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Camarattery - Colorado Rat Breeder

Website Updated 8.19.2017

Why Do Some Rats Get Tumors

By Amy, Camarattery ©
 2006 copy right 


As far as tumors in rats in general all of you know I have had probably more rats than anyone can count because I am a breeder. And I know where each and every rat I have adopted out is and I can say without hesitation, as of yet I have never had a rat with a known tumor come out of my rattery. But I know the day will come.

I do know this for a fact as it has been proven time and time again, tumors are hereditary. If its in the family there is a high risk of it popping up. And if you have a rat with no known history, you have a very good chance of getting tumors. If one rat in the family doesn't have tumors carried, 26 more might. You just don't know. The same for people, cancers run in families.

What I also know is this: you can easily give your rat a tumor by what you feed it. A good way to do this is to give them French fries, potato chips a bite of birthday cake and so on. One bite is all it takes. I have seen a lot of unaware rat owners thinking they are spoiling their rats have the highest tumor rates of anyone. Breeders see fewer occurrences of tumors in their ratteries because they are strict about diet and selective breeding. If there is a tumor or 2 in the line breeders will stop breeding the line. Or some will breed it out of the line through selective breeding. Since it can be carried and thus bred into a line, it to can be bred out of a line is the belief of many. 

I also see vets having more issues with their personal pets having tumors. And the reason is simple, vet offices get dumped on by all sorts of people surrendering their animals at their door steps.  The staff tend keep these pets. Now why are their animals more prone to this? It's simple, had the owners (the ones that dumped these animals at the vets door step) gotten an animal from a breeder that selectively bred for health, they would not have the tumor issues or at least it would be rare for them to get a tumor. Had they cared enough for the animals to go out of their way to search out healthier animals, they wouldn't be likely to dump it off. It is this animal who was bred by a feeder breeder with all sorts of unknown cancers in the lines that vets have as their pets. And it's because vets are kind hearted enough to take them in. It's simple; any animal with no known history has a 50% chance of having cancers in the family. And that is a very good chance. Rats with known histories or pedigreed animals are less likely to be bred with known health issues. If the breeder has cared enough to keep pedigrees that means they care about the history and want to breed better animals.

We all know feeder animals are poor quality genetically speaking, and that is NOT to say they are lesser animals and or deserve lesser spoilage in their lives. But what I am saying is this, selectively bred animals are healthier, and this is the entire point of my article here. But you can ruin their health by spoilage as well.

Another thing is this, rats are rats! All colors are the same; all coat types, ear types and so on. They are no different than people with similar differences. And what I mean is, is their health different than another color or fur type? NO....NO! Is their personality different? NO! Can you keep them all in the same cage? YES...Yes you can! There is one type of rat that is scientifically different than all others! What am I talking about? Dwarf! 

Now I don't want to scare any of you that have the standard sized rats! I am only posting this for educational reasons. But standard rats that are bred in selective type of circumstances like mentioned above have a very small rate of tumor occurrences. And in fact tumors are rare in rats. But I see tumors frequently with in the circle so to speak from the unknown history rats. And the reasons are all explained previously.

But what is different about dwarfs? Well don't think you can get away with less tumors if you get all dwarfs and by doing so that will assure you of no tumors, because standards have a low rate for tumors as well if their history is healthy. But.......dwarfs were developed in a lab when they were doing research on human cancers. And what they found is, by breeding rats that were "Growth Hormone Deficient" (in English, the stayed small) these rats were resistant to cancer. They couldn't even get these rats to get cancer if they induced it! They actually injected cancer into these SDR(spontaneous Dwarf Rats as they called them) and they would NOT get cancer! So this is why dwarfs are different! 

What is a dwarf? Well a dwarf is a rat that "spontaneously" popped up in the lab and showed a much smaller size. That rat was bred to it's family who carried this smallness to make more dwarfs. A dwarf is like any color gene or other gene that is recessive. That means it needs a dwarf gene(1 copy) from mom and one copy from dad. 2 rats that carry it will produce it. So if I were to breed a dwarf to a standard I would not get a dwarf. But they would all carry it. These "carriers" are not growth hormone deficient. The actually did grow in layman's terms. So they are not resistant to cancer. But that does not mean they carry cancer. As I said previously selective breeding can "breed out" the cancers. Now with these carriers they can be bred to a rat that either "carries" dwarf or be bred to another actual visible dwarf to make dwarf babies. This is possible because both parents carry the dwarf gene. A real dwarf rat has 2 copies of the dwarf gene. 1 from mom and 1 from dad. A carrier had 1 copy of the gene from the parent who passed it onto them(from the dwarf parent or the "carrier" parent). 

This was not meant to scare you standard rat owners, but to enlighten you on the "whys". Why does my rat have a tumor? Why do rats get tumors? And also help you with understanding why feeding and breeding is so important in the out comes of the rats health.

There is NOTHING wrong with rescuing rats! Other than the possible sickness that are at risk of the animal bringing into your colony. However quarantine can fix a lot there! But if you want to bring a rat into your home that is very likely to thrive and have great health well into old age you have options. And these options are always your personal choice. Many people with warm hearts love to rescue and know full well the risks! But if you are not up to these risks, you have that choice of where to obtain your rat! Some individuals who for instance have children or a tight budget and either cannot afford a tumor removal or don't want their child to have to go through a tumor in their pet may be better off with adopting from a breeder 

I know that was long. But I felt it necessary to give you a bigger picture of what the reasons are for health issues in our beloved ratties. This does NOT mean I am against rescues of rats or homing animals in need.