So, this journey started almost three months ago. It was again time for my yearly test. I was floored at the results. During this same time period, I knew several other breeders that were undergoing current testing themselves. Shock was a common theme among many of us. Unfortunately, one friend did lose her colony due to her results.
Several of us got a lot of positives on our tests results. None of us, at the time, actually understood that to an extent, positives on a serology tests can be a good thing. YES! A good thing! One benefit of living in a pandemic for a year, we came to understand the vocabulary of infectious agents a lot more. Until I became fully vaccinated in April, I bore the badge of honor of having Covid-19 antibodies from my illness in January. Having those antibodies allowed me to live with less fear of a really severe case. Still, many of us were baffled how our reports could have so many positives when we didn’t bring in new rats from untested sources. Until getting more information from the scientists involved with these agents, we didn’t translate that our healthy rat colonies having these antibodies showed we had very strong immune systems in our lines.
One fear of a rat breeder is to get the dreaded SDAV positive (of course, getting positives for any agent that can cross to humans are the ULTIMATE dread). We knew of a lot of breeders currently going through an SDAV outbreak – many of whom lost significant numbers of rats. During the course of getting a testing education project off the ground, the breeding community was made aware of a case of a breeder knowingly selling infected rats (causing a lot of die off) to other breeders. The handful of breeders came together to raise awareness of health testing in rats and to lessen the stress and anxiety around the test results.
As a pet owner, most of you strive to make sure your fur babies come from ethical sources. One of our adopters who runs her own YouTube channel made a video of her horrors in the past with her pet rats (How to Pick a Good Breeder). On top of good husbandry and breeding practices, a good breeder should be doing yearly health testing. They should be able to fully answer any question an adopter has about potential illnesses and be able to coach through quarantine periods. While we are not vets ourselves, we should be able to significantly reduce the likelihood you, your new fur babies, and your existing fur babies will get sick – or worse die.
So, through hours of video conferences, emails conversations, chat sessions, etc. Evolution Rattery, Standing Stones Rattery, and I came together with Charles River Laboratories to make a quick guide for breeders (and one for you pet owners) to help educate on health testing. This project has grown and morphed into a developing website at http://rattesting.org. We hope this website and these efforts help all breeders become more educated and responsible – building stronger rat immune systems and better pets for us all.
You can find all my test results publicly posted (with any supporting/follow up information as needed) on my website at https://oakgroverattery.com/tests/. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!