|What is quarantine?|
|Quarantine is a period of time during which an animal is put under enforced isolation in order to prevent the possible spread of a number of contagious conditions that the animal may carry. These conditions can include, to name a few, bacterial infections, viruses, funguses, and parasites. Some conditions may even be life threatening. The Sialodacryoadentitis ( SDA) virus in rats is a prime example, especially here in Michigan.|
Why do I need to quarantine?The answer will become evident as you read this article, but the bottom line is that the health and well being of our rats is one of the most important aspects are their care. As responsible pet owners and/or breeders, we need to be aware of what we can do to keep our rats healthy and safe. In order to do that, we need to be aware of the risks and what we can do to reduce those risks. It is also important to share this information with other rat owners beca use it is only through education and responsibility that we will reduce the overall risk of disease in our rats and increase their quality of life.
When do I need to quarantine?
You need to quarantine any new rat coming into a home where there are existing rats. This includes from breeders, pet shops, shows, rescues, etc. Any and every new rat coming in needs to be put in quarantine! Sometimes, returning resident rats also need to be quarantined. This would be the case when the rat has come into direct or indirect contact with another nonresident rat. Some examples are co-breedings, shows, trips to pet stores, etc.
|How long do I need to quarantine?|
|The general rule used to be that a 2-week quarantine was the minimum because it was sufficient time to detect certain viruses, parasites, and obvious bacterial infections. However, new research indicates the 2-week quarantine is not sufficient for diseases like SDA, Sendai, Kilham Rat Virus, and CAR Bacillus. For this reason, it is suggested that a 3-week quarantine be the absolute minimum. Obviously, the longer the period, the lower the risks. In fact, a full 1 to 2 months is really the ideal time frame for quarantine because it takes long for some viruses to run their course. Keep in mind this applies to healthy animals only. If your new rat does show signs of illness, the quarantine procedure is very different (see below). And, be aware, there are some diseases that will always be present.|
|Where do I quarantine?|
|There are a couple different ways you can quarantine your new rat. The type of quarantine often depends upon your resources and preferences, but keep in mind that the level of quarantine is associated with the level of risk as well. Ideally, quarantine of new rats will be done in a separate, rat-free location. If you don't have access to separate facilities, you must make an effort to get as close to the ideal as possible in your own home. Any new rat must be kept in a separate room from your existing rats, as far away as possible. This is to minimize the risk of spreading parasites, airborne viruses, and germs, which means also washing your hands and changing clothes between the quarantine room and the rest of your home. In fact, this should become common practice if you visit pet shops or friends that have rats also.|
|My new rat seems fine and came from a reputable breeder. Do I still need to quarantine?|
|Absolutely! Although it is best to get rats from reputable or recommended sources to reduce the risk of disease, it is ultimately your responsibility as the pet owner to secure the health and well being of your rats. Besides, any truly reputable source will require you to quarantine in order to adopt in the first place! Quarantine applies to all rats, no matter where they came from. Even the most reputable breeders can have accidental exposures that they may not be aware of. And even if your new rat appears healthy, keep in mind that there are all sorts of conditions that may not at first be evident. Some rats can be silent carriers for disease, meaning they show no symptoms but can infect other rats, and only an appropriate period of quarantine will allow the virus to be shed. The quarantine period gives you a chance to see if there are any health problems and address them appropriately. In fact, unless you're a seasoned expert, the first step in acquiring a new rat is to take a trip to the vet to make sure there are no apparent illnesses or parasites. Better safe than sorry!|
|How do I quarantine
This depends entirely on the type of illness or infection you've encountered. However, during any type of infection, NO rats are to come in or go out for the duration of the quarantine period, and no breeding. In most cases, quarantine begins only when the treatment is over and the symptoms are gone. For breeders, this also means that all young must be weaned before the quarantine can officially begin.
Parasites: If the problem is a mite or lice infestation, you should begin Ivermectin treatment immediately. With proper treatment, the standard 3-week quarantine period should be all that is necessary. However, be certain that the condition is clear before introducing the new rat to your colony, or the 3-week quarantine and treatment must start over again. This is also the case with internal parasites.
SDA/Sendai: Absolute minimum quarantine period is 2 months. These viruses can spread through a rat population quickly with devastating results, and can survive up to 60 days after the last infected rat has died or recovered. And, because these viruses can exist even in latent states, it is not out of the question to quarantine for 6 months.
Kilham Rat Virus: Absolute minimum is 2 to 3 months and involves severe methods of sanitization. Persistent infections can sometimes exist in prenatal and postnatal rats, so longer or indefinite quarantines may need to be employed.
CAR Bacillus: Persistent contagious infection that will not be eliminated through quarantined.
Mycoplasma pulmonis: This is also a persistent contagious infection that will not be eliminated through quarantine. However, many rats carry this organism and may never have an outbreak of illness because of resistance and healthy immune systems.
do I quarantine for rat-inclusive events?
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