Fig. 3: Hairless rat care
Genetic alopecia can come from a variety of hairless genes as well as from the doubling up of rex genes. These different genes and combination’s can result in completely nude rats, sparse hair, fuzz, as well as transient bald spots or hair patches.
Hairless rats can be bathed occasionally with warm water and mild baby shampoo. Some people moisten the hairless after bathing with a drop of olive or baby oil rubbed between the palms of the hands and then sparingly applied to the rats skin.
Hairless rats get scratches and scrapes more often than their hairy counterparts. Most such wounds can be gently cleaned with soap or an antibacterial and then have a small amount of an analgesic antibiotic ointment applied. Watch all injuries for signs of infection.
Some hairless rats are prone to small pimples and ingrown hairs. Blemishes can be carefully popped to remove the pus and then cleaned with an antiseptic. Ingrown hairs can also be popped and the hair repositioned so that it may come through to the surface. Your veterinarian should treat any blemish that gets infected or forms a larger abscess by lancing, irrigating, and prescribing an antibiotic. A lot of “white heads” might indicate a diet that is too high in protein. Recurring “blackheads” might indicate the need to bathe the hairless more often or that the cage isn’t being kept clean enough.
Often a male hairless will exhibit yellow or orange discoloration on his back. This is an oily secretion caused by hormones. An occasional bath will help keep the oils in check. Keep in mind that it is natural and that over bathing can dry his skin and actually cause an increase in production of the secretion.
Another thing that you might notice on the hairless male is darker skin on his scrotum and/or on the end of his penis sheath. This is normal.
Some hairless lines show a greater sensitivity to allergens and dust. This can often manifest in weepy eyes, swollen eyes, or filmy eyes. If this happens then the first step would be to change the bedding to rule out the chance that the rat is sensitive to it. Wood bedding or dusty bedding can often be a problem with hairless. In such cases a paper product such as CareFRESH or soft towels would be a better choice. Taking care to keep the cage clean and free from ammonia (from urine) will help to reduce eye irritation. If the hairless develops conjunctivitis you will need an antibiotic eye ointment from the vet
The temperature of a hairless rat’s environment should be no lower than 68 degrees and no higher than 82 degrees.
The cage should be kept in an area free of drafts from windows, fans, doors, or air-conditioning vents. The cage needs to be “skin friendly”. Make sure that there are no sharp wires, jagged or rough edges, sticks, or anything else that could scratch the rats skin. Keeping plenty of soft towels in the cage will provide a safe sleeping spot as well as keep the hairless rat warm. Igloos and boxes will also help to keep him draft free.
Hairless rats should not be kept alone. Not only are rats social animals, but it is essential for the hairless to have a companion for the extra body warmth when sleeping. Furred rats can help to keep the hairless warmer than another hairless cage mate. Take care to provide the hairless rat with a calm and non-aggressive cage mate. Even normal play can often injure the skin of the hairless. Take great care when introducing the hairless to new rats. A fight can cause serious injury to vulnerable skin.
Hairless rats have a higher metabolism than furred rats. They require more calories per day. This can be accomplished by offering the hairless extra treats such as chicken, nuts, eggs, cheese, and other foods that will raise the caloric, protein, and fat content of his diet.
The types of rexing genes are: curly 1 (Cu1), curly 2 (Cu2), and rex (Re). These dominant genes, when doubled up, can cause a “double rexed hairless” rat. There are no special breeding concerns for these rats.
Some types of hairless genes are: nude (n), fz (fuzzy), hr (hairless), and the uncommon rowlette nude (rnu). Some of these recessive hairless genes can result in problems with lactating , mothering skills, and/or lowered immune system function.. Some breeders have expressed that out crossing to furred rats and breeding hairless only to hairless carriers eliminates or greatly reduces these problems.
Care article submitted by Joanne “Bella” Hodges 8-20-02