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Red facial discharge

1546 Views 12 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Storyseeker
Hi everyone --

I am a very new rat-mama and am wondering if anyone can shed some light on something for me. Since I brought my two boys home a few weeks ago, I have noticed that every few days or so one or both of them looks like he has had a little nose bleed ... there is a little red (blood or discharge?) around their nostrils. Or sometimes the area around the nose just looks red (like if a human has been blowing their nose a lot ... or hitting the sauce too much!) .. but it goes away within a day. The discharge was actually happening around their eyes and noses when I first brought them home ... and has lessened over the weeks. They seem to be otherwise a-ok (playful, social, breathing normally, eating/drinking a good amount) ... but I still worry.

I tried reading up on this online, but the info I get ranges from "sometimes red discharge around the eyes/nose can occur if a rat is stressed out or is exposed to irritants like air freshener or strong scents" to "red discharge around the eyes/nose is indicative of a serious infection and your rat is going to die right now." (I am, of course, paraphrasing).

The discharge now seems mostly to occur after times when I have had them in their travel cage during a big cage cleaning, when I give them new nesting material, or when they have been extra aggressive in their playing (as in, I have heard one or more cry-squeaks and have to break up the shenanigans).

Could this really just be a minor stress reaction, or should I be hauling their little butts to the vet? All your thoughts, experience, and advice is greatly appreciated!
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Hi Amazon and welcome to the forum!

Can't wait to see photos of your new kids soon. :)

Yes, the red colored discharge, or poryphin (spelling?) is not a great sign but more than one thing can cause it, I believe.

What kind of bedding are you using for your boys? Have you also heard any chuffing, sneezing, clicking or other congestive type noises aside from the usual squeaks when they are play fighting/tussling?
As Vlad said, the red discharge is the normal color of their mucus. If you see it frequently, you should also be on the lookout for respiratory problems accompanying it. Listen carefully to their lungs (place their sides on your ear), and if you hear any gurgling, crackling, or other sound other than normal breathing, you should make an appointment with the vet to rule out a URI.
Thanks for the responses!

I was using the generic brown-paper-bag looking bedding that I took from the school lab when I first brought the fellas home ... but switched to Carefresh Ultra before the first week was out (which seems more absorbent, has helped with odor, and is just much softer for the little fuzzers). I also was initially using whatever litter came with the rabbit litter pan I bought -- but the boys didn't seem keen on it (and sometimes sneezed when near it), so I switched to a litter that seems to be meant for hamsters, etc. The granules are much smaller and I am using a lot less of it (I realized they are not like cats and do not need inches to dig in)! Litter training --- that's a whole other thread. :rolleyes:

There was one night toward the end of the first week I had them that Taco went into a sneezing fit. It was a little intense. I took him out and cuddled him ... he would sneeze for about 30 seconds, then do super face grooming, then sneeze for a bit, then groom. And his little snout area was all red, like he had been rubbing it hard. That's when I saw the stuff online about scent sensitivity. I realized I had put a plug-in air freshener in the outlet behind their cage the day before. I took it out, tried to fan out the area a little, and coaxed Taco into drinking some water and settling down. I stayed up for a while near them, and he still sneezed here and there ... but no more fits. The next day I heard a handful of sneezes total ... and have heard a little sneeze once every few days or so since.

I just took them both out and listened to their breathing. I didn't hear anything odd ... just the sound of their little hearts racing! Usually when they come out, it is to climb on me and explore ... not to be held against my ear. Hehe. I think I will ask my vet tech friend to come over this week and have a listen, as well. And also show me how a rattie might be handled during a vet visit, so I can "practice" it with them .. get them to know that kind of handling is ok, too. I think I will also start noting when I see discharge and what I had been doing with them/around them .. maybe I will see a pattern.

Thank goodness I am off for the summer ... I spend more time "studying" my ratters than I ever do my textbooks. :shh:
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Oh and I can't wait to post photos! These boys are real cuties!!! The site says I have to have 20 posts first, though ... so I better get typing. :coffee2:
I'm glad to hear that the sneezing has gone down in frequency. It is a good idea for you to include a quick lung check (listen to both sides) in your daily routine with them. That way you can more quickly identify when one of them might have a problem, which is key to keeping them healthy. :)

Other things you might want to get them used to would be handling their feet, and trimming their toenails in particular. Especially as they get older, they will need you to trim their nails for them, so starting to handle their feet and toes when they are young will help you when they are older.

Oh, and in terms of the porphyrin (the red discharge), a small bit is normal right after they wake up from a nap. If they aren't cleaning it off of themselves, though, that is when you'll want to keep a close eye on them for other symptoms of respiratory issues.

