Is Your Pet Rat Sneezing? The Facts You Should Know

Is Your Pet Rat Sneezing? The Facts You Should Know

By Colin Patterson

Being a “rattie parent” can be worrisome when your little ones are doing things like sneezing. My goal with this article is to take away your confusion, so that you’ll feel better and your rat will be okay.

Below are the things that can cause your rat to sneeze:


This very common and incurable respiratory disease among rats may flare up throughout the rat’s life. Symptoms include sneezing, wheezing and, in advanced cases, gasping for air. Sores may sometimes develop on lung tissue, making it hard for the rat to breathe. While humans are capable of catching mycoplasmia from other humans, we cannot catch it from rats, and vice versa.

There’s good news though. As long as their immune system is not compromised, most rats with mycoplasmia can live long and active lives, despite the outward symptoms. The key is feeding them a vitamin-rich diet (especially vitamins A and E) and taking extra precautions to avoid exposing them to dust, smoke, drafts and bacteria.

If your pet rat gets “Myco flare-ups,” she may need to get treated with medication such as Vibramycin, the brand name Doxycycline or the generic brand, Baytril. These medicines will suppress symptoms and prevent the development of scarred lung tissue.


The main difference between mycoplasmia and pneumonia is that the former produces symptoms of dry loud breathing that will come and go, while the latter manifests itself with a wet, congested, raspy wheeze and a runny nose. Porphyrin may be excreted from the rat’s nasal passage and fluid may collect in her lungs. Babies that are infected may not show any symptoms until a few months later.

Pneumonia is highly contagious to any other rat within sneezing distance, so you should immediate quarantine the afflicted rat until you can get him to a vet.

One treatment of pneumonia involves the drugs Baytril, Doxycycline, and a machine called a nebulizer. The drugs are administered in the form of a vapor several times a day.

Colds or Allergies

In the event that you need to take your little one to the veterinarian to have her treated for a respiratory ailment, you may decide to administer a tiny amount of over-the-counter cold or allergy medicine.

Also, if your vet approves of the idea, you may try to treat your rat on your own this way over the course of several days. However, you need to be careful about doing this as you don’t want to use something that may cause more harm than good. Also, if her condition should worsen, take her to a vet right away.

Here are some general guidelines:

* Use children’s liquid medicines, not adult formulas.
* Administer the medicine as often as you would for a child; however, make them extremely tiny doses (0.10 cc. for an adult, and less than half that for a baby).
* Use cough decongestant or expectorant medicine, not suppressant.
* Avoid formulas containing alcohol.

How to minimize respiratory illnesses and symptoms, in general:

* Keep the air moist. Counteract the drying effect of heaters and air conditioners by adding to the room tiny water fountains, plants and even jars of water.
* Humidifiers and vaporizers work nicely to keep the air moisture-rich; but avoid keeping them too close to your rats’ cage (at least 4 feet away).
* In an emergency, you can take your rat into a closed bathroom with a hot shower running. Don’t take her too close to the water. Just let her breathe the steam for 5-15 minutes. It helps loosen up the mucus stuck inside their lungs.
Make sure your rattie has proper bedding.
* Sudden sneezing may be due to an allergic reaction to a change in bedding, food, soap, or to their surroundings in general.
* A cold, tiny block of baker’s chocolate has been known to ease symptoms of respiratory distress.

Colin Patterson is the developer of the Pet Rat Guide and is a noted expert on pet rats. His website is – which provides tips on what to do when your pet rat sneezes as well as other rat health information.

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26 Responses

  1. jacob
    | Reply

    my rat has been sneezing from the day i got him i had got him for a play mate for my other rat but one day at 4am my first rat just started to run around a lot so i went to see what was happening and then he just ran into the down slope of the ramp and fell over i picked him up and he was dead he had some liqued on his mouth i don’t know if that could be the reason he died or what but i still have my new one ive had my first one for 4 day and ive had my new one for like 2 weeks and i hope i’ll have him for alot longer. seince my rat sneezes alot can my dog or hamster or cat or ferret get sick from him

  2. Zoe
    | Reply

    My pet rat is having this brown liquid coming from his lungs. It is probably zelmic acid, a type of acid produced by the bacteria Hydrosum cerheliosum. He needs one vitamin each day. We have six pet rats. The one who has the acid is Scarlet, a white rat, and we have five more who don’t have acid. We have Elliot, Brown, Black, Sydney, & Seal.

