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Rat Terriers: Everything You Need to Know

rat terrier

If you’re looking for an in-home companion that’s full of energy, makes a great cuddle companion, and has the instincts of a tenacious hunter, look no further than the Rat Terrier. These spunky little dogs are smart, love attention, are playful and full of personality.

Rat Terrier History

The Rat Terrier breed resulted from a crossing of the Manchester Terrier and the Smooth Fox Terrier in Great Britain in the early 1820s. The breed made its way to the United States in the 1890s, where it became quite popular.

American breeders further modified the breed by crossing in the Whippet and the Beagle. They did this to bring in more bulkiness, stronger hunting instincts, and the speed and agility of the Whippet. They also wanted to bring in the red color of the Beagle, along with blue and brindle colors.

Rat Terriers have several variations within the breed. The smallest type of Rat Terrier got its name from President Theodore Roosevelt. Crossing the Smooth Fox Terrier with the Chihuahua gave us the short and stocky Teddy Roosevelt Terrier.

These hard-working, hearty dogs became the go-to breed on farms to rid the place of pests, such as rats. They were so good at eliminating rat problems, they gained the name ‘Rat Terrier.’

Rat Terrier Characteristics

While each dog has his/her own personality, there are some general traits that all Rat Terriers tend to share.

  • intelligent
  • eager to please
  • playful, fun-loving, love to dig!
  • fairly low maintenance
  • very easy to groom
  • great with kids and other pets
  • athletic, agile
  • easiest to train of any terrier breed, although can be stubborn and strong-willed
  • adapts well to living in an apartment
  • low barking tendency
  • moderate shedding
  • not well suited for colder climates

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of a Rat Terrier is the ears. They are triangular and stand up straight when the dog is alert. The tail will vary in length among these dogs. Rat Terriers, or RTs, are usually a muscular, physically compact dog with a multicolored coat.

All Rat Terriers are short-haired with a smooth coat. RTs can have a variety of coat patterns and sport a selection of colors. They may show large or small patches of the following colors:

  • blue
  • fawn
  • black
  • chocolate
  • fawn
  • red
  • apricot
  • lemon

A tri-spotted Rat Terrier is one with three colors in its coat.

Standing anywhere from ten inches (Miniature) to eighteen inches (Standard), these muscular dogs can weigh between ten to twenty-five pounds. A robust breed, their life expectancy ranges from fifteen to eighteen years.

Temperament

Rat Terriers are loyal, active, playful, family-oriented dogs. They usually get along quite well with other dogs and cats in the home but will often be wary of strangers. They are generally good with children and easy to train, including house-training.

Exercise

Because they are so high energy, Rat Terriers need at least thirty minutes of daily exercise. This can be a walk with his/her human, a romp in the dog park or play time in your own fenced backyard. Rat Terriers love to play, and can find a way to do so with just about anything. From canine sports to interactive dog toys to automatic fetch machines, activities such as these can hold your RT’s attention for quite some time. Your RT should be on a leash when out in public, as their instinct to chase other animals often gets the better of them.

Nutrition

Because they are such an active breed, a Rat Terrier needs dog food that’s complete and balanced nutritionally for a dog his/her age. Grain-free dog food or wet dog food suits many Rat Terriers, but a high-quality, commercially available dry dog food should be sufficient. RTs need a good supply of protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Make certain your RT has access to plenty of clean, fresh water.

How Much Do Rat Terriers Cost?

There is no standard cost for Rat Terriers. Not all RTs fetch the same price because some are of champion stock, while others are common family pets. In general, Rat Terrier prices range from $5 to as high as $1,100. The national average price for a registered Rat Terrier is around $350 to $400.

Then there is the cost of owning your Rat Terrier fur baby. Annual estimates on costs for routine needs, keeping in mind that RTs have a life span of up to eighteen years, fall in the following ranges:

  • food: $200 – $750
  • vaccines: $10 – $100
  • vet bills: $50 – $400
  • flea control: $20 – $200
  • heartworm: $50 – $100
  • grooming: $25 – $400

If you have your RT professionally trained, the cost could run as high as $1,000. Fencing for your yard would be a one-time cost, but can run into the thousands of dollars.

Common Health Issues

Because they are small dogs, Rat Terriers are prone to dental problems, such as misaligned teeth and plaque buildup, and luxating patella, commonly known as “bad knees.” Generally, however, the Rat Terrier is a sturdy dog who doesn’t suffer a lot of primary health conditions.

