Can Pet Rats Get Fleas?

Fleas are a common parasite that will feed and live on the hair and skin of furry animals like cats, dogs, but what about your pet rat.  

Will you have to deal with that parasite if you have pet rats?  

Can Pet Rats Get Fleas?

Yes, your pet rat can get fleas but it is very rare for that to happen.  If your pet rat becomes infected with fleas it is usually because they have come in contact with other animals that have fleas.  If you have other pets that go outside they could bring home fleas accidentally and infest your pet rat.  

How do You Know if They Have Fleas?

You can generally see the fleas on your pet rat’s body but there are other signs to look for.  Sometimes your rat’s fur is dark and with fleas being small and dark, it is not easy to spot them on your pet rat.

  • Scratching a lot
  • You may see some red skin that is caused by the fleas feeding on that area of skin
  • There may be red scabs or missing patches of missing fur.  This is a clear sign that something is irritating your pet rat’s skin.  When you observe these types of areas you will either find their feces or fleas.  The feces of fleas will look like little dark spots on their skin
  • Fleas like to hide in dark and covered areas of your pet rat so you should check their belly and armpits if you think they have fleas, especially if they are scratching those areas a lot.  
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Most pet rats are gentle and even-tempered but if their skin is irritated, they may be a bit more aggressive.  Fleas do bite and this can irritate your pet rat and if they are scratching themselves they could hurt themselves and cause a small wound.

flease close up

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Your Pet Rat?

If your pet rat does have fleas, there is no reason to panic.  You should take them to the veterinarian to get a treatment  that is right for pet rats that have fleas. Do not buy any of the flea shampoos at your pet store without your veterinarian telling you what to get.

  Because pet rats rarely get fleas, there are no products on the market specifically for getting rid of fleas on rats.  The ones on the market would probably have chemicals that are too strong for them and could make them very sick or even kill them.

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your pet rat with fleas, they will prescribe a spray or shampoo that you can safely use.  They will also let you know just how much you can safely use.  Make sure that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions.  This is important because if you use too much it could be bad for your pet rat.  

There two methods that you can use to treat fleas on your pet rat.

1. Method One

This method involves using flea shampoo.  The difficult part of this treatment is bathing your pet rat.  If your pet rat likes water and being in it, then this part should be no problem, otherwise, you will need a lot of patience.  Because the shampoo has to stay on their skin for some minutes, you will either have to hold them or wrap them in a towel to make a burrito out of them. 

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If you don’t, they will start to try to clean themselves.  Make sure that you avoid getting the shampoo in their eyes, ears, and mouth.  

When it is time to rinse them, make sure that you get it all out.  Use warm water to shampoo and rinse them.  Once you have rinsed and dried them, look to see if there are any more fleas on their body.  Your veterinarian may have you do this treatment until all the fleas are gone.  They will tell you at the visit how often to do the treatment.

itchy rat

2. Method Two

If your pet rat is not used to water or does not like it, then your veterinarian may have you use a spray on them.  This is easier to apply plus it will not cause as much stress on your pet rat that bathing them might.  Make sure that you use the spray exactly as your veterinarian tells you. 

If you use a spray you want to make sure that you are spraying a part of the body that they cannot reach because you do not want them to ingest the spray.  Watch them after you spray them to make sure that they cannot reach the spot.

Avoiding Getting Fleas Again

Once you have treated your pet rat for fleas and getting rid of the fleas, you should not put them back into their same enclosure.  You should put them in another cage, which is one reason that you should have an extra cage around.  The reason that you should not use the same cage is that it is probably infected with fleas.  You need to make sure that you wash it thoroughly. 

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Throw everything inside in the trash, including the bedding, food, and water.  Clean the toys, water bottle, and dishes in hot water and mild dish detergent and vinegar.  Vinegar is a good disinfectant.

Once everything is rinsed well and dry, you can put fresh water, bedding, and food back into the cage.  In addition to cleaning the cage and everything, you should also be sure that the area where the cage was sitting is free of fleas.  Take the time to vacuum the room and maybe even the entire house.

Conclusion

  • After treatment, routinely check your pet rat for fleas.
  • Wash any clothes you were wearing while you were treating your pet rat for fleas in hot water to make sure that you do not have any fleas on your clothes that could be transferred back to your pet rat.
  • If your pet rat is scratching a lot, has a skin irritation, or missing patches of fur, take them to the veterinarian to have them check for fleas.
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