Rat with Swollen Face from Tooth Abscess

Swelling of the face in a pet rat is never a good sign. It can mean an allergy, a bug bite, an abscess, or a tumor.  All of these things can cause swelling to suddenly appear.

The first thing to do is find out what the cause is so you know how to treat it.  A bug bite or abscess will usually indicate a puncture of some sort within the swollen area, unless it’s a tooth abscess.  A puncture abscess or a tooth abscess may emit a foul odor. A tumor will have no other signs other than the swelling.

Rats are prone to tumors and can get tumors in their glands causing facial swelling. These will typically become an ulcerated mass on the side of the face just under the ear. Some may be benign, but some may be malignant. Bleeding from the nose is generally an indication that it is a cancerous tumor. In the case of a tumor, it may be treated and removed with surgery and a round of antibiotics.

Rat with Swollen Face from Tooth Abscess

If the swelling is caused by a tooth abscess, antibiotics, and possibly surgery, will likely be required. Rat tooth abscesses can not be treated by lancing the area alone, as is standard treatment for other abscesses. If the abscess does burst on its own, your rat should still be put on a round of antibiotics to prevent further infection. If there is a tooth abscess you may notice your rat having difficult eating certain foods. You can supplement with soft foods or baby foods until the infection is healed.

Inner ear infections can also cause swelling and abscesses of the face in a rat. These infections can usually be treated with antibiotics, but sometimes also require surgery.

No matter the cause, any type of facial swelling should be promptly checked out by your veterinarian to determine the next course of action.

* The following is the original post made in the RatPalace forum archives discussing a rat with a swollen face.

Topic: HELP! HUGELY swollen face!




This is not an abcess, I’ve tripled-quadruple checked for anything, a bump, lump or scratch. there is NOTHING. Is this a possible allergic reaction? ….or……what?

His face was NOT like this 4 hours ago when I last seen him. This is an instantaneous thing..what is it? Anyone? If he needs a vet I’m in no luck..I’m in no luck at all and neither is he since no vets til monday…

Anyone know what this is? How I can make it stop swelling? ANYTHING? His eye is swollen 98% shut on his right side…oh my god

Rat with Swollen Face

Rat with Swollen Face

lotsarats   Oh My Goodness

Im sorry im not much help…..poor little love

But it could still be an abscess….it could be a dental problem

The thing with rats is….they have very fast metabolisms so if anything is going to go wrong it goes wrong fast.

I hate that helpless feeling of not being able to help

Does your vet have an emergency number for over the weekends?

Do you have an animal hospital nearby?

Any Ratteries close that may be able to help?

I wish for times like this i was able to have medications on hand just to get
me thru til a time i can see a vet

But they dont do that

Oh Boy….i hope you have some luck soon Celynny

And hugs for this little one too


Christy   LIbe Deb said, it can still be an abscess even if you can’t fine a scratch or puncture anywhere. The only other times I’ve seen facial swelling like this is with an abscessed tooth and a cancerous tumor. The cancerous tumor wouldn’t grow that fast though. I’d get him to any vet you can asap to get him on antibiotics and find out what the problem is. Can you smell any infection coming from the swollen area? Often times in the face you will smell it, particularly if you stick your nose right up to it (nasty, I know).

bcorby   Get him to a vet ASAP. Might be an abcess, might be a tumor. Either way, it needs to be dealt with ASAHP.

Ratsicles   When Eloin had her accident as a baby, her head looked exactly like that only worse. Has he had any kind of blunt trauma that you know of? I agree that it may be an abscess or a tumor, but I wouldn’t rule out something traumatic either…a knock on the head or something similar. Either way, if the vets aren’t open I would give him some Children’s Motrin (or any sort of ibuprofin) to reduce inflammation/swelling and will also help if there’s any pain. Poor guy, I hope he gets better. Is that Slippers?

Celynny   I dont know how much of ibuprofen to administer to him? I have suspension liquid for babies, but that is tylenol I think..hmm. I will see if we have ibuprofen suspension for him to have. .25cc’s would probably do the trick.

He didnt have any knocks on the head that I’ve seen. He doesnt smell like rotting or nasty. And this popped up in a matter of hours, ALL of which I was home for, and in the same room as him for. IF he got hurt I would have heard.

The only things I can think of being reasonable are a crazy quick growing abcess that grew this big in a matter of 4 hours (or less), or a severe allergic reaction..

But since it is only bugging his right side, and his left side is normal, I bet it is an abcess. I will take him to vet ASAP and see if he can be saved..

Jill   That could be a severe allergic reaction for sure, and if it is he needs to see a vet. Systemic reaction can be occuring while you’re still only seeing the outward reaction.

Good luck.

Celynny   Alrighty, he will go ASAP. I’ll see if they are opened today at all….

LittleWillow   How is he doing? I would have put a bet on either abscess or allergy (either one can come up very fast) but hopefully he’s doing better now. Although abscesses often occur where there’s already a wound (such as a bite, scratch or incision), sometimes they can develop with no existing break in the skin, and face is particularly troublesome because of the close proximity of the teeth and mouth.

I’ve seen how fast the swelling can come up from an infection/abscess in the facial region. Zaphod developed an abscess under his jaw (non-dental related) and it was just about healed up when – despite still being on antibiotics – it flared up, developed into a more generalised infection that spread up the side of his face, into the eye socket and bone – and it shocked me how fast it spread, because that happened in a matter of hours. Now he did have a pre-existing infection in the form of the original abscess (although he’d been to the vet the day before, and it seemed at that time to be mostly cleared up and healing well). Often it does take a bit longer to come up, but sometimes infection can develop scarily fast, as can allergic reaction to bites or stings, for example.

