A few months after I first got Rimsky and Korsakoff I noticed that they each had a few small scabs on the skin in their shoulder regions.
I didn’t know what was causing the scabs…. the boys didn’t seem overly itchy and they only had one or two small scabs at a time so I decided that maybe a few of the wrestling matches might have gotten out of hand.
When Rimsky developed the early signs of a respiratory infection we went to the vet for some antibiotics and I asked about the scabs at the same time. The vet said that they were probably bite marks. This made me unsure of what to do. The two brothers had always seemed to get along really well and loved cuddling with each other. The wrestling matches were always playful and never aggressive… I decided to ‘wait and watch’.
Gradually, both boys started developing more and more small scabs on their shoulders, faces, and underneath their chins. They also started scratching a lot. During our next vet trip, the vet wanted to inject some Ivermectin in case it was mites. I declined the injection (because I’ve heard of rats having bad reactions to ivermectin injections) so instead I bought a package of Revolution, a brand of flea/mite medication used to treat puppies and kittens which is applied on the skin. Revolution is the brand name for Selamectin, which is a derivative of Ivermectin. The box contains three separate packets of fluid and cost about $30 Canadian.
Revolution is a topical parasiticide and comes in different coloured packages depending on the size of the animal being treated. For rats, the mauve packet that has 15mg per tube is the only suitable one because it is for puppies and kittens (be careful because there is a purple packet too).
The instructions for Revolution state that it should be applied once a month, but in my experience just one dose can fix a mite problem in rats. I have heard that rats normally have some mites, but that these mites only sometimes become a problem. Sometimes stress can cause a ‘flare up’ of mites or, sometimes contact with material (such as bedding) that is contaminated with a high number of mites can cause rats to acquire a higher than normal number of mites on their skin. For whatever reason, Rimsky and Korsakoff had a gradual ‘flare up’ of mites and one dose of Revolution cured it. Rimsky and Korsakoff never developed any more scabs the rest of their lives (they lived to be 2 years-3 months and 2 years-7 months respectively). I did not have a skin scraping done to test for mites because I’ve heard that they tend to give false negatives.
My 3 new boys were treated with Revolution shortly before I got them because of scabs and itching and again the medication has completely cleared up the problem with a single dose. The scabs disappeared very quickly but boys continued to be itchy for a week or two after their treatment.
Note: some pet owners feel that Revolution and some of the other ‘flea-fighting’ medications on the market are not safe for pets. Discuss any concerns you have with your veterinarian. Be VERY VERY careful if you give your rats this type of medication because an overdose can do a lot of harm.