As winter approaches, it is important to focus on how to strengthen our rats’ immunity to infection and give them the best possible defense during what is often a vulnerable period for rats, especially the elderly.
High humidity, combined with cold, can create conditions that affect the respiratory system of a vulnerable rat. This is due to the increased water element which can worsen or are sensitive to mucus conditions. It is important to know that there is an increased need to balance the water element in the body system at this time, so that we can increase the body’s ability to cope with moisture and freshness.
In Ayurveda (an ancient Indian healing system based on maintaining balanced health), there is more worsening of the water element during the winter months. There is a tendency for an increase in phlegm. Therefore, it is important to try to compensate for this tendency by creating an “internal” balance in the body while adjusting the “external” conditions to reduce stress. We can do this by addressing the environmental factors that can worsen an aqueous condition, for example using a dehumidifier, also avoiding sugary wet foods, reducing stress and incorporating various immune-boosting strategies (as suggested below) .
Some rats are more affected by worsening of the water component than others, especially those who have had recurrent breathing problems. These rats are going to be more sensitive right now, but it is important that all rats need extra help during this season.
Here are some ideas to help you boost your rats’ immunity (and yours too). I always recommend and personally use human grade supplements because I believe the health of the whole family is where you need to focus. Many supplements created in the pet industry are not that great and have some “novelty / profit” value. I think it is wiser to look for better quality supplements that we would be happy to use and then tithe some of our rats. Our rats need us to be healthy to care for them, so I think it is better and less unnecessary to buy the type of supplements that we can all benefit from.
Stress is an important factor in slowing down the body’s defenses. Often, rats are stressed due to group incompatibilities or other factors. Something we can do is make sure that we do not subject rats, especially older rats, to excessive stress during the winter season, for example, we can avoid big changes in their routine during this period, c i.e. avoid further introductions to other rats or change cage / dynamic group, etc. Avoid mating / breeding, as females would naturally retain their own energy during this period. If you think our rats are inside and therefore unaffected by the seasons, this is simply not true. They are energetic beings and intrinsically linked to the greater whole. They are affected by biorhythms of nature even if they are not “in” nature. This is why people can see the effect of the moon on the behavior of their rat. And why solstices and equinoxes often create a portal for many animals to transition. Everything is in the web and the flow of energy, yin and yang.
In the wild, animals hibernate at this time of the year or stay close to home, they are not in “breeding” mode. Nature knows that it is time to withdraw and use as much energy as possible to build up reserves and maintain resistance to cold. It is a natural time of “building and resting”, that is why most of us gain a few extra pounds during the winter / holiday season! Energy is needed to stay warm and the heat is concentrated inside. Trees lose their leaves in the fall so that they can keep the sap to last through the winter.
You may notice how your rats sleep more in winter, it’s their way of conserving energy and staying in tune with nature’s “slowing down”. Time will return in the spring when they wake up from sleep and return to increased activity levels. I’m not saying they don’t play, far from it! I’m just saying that the levels can fluctuate depending on environmental factors / seasonal changes. There are always many more activities around a full moon, for example. Therefore, by being aware of environmental stress / seasonal changes and making adjustments accordingly, we can help further strengthen the immunity of our rats during the winter months.
A complete diet of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in chlorophyll such as kale, will provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that will help protect against cancer and boost the immune system. Think in terms of availability like in seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables and if you can provide a good “rainbow” plate, it will cover most of the nutrients necessary for balanced health. Here is a list of some of the essential supplements that you might consider adding to their diet.
Multi-vitamins / minerals – always a good backup to provide essential vitamins / minerals that might otherwise be lacking in the diet. However, I would not use them daily. Overuse of vitamin supplements is easy and a waste. Just add them when you feel they need a boost. Otherwise, if you are on a diet rich in fresh produce, simply use vitamin / mineral supplementation as needed. I think they are more essential for young growing bodies and older rats.
Omega 3, 6 and 9 (a good oil like fresh oil, flax or hemp oil will provide a rich ), as well as hemp seeds, flax and chia. Flax and chia seeds absorb many times their quantity when soaked in water. I do not recommend giving them dry to rats. You can grind them first and just add pinches to food or use them in cookies, etc. Or, dip them first and use them in your recipes. If you are already using them, please comment below on how you are using them, I am interested and I am sure it would be useful for other readers to know. J
Selenium (a good of Brazil nuts) stimulates the production of natural T cells that fight viral and bacterial infections. Selenium helps make antibodies and in my studies, I found it as one of the essential minerals in cancer prevention. I like to grate Brazil nuts on rat dinner or pasta like parmesan
Vitamin C – We all know that vitamin C supplementation is recommended for humans, but rats are apparently capable of making vitamin C themselves. Although I have heard that, I still think that any vitamin C supplement that they can get will only be beneficial and, indeed, if you feed fruits and vegetables, they already receive a reasonable supply anyway. I think it’s just good to be aware and if you want to give them rosehip tea or something, go for it. I just bought rosehip / hibiscus tea for me and the rats appreciate it too. I soften it with agave and dilute it a bit and they like free slurping. So, just because they can make vitamin C, I wouldn’t hold back anyway, you can’t go wrong! And recent studies have shown that very high doses of vitamin C are needed to prevent cancer and other viral infections.
Echinacea – It is the echinacaines of echinacea which strengthen the immune system by promoting the activity of white blood cells which destroy bacteria and viruses. Many studies have been done on echinacea and it seems to really help protect against colds and viruses. I use capsules and mix just a little powder in food.
Probiotics – help to regulate the acidity in the intestine and favor the proliferation of friendly bacteria thus preventing “hostile” bacteria from multiplying. They also produce natural anti-biotics, encouraging the immune system to produce anti-bacterial antibodies. Many people feed yogurt because of probiotics, but yogurt is a mucus and an acid, as well as possibly various hormones and vaccine variables from the dairy industry. I don’t recommend it to rats. You can buy the probiotics themselves and add a capsule to a nut milk, then use it in your food / meal preparations.
Supplements strengthening immunity – there are now many ready-to-use immune system supplements that contain things like medicinal mushrooms, vitamin C, astragalus, etc. These mixtures can be very useful. You can take them yourself and add small amounts to your rat’s food.
Iodine – this is my ‘must have’ supplement. It tastes bad, so I only put a few drops in my own smoothie or milk, then I share a little bit of that with the rats. You can also add iodine to your rat’s diet by providing a good variety of sea vegetables or by using a little kelp powder in food or soaking water for legumes / grass of wheat. In studies in rats, iodine has been shown to prevent the development of tumors and has natural immune boosting properties. It is antiviral and antibacterial. Many additives in our diet deplete iodine from the body and it is therefore essential to add it. I will write more on iodine later.
Thyme – my rats like to nibble on fresh thyme so I hang a little sprig in their cage. Thyme has thymol as the active ingredient which is very good for cleaning the mucus passages and it also has antiviral properties. You can also try making thyme tea for all the sniffed rats. I also put thyme in a small bowl of boiled water and the resulting steam can help any bad rat with respiratory problems.
Pau d’Arco – a Peruvian tea which helps to strengthen resistance to infections and strengthen immunity. I like to have this in good quantity for my rats. It helps fight candida and has been recommended for the prevention of cancer. It has antiviral properties.
Consider the “stress factor” in your rat’s lifestyle and determine how you can reduce it
Become aware of the environment regarding seasonal changes and prepare in advance
Eat a healthy diet rich in “rainbow” foods
Incorporate supplements as needed, especially those that strengthen the immune system
Think about how you can strengthen immunity and keep doing it (the lifestyle / diet considerations mentioned above and herbal teas, etc.)
by Anabrese Neuman