I hope he’s doing ok.

Celynny   Well as I just said to you in PM there are only 2 new things I have done recently..unscented cat litter deoderiser under a heavy layer of YN that they cannot possibly reach or be near (and it doesn’t smell) and some sweet potato baby food mixed with oatmeal as a treat…

Giving him Motrin seems to have helped, that or the passage of time has. His swelling is half of what it was when I posted that day. Still no scratches or bumps or nips or sources of abcess though…so..I’m not sure one way or the other. I’m going to try to find some liquid anti-allergen kind of medicine. I think we have some somewhere…

LittleWillow   I know that most abscesses are a result of visible wounds or skin breaks, but there are plenty that occur with no visible cause. And with the wide amount of swelling he has, it could be a more generalised infection rather than an actual abscess. Hopefully that’s not the case, but it does happen, be it through teeth or whatever (and not all infections will smell to the human nose, if there’s nowhere for the pus to escape from) and the nose is another easy source of infection, as well as the mouth.

And as I explained in the PM (but just so everyone knows) not all allergies are to new things, and you need to have been exposed to the protein you’re allergic to at least once before (except in the case of linked allergies like penicillin and cefa like drugs) – but you can also be exposed to something hundreds of times, and not develop an allergy until much later in life. But the fact that it’s localised on one side of the face suggests to me that it’s probably more likely to be something like an insect bite, sting or something he’s touched, as a more systemic reaction is likely to result in swelling on both sides.

Glad he’s less swollen, and I hope he feels better soon (and that you can find out for sure what the cause is).

Celynny   Swelling is totally gone, not even a hint of it left. He was getting motrin twice a day for 2 days and its now totally subsided. He’s back with the other boys, we’ll see what happens from here…

Celynny   …He was fine..his face wasn’t swollen, vet said he sounded clear and was well…
I found him dead today, when I couldnt’ find him coming out to get his cookie (chocolate flavoured animal crackers..)…..
I opened the shoebox they have until they ruin it, and I reached it to wake him up…and he was so stiff when I nudged him to get up I knew he was dead. I couldn’t take it after dealing with Duffles…so I made Robert take him out and put him in a baggy…and into the freezer beside Duffs.
He was fine..everyone said he was fine…He might have been dead all day for all I know..I can’t say I did inventory this morning since they were all sleeping soundly in the shoebox…..I was happy not to disturb them and jsut fill up their dish..;__;

No one ate at him though..he was left perfectly intact..that makes me feel better…I’m still..just shocked. There was nothing wrong with him, the vet said so…nothing was wrong…and now he’s dead. HE died alone, without me…but he died surrounded by his brothers. That makes me feel better at least …

LittleWillow   I’m so sorry. Try not to blame yourself – if he seemed fine, then you couldn’t have predicted that this was going to happen. Rigor mortis can start to set in very fast in rats (particularly in warm rooms), sometimes within an hour, and wears off completely within 24 hours, so the chances are he wasn’t dead too long before you found him. He wasn’t alone, he was with his brothers – I know that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to bear, but he was probably sound asleep and passed peacefully. If he’d recovered from his swollen face and neither you or the vet could find a cause, then you can’t blame yourselves, especially if he seemed well. He knows that you loved him and did your best for him.
scrubjay   I’m sorry you lost your ratties, and I’m sure you are frustrated about the vet. Could the facial swelling have been related to SDA virus?

LittleWillow   Scrubjay, I wondered the same thing but the photos don’t seem to suggest SDA. The swelling wasn’t bilateral (i.e. only one side was swollen), and from what I understand, SDA swelling tends to be down to swollen glands (the lymph nodes) around the jaw and neck, mumps-like swelling of the salivary glands, and bulging of the eyes, rather than facial swelling. If there is a secondary infection in the eye, perhaps, then I imagine the face could swell up, but without the other symptoms, it seems unlikely.

However, I don’t know for certain. I’m not sure if it would come up so fast nor resolve so quickly… plus I don’t believe poor Splinter had any respiratory symptoms either. I’m sure though that someone who has personally dealt with SDA could clarify that.


scrubjay   That’s what I read too, but it seems so bizarre. It looked like a bee sting or allergic reaction. There’s always more for me to learn about rat health, that’s for sure. I just know how horrible it must be for you Celynny. Not knowing means it is hard to know whether you need to do anything to prevent it happening to your other ratties.

LittleWillow   Aye – my gut feeling was that it was some kind of rampant infection/abscess, or that it was a localised allergy (such as a sting or bite, rather than a mroe severe reaction like anaphylaxis)… the fact that the swelling went down without antibiotics in a couple of days, with just ibuprofen and no other symptoms other than the swelling really does suggest that it was down to an allergic reaction to a bite or sting…. but whether that was related to his dying or not is hard to tell because he had no outward signs just before or after he died.

It is possible to have a post mortem examination done by the vet, but this can prove expensive, and not everyone feels comfortable doing that. In some cases this can set the person at ease that it was nothing that could be contagious, or let them know that they need to act to protect the rest of the colony if it is…. but losing an apparently healthy rat or one to unknown causes is definitely harder.