Injury To Legs
By Debbie Ducommun
Another common accident is a rat getting her leg caught in the wire of the cage. (1" X ½" mesh floors should be covered or removed to prevent this.) Treat the rat with ibuprofen at a dose of 60 mg/lb twice a day. (See more info below.)
If swelling persists after 24 hours, or if the swelling gets worse, you will probably need to take your rat to the vet for an injection of dexamethasone (at 1 mg/lb) which should reduce the swelling within 12 hours. Swelling of the foot can be dangerous because it can cut off the circulation of the foot, leading to more swelling, creating a vicious cycle. The vet might want to take an x-ray, but this will likely be a waste of money, even if the leg is broken. Most broken legs in rats can heal on their own, even breaks near the ankle joint that are floppy. You do not need to keep the rat isolated or quiet. Treat the pain and swelling with ibuprofen at a dose of 60 mg/lb twice a day. A compound fracture, where the bone breaks the skin, is much more serious and you must take your rat to a vet as the leg may need to be pinned or amputated, and treatment with an antibiotic (I recommend amoxicillin) is necessary.
If a swollen foot looks like it is puffed up with fluid, you can try soaking it in a warm Epsom salts solution, which will help to draw excess fluid out through the skin. The easiest way to soak a foot is to put the solution in a small baggie to put the rat’s foot in.
I once had a rat who developed pain in his ankles from being on a wire floor without actually getting his legs caught. There was no swelling but he demonstrated pain by holding one foot up or limping on it. When I moved him to a cage without wire floors, the pain went away.
Here are pictures showing the healing of a broken leg. This is Basil, with a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula. The first picture was just before surgery on 3/30/10. The jagged ends of the bone were cut off and the bone tractioned back into place. The skin was closed with 2 Michel wound clips (2rd photo) which was enough to hold the fracture in place. Just 3 days after the fracture was repaired he was using that foot to lightly scratch his head. 5 days after the surgery he was putting light weight on the foot. 2 weeks after the surgery he was walking normally on the foot! The third picture was on 4/19/10, just before he was neutered.