If you’re a rat parent (or have any experience with them), you know they make some funny noises. But what if your rat sounds sick? Do you know if the noises they make are a potential health problem? It’s honestly super critical for you to know what the differences are between how your rat’s sounding.
Rattling sounds like just that… baby rattles. Or someone with severe chest congestion. It’s a really serious condition in your rat, and a sign of advanced lung disease or respiratory infection. If your rat is rattling, they need to be moved to a dust and pollution free environment. Also, you need to get to your exotic vet ASAP… they’re going to need immediate antibiotics to treat successfully. Your pet rat sounds sick because they are.
Wheezing in rats sounds similar to wheezing in humans; it’s a whistling noise in the breathing. While wheezing often does happen when your rat is rattling, they don’t always go together.
This noise is usually a symptom of a new respiratory infection, or sometimes it can be linked to a mycoplasma flare. Mycoplasma infection can be mild or serious, so know when to lean on antibiotics (but only when they’re completely necessary… you don’t want your rat to develop and antibiotic resistance). Rats can manage this condition on their own; let the immune system do the work. But if it lasts longer than a few days and things are getting worse, it’s time to head to your vet. But, as always, if you’re not comfortable at any stage, or feel that something’s off, go in ASAP.
So many things can cause your rat to sneeze (and it sounds like a high-pitched “pcht!” What can cause a little rat achoo?
- New Pets
- New Scents
- Seasons changing
Basically anything that can cause a human to sneeze. However, in rats, a sneeze often comes with porphyrin, a parent compound that gives rise to bloody colored secretions. A little porphyrin pertains to irritation, but if there’s a buildup, it’s usually a sign of a serious lung infection (urinary infection, mycoplasma infection, ear infection, or advanced pyometra). If it’s a minor bacterial infection, no treatment is usually required and most rat parents don’t know that they’ve ever even been sick. However, some illnesses can be super serious and the likelihood of recovery is slim if proper testing isn’t done. Go to your vet.
CAUSED BY ILLNESS
Look for continuous sneezing (which is often accompanied with other symptoms: lack of appetite, change in activity, discharge from nose and/or eyes, rattling). If you hear lots of sneezing happening and notice changes in behavior or physical appearance, you need to get to your vet so they can help diagnose the problem... your rat probably sounds sick because they are.
CAUSED BY ALLERGIES
When rats have allergies, they’re probably going to sneeze. A lot. Think of if there’s anything you’ve recently changed. Bedding? Food? The new introduction of anything physical could definitely be the culprit.
Eliminate items from the environment that you think could be causing the allergy and replace with 100% hypoallergenic products.
CAUSED BY SCENTS
It’s extremely common for new scents to trigger sneezing. New animals, any type of air freshener, oil warmers, diffusers, candles, incense, wax melts, etc… they all have the ability to induce sneezing. Introduce new scents with caution. We don’t recommend air fresheners or diffusers to be used around rats because their respiratory systems are pretty frail, and because of this, adverse reactions are increased.
Did you know that the majority of rats actually don’t really cough because they just need to? The cough usually stems from shortness of breath or breathing that’s labored. Get them to your veterinarian for antibiotics… they’re saying “please.”
Rats can develop a cough if they’re choking (similar to their human parents). Trigger tickle, anyone? If they’re eating too fast, it’s actually not uncommon. In these instances, they’re usually capable of clearing the choke before we even know what happened.
Personally, I usually don’t get the hiccups right after waking up, but it’s common in rats because they’re putting in extra effort into preparing for daily activities… really the heart and the lungs. (I usually prepare for daily activities by pressing the snooze button ten (or more) times.) But anyway.
Rats can produce a sound that’s really close to what a hiccup sounds like when they’re dealing with breathing issues, too. But if this the issue, it’s likely a respiratory infection and not a hiccup. Go see your vet. The correct diagnosis is the absolute first step to managing an illness or any type of condition. Just like with you. And with me.
Did you read how many times I wrote "go see your vet" in this article? If nothing else, that's the take away. Your rat's gonna make different noises. And different things can cause those noises. But if you're ever uncomfortable with one...if your rat sounds super sick (or even just a little sick), your vet's gonna be your best friend. And give you the peace of mind you need. And give your rat the help they deserve.
Interested in learning more about rats? Check out these blogs!
Is Trust Training a Rat Possible?
Wanna Make Your Rat Healthier? Here Are 5 Things You Should Do.