by Debbie "The Rat Lady" Ducommun
in pet rats is rare, but does occur.
An article by Claire Jordan in Pro-Rat-a,
the newsletter of the National Fancy Rat Society in
The onset of the disease usually occurs at about 90 days. Symptoms include increased drinking and urination, a fine glossy coat, and either a failure to grow or weight loss. Because the urine contains sugar, a smell like molasses can be noticed in the cage.
Insulin is given to the lab rats by subcutaneous injection once a day. The initial dose is 1 unit of U40-strength insulin per 50 g body weight. If the U40 is not available, U100 can be diluted to the proper strength. A unit is 0.01 ml, and is marked on insulin syringes.
If the rat appears unwell, a blood test is done to check the blood sugar levels. The blood test can be done with a gadget called a Reflolux. By contacting a diabetes support group you might be able to get a used one. To obtain the drop of blood needed for the test, a lab tech makes a tiny nick at the end of the rat’s tail, and a tech says it’s so painless “they don’t even look around.” You could also clip a toenail. According to the results of the test, the insulin dose can be increased up to 2 units per 50 g.
Giving subcutaneous injections to a rat is something that is easily learned and causes little pain, so treatment for a diabetic rat is certainly possible. The article did not say, but I assume it would be best to give the injections in the evening, since this is when rats eat their main meal. Of course sugary treats should not be given to a diabetic rat.
Note: Chromium picolinate is known to reduce the need for insulin in human diabetics.
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