Wounds To Extremities
By Debbie Ducommun
The feet, ears, tail and mouth all have a considerable blood supply and injuries to these areas can cause profuse bleeding. The first step to stop the bleeding is to apply direct pressure for two minutes. If the bleeding continues, put some flour in a small container and press the bleeding area into the flour or press some flour onto the wound. The flour will help the blood to clot. Cornstarch can also be used as well as a commercial product to stop bleeding. Another thing to try is holding ice against the injury. The cold will reduce the blood flow.
If the injury is a severed toe or tail tip you may have to apply a tourniquet. Tie string as close to the end of the extremity as possible. Tighten the tourniquet until the bleeding slows to an ooze. Do not tighten the tourniquet too much or you could cause additional damage. Remove the tourniquet after 20 minutes to see if the bleeding has stopped or can now be stopped using the other methods. If not, replace the tourniquet and take your rat to the vet.
If a toenail is bleeding the best way to stop it is to use styptic powder or a silver nitrate stick. Flour or cornstarch can also be used like styptic powder. Press some into the end of the nail.
After a wound to a toe, it’s common for the toe to swell quite a bit and turn red. It’s not usually necessary to treat this condition and after a week or two the toe will heal. If you like, you can give the rat an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to help bring down the swelling. (See more info below.)Ibuprofen interferes with blood clotting so if your rat has a severe injury with profuse bleeding you do not want to use ibuprofen that day. For pain you can use acetaminophen (Tylenol) at 90-140 mg/lb every 4-12 hours. Choose the dose according to the severity of the pain and possible length of use with lower doses for repeated use. Overdoses can damage the liver.
If a rat is picked up by the tip of her tail the skin will often be pulled off. This is called “degloving.” The bare end of the tail will usually dry up and fall off on its own. See photos below. You can apply Bactine to help with the pain. Observe the tail for any sign of infection, such as pus or a bad smell (this is rare) and if this occurs consult your veterinarian. Sometimes a rat will chew at the tail. If this happens try treatment with an analgesic. You can give ibuprofen at a dose of 60 mg/lb twice a day. (See more info below.) If that doesn’t help, you’ll have to have your vet perform an amputation.
This series of photos shows the later stages in the healing of a degloved tail. Most of the dead part of the tail has already fallen off.
Never pick up a rat by his tail!