Ringtail, also called avascular necrosis of the tail, is a condition that can affect your pet rat. Here are four things rat owners need to know about ringtail.
What are the signs of ringtail?
Ringtail presents as dry skin on the tail of young rats. Since dry skin is tough and hard, it won't expand as easily as the rest of the skin as your rat grows. This dry skin can then cut off the circulation to your rat's tail. Their tail will become swollen or discolored due to lack of blood flow, and if the condition isn't treated, the tail will become necrotic (dead).
What causes ringtail?
Dry skin leads to ringtail. Low-humidity can give rats dry skin, so if the dry air inside your house is giving you dry skin, you should be concerned about your rat. Adding a humidifier near your rat's cage can help keep their tail moisturized and healthy. You can also rub lanolin on your rat's tail.
Can ringtail be treated?
Ringtail can be treated with lanolin ointment. Lanolin is a moisturizer that comes from sheep and other animals that produce wool, and since it's also used to treat human skin conditions, you may already have it in your house. You'll need to apply this ointment to your rat's tail everyday for about a week. If your rat isn't cooperative and doesn't like having their tail rubbed, try distracting them with a carrot to make the process easier.
If moisturizing the tail isn't enough to restore moisture to your rat's tail and allow it to heal, or if the condition is already too advanced for moisturizer to be a treatment option, amputation will be necessary. Your vet will remove the dead or dying tissue from your rat's tail, and they may end up having some or all of their tail removed.
Can rats live without their tails?
Tails serve many important functions for rats. They use their tails to cool their bodies, so without tails, they may overheat more easily. In hot weather, you may need to put a frozen water bottle inside their cage so that they can cuddle it to cool themselves down. They also use their tails for balance. Your rat may have trouble climbing objects inside their cage, and they may fall when they try to climb. Removing toys or objects that your rat likes to climb can help keep them safe from falls.
If your rat has dry skin on their tail, seek treatment for them (at centers like Bramalea Animal Hospital) as soon as possible to save their tail.