Tail Bite Wounds and Secondary Bacterial Infections in Rats
Fight wounds are especially common in male rats (though they can occur in females), especially during mating season when the dominant male tries to fend off challenges from other males for the attention of the desired female. The fighting invariably leads to injuries to the skin and tails.
While fight wounds are not often considered to be a serious problem, unattended cases may lead to serious and sometimes fatal complications due to development of gangrene and/or secondary bacterial infections.
Symptoms and Types
- Visible injuries on the face, back, genital area, and tail
- Patchy hair loss and/or skin scabs
- Greenish/black skin tissue and sloughing off of skin (gangrene)
- Weight loss
Fighting between male rats is a typical behavior during times of mating, as the males fight for dominance in the group and for control of access to the female rats. If open wounds and abscesses are not treated properly they can become vulnerable to entry of bacteria, causing secondary bacterial infections and making the rat vulnerable to further complications.
You will need to give a thorough history of your rat's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. A thorough physical examination will reveal wounds on the rat's body.
Your rat's fight wounds can be treated by cleaning them with a disinfectant solution, draining the abscesses, and applying appropriate antibiotic ointments. Your veterinarian will go over the appropriate treatments, medications, and methods for treatment so that you can care for your rats at home.
Living and Management
If your male rats are fighting for dominance, you will need to take steps to separate the rats that are fighting frequently. Follow the topical (external) treatment that is prescribed by your veterinarian until the wounds have healed. Keep your rat's cage dry and clean. A wet environment can encourage the growth of bacteria and keep the skin from drying out sufficiently to heal. Keeping the wounds dry is also an important step in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria over your rat's skin.
For behavioral management, try to divert your rat’s attention if it suffers from tail biting and consult your veterinarian about the various steps that can be taken to overcome tail biting in your rats.
One of the possible solutions for preventing aggressive dominance behavior in your rats is to avoiding housing rats of different age groups in the same cage. Similarly, avoid housing rats that are showing a tendency to fight with other rats. Toys and other play activities may also be used to diverting the rat’s attention, which can also discourage it from biting its tail or behaving in an aggressive way.