Interacting with your rat daily allows you to develop a bond with your small friend. You'll get to know his normal behaviors, which will make it easier to determine when something is wrong. A rat whose head has a notable tilt or who begins to have trouble maintaining his balance, for example, may be suffering from an ear infection and will a rat-savvy veterinarian's attention as soon as possible.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
Ear infections, common in rats, are typically caused by bacteria or by respiratory infection. Symptoms of ear infection, which is the inflammation of the inner ear, include:
- a tilted head
- ear scratching
- head rubbing against the floor
- paralysis of the face
- poor balance
- strong smell coming from the infected ear
Consult a rat-friendly veterinarian immediately if your rat begins to display symptoms. Failure to treat the ear infection could result in permanent heat tilt or deafness.
An untreated ear infection may cause your rat to uncontrollably and constantly [roll](http://www.ratfanclub.org/firstaid.html) over, making it impossible for him to eat.
Consult a Rat-Savvy Veterinarian
Before your veterinarian begins treating your rat, he needs to be sure the rat has an ear infection, since symptoms of stroke and pituitary tumors are similar. Fortunately, treating an ear infection is easier than treating a stroke or a tumor.
The veterinarian will likely complete one or more tests to diagnose an ear infection:
- He should visually check your rat's balance. If your rat's head is tilted to the left, his left ear may be infected and vice-versa.
- He will look inside your rat's ear to determine if it is inflamed.
- He may take a culture to determine the presence of bacteria.
Treating an Ear Infection
A veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics to help treat your rat's ear infection. Common medications such as amoxicillin and baytril may be required for three to six weeks. Your vet may show you how to apply the medication to the ear. After application, you should gently close your rat's ear, then massage the ear for at least a minute to allow for the medication to soak in. Repeat at the veterinarian's prescribed interval.
Caring for a Sick Rat
A rat with head tilt will need extra attention while he recovers from an ear infection. Take precautions to ensure he doesn't suffer a relapse from exposure to bacteria.
- Clean your rat's cage thoroughly as often as necessary to prevent the buildup of bacteria on bedding and litter.
- Rearrange your rat's cage to ensure the food and water bowls are easy for your rat to reach with head tilt.
Keep your rat's energy up by feeding him foods
that are high in calories, such as avocados and soy baby formula.
- Call your veterinarian immediately if your rat does not begin to improve.
- Give your rat the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your vet.