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Young Rat Bites Its Front Legs

Why would a rat bite its legs enough to leave scabs?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: November 27, 2010, 5 a.m. EST

Q: My male rat, approximately 3 months old, has scabs (looks like he's biting himself) on both front legs close to his paws. What could be causing him to do this? What can I do to deter him? I've been putting Neosporin on the sites but am concerned and would like to keep him from continuing this.

A: It is unusual for a rat to do this, especially a young rat. The most likely cause is external parasites, such as mites or lice. These are common in our small mammal pets, especially young ones and, fortunately, external parasites are usually easy to diagnose and treat.

What is unusual is the fact that you are observing these lesions just on the front legs close to the paws. One possible cause for this could be a contact dermatitis. If something in your rat’s environment causes irritation to the skin, it would be common to see it in an area of the body that is in contact with the substrate he walks on. This could be anything from carpet fresheners, to laundry detergent to the type of material you use to line his cage.

A contact dermatitis is difficult to diagnose, and sometimes you do it with trial and error as you remove material in your house that could be causing this contact dermatitis.

I think your first step in trying to help your rat is to visit your veterinarian to make sure that external parasites are not the cause of this problem.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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