My rat has developed dark spots at the base of her whiskers, her front claws seem to be dark too.

They look like they might be dried blood, but I'd have expected her to have cleaned herself.

Has anyone else seen this?


Definitely as Piper suggested. It's around her eyes now.

porphyrn around eyes

  • 1
    Could you post a picture? It may be dried dirt/food.
    – Piper
    Jun 29, 2016 at 0:21
  • @Piper it has gone away now, don't know what it is but she has lost weight over the last month so it could be related to age and her simply approaching the end of her days.
    – BanksySan
    Jul 4, 2016 at 12:48
  • Possibly. How old is she? If she's losing weight and feeling her age, it may have been porphyryn, which is normal when they're feeling rough. I'd suggest keeping an eye on her for other illness/tumors though, just in case.
    – Piper
    Jul 4, 2016 at 17:52
  • @Piper She's about 18 months, but has suddenly lost a lot f weight and isn't responsive. She doesn't come and say hello any more. She's albino, I think they have short lives. She's looking very old, but she's my first rat so I don't have any prior experience
    – BanksySan
    Jul 4, 2016 at 20:40
  • Sounds like she is feeling her age. It's possible she has internal tumors because rats are very prone to them sadly :( she lives alone? She may well be depressed; rats are highly social animals and need to be kept in at least pairs.
    – Piper
    Jul 4, 2016 at 20:41

1 Answer 1


This answer is part of Pet's Spring Cleaning Campaign. This question is old, but this answer will still help people with the same problem.

Rats (among other animals) have a Harderian gland at their eyes that excretes porphyrin - a chemical compound very close to hemoglobin, the compound responsible for the red color of our blood.

If the rat is stressed, ill, in pain or malnourished, this gland excretes more porphyrin, which can be visible as red tears, a brownish black crust around the eyes nostrils or the hands (since rats rub their hands over their faces while grooming).

This article Those red tears: porphyrin and the Norway rat lists possible causes for excess porphyrin production. In addition to acute pain and stress, these are:

A number of diseases are also associated with the overproduction of porphyrin, such as corynebacterium, mycoplasmosis, salmonellosis, and sialodacryoadenitis (SDA) (USF Div. Comp. Med. PDF ref). Dietary deficiencies may cause porphyrin overproduction as well (Sakai 1981).

These lists are not comprehensive, but rather go to show that porphyrin overproduction is a non-specific response to stress, pain, disease, or poor diet.

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