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[Causes & Solution] Why Does My Pet Rat Keep Sneezing?

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Fancy rats are adorable, intelligent, and super-friendly pets. They love to stay clean and groomed, love human companionship, and are smart entertainers. However, sneezing among pet rats is something that stops many pet lovers from adopting them. Before jumping to any conclusion, let us clear the cloud of confusion for you.

So, why does your pet rat keep sneezing? Due to having a very sensitive respiratory system, rats can not tolerate any strong smell or mild cold and start sneezing. Many different factors like aromatic wooden rat beddings, strong chemical cage and rat accessory cleaners, frequent shifting in the living spaces, room fresheners or incense smoke, seasonal changes, and cold might be responsible for excessive sneezing among pet rats. 

So, if you observe any abnormal sneezing patterns in your pet rat, it is time to visit a licensed and experienced rodent veterinarian. 

In this article, we will have an in-depth discussion about sneezing in rats and evaluate the contributing factors and medical cures for the same. Read on to develop a thorough understanding of respiratory care for your pet rat.

Types Of Sneezing Among Rats

Any experienced pet rat owner knows that these little fur babies are expert noisemakers! They create different noises which are quite funny to hear. However, not any of this noise is caused by sneezing

The sneeze and sounds our pet rats make convey a lot about their healthcare needs. As responsible pet parents, we have to understand each of these and identify if our pet friends need any immediate professional attention.

There are quite a few things that affect the super-sensitive respiratory tract in rats. Here is a list to help you understand the noises pet rats make and what each of them means:

Coughing: As a pet rat parent, you must have noticed how fast these babies eat, play or get into any action. Speed is their inbuilt nature, however, this same quality can cause them illness. While fast chewing or eating any favorite food or traits, rats can choke themselves.

Coughing in pet rats is caused mainly due to choking. However, coughing also occurs due to fast and incomplete breathing patterns. If you find your rat labor breathing, it is time to immediately seek veterinary help.

  • Rattle: Rattling produced by pet rats sounds like a kid breathing with heavy congestion in his/her lungs. This is a serious health condition caused due to cold or any other sensitive respiratory irritation. If your furry friend is producing rattling sounds, please give them your immediate attention and take them to a good vet. 

Their lungs and respiratory system need instantaneous care of the right antibiotics or other necessary medicines. If your vet is unavailable, make sure to remove any dust bedding from the rat cage (if any) and try shifting them to a pollution-free space. 

  • Wheeze: Whistling sounds that are produced while breathing is known as wheezing. Wheezing is common in all animals and we as humans have wheezed at some point or the other due to cold. The situation is similar in rats too. 

Wheezing in rats can be caused during ratting or due to the growth of any new bacteria or virus in the respiratory tract. Mycoplasma is a common disease that causes wheezing among rats. This infection can be mild as well as strong. You do not need to worry if your pet rat is wheezing lightly. Rats have an immune system buildup to fight mycoplasma during the initial stages. However, if you find nonstop wheezing for more than two to three days, consult your doctor for immediate care. 

  • Sneeze: Anything that causes us, humans, to sneeze can also cause your pet rat to sneeze as well. Strong scents, seasonal changes, colds, allergies, and viral attacks are some common causes that contribute to sneezing among rats. 

Porphyrin is a parent compound that pet rats secrete while sneezing. Porphyrin is red which makes it look like blood oozing out of their nose and genitals. These signs scare many rat parents. However, your fur babies are already equipped with immunity to fight any mild sneezing factors. However, again if you observe any major difficulty with your rats, go to a vet as soon as possible. 

Change in the physical appearance of your pet friend while sneezing is also a sign of chronic respiratory illness. You can look for signs like redness in the eyes, lethargy, and inactive behavior to confirm the seriousness of their health. 

  • Hiccup: There is not much problem with pet rats having a hiccup. Rats make the hiccup sound right after they wake up. Rats are small animals and it takes enough energy for them to wake up from sleep and get active.

There is nothing wrong with hiccups until your pet friends get too much of them frequently. By now you know exactly what to do in such situations. 

Rat sneezing is natural and there is nothing wrong until your pet shows some daunting signs of sickness. If you find anything doubtful, it is always better to visit a vet.

As a loving pet parent, it is easy to get concerned about any illness your pet baby develops. However, educating yourself about the basics of sounds that these rats produce can save you from unnecessary stressing. 

Causes Of Respiratory Infection In Pet Rats

Countless factors are contributing to the rise of respiratory illness among pet rats. These factors are sometimes inbuilt and mostly because of external bacteria, viruses, or chemical inhalation. [Source: NCBI]


  •  Mycoplasma Pulmonis :

To begin with, the main and most determining factor of respiratory illness in pet rats is because of an organism called Mycoplasma Pulmonis. This organism also causes genital infections in pets. 