Can't wait to see photos of them!!!! :D
That makes me feel a thousand times better knowing post-nap porphyrin is actually normal, breyer ... because that's actually usually when I see it!!! Those are great recommendations about lung checks and toenails, too ... I will definitely start doing that. Thanks so much. I am really relieved to have somewhere to chat about this stuff!!
Yes, the forum is definitely a nice place to come when you have questions or just want to share stories about your little ones! :) Both of my rats have just recently passed away within the last 6 months, so I don't have any right now, but I love to hear about everyone else's babies.

Since you are new to the forum and to rat ownership, you might find my youtube page useful and/or entertaining. I made a series of videos of my sweet boys, Stanley and Russell, throughout their lives, and you might be able to get some ideas about toys, training, and even how to make a good rat playpen. Hope it helps! :D
Yes, Breyer's videos of Stanley and Russell are very famous on this forum, and you will love seeing them. They can be very helpful too. :)

By the way, just to check and make sure about your boys, what kind of bedding are you using for them? Pine and cedar bedding is really bad for rats (and other animals) and shouldn't be used. Try to also use bedding that is as low-dust as you can, since rats have very sensitive respiratory systems. I used fleece and flannel actually.
Aww, breyer ... you must still miss them every day. I saw some of the videos -- Russel and Stanley seemed like real sweeties! And what a brilliant play area set up. If we ever get to a point where we think the cats will be cool with the little guys being out, we will definitely be borrowing some of your ideas! I love the bucket full of old socks and fabric ... genius.

Vlad, thanks for the tips. We are just using Carefresh Ultra bedding, which seems to be a soft paper product. Once we have a convenient laundry situation again (we are now in a big apartment building with a shared laundry room), I would like to try switching to actual fabric bedding that we can wash and re-use. I am also trying to be mindful about not having fans blowing in their direction, too, since they seem to have such delicate little respiratory systems. Maybe that's overkill? I'd just rather be safe than sorry.
If your apartment is not too hot, then it is generally a good idea to avoid direct fan air blowing at them. Mine was not air-conditioned, so in the summers the boys had their own little fan which I did aim at their cage, and they loved sitting in front of it. (They also had "chin-chillers", which are small granite tiles that you can freeze and then put in their cage or play area. They lie down on them to cool off.) :)

Carefresh bedding is probably the best commercial bedding you can get for rats. Polar fleece is even better, since it is completely dust-free, and you can pick some up at the fabric store on clearance, and reuse it for ages!! My boys loved their fleece blankies and hammocks. Are you litterbox training them? If so, I'd recommend using Yesterday's News cat litter in the litterbox. It is absorbent and also fairly dust-free. You should use something different in their litterbox than Carefresh, since that is a very lightweight bedding material.

And yes, the digging box with fabric scraps was my boys' most favorite toy. Digging is a natural instinct in rats, so providing them with a box like that will be a great thing for them! Stanley and Russell loved playing in the box, and when they got older they even used to take naps in it. :heart:
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You are so welcome and you know, I agree with you 100 percent when you said it is always better to be safe than sorry with your ratties. I do overkill just about everyday, ha ha. :D

We also like to make sure our boys are cool and comfy. Rats do not do as well in a warm environment and keeping things cooler for them is a great thing. We also have a fan for them to keep some cool air circulating when it gets warm or stuffy and we use a couple of granite slabs, like Breyer mentioned, for our boys to lay out on and stay cool.

Sounds like you are off to a great start with your ratties! The more questions you ask, the more you know, yes? And we never stop learning about our rat kids. :)

(P.S. to Breyer...I LOVE LOVE LOVE your new photos of your sweet lil guys!!)
I knew if I checked here, you guys would be all over helping Amazon. :)

Welcome aboard Amazon. Glad to see you around. I'm on again off again this year but have been a member for a while.

As far as temperature goes, I had a convo with an experienced rat breeder when I was looking at taking rats home for first time. It was winter and I was concerned that our pilot light wouldn't be reliable.

My Question: What's a good comfortable temperature range for rats? I know they can't tolerate excessive heat, but in the event our central heat goes out, how long can they tolerate cold temps with abundant fleecy hidey holes in which to snuggle together? We have an old air unit downstairs and I'm concerned about how reliable it will be at night.

Her Reply:
Unfortunately I have found rats are actually pretty sensitive to temperature changes and temperatures outside of a comfortable 65-80 Fahrenheit. I have had my heat go out once at night and while everyone had enough to burrow in and enough cagemates for warmth, I had a lot of sick ratties in the days following and it was very hard on the ones that were elderly or already sick. If its a concern, I'd get a smaller heater to put near the cage to help regulate any changes in heat. I ended up putting one in the rat room after that incident and the temp is always regulated in there.

Though it's the midddle of summer here and not winter, the temp range is still good to know.
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