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Respiratory Illness - Severity and Treatment Guide

Infrequent Sneezing - Do a dust/allergen check. Smell pee? Smell mold? See/smell dust? Remove pee, remove mold, remove dust. Some dried out leafy veggies (like alfalfa hay) make rats sneeze. Some bedding such as pine and cedar make rats sneeze (Don't use that stuff!) Sometimes dusty aspen or dusty recycled paper bedding will make rats sneeze. When in doubt, strip everything and work your way back up. Start with rat+cage+paper towels, for example, then add bedding or add that new wood decoration you just got for them.

Frequent Sneezing - Are they new? Have they moved? Has the environment somehow changed? If so, watch for 24 hours. If the sneezing does not cease or become less frequent, or if you are unable to note any possible stressors, consider making a vet appointment. If you can not do this, get Tylan from http://www.rmca.org/Merchandise/supplies.htm Cost: ~$5
Or, for an even better solution, read About Water Soluble Doxy.

Chirping or Hic-coughing - In English: When your rat is relaxed, do you see her making coughing-with-my-mouth-shut motions? If you listen closely do you hear a faint chirp-chirp-chirp sound? If so, consider making a vet appointment. If you can not do this, call Global Pigeon Supply at 1-800-562-2295 and order item #1010-104 - Doxycycline 60g. This should make the chirps go away before it gets progressively worse. Cost: ~$25 (note: 1 tsp powder per gallon of -distilled- water). See, also, About Water Soluble Doxy.

Quiet Wheezing - Breathing doesn't seem to be labored, you don't see the sides of their stomach caving in, but you hear a bit of a wheeze. I'd opt for the Doxy from Global Pigeon but Tylan may work as well. If you don't see improvement in 2-3 days from the Tylan, I'd try a stronger antibiotic.

Chicken Noises - In English: Cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck. You missed the hic-coughs. Chicken noises are bad. If you already have the Doxy on hand from Global Pigeon, treat immediately. If not, rush your rat to the vet immediately.

Fast Breathing/Chest Vibrating Rapidly - Next stage after the chicken noise. Breathing is very labored. This isn't an adrenaline rush. Treatment is needed immediately! May include chicken noises and infrequent sneezing. See your vet. See him immediately. Consider nebulization if available. Ask your vet for a bronchio-dilator, if available (ie, aminophylline). If the rat gets stressed out because of this, it can get much worse very quickly.

Sides of Stomach Caving In - Breathing is very labored. Don't walk, run, to your vet's. Air is being pulled into the rat's stomach because of a complete lack of viable lung tissue. Waiting anywhere between 1 hour and 2 days to see your vet will most likely mean the loss of your rat.

Clicking Noise - In English: Wish I knew. If you smack your tongue up against the top of your mouth, you can make a similar noise - theirs sounds more muffled and wet. It's not a cute or happy noise. It means they're really sick and haven't the energy to gasp for air. Often it also means that the infection has moved upwards into the nasal passages and throat. Run, don't walk, to your vet's. Waiting anywhere between 1 and 6 hours to see your vet will mean the loss of your rat.

Gasping for Air - Remove all possibilities of allergens. Strip housing of everything but paper towels. Give rat a sponge bath to remove any possible pee smell while calling your vet to let him know that your rat is coming over right now. May need oxygen tank to relax the rat. Bronchio-dilator is a must. Very strong, preferably injectable antibiotics are a must. If you have a nebulizer at home, go that route instead.

Note: Other signs may accompany the "rat noises" during various stages of respiratory illness. Red marks around their eyes and/or nose, lackluster appearance, unwillingness to groom, for example. Since these "signs" seem to vary and don't seem to attach themselves to one particular degree or another, I did not include them. My goal was to merely outline severity.

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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes:

    1) To entertain.
    2) To help avoid repetition of mistakes

  Remember! Your rat is not a science project, he is your friend!

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