New Rats: Health Exams

Besides training rats on a track this week, new rats arrived to the lab. These new rats will be added into the research experiment I started with the other rats. Because these rats are new to the lab, I spent a full day doing health exams to make sure they are healthy enough to be used in the research.

These rats have never been handled in a lab setting, so they were extremely timid and anxious. They are uncomfortable being handled by people especially after being loaded out of a truck, so I had to be patient and calm to prevent them from biting.

The first thing I did with the rats was wrap them in a towel (because they like the dark) and hold them against my body as I rocked back and forth. This establishes the initial relationship between the researchers and the rats, so they know this is a safe place and they can be comfortable. Next, I had to preform health exams on each rat. Health checks are harder and more time consuming than expected because the rats try to escape your hands and they bite when uncomfortable.

The list of things I had to check for is as follows:

  • teeth (use a pen to push their nose up in order to expose the teeth/ make sure teeth are not too long)
  • nose (make sure it is not red or irritated)
  • grooming (make sure fur is not greasy and nails are not too long)
  • throat and cheeks (check for swelling)
  • tumors, cysts, bumps (run hands across body)
  • ears (check for any infection)
  • eyes (rats produce a red substance that looks like blood around their eyes called porphyrin when stressed/ check for porphyrin)
  • testicles and penis (wrap rat tight in towel so they can’t move and only expose their bottom/ make sure nothing is abnormal, make sure there is no yellow coloration or penis plugs)
  • hydration level (pinch skin and see how fast skin falls back into place)
  • weight (in grams)
  • posture (make sure back isn’t hunched because this means they may be sick)
  • tail (make sure it isn’t flaky)
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