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Domestic pet rats come from three sources. Feeder breeders, pet stores, and reputable breeders. Feeder breeder and pet store rats have the worse health issues because of mass breeding for one purpose only, reptile food. Yes these are the same animals that we buy to keep as pets. Since the animals are not meant to live long anyway, little care is taken to produce rats with strong genetics that resist disease. Carefully-bred rats makes the reputable breeders' rats more resistant to two common health issues of pet rats:
News Flash: a resent conversation with a lab technician reveals that not all lab rats are Myco-free.
SDA, Sendai, KRV are sadly becoming far too common among pet rats.
These are the diseases that prompted strong quarantine guidelines among rat keepers.
And just like with every other pet and human, rats are also affected by the diseases of old age and malnutrition. Humans cannot get any of the above diseases from their rats.
As for Zoonosis, when diseases can be passed on to humans from pets
No one should ever tell you that you can't get anything from your pet rats. First, let me tell you what you *can't* get from your rats; rabies, hanta virus, and the plague.
The people that might get diseases from pet rats are those who are immunocomprimised (cancer, aids, babies, etc.) and those who keep their rats in filthy conditions. In the 10 years that I have been on 5 active pet rat forums, no one has reported getting a serious illness from their rats, even though the doctor wants to blame the rats for any illness due to ignorance.
Some ailments that have been reported are:
This is simply avoided by keeping yourself and your rats clean.
Some people are allergic to the protein in the rat's urine and itchy welts come up on their skin if the rat scratches them. Inhalant allergies just like the allergy one gets from cats and dogs.
*Rat bite fever
Far more common in wild rats then pet rats
In these cases it has been found that a pet other then the rat started the process. The rat just fell victim when it was handled after the affected pet was handled.
*Infections from bites
All other diseases that are common and associated with wild rats are not found in pet rats.
There is a type of Strep (no it's not the common human strep throat), that we can pass onto our rats, it's Streptococcus pneumonitis, and this can kill them.
As for myself, I have become healthier in the keeping of pet rats. I use to get sick with a cold/mild bronchitis every winter when we moved to the Prairies, in 1986. I started keeping rats as pets 11 years ago, and I've had 2 colds in that time. I think it's psychological though. I know I have to stay healthy because there is no one else but me who will take care of my rats.