This article is from the WSSF 2014 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Karen Robbins
We have just received an e-mail today (March 8, 2014) from a rat lover in Nevada that occasionally does rescue, to alert us to SDAV from new rats that were purchased by her and others from a feeder/pet/commercial breeder in Las Vegas, NV. She also says, “I have known for a couple of years that this man had sick rats but only recently did I obtain rats with the SDA virus. I would also like to mention babies are being pulled off of mothers before they are ready to wean and they are all infested with lice.”
This is why people should NEVER get their rats or mice from pet shops or breeders such as this and to always follow strict quarantine procedures. Our article “The Quest” goes into the pitfalls of buying from a pet shop or commercial breeder. Fortunately she had a good vet to help her treat her rats and she did not lose any.
We have several articles about SDAV (Sialodacryoadenitis virus; only affects rats)
“Respiratory Outbreak at Karen’s Kritters”
“The Millennium Bug” - One member’s experience with SDA
“Can Parrots Pass SDA to Rats?”
and on diseases in general The AFRMA Rat and Mouse Information Pages - Health Care
You can also find other good articles online:
N.F.R.S. web site “Rat Coronavirus”
Merck Veterinary Manual Mice and Rats as Pets - Viral Infections
Lice on babies is because they get it from the mom/others in the cage. It is easy to overlook on light colored animals because the lice eggs are white, so are hard to see on a white coat. On white/light colored rats, you can hold the rat up to the light to see the eggs that will be shiny dots (look on the rump/butt and shoulders/back area). Also, lice eggs will not come off when you run your hand over the animal, so that is a way to tell on dark colored animals if they have lice or just bedding dust in their fur. This is easily treated but all the animals need to be treated as it can be spread by handling an infested rat or by letting your rats play with each other in a play area.
Weaning early is common with feeder/commercial breeders. Rats will normally nurse 4-5 weeks, sometimes as much as 8 weeks (of course, the moms that nurse over 5-6 weeks should only have female kids left with them). Weaning early not only robs the babies of the added nutrition from mom, but the socializing needed by living with mom and siblings. Rat babies should not be purchased before 6 weeks of age to make sure they have gotten that full weaning and socializing they need from mom and siblings. Also, they should never be bought without another same sex, same age buddy, as kittens need to have someone their own age to play with. Play is extremely important to rats and an adult rat will not want to play like a baby does. Dr. Jaak Panksepp did an extensive study on this and has written several articles (see list on Washington State University site) Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D. (archived page), http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/panksepp.htm. It is because of his study on play he found rats laugh when tickled.
Purchasing rats from pet shops/commercial breeders is not “rescuing.” By giving your money to these places, the pet shops will continue buying from the commercial breeders who mass-produce animals in not-the-best-of conditions so they can fill the need. People often purchase from pet shops on impulse thinking they are “saving” that rat/mouse/other critter when in reality, it is just money earned for most places. The new owner often gets a sick animal, one that dies shortly after bringing it home or a few months later, or a female suddenly surprises them with “new additions” which they were not expecting.