- Lice in rats is fairly uncommon. Rats are much more likely to get mites. However, should your pet rat get lice, it is likely that you brought them in from outside on your clothing, then passed them along. So, if your rats were at the vet recently and then they came down with lice or if you took a trip to the park, that may be the explanation. Lice that attach themselves to rats are called Polyplax spinulosa and will feast on its blood. They can also transmit a blood parasite called Hemobartonella muris, which can cause something very similar to tick fever. If you notice rough patches or scabs on your pet rat's skin, seek treatment for it right away.
- Ivermectin is the best treatment for lice on your pet rats. This drug is administered orally as a pill or in paste form, which is actually made for horses. A dose in the paste form is 0.01 ml/lb. Apply this paste to a piece of bread or another tasty treat and give to your pet rat. The drug can be injected as well, though this isn't recommended since rats can have a deadly genetic bleeding disorder that doesn't show up until this medicine hits the bloodstream.
- Revolution is another effective treatment, which is applied just between the shoulder blades of your pet rat. This topical treatment works well at killing lice and their eggs, though it can be deadly if ingested. After applying the medication, keep a close eye on your pet rat, and do not let them groom the medicated area.
- While pet rats normally keep themselves clean pretty well, you may wish to give them a quick bath every few days or so to encourage dead lice and eggs to fall off of their fur. You don't need to use soap. Simply fill the sink with lukewarm water and place your pet rat in it. Use your hands to rub their fur, making sure to avoid getting water in their eyes, ears and nose. Use a towel to dry them off. Repeat a few times a week until the lice are gone.
- Though Revolution is a topical treatment, other topical options are generally not thought of when treating rats for lice. However, shampoos, sprays and dips formulated for kittens no older than two weeks old are generally safe for rats. Make sure pyrethrins, the active ingredient, is not present at any concentration higher than 0.15%.