Category: mice and rats

Mice and rats: routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase “A healthy pet is a happy pet” – but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your rodent happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

A healthy rodent will have bright eyes, clean ears, eyes and nose and be interested in what is going on around it.

If your rodent’s weight remains constant then they are eating the right amount of food. You should be concerned if their appetite or water consumption suddenly changes or they suddenly start to gain or lose weight. When in good condition the coat should be shiny, soft and free of parasites.

Your rodent must be fed a healthy diet and allowed regular exercise.

The closer your rodent’s diet and environment is compared to how it would eat and live in the wild, the healthier and happier it will be. Giving them plenty of enrichment in also hugely important for their mental wellbeing.

A healthy diet is a balanced diet containing all the nutrients your pet requires.

Mice and rats are omnivores, which means that, like us, they naturally eat mainly vegetable matter, but to keep in good health require some food of animal origin as well, e.g. cheese, insects, meat, egg, etc.

There are a number of measures that can help prevent your pet developing diseases. You should discuss the special needs of your pet with your vet.


Mice and rats do not require vaccinations.

Dental care

All rodents have front teeth that grow continuously, so a high fibre diet is essential to allow the teeth to wear down naturally. You could provide something for your pet to gnaw on, for example a wood or hide chew toy. This will help to keep your pet’s teeth in good condition and prevent dental problems.

If you notice any signs of overlong teeth then your vet will be able to burr the teeth down and advise you further.

If your rodent has a poor coat condition, dull eyes, dirty ears, eyes or nose it may indicate that they are unwell. Changes in behaviour (a normally happy and affectionate animal may become grumpy and avoid human contact, preferring to hide away by itself), altered appetite or water consumption should also alert you to the possibility that there may be a problem.

Most animals recover from illness in 24-48 hours – if your pet does not seem to be improving in this time or is getting worse then you should contact your vet.

Mice and rats: parasitic diseases

Rodents are susceptible to skin disease which can be caused by numerous infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Cage mates may be responsible for hair loss and/or wounds to the skin.

Pet mice and rats may be infested with a variety of external parasites. Mites, nearly microscopic, spider-like organisms, live on the skin surface and feed primarily on skin debris. They are transmitted by direct contact between infested and uninfested rodents. Signs of infestation range from mild scratching to severe scratching, with hair loss and ulceration of the skin.

Your vet should be consulted if mite infestation is suspected. Microscopic examination of a scraping of the skin is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment may include an injectable drug that has proven very effective in treating mange in a wide range of animals.

Lice may also infest the haircoats of pet mice and rats. They are flattened, wingless insects that suck tissue fluids and blood from the skin of the host. Lice are larger than mites and can usually be seen without a magnifying lens. Lice are most often transmitted by direct contact with infested bedding and between infested and uninfested individuals. Lice are usually found on the neck and body. They suck blood and can, therefore, cause anaemia (sometimes death) and transmit blood borne diseases to rodents. Louse infestations may also cause scratching, hair loss and skin wounds. You should consult your vet if you think your pet might have a louse infestation.

Allergies are also a suspected cause of skin disease of pet rodents. In these cases, it is wise to replace the bedding being used with plain white, unscented paper towelling. You should consult your vet if you think your pet is exhibiting signs of skin disease. Your vet will need to conduct some diagnostic tests to find out what is the cause; they will then prescribe appropriate treatment based on the results of these tests.

Tapeworms and pinworms are the most common intestinal parasites of pet mice and rats. They often go undetected unless present in large numbers. Signs of infection may include weight loss, inactivity, inappetence, constipation, and excessive licking and chewing of the rectal area and base of the tail.

Your vet can perform a stool examination to diagnose these parasites, and they will be able to recommend appropriate treatment. Pinworms are especially difficult (sometimes impossible) to eliminate from mice and rats. Transmission of these parasites to people is also possible but unlikely. Therefore, great care should be taken when handling and disposing of rodent faeces. Furthermore, contact between pet mice and rats, their faeces, and young children should be limited and always supervised by adults.