Being a “rattie parent” can be worrisome when your little ones are doing things like sneezing. My goal with this article is to take away your confusion, so that you’ll feel better and your rat will be okay.
Below are the things that can cause your rat to sneeze:
This very common and incurable respiratory disease among rats may flare up throughout the rat’s life. Symptoms include sneezing, wheezing and, in advanced cases, gasping for air. Sores may sometimes develop on lung tissue, making it hard for the rat to breathe. While humans are capable of catching mycoplasmia from other humans, we cannot catch it from rats, and vice versa.
There’s good news though. As long as their immune system is not compromised, most rats with mycoplasmia can live long and active lives, despite the outward symptoms. The key is feeding them a vitamin-rich diet (especially vitamins A and E) and taking extra precautions to avoid exposing them to dust, smoke, drafts and bacteria.
If your pet rat gets “Myco flare-ups,” she may need to get treated with medication such as Vibramycin, the brand name Doxycycline or the generic brand, Baytril. These medicines will suppress symptoms and prevent the development of scarred lung tissue.
The main difference between mycoplasmia and pneumonia is that the former produces symptoms of dry loud breathing that will come and go, while the latter manifests itself with a wet, congested, raspy wheeze and a runny nose. Porphyrin may be excreted from the rat’s nasal passage and fluid may collect in her lungs. Babies that are infected may not show any symptoms until a few months later.
Pneumonia is highly contagious to any other rat within sneezing distance, so you should immediate quarantine the afflicted rat until you can get him to a vet.
One treatment of pneumonia involves the drugs Baytril, Doxycycline, and a machine called a nebulizer. The drugs are administered in the form of a vapor several times a day.
Colds or Allergies
In the event that you need to take your little one to the veterinarian to have her treated for a respiratory ailment, you may decide to administer a tiny amount of over-the-counter cold or allergy medicine.
Also, if your vet approves of the idea, you may try to treat your rat on your own this way over the course of several days. However, you need to be careful about doing this as you don’t want to use something that may cause more harm than good. Also, if her condition should worsen, take her to a vet right away.
Here are some general guidelines:
Use children’s liquid medicines, not adult formulas.
Administer the medicine as often as you would for a child; however, make them extremely tiny doses (0.10 cc. for an adult, and less than half that for a baby).
Use cough decongestant or expectorant medicine, not suppressant.
Avoid formulas containing alcohol.
How to minimize respiratory illnesses and symptoms, in general:
Keep the air moist. Counteract the drying effect of heaters and air conditioners by adding to the room tiny water fountains, plants and even jars of water.
Humidifiers and vaporizers work nicely to keep the air moisture-rich; but avoid keeping them too close to your rats’ cage (at least 4 feet away).
In an emergency, you can take your rat into a closed bathroom with a hot shower running. Don’t take her too close to the water. Just let her breathe the steam for 5-15 minutes. It helps loosen up the mucus stuck inside their lungs.
Make sure your rattie has proper bedding.
Sudden sneezing may be due to an allergic reaction to a change in bedding, food, soap, or to their surroundings in general.
A cold, tiny block of baker’s chocolate has been known to ease symptoms of respiratory distress.
Colin Patterson is the developer of the Pet Rat Guide and is a noted expert on pet rats. His website is http://www.petratguide.com – which provides tips on what to do when your pet rat sneezes as well as other rat health information.