This mycoplasma can easily transfer from a mother rat to her babies or from one cage mate to another. Besides being an existing resident in the respiratory tract of most pet rats, this organism also triggers mild external respiratory factors like chemical smell, aerosols, and other strong scents. 

One of the common external factors that affect easy breathing among rats is an unclean cage. Rat urine and faeces have a high concentration of ammonia, if urination and solid ratty wastes are not removed daily, toxicity from ammonia can result in death among pet rats as well.

Cilia are fine hair-like structures that line up the respiratory tract in rats. These projections coming out of cells are covered by a liquid called mucous. Mucous helps by trapping any dust or dirt that tries to enter the lungs. 

However, the strong toxic ammonia when inhaled by rats burns the cilia, thus affecting the mucous membrane. Dirt and dust thus get in easily while breathing and affects the lungs of our pet rats severely. Daily cleaning the cage of solid ratty wastes daily is thus very crucial in pet rat care. 

Symptoms of Mycoplasma Pulmonis in rats:

CauseMycoplasma Pulmonis
   Symptoms:Sneezing, labored breathing, hunched back, redness in and around eyes, Porphyrin secretion from mouth, nose, and genitals, weird ratty sounds due to breathing.

As a rat parent, it is crucial to be observant of all the symptoms your rat is showing to speak up about their illness. There is no permanent cure for this form of respiratory infection. Only with healthy food habits, clean living space, and a strong immune system, our little fur babies can fight this challenging Mycoplasma disease.

  •  Cilia-associated Respiratory Bacillus (CAR) Infection:

CAR infection in pet rats is another form of chronic disease identified in obese mice and rats. This specific disease is common mostly in laboratory rats. However, there is evidence of these bacterial respiratory infections in pet and wild rats as well. 

CAR bacterias take a considerable amount of time to mature in the respiratory tracts of our pet rats. To be definite, these bacteria parasitize the epithelial surface inside the respiratory lining in rats. Eustachian tubes and middle ears are also some areas where the CAR affects.  

However, the disease can be controlled using medical help but the bacteria are not completely curable. Licensed rat physicians prescribe serum antibodies to eliminate the bacteria from the infected area. 


  • Sendai Virus:

Sendai virus is a respiratory virus that targets all small pets like mice, rats and hamsters. This is specifically a type 1 paramyxovirus and transmits through direct contact or aerosols, as reported by medical researchers. 

The Sendai virus attacks pet rats during seasonal changes and shows mild symptoms. Though this virus can be deadly among rats, there are external factors that determine the seriousness of Sendai. 

Genetic patterns, quality of the immune system in rats, age, and pathogenic presence are the few factors that decide the severity caused due to this virus. 

Pregnant rats, weaning babies and old-aged rats have high risks when triggered by the Sendai Virus. Pets rats with low protein content in their body are also prone to be affected by Sendai Virus.

Signs like grey-purple patchy lungs, mild patchy pneumonitis, necrotizing rhinitis, laryngitis, and tracheitis confirm the effects of the Sendai Virus in your pet rat. 

If you notice any weird and uncommon sound produced by your pet rat, it could be a sign to take them for a vet check-up. Usually, rats are immune to the fighting triggers of the Sendai. But, additional medical help surely makes the healing process easier for our little fur babies.

  • Coronavirus in Rats:

Parker’s rat coronavirus (RCV) in rats is the most common viral infection that affects the respiratory tracts in rats. Similar to that of the Sendai Virus, coronaviruses in rats are also transmitted by aerosols and direct contact.

Age, immunity boost, and genetic factors decide the severity of the effects and it varies from one rat to another. Enzootic infections show mild symptoms like light conjunctivitis among baby rats. However, the scenario is different in the case of strong coronavirus attacks.

Cervical swelling, conjunctivitis, porphyrin discharge from eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals, Ketarities are some major signs that show a rat is highly infected by the coronavirus. 

Medical reports have shown that coronavirus is not deadly if our pet rat has a strong immune system and is not triggered by any other internal disease. However, the same has a high morbidity rate.

The Coronavirus when it attacks a pet rat causes tracheitis, rhinitis, respiratory tract lesions, and eye lesions as well. Bronchitis, bronchiolitis, laryngitis, and patchy pneumonitis along with other inflammatory responses are also major signals that your vet will know if a rat is affected by corona. 

It is only with ample dedicated health care, love, immunity-boosting food habits, medical help, and proper cleaning of the cage by responsible pet parents that can help rats live a healthy, hygienic life without much interruption by licensed rats physicians. 

External Influences Causing Infection

Apart from these bacterial and viral contributors, several other influences cause severe respiratory illness among pet rats. Have a thorough read on the list below to learn details about the major influences that cause respiratory illness in your beloved pets.

