Bite Wound Figure 6

Figure 6: Introduction bite wound to neck in 4-month-old female rat (Phi-Adara).
Case history and photos


Phi-Adara is part of an (assumed) semi-wild litter that is surrendered to a local rat rescue.

“Phi” and one of her sisters (both intact females) are adopted at a little over 4 months old, as additions to a resident rat group that contains an adult castrated semi-wild male, Twix, who has a prior history of inflicting bite wounds during introductions.

Clinical Signs

On day 7 (at midnight) an accident occurs while placing the rats into the introduction area and a fight ensues between Twix and Phi, during which one of the rats screams. The rats are quickly separated and examined for injuries.

Phi sustains an approximately 1.5cm long clean-cut skin deep wound across the back of her neck. There is minimal bleeding. When she bows her head, the wound opens up. Phi is visibly upset, although perhaps more so by the agonistic interaction than by the actual injury. She does not groom or otherwise interfere with the wound.


Bite wound related to territorial aggression.


Veterinary care is not sought, as the wound is clean-cut and only skin deep. Moreover, a similar injury in another rat healed overnight, so the expectation is that this injury will, too. Phi is given one oral dose of Novacam (meloxicam, a painkiller). No antibiotics are given.

The wound is not cleaned, in the assumption that – provided Phi remains still* in the correct position for long enough – the “fresh” tissue on either side of the wound will adhere itself more quickly without interference. Note that their cage contains only fabric and paper as bedding material; the litter box contains paper pellets.

* Note, that after the injury occurred, Phi and her sister were allowed to play in the free-range area for awhile, with the intention to alleviate Phi’s stress. Had they been confined to their cage, they may have gone to sleep, which would have allowed the wound to “rest”. However, it is uncertain whether the outcome would have been different.

Follow up

Unfortunately, the next morning the wound is wide open.

For the following days, Vetramil (honey cream) is “packed into” the wound twice to five times a day. After application Phi is distracted for a few minutes, before allowing her to groom it off. She does not object to the application (i.e., it does not appear to hurt).

Additionally, on the third and fifth day the exposed tissue is gently but firmly “scrubbed” with wet and dry cotton buds, in an attempt to remove a yellow-brownish moist-looking layer that is forming over the tissue, as this is feared to be a sign of infection. Phi does not object to the cleaning. However, she does object (nip) when the surrounding area is gently squeezed to determine if there is any swelling (there is none, nor does the area feel too warm).


The wound heals nicely within thirteen days.

Phi-Adara’s introductions were continued carefully over the course of 30 days with close monitoring. With no further acts of biting aggression, Phi was housed with the group successfully. For more explanation regarding the introduction process for this case see: Problematic Introduction Figure 2, in Introducing Rats, in the Care guide section of Rat Guide.


Bite wound to neck

Photo on left taken on day 3, when the wound was at its largest. Center photo taken on day 5, before cleansing with water and cotton bud. Photo on right shows wound packed with Vetramil (honey cream).

Bite wound to neck

Photo on left taken on day 8, showing scab formation; daily packing with Vetramil was continued. Center photo taken on day 11, showing signs of healing. Photo on right taken on day 13; by this time the wound had healed and the introduction continued successfully.

Case history and photos courtesy of Cyzahhe.


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