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Pet Rats/chirping sound

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QUESTION: Hi,
I am currently caring for two rats who are about six months old. One of them started making a chirping noise over christmas (they were probably a little stressed staying in a new place, and I think the air was quite dry), and I was pretty sure it was the start of a myco flare up/uri. I took him to the vet's a few weeks ago, after observing to see if the chirping sounds would continue (12th of january) expecting to get some antibiotics to deal with it quickly, but the vet advised that rats are sensitive and antibiotics may well be unnecessary, saying that I should keep an eye on it to see if it gets any worse.
The chirping has persisted to this point though, and can be fairly bad some nights. On those occasions I provide a little cocoa powder mixed with yoghurt to ease it. It's happening about two times a day (I'm keeping a journal now) and for longer periods of time than at first. There are no other symptoms though, his behaviour is consistant and he seems perfectly healthy aside from the chirping episodes.
What I was wondering is how soon do you think I should go back to the vets for antibiotics? I don't want to leave it too long, but nor do I want to spend loads of money on vet appointments without being given any treatment, or give him antibiotics unnecessarily. I was also wondering if you could advise what antibiotics would be best for this situation (if you think he needs them)? While the vet has experience with rats, I'm not sure he's necessarily an expert on them.
Thanks,
Skye

ANSWER: Hi Skye,
So do these chirping episodes only last a few minutes? And he looks like he is having hiccups? They sound like sneezing jags caused by mycoplasma. If he is only doing it a couple times a day it is probably not necessary to treat him. If they start becoming more common, then it would be a good idea to treat him with doxcycline for a minimum of 6 weeks.

You'll find more info in the Respiratory Disease article on my website at www.ratfanclub.org
Deb

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Deb, thanks for your quick response.
Yeah, they only last a few minutes. He doesn't look like he's hiccuping though - there don't seem to be any convulsions that I've noticed (which have seen with hiccups), just some rapid breathing with chirping sounds, sounding a tad congested I suppose, followed often by a sneeze or two.
Is there anything more I can do in the mean time to keep it from getting worse? Currently I'm cleaning the cage out every other day with baking soda, seiving the carefresh bedding (intend to replace with back2nature), monitoring temp and humidity, and ensuring they get fresh food every day as well as their blocks.
Thanks for the antibiotics suggestion, I'll be sure to remember that if/when he needs to go to the vet for it.

Thanks again,
Skye

Answer
There is a company that sells a supplement called Booster that some people claim helps with myco symptoms. See it at http://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/products/avix.html It is mostly red palm oil that is solid at room temperature. You can offer a tiny bit on a toothpick to your rats daily.
Deb

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Debbie Ducommun

Expertise

I can answer any questions about pet rats, but you will probably be able find answers to simple questions more quickly on my website at www.ratfanclub.org/helpfinfo.html. If you have a life-threatening emergency you can try calling me at 530-899-0605. I am not usually on the computer on the weekend.

Experience

I have been "The Rat Lady" since 1985 and am recognized as one of the world's experts on pet rats. I have 3 published books and already answer lots of questions about rats daily.

Organizations
President of Rat Assistance & Teaching Society

Publications
I am a monthly columnist for Pet Business magazine, and my writing has appeared in other magazines. I have 3 published books.

Education/Credentials
BA in Animal Behavior

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