How can I tell if my rat is in pain or ill?

What if he is dying and suffering!?

WARNING - Graphic Details on Euthanization

The rat stands still, often its eyes are mostly closed and its hair stands on end. It may squeak if you touch it. It may even try to nip if you try to pick it up. It will tend to avoid or fight off contact from other rats and want to be by itself. Excessive sneezing, wheezing and coughing are signs of illness. Seek advice from a vet if unsure.

See also:
My rat sneezes. Should I treat him?
My rat makes a rasping noise when breathing. Is he dying?

If you KNOW the rat is sick and know, for whatever reason there is no chance for it, you may be faced with the hard choice of putting your pet down in a humane manner. If you cannot afford to have a vet do it or there is no vet available, then you may be faced with doing the task yourself, as often is the case with owners of small animals such as hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, etc. If you also own reptiles, then you certainly have your own natural methods, but with many pocket pet owners, its not so easy. Below is likely the least traumatic method for both owner and pet..

Home Euthanization Methods


One home method which would work and likely be satisfactory to local humane groups, etc. is thus: Take a large, 5 gal plastic bucket, place a chunk of dry ice in the bottom, place bricks on each side that are slightly taller then the piece of dry ice on which you will place a piece of wire mesh/screen so the rodent doesn't actually come in contact with the dry ice..Place rodent on screen and cover bucket..Wait 10-15 minutes..Remove dead rodent.
This is a sort of poor-mans CO2 chamber.

Other methods include:

Neck dislocation - Fast death, suffering reduced. Often done with rabbits and chickens in commercial farms. Must be taught by someone who knows what they are doing to be effective. With mice and small rats, it can be done by placing fingers behind the skull and making a hard snapping of the fingers, but unless someone who knows how is showing you how, its not a good idea to try it on your own.
Drowning - Slow and painful suffocation. Not recommended.
Electrocution - Fast, but may prove dangerous to the person doing it and thus not recommended for the normal small pet owner.
Lethal Injection - ONLY done by vets. Expensive and not always fast if they miss the heart with the needle. If done wrong, will increase the suffering of the animal. (do not use body for reptile food)
Rat Poison - Often painful and slow, even with newer poisons. NOT recommended! (do NOT use body for reptile food for obvious reasons!)
High speed impact - Fast death, little or no suffering as when done right, as they never see it coming, but sometimes messy. There are two ways. One which you use a pillow case or other cloth bag, placing animal inside, then closing and swinging the bag into a hard surface. Concrete floors are best, not soft woods or rug covered surfaces. When done right, there is not even any twitching. Should not be done on large rats or other rodents over 1 lb. in size since it is most effective with small animals.
Second is ONLY effective on mice and is where the mouse is grabbed by the base of the tail and a hard wrist flick with the mouses head aimed at a brick or other hard surface or object. DO NOT USE SECOND METHOD ON RATS OR RODENTS OVER 4 oz. in size.