For the new owner, the sight of reddened eyes on their pet rat can be quite scary. It may look as if the rat’s eyes are actually bleeding! The truth is, their eyes are not bloody. However, that does not mean that your rat doesn’t need medical attention either; because he or she is probably very, very sick! So what exactly is going on???
Porphyrin: Tears in Rats
Just like us, rats need to keep their eyes and nasal cavities moist. These sensitive mucous membranes can become severely damaged if they are dried out. When porphyrin is concentrated, it takes on the appearance of blood. Unlike our clear tears, rat tears have a reddish tint to them. As the water dries, a bloody residue is left behind.
What Makes Rats Produce So Much of Those Red Tears?
If you see your rat developing too much porphyrin, you’ll notice the buildup around their eyes and nose. It usually means that the rat is stressed, sick, or experiencing allergies. It can even be a symptom of dehydration. It is very similar to a human’s runny, stuffy nose and excessive tear production when sick. Usually you can differentiate between the causes. For example, stress might be due to a new family, a new cage, a new cage mate, or a new pet. Illness will usually come with other symptoms, such as a loss of weight, loss of activity, or breathing issues. If it is an allergy, you might notice that your rat is sneezing frequently or losing hair. Allergies usually come on suddenly as well (perhaps you’re using a new air freshener, or the seasons have changed).
Pink Eyed White fancy rats or ruby eyed rats tend to be the ones that excessive porphyrin looks the worst one. When a white rat is covered in red gunk that resembles blood, its very obvious and may warrant a more concerned reaction out of it’s human parent.
Will Antibiotics Get Rid of Excessive Porphyrin Production in Rats?
It is possible that your rat will benefit from antibiotics; however, you must remember that an antibiotic will only help if the rat is actually suffering from a bacterial infection. Even if the rat is ill with red tears, it does not mean antibiotics will help. Viral respiratory infections are potential culprits as well, and viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. They are still a good idea, as a viral infection can weaken the rat’s immune system and make it easy for a secondary bacterial infection to occur.
When Should I Take My Rat to the Veterinarian?
If the rat has porphyrin all over its eyes, but seems otherwise healthy, he or she is probably fine. However, this is a common symptom of illness or stress that may become more obvious within time. If your rat begins to show other chronic symptoms of illness, stress, or allergies, you will need to take it to the vet for an exam. Some of these symptoms may include a large buildup of porphyrin around the eyes and nose (it will even build up on their little wrists and paws), labored breathing, rattling when breathing, loss of appetite, difficulty or lack of urination or defecation, oversleeping, lack of activity, aggression, squealing or squeaking in pain, isolation from cage mates, excessive sneezing, loss of fur, and more. Your vet will help you to isolate the different causes of your rat’s stress or illness.