info on strokes, because it seems to be mostly on her right side.


I am sorry that the visit to the veterinarian did not cause enough improvement in your rat, Ronnie. My first thought is that you need to either call or revisit the veterinarian about your rat. It may be that the initial injections need to be followed with either more injections or oral medication to supplement what was first given to your rat.

Rather than a stroke, what you seem to be describing is whole body weakness, which can mimic a stroke. Strokes are very uncommon in pet rats but whole body weakness due to illness is more likely to occur.

It could be that the injections were antibiotics or vitamins or even anti-inflammatories, and these all helped temporarily to make your rat feel better. Once their effects wore off, however, your rat started feeling bad again and struggled to do normal rat things, such as walk, eat and run around her cage.

If your veterinarians don’t seem to know enough about rats, perhaps they can refer you to other veterinarians who frequently see pet rat patients. You can also check the veterinarian list on Petcha or check with the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. If there is no one in your area who treats rats on a routine basis, the other logical choice is to ask your veterinarians to consult with a colleague who treats rats. They can help Ronnie, via telemedicine consults, which means both you and Ronnie do not need to be stressed by a long-distance car ride.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of talking to your veterinarian, as it is important for him or her to know that Ronnie at first responded to the medication but relapsed afterward. Reactions like that give veterinarians clues to the nature of disease, especially when a veterinarian may not be able to run all of the many different types of diagnostics tests in smaller patients that can be performed in larger patients, such as rabbits and ferrets.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal’s Critter Q&A articles

Article Categories:
Critters · Mice and Rats

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