QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
I got my two male mice two weeks ago. They were on pine chip bedding at the pet store and as soon as I got them home I housed them both in separate aquariums with brown Care fresh bedding. My mice were initially together, but the bullying got so bad. They're still doing well socially and seem to be really taking a liking to me. The bully of the two, Heisenberg, seems to be very high strung and adventurous and the other, Murphy, is playful and a bit shy. It's amazing how different their personalities are! I keep them in my bedroom with me and I know which one is awake by the way that they move and interact with their space.
What I didn't notice at the time of purchase and with some research came to realize is that the noise that they make when I hold them is a sneeze! After doing some more research, I realized that sneezing can pose serious issues in mice if not treated properly.
Just in case the issue is a dust allergy and also because I was reacting to bedding, I took them off Care Fresh and put them on a bed of paper towel and oat hay. They seem to immediately take to it so much better and in 48 hours I noticed that the frequency and audibility of the sneezing has gone down. They're also having so much more fun with this bedding.
Unfortunately though, the sneezing still persists. I may have also heard chattering sounds when holding Heisenberg, but these weren't consistent and were not very audible. In fact, I initially thought the sound was coming from my own body, as I was digesting a meal when I took him out to play! What does the chattering from a respiratory infection sound like? - I'm still very new to owning mice and am not sure what certain sounds mean. Heisenberg has chatted with me previously with his little squeaks, but these were very audible. I'm sure you can understand my beginner's confusion!
Both of the mice are extremely active, eat and drink well, and keep regular sleeping schedules (no oversleeping). Neither of them have any symptoms of discharge, audible labored breathing, or any mucus-y sounds whatsoever, just the now less frequent sneezing.
I definitely want to do what's right for my little buddies! I wouldn't be opposed to taking to the vet, though I'm not sure how much it would cost, which could pose an issue. What would you do in this situation?
Thank you so much for your time and expertise!
ANSWER: Dear Sarah,
SO SORRY FOR THE DELAY- I had no power or Internet, no phone, and even if I had gone to a pay phone to ask the other mouse expert to take over, her number is on a phone that is uncharged!! I am so glad no mice were dying. I was so worried the whole time.
Mice should make no sounds, and nor should they sneeze. It may not seem like it, but they are still pretty sick. The mice need to go to the vet to be diagnosed and almost guaranteed put on at least one antibiotic. I hope they didn't get worse during the delay.
I am so sorry I didn't get to you. I even had the notification that you had written and I was thinking of you the whole time.... this is the second thing I have done when the power went back on... the first being flushing the toilet : ))
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
Thank you for your answer! I'm sorry that the hurricane seemed to have affected you and hope that life goes back to normal soon! It seems that I may have to take Heisenberg to a vet because of his sneezing, much like you said. What's the best way to secure a small pet so that it may not get worse during the travel? It's getting cold here and I want to make sure he's not too uncomfortable for too long. I don't have a car and may have to take public transportation as well.
I'm actually quite upset with PetSmart, the vendor who sold them to me. I told them that they sold me sick pets and that their animals cannot be housed on wood chips. They said all they can do for me is for me to sell them back to PetSmart and have them try to get them better to sell back to me. This would have saved me money in the long run, but I just can't bring myself to trust a company to do the right thing after cutting expenses to begin with! I know in the future never to go through them again!
I'll be sure to follow up with vet results and photographs of my boys!
You are right not to trust Petsmart to help them heal. My guess is the little mice might not make it. Big box pet stores are often just irresponsible about mice. Of course one should try to get a mouse from a private breeder- or a rescue- like any pet- before going to a pet store, but with mice it is not easy to find private breeders.
Yes, take them to the vet. It is awkward without public transport for any animal, but mice are at least small. The best is probably a small carrier or plastic tank that is just big enough for a small mouse wheel. When mice travel they run in the wheel. It must make them feel more secure about the moving. A toilet paper roll is crucial too. And nice fluffy bedding to hide in.
If I bring my little creatures to the vet (or any trip) in the winter, I take the carrier and wrap it all around with fleece (a sweater or towel would work too), except, of course, the top. I have a flap of fleece that covers the top but that I lift as much as possible in safe locations (on the train/bus) so they can breathe. This is all in a shopping bag, which is why you need the smallest size of plastic tank. If it is quite cold, I have a hot water bottle under it- between layers. Of course that doesn't help as much for the way back unless the vet can replace the hot water for you. [ I use an ice pack in the summer]. I try to carry it in my arms rather than having the bag hang, but you have to do what works. Then the trip has to be planned as carefully as possible. If you can avoid the subway, it is best, because those awful screeches must be horrible for their ears- but if it has to be, it has to be. Obviously you don't plan any other errands on the same trip.
Many forms of public transportation do not allow pets, so just don't tell anyone, and avoid talking to the mice in front of the driver!
I am pretty sure the vet will give you antibiotics to give them twice daily. Don't tell the vet I said this, but even if the vet says less, give them the meds for at least two weeks. Have the vet demonstrate how to scruff the mouse to give it the medicine. It is not always easy. In fact it can be very hard and very frustrating. Don't give up. It is for their own good. It will be easiest if you can get flavored medication. The amoxicillin usually comes flavored, and if you get doxycycline or Baytril, they can be flavored too. Although it is almost impossible to mask the very bitter taste of doxycycline, peanut butter flavored Baytril is very tasty to mice. Although my current girl who has been sick recently still struggles as I give it to her, she licks it once I have it on her mouth.
Best of luck. The good news is, URIs (upper respiratory infections) are usually completely curable when caught in time with antibiotics.
Squeaks and good health,