Salmonella Infection in Rats


PetMD Editorial

Published Jun. 20, 2010

Salmonellosis in Rats

Salmonellosis is a diseased condition that is brought about by infection with the Salmonella bacterium. Salmonellosis is very rare in pet rats and infection is usually found to have been spread via ingestion of food and water contaminated with infected feces, urine, and bedding material.


Infected rats can be potential sources for spread of this infection to humans as well, classifying this as an infection with zoonotic potential. Therefore, this condition should be managed with caution. Treatment is often not effective for the control of salmonellosis, so taking steps to prevent the spread of this infection is the best way to manage this condition in rats.


Symptoms and Types


  • Depression
  • Dehydration and rough body coat
  • Distended/swollen abdomen
  • Diarrhea and weight loss
  • Spontaneous abortion (in pregnant rats)
  • Fatal (in most cases)



Contact withbacteria belonging to the salmonella species is the most common cause of salmonellosis. Other causes include:

  • Eating food that has been contaminated by salmonella tainted feces
  • Food, water, or bedding contaminated by carriers of salmonella, such as wild rodents




Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your rat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Observing the clinical symptoms exhibited by the infected rat can help in making a diagnosis, but collecting fecal samples for culturing and identifying the bacterial species responsible for the infection will be necessary for making a confirmatory diagnosis.





Treatment for this bacterial infection is often not an effective option. Broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs may be used in some recovering cases, along with administration of supportive therapy with fluids and electrolyte supplements to aid your rat in its recovery.


Living and Management


Segregate any rat that is affected with this bacterial infection from your other rat, and from other household animals. Because this infection is also transmissible to humans, you will need to take care while handling your rat during recovery. Wearing disposable gloves and changing your outer clothing will be necessary during the period that your rat is capable of transmitting the infection.


While it is important to take note that this is a serious infection that often has a fatal outcome, not all rats die as a result of infection, so you may choose to encourage recovery. Your rat will be very weak during this time and will need your maximum care. Consult your veterinarian regarding the care and diet to be given to your pet rat during the recovery period.




Salmonellosis infection is highly contagious and is mainly transmitted in rats through ingestion of food and water contaminated with infected feces, urine and bedding material. Therefore, properly cleaning the cages regularly, removing any feces and urine, and changing soiled bedding material routinely are essential.


As much as possible, try to avoid housing rats of different age groups together, or new rats with established rats. Following these simple steps will go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of salmonellosis bacterial infection amongst rats.


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