Some of the common health issues your Rat Terrier may face include the following:

  • Allergies. These may be allergies to anything, from grass to food. Some environmental allergies, such as pollen, may be seasonal. Your pet’s allergies are easily managed with veterinary oversight.
  • Malocclusion. This means misaligned jaws. This doesn’t usually impact the dog’s health but it can affect his/her appearance, giving the dog an under- or overbite. Teeth that are out of alignment may cause irritation to the roof of the mouth or to the tongue. If this is the case, removal of some teeth may be necessary.
  • Patellar luxation. Slippage of the kneecap is a common complaint in small dogs. It can cause pain and limping, which leads to decreased activity. Surgery can correct most cases.
  • Weight control. When these active dogs are overfed and don’t get adequate exercise to compensate, they can easily gain weight. This brings on all the problems associated with increased weight, such as joint pain, limited mobility, and diabetes.
  • Diseases of the teeth and gums. Dental problems in Rat Terriers can lead to infections in the bloodstream and other illnesses. Regular dental care at home can prevent these difficulties.
  • Legg-Perthes Syndrome: This degenerative disease affects the head of the femur, which causes walking difficulties and pain. Surgery can effectively treat this condition.

RTs inherit some of their common problems but most health issues are preventable through proper care, diet, exercise and routine veterinary oversight.

Conditions with Cost of Treatment

With a life span of fifteen to eighteen years, your Rat Terrier could face some health conditions with a wide range of costs. While not all RTs face these conditions, some do. Here’s a list of a few possible problems your fur baby may face, and the average cost range for treatment:

  • Broken bones $200 – $5,000
  • Canine cancer $5,000 – $20,000
  • Entropion $300 – $1,500
  • Epilepsy $200 – $15,000
  • Foreign body ingestion $500 – $5,000
  • Hip Dysplasia $4,000 – $6,000
  • Patellar Luxation $1,500 – $3,000
  • Torn ligaments $3,000 – $6,000

While some of the costs listed may seem prohibitive, there’s a simple solution: pet insurance.

Key Coverage to Consider

Pets get injured and find themselves in trouble all the time: it’s a simple fact of life. Pet insurance helps cover the costs when these unexpected events occur. Unfortunately, pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. So it’s best to get your pet covered when he/she is young and healthy.

Most pet insurance packages will meet the basic needs of your pet and your own financial needs. Just as with human insurance packages, you can usually choose what coverage you want, the amount of deductible you’re willing to pay, and mold your policy to fit into your monthly budget.

There are generally four different kinds of coverage that you can tailor to fit what you want in a pet insurance policy.

  • coverage for illness, such as allergic reactions
  • wellness coverage, which takes care of those unexpected costs. There is usually a great deal of flexibility in this type of coverage, making it easily tailored to your specifications.
  • accidental injury and death coverage
  • help hotlines or access to telephone support for those times when you aren’t certain your pet needs a vet trip.

It pays to check before purchasing pet insurance to make certain your vet’s office accepts it.

Choosing Pet Insurance

When you’re ready to investigate pet insurance, the first thing you’ll need to do is get quotes from reputable insurance providers. You’ll want to compare quotes from the top providers of health care coverage for your pets.

Here are some of the best pet insurance providers, in no particular order:

  • ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
  • Embrace Pet Insurance
  • FIGO Pet Insurance
  • Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation
  • Nationwide
  • Petplan
  • Pets Best Pet Health Insurance
  • Trupanion medical insurance for your pet

Different plans rate each dog breed to determine the average monthly cost for pet insurance. The following examples of monthly costs are average price estimations of accident and illness plans for a grown dog.

  • Dachshund $50 per month
  • Golden Retriever $46 per month
  • Labrador Retriever $44 per month
  • Mixed Breed dog $38 per month
  • Yorkshire Terrier $38 per month

The above cost estimates assume a $250 deductible and a 90 percent reimbursement rate.

The Bottom Line

Your fur baby is an individual; a one-of-a-kind spirit that’s a part of your family. Just as you protect the other members of your family with insurance, so your pet needs protection against injury and illness. Do your homework when assessing which pet insurance provider is best for you. Evaluate your options and compare prices and benefits offered.

You can get quotes from the best insurance providers here.

 

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