While elderly pet rats can experience normal hair loss much like humans, juvenile and adult rats generally lose hair as a symptom of a larger issue. A number of problems can lead to a balding rat buddy, some behavioral, some physiological. Rat owners can successfully treat some of these at home, but if the issue is persistent or the rat shows other physical difficulties, consult a veterinarian.
Those Pesky Blood Suckers
External parasites, including fleas, lice and mites can cause not only hair loss but also scabs and inflammation. Fleas and lice are often visible, with fleas usually leaving tiny brown droppings. Mites are tougher to spot as their size renders them nearly invisible, although they sometimes appear as white flecks in the hair. A veterinarian can prescribe a course of treatment to rid the rat of these parasites. This could be a topical solution, injection or course of oral medication. During and after treatment it is vital to clean the animal’s cage and bedding thoroughly. Note that these parasites do not jump species, meaning that although they can spread between rats, they cannot spread to other animals, including humans.
A Little off the Top
When rats chew the fur off of other rats or themselves, it is referred to as barbering -- the bald area often has a “clean shaven” look. Unlike with parasites or infections, rats with barbering hair loss show no symptoms of being ill, such as scabs or lack of energy. To prevent dominant rats from barbering their cagemates, make sure that the latter have plenty of safe places, such as tunnels or boxes, to escape from their dominant companions. Rats who barber themselves usually do so out of boredom, so mental stimulation and play time is often enough to correct this behavior.
Ouch! My Skin!
Skin infections usually have hair loss as only one symptom; others include lesions, rashes and skin redness. These issues could be caused by many types of problems, from ringworm to eczema to fungus. Rat owners who suspect that their pets are losing hair because of a skin infection should visit a veterinarian, who can diagnose and treat the specific issue.
Don't Eat That
About 16 to 18 percent of a rat’s diet should come from protein. Too much more and the rat may begin to show bald patches around its face. Rat owners can ensure their pets are receiving the proper amount of protein by feeding them a quality lab block supplemented with fruits and vegetables. Avoid overusing treats that are high in protein, including meats and nuts.
Just like humans, rats can be allergic to a range of items, including food and bedding materials. An allergy will often cause skin irritation, which in turn causes the rat to scratch, leading to hair loss. This can be especially noticeable after choosing a new food or bedding for a rat. When diagnosing an allergy, remove one possible irritant from the rat’s environment, then wait at least a week to see whether the rat recovers. If not, move to the next possible irritant and try again.
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