By Debbie Ducommun
Diarrhea isn’t common in rats and is usually caused by sensitivity to a medication. If the diarrhea is severe, you may need to discontinue the medication. Occasionally, diarrhea can be caused by a temporary upset in the intestinal flora (good bacteria in the intestines) which can be treated with probiotics (good bacteria for the intestines). One source of probiotics is yogurt containing active cultures (check the label), but a better source is a probiotic product from a health food store, pet shop or feed store. Dose is not critical. You can’t give too much. Mix it in soft food. If the rat is on an antibiotic, give the probiotics at least 2 hours before or after giving the antibiotic otherwise the antibiotic will kill the good bacteria. If the diarrhea is going to respond to the probiotics, you should see an improvement within a few days.
For sudden severe diarrhea, you can give Pepto-Bismol at 1 drop/oz body weight three times a day, Immodium at 1/10 the human dose or Kaopectate at 2 drops/oz body weight twice a day.
For a rat who isn’t on any mediations, chronic diarrhea that doesn’t respond to probiotics is most likely caused by a serious problem with the intestines. In young rats it can be caused by megacolon. In older rats the most common cause is something like intestinal cancer.
Constipation is usually caused by low water intake or sometimes a reaction to a medication, or intestinal disease. Encourage fluid intake with soft foods and liquids. Canned pumpkin works especially well.