Most of you have probably seen the Patchwork rats before. They're definitely an interesting variety, known for being "so ugly that they're cute" (depending on who you talk to!). The patchwork gene has not been fully understood as of yet, but is generally known to be a modifier of the Double Rex gene. Here is a description of the Patchwork variety, taken from the AusRFS QLD Rat Standards:
"The coat of a patchwork rat moults & regrows in varying patches throughout their life, leaving some or all of the skin exposed. Coat is to be as patchy as possible, the less hair the better. Skin should be bright and healthy, free of scars and belmishes, wrinkles are acceptable. Whiskers can be very short or missing. The eyes should be bright and free from any problems."
This beautiful variety has noticeably become more and more popular over recent months, particularly in QLD. With this in mind, I felt it might be useful to pop in a friendly reminder about a problem commonly associated with the Patchworks. This is mostly for pet owners who may not be aware of this problem, only to find out the hard way through their new beloved pet a few months down the track. This can also act as a reminder for rat breeders - to always be careful with selecting their breeding animals, and if releasing these animals, to alert any buyers of potential problems.
Said problem is called Entropion. When a rat has entropion, it's eyelid turns back into the eye, which is very painful. Occasionally this problem can be corrected with surgery by removing the eyeballs but usually the rat needs to be put to sleep. An early warning sign of entropian can be an eyelid which looks thicker than normal. Entropion can develop anywhere from the time the eyes first open, to later on in life. Take note that while this problem doesn't occur in every patchwork rat, people in the Australian rat community have noticed a high rate of the problem in Patchwork rats.
Early stages of entropion in a patchwork rat owned by Lakeisha Wall (The 28th Rat)
Advanced entropion in a Patchwork Rat "Squinty" owned by Alina Davis (Home Away From Home Small Animal Boarding) Thankfully Squinty was one of the lucky ones who recovered successfully after surgery.
In the above photos you can clearly see the difference between the patchwork rats with entropion, and the healthy patchwork rats pictured with clean, clear eyes. Luckily for this beautiful variety there are a small number of breeders working on eliminating the entropion problem...So that we can enjoy the unique type, and so that the rats can live long happy lives free of eye problems.
If you are looking at buying Patchwork rats in the future, here are a few things to think about.
1. If at all possible, try to source your patchwork rats from a reputible breeder who is aware of the problem. This can prove difficult as many reputible breeders are not yet releasing their animals whilst they work on them. To do this you could try asking our registered breeders.
2. If you do find patchwork rats for sale, maybe try asking the seller if they know what entropian is. If they don't know what it is, that's an indicator that they haven't been selecting away from this problem in their breeding.
3. Remember that an early warning sign of entropian can be an eyelid which looks thicker than normal.
4. Ask if you can meet the patchwork's parents or older relatives. Check if these rats have clear, clean eyes. If you notice something you're unsure about, never hesitate to ask the seller.
5. As with buying any pet always make sure that you meet the animals in person before agreeing to purchase, and never be afraid to back out should things not be up to scratch. Always check the rat for clear eyes & nose, clear breathing with no signs of rattling/wheezing and a stocky stature.
6. If you do buy these rats, be prepared to deal with the consequences. The condition is painful and if it occurs, it's usually kindest to have the rat put to sleep.
And as always when buying & breeding rats, remember that good health should be our first concern. Hopefully over time we won't have to worry about entropion being a problem in our unique Patchwork rats, through the hard work and dedication of responsible breeders. (: