Rat Eyes: Health, Infection, Blindness

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At some point or another, it is likely that an owner is going to be dealing with an eye problem from his or her rats’ eyes. Rat eyes are very sensitive, and must be watched over to ensure nothing bad happens to them. While rats do not have perfect sight, they still rely on vision as another sense.

What Does a Normal, Healthy Rat Eye Look Like?

healthy rat eyesNormally, a rat’s eye will be clear of discharge. It will ¬†not be puffy or swollen, and it will be nice, bright, and rounded. They look like little beads, frog eggs, or chia seeds. Maybe even like tiny marbles. There should be no cuts, dents, or scrapes; and there should not be a cloudy lens. A cloudy lens in the eyeball means that something is a muck, whether it be an eye infection or a cataract in the rat eyes. The eye should be shiny, rather than dull. Dull eyes might signal dryness.

Do Dumbo Rats Have Different Eyes from Standards?

Dumbo rats have a few body shape and size differences due to their genetic mutations, and one of those differences is the eyes. Dumbo rat’s eyes are going to be set a bit further apart. They also have eyes that seem to point downward, rather than pointing upward, resting on top of the skull. They still have the same eyesight, and do not suffer from any additional problems due to the setting and placement of the eyes.

How Do I Know If My Rat Has an Infected Eye?

rat-253979_1280If a rat has an infected eye, it could start off as a barely noticeable symptom. The symptoms might start off as dryness, redness, watering of the eyes, or puffiness. A dry eye is characterized by a dull appearance, rather than shiny and wet. Puffiness and redness will be characterized by an inflamed, red eyelid and eye lining. Generally, you will notice a discharge or watery eyes with this symptom. Discharges could vary, but may be red tinted with Porphyrin. In the worst cases, the eye might appear swollen, bulging, or  clouded. These are very serious issues that could deem a rat blind if it does not receive veterinary attention.

As an overview, here are the symptoms of infection again:

  • Inflammation of the eyelid
  • Redness
  • Watering
  • Swelling of the eyeball
  • Itching
  • Porphyrin discharge
  • Pus discharge
  • Cloudy eye

Treating a Pet Rat Eye Infection

rat-757836_1280There is only one avenue available if an infection begins in a rat’s eye: antibiotics. A pet rat eye infection is caused by bacteria that have bred within the eye, causing inflammation, toxin deposits, pus, and potentially blindness. It is usually the result of a cut to the eye or another contagious animal that has passed on the infection.

Can My Rat Injure Its Own Eye?

A rat can most definitely injure its own eye. Occasionally, rats may hurt themselves while scratching or playing. They can actually scratch the surface of their eyeball, or they can cause deeper damage to it. It’s fairly unlikely for this to happen, but there is the possibility of infection when this happens. The rat will need a round of antibiotics if any irritation persists for longer than a day or two to protect the rat’s eye sight and keep him or her from becoming blind or losing the eye.

What Happens If Something Is Stuck In the Eye of the Rat?

rat-833426_1280If the rat gets something stuck within its eye, it will need to be removed immediately by a veterinarian. Usually if something gets stuck in the eye it’s due to wooden bedding; for example, a splinter of wood forcing its way into the eye. The longer it is in the eye, the more damage the object can cause. The rat could go into a panic from the pain and discomfort and potentially lose the eye. Self removal isn’t advised, but if the rat is panicking and the situation is dire (and the object can be pulled STRAIGHT out, as is the case with a splinter), tweezers can be used in case of emergency. I do NOT recommend this; but for those who are an hour away from the closest rat vet with a screaming, frightened, panicking animal who is actively fighting with the splinter, it might be the only immediate option. The animal must then be rushed to a vet to evaluate the injury and antibiotics and pain medication must be obtained.

Will My Rat Go Blind, or Is It Already Blind?

Rats are not by nature blind. Just like humans, they can occasionally be born blind due to various reasons, they can lose their sight due to malnutrition or abuse, and they can lose vision due to eye injuries. They do not have the best vision, but they are definitely not blind.

As for injuries, it is possible that a rat can lose their vision. Eye injuries usually are not very serious and tend to be minor scratches on the outermost layers of the eye. For those that go deeper and affect the lens, pupil, or other sections of the eye, vision loss is a very big possibility. Antibiotics and other preventative measures such as cones could help to save the rat’s vision.

Sleeping rat has its eyes closed. Sometimes, rats will sleep with their eyes open; but it isn't very common. Photo Credit: Starsandspirals via Flickr
Sleeping rat has its eyes closed. Sometimes, rats will sleep with their eyes open; but it isn’t very common. Photo Credit: Starsandspirals via Flickr

Can a Rat Sleep with Its Eyes Open?

Sometimes, a rat may have its eyes open while sleeping. I will tell you right now that it is probably one of the creepiest, scariest, most worrying things that you will probably ever see out of your pet rats. When they sleep with their eyes open, it is enough to give any owner a heart attack; especially if they’re sleeping in an odd position. They may open and close their eyes as they sleep, appearing as if they are keeping one eye open to watch their surroundings. As cool as that would be, the rat is either fully awake and looking at you or the eye just happens to be open while the rat is sleeping. They do not watch you while they sleep, though.

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