When Rats Need to Diet
Is your sweet rat shaped like a PEAR, instead of a proper SAUSAGE?
Identifying your rat as a pear or a sausage is not all there is to deciding whether to diet a rat. Many factors need to be considered: the overall health of the rat, history of the rat's types of diets, previous weight changes over time, genetic factors, age, and other stressers present, for example if the rat just came from a bad environment and hasn't settled down.
What do you need to properly diet a rat? These are critical:
1. Thorough assessment of your rat's health.
2. Do this assessment with your vet.
3. Use a gram scale to weigh your rats. No scale? Don't try to diet your rat. The 1% weight loss per week is very difficult to achieve even with a scale.
4. Food portions must be controlled by weighing them, and/or controlling calorie content.
5. Track and do not exceed the maximum recommended 1% weight loss per week. This means weighing the rats weekly and doing the math to achieve 1% loss only. (An Excel spreadsheet can be a great aid to this - see below for one.)
Are you considering putting your rat on a diet?
Under the photographs below is a full-length portion of my own Excel workbook from 2008, to show how my Diet Excel form looks in working mode. Contact me if you want a copy of my excel file.
If you would like to help a rat loose weight, and have gotten veterinarian input towards that end, tracking weight loss becomes extremely important, because the recommended weight loss is only 1% per week. One percent per week is a very small amount to lose, and adding a bit more or less food can result in large losses or gains. Using a scale that weighs in grams, and tracking the weight loss regularly, has in my experience been the only way to succeed at helping rats loose weight safely.
Frankly, I never did get control over my rats' weight loss until I invented this Excel template to track the loss. The critical element of this spreadsheet is that is automatically calculates the 1% loss per week no matter how often you weigh the rats. This means you can weigh twice a week, or every 3 weeks, and the formulas still tell you how you are doing from the standpoint of 1% loss per week.
The spreadsheet requires minimal Excel data entry skills. If you would like to obtain the Excel workbook, please contact me (see navbar at the top), and I'll be happy to send it to you and discuss how it works.
Here are pictures of Bright Biggity Buxom Bonny Bon-Bon at various weights. She was my inspiration for enforcing weight loss. Bonny was distinctly obese at 9 weeks of age, and remained so throughout her life. At one point her fattiness got too extreme, and dieting helped me help her back to a more manageable (though still over) weight.
Sample of my Excel spreadsheet for tracking a rat's diet. (First effort on my part to diet rats and to track their weight loss.)
1. The starting weights of the rats, and the date I weigh them.
2. A guess about their ideal weight (I can change this any time.)
3. Then, next time I weigh them, I enter the date (light green cell), and their weights (light yellow cells).
4. The critical info to zero in on is, "% change (-/+)". What I want to see here is as close to 1% as possible. In the date of 4/1/08, for the first rat, Bonny, I see -2.81%. This told me she lost WAY more than 1%. So I adjusted the amount of food she got for the next week, UP, to stabilize her weight loss.
But as you can see in the following weeks, she continued to loose weight more than 1% per week. It was not until about 4/27/08, a month later, that I managed to stabilize her portions. I then allowed her to gain slightly, to even out the average loss per week.