Flea Infestation in Rats

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 19, 2010
Flea Infestation in Rats

Ectoparasitic Infestation in Rats

Fleas are ectoparasites, or parasites that infest and feed on the outside of the body (e.g., skin and hair). These parasites are found in many pets; however, flea infestation in pet rats is very rare. Typically, pet rats typically only acquire this condition when they come in contact with wild rodents.

Though flea infestation is not a serious condition and treatment is available to control it, if proper steps are not taken to prevent further spread or reinfestation of the fleas, this can become a recurring problem.

Symptoms and Types

Fleas may be visible on the infested rat’s body, and you will notice your rat scratching the infested areas more than normal. The skin may be red/inflamed in some areas due to the flea feeding on the area, as well as to irritation from scratching by the rat. Another indicator of fleas is the presence of its feces, which may be seen as black dots on the skin or in the hair.


Flea infestation in pet rats is caused by rodent fleas, which are mainly transmitted to them when pet rats come in contact with wild rodents.


Diagnosis of flea infestation is usually based on visual examination of the skin for the presence of fleas. Other clinical symptoms that can be observed, like the presence of the fleas feces, seen as black dots, coupled with excessive scratching, may also aid your veterinarian in making a diagnosis.



Flea infestation is treated with medicated powders/dusts or sprays that are designed kill the fleas. To prevent reinfestation, disinfect and clean your rat's cage and surrounding environment thoroughly.

Living and Management

Follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding the application of medicated dusts and sprays to your pet rat and its living environment. Although it is important to eradicate the fleas, there are also precautions that you need to take to make sure that your rat is not harmed by the chemicals you are using against the fleas.

In addition, whenever you have handled a rat that is not your own, even an apparently clean and uninfested rat, you must take care to wash your hands and clothes after you have handled it, before handling your own rat.

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