  • Dusty Bedding: The kind of bedding you arrange for your pet rats should be carefully planned. Dust-packed readymade beddings can cause lung disorders as wood dust when inhaled can block the respiratory tract in rats.
  • Room Fresheners: Using room fresheners to eliminate any ratty smell can have adverse effects on our pets. The smell-sensitive rodents get triggered by strong scents no matter how much our noses love the fragrance of our rooms. 
  • Essential oils: Many pet parents inquire about using essential oils because of their natural healing and aromatic properties. However, though natural these essential oils should also be strictly avoided around pet rats as the aroma will trigger their sensitive noses again.
  • Strong Chemical Cleaners: Chemical cage cleaners that many pet rat owners use to clean their rat cages are also harmful to these little rodents. It is better to use a natural soapy water solution to clean rat cages.

So, as we can see there are multiple factors for which our pet rats may develop mild to chronic sneezing disorders. It is our responsibility to have a close eye on their behavior and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Signs Of Respiratory Infection In Pet Rats

As humans or any other animals, illness in pet rats can be identified by certain signs and symptoms. Pet parents must educate themselves with the basic knowledge of identifying and understanding these signs to assist their pet babies with the much-needed healthcare attention. 

Respiratory infection in pet rats display signs as:

  • Redness in and around eyes.
  • Puffy eyes in rats.
  • Porphyria discharge through nose, mouth, and genitals. (the red color of Porphyria may appear as blood, but it is not.)
  • Sudden and severe weight loss.
  • Irregular food consumption, rejecting their favorite treats, less to no water intake.
  • In-active behavior, zoning out from other cage mates(if any). 
  • Shortened breathing or labored breathing.
  • Frequent honking, sneezing, rattling sounds for more than three to four days.

If your pet friend is showing any of these above-mentioned symptoms, visit the vet immediately. Mostly, chronic respiratory diseases are untreatable, but if sneezing is due to mild sickness, it is curable with antibiotics and other medical attention. [Source: Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital]

How to Treat Respiratory Infection Or Sneezing In Rats

Health treatment in pet rats is very difficult as reported by most veterans and licensed rat physicians. Their small bodies are very fragile. Though these little pets keep themselves highly groomed and polished all the time, the internal organs can not withstand severe bacterial or viral triggers. 

Speaking specifically about respiratory infections, it is incurable in these groups of rodent pets. The sensitive respiratory tract contains bacterias that can never be eliminated. Severe sneezing in rats is thus controllable but not curable, even with quality medical care.

Licensed physicians often seek help from a combination of drugs like antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, bronchodilators, and mucolytics to treat different stages of blockage in the respiratory tract in pet rats.  Bronchodilators and mucolytics help in supplying oxygen into the lungs and breaking any mucus buildup in the respiratory lining respectively. [Source: Unusual Pet Vets]

The table depicted below shows the name and use of some commonly used drugs for sneezing cures in pet rats.

DrugsMedical Uses and Benefits
Anti-inflammatory medicinesUsually prescribed by vets during the initial stages of mild respiratory illness, these medicines help reduce any skin or organ inflammation that is obstructing easy breathing in your pets. 
AntibioticsSome of the most commonly used antibiotics for respiratory cure in rats are  Azithromycin, Doxycycline, Enrofloxacin, and Amoxicillin-clavulanic acid.  Prescribed for bacterial lung infections, these medicines also have anti-inflammatory effects to cure severe symptoms.
Bronchodilators and Mucolytics Bronchodilators are known to widen the track through which the rats inhale air and heal shortened or labored breathing due to tract blockage.Mucolytics on the other hand break down excess mucus accumulation in any part of the respiratory pipe.
NebulizersNebulizers are known to transform drugs into vapor and then insert that directly into the rats’ respiratory tract. Nebulizers are given only as needed by our pet rats. 

Rats make very sensitive pets and they indeed require delicate care and undivided love, attention, and companionship. If you have more than one rat in a single cage and one of them is affected by some mild or chronic respiratory disease, keep a close eye on the other rats as well.

Components like age, health, immunity buildup decide if other rats are affected or not. However, if any of them shows any clinical signs, it is obvious to visit a licensed vet. 

If the physicians hint about any incurable chronic disease in your rats, it is time to keep them separated in a secondary cage. When things are out of our control, all we can do is shower our beloved fur babies with loads of love and all the care that will comfort their health.

Replacing a sawdust bedding with soft cloth bedding, cleaning the solid ratty wastes daily from the litter box, giving them timely health checkups and prescribed medicines, and showing love and cuddles are the bare minimum you can start with.

I hope this article has helped you to understand your pet rat better and identify the reason behind their sneezing. Happy Pet Rat Parenting!