Rat Lice Treatment

Close-up rat in nest
Close-up rat in nest (Image: moniquee2/iStock/Getty Images)

Rats make great pets and usually pose no health risks to humans. However, in rare cases, rats come down with a case of lice. Luckily, there are treatments for lice on your rats so your furry friend can stop itching and go back to being healthy.

Rat Lice and Their Transmission

Lice that attach themselves to rats are called Polyplax spinulosa. These lice can also transmit a blood parasite called Hemobartonella muris, which can cause something very similar to tick fever. Lice in rats is fairly uncommon. Rats are much more likely to get mites. However, should your pet rat get lice, it is likely that you brought them in from outside on your clothing, then passed them along. So, if you took a trip to the park or if your rat was at the vet recently and then he acquired lice, then that may be the explanation. If you notice rough patches or scabs on your pet rat's skin, seek treatment for him right away.

Ivermectin Pills and Paste

Ivermectin is the best treatment for lice on your pet rats. This drug is administered orally as a pill or in paste form, which is actually made for horses. A dose in the paste form is 0.01 ml/lb. Apply this paste to a piece of bread or another tasty treat and give to your pet rat. Ivermectin can be injected as well. Injection isn't recommended since rats can have a deadly genetic bleeding disorder that doesn't show up until this medicine hits the bloodstream.


Revolution is another effective treatment, which is applied just between the shoulder blades of your pet rat. This topical treatment works well at killing lice and their eggs, though it can be deadly if ingested. After applying the medication, keep a close eye on your pet rat, and do not let them groom the medicated area.

Regular Bathing

While pet rats normally keep themselves clean, you may wish to give yours a quick bath every few days or so to encourage dead lice and eggs to fall off of their fur. You don't need to use soap. Simply fill the sink with lukewarm water and place your pet rat in it. Use your hands to rub his fur, making sure to avoid getting water in his eyes, ears and nose. Use a towel to dry him off. Repeat a few times a week until the lice are gone.

Topical Treatments

Though Revolution is a topical treatment, other topical options are generally not considered when treating rats for lice. However, shampoos, sprays and dips formulated for kittens no older than two weeks old are generally safe for rats. Make sure pyrethrin, the active ingredient, is not present at any concentration higher than 0.15%.

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