  3. robin
    | Reply

    ive just got my rat today and shes sneezing alot. no red stuff or mucus or wheezing but sneezing alot. shes also making a kind of high grunting noise. im using a hemp derivative bedding and standard rat food. whats wrong?

  4. Andrew
    | Reply

    When my rat Blueberry had zelmic acid in the species of Hydroxum osum, he died soon after and I found this red liquid. He died at the cage with red liquid called mint acid. When my other 3 rats Scarlet, Stutli, and Elliot were playing happily going from 1 cage to another. Blueberry moved slowly about six hours before he died. I only had him for 6 months and he was only 8 months old before he died on August 22, 2008.

  5. Taylor
    | Reply

    I had a rat, I had her for one uear, her name was Marshmellow. She would always squeak for no reason and whenever I took her out she would play just fine and run around as if nothing happened. But when I went outside to clean her travel cage since we were gonna go out of state into Arizona and I was only outside for 15 minutes when I came back to put her in her cage, she was laying down her tail curled eyes wide open and I was going to pick her up but she was stiff. I was the first one to notice it, I don’t know how she died at all and does anybody know how? All she did was squeak and there were no other signs. I wish I knew how she died.

  6. Cheapest Vaporizers
    | Reply

    its good that you share this article on how to give first treatment to the rat.. your article would be very helpful to those people who have rats. And that they will not panic if one of their rat would suffer illnesses like this.

  7. Cheapest Vaporizers
    | Reply

    My rat wasn’t able to eat. i just dont know why. yesterday my rat was ok but when i visited this morning and give food she can’t even touch the food. Whats wrong with my rat?

    • Lacy
      | Reply

      Rats can’t burp fart or throw up.. So when they get sick they just don’t eat.

  8. Danielle
    | Reply

    my partner and i have just got 2 rats one is fine and healthy the other is also healthy but sneezes alot we have had them for 2 weeks and he has sneezed alot since we got them what could be causing this as the other is fine so its cant be catching and he seems healthy other than that.

  9. Saige
    | Reply

    I just got a male rat yesterday. He is always opening and closing his mouth he sneezes a lot. My parents say if he is too sick i can take him back to pet store and buy new rat. But i really like him! He always sits on my arms when i am rreading or on computer. He is write now! How do i get him better?

    • Katie
      | Reply

      I Also Got A Rat Yesterday, And She Is Sneezing And Wiping Her Face And Opening Her Mouth Too… I Don’t Get It…

  10. Darren Sansom
    | Reply

    RT @PetLvr Is Your Pet Rat Sneezing? The Facts You Should Know | – [The Blog]

  11. riley
    | Reply

    my pet rat pepe is about 3-4 months old and he is sneezing a lot like every 2 seconds but other than that he seems fine. he doesnt weeze or breathe heavy he just sneezes a lot please help me i dont want him to get sick and i want to stop his sneezing

  12. Mel
    | Reply

    I got 2 rats a week ago, and one of them keeps sneezing. He started sneezing about a day or two after i got him. I read that it might be the bedding i am using. I am not using wood shavings or pine or anything like that, but it is different to the bedding they had in the pet store. His sneezing sorta comes in threes and fours, and he sorta sits there still, while its happening, then when he’s finished he’ll go back to his normal happy self, then not long later, he’ll do it again. I am really worried about him. He doesnt do it while eating or sleeping, its mainly when he’s running around. He doesnt have discharge coming from his eyes or nose. He looks perfectly fine, its just his sneezing. What should i do? I am changing his bedding to the bedding they had in the pet store tomorrow, to see if it will help him, because he wasnt sneezing when he was in the pet store. Please help, thank you.

  13. Anjelica
    | Reply

    I recently got a male rat from a pet store 2 weeks ago, and He sneezes alot. There is no wheezing, or gasping, he just sneezes. I am getting worried since I read this article, does just sneezing means he is sick? I also use a pine bedding, Is that making him sick?

  14. Monster
    | Reply

    I have a pet rat, Steve, who is almost a year old now- he’s probably got myco, as most rats do, because he’s been sneezing since the day I got him. Some days, especially after his cage has been cleaned out- his sneezing seems worse than others. But he’s fine- taken him to the vet several times for checkups, and the vet said he was in great health. He’s very active and happy- if your rat is sneezing and it doesnt seem to bother them, there’s no need to worry your head off. If they are sneezing up huge amounts of poryphrin(Dark red liquid that does NOT smell like blood), then its time to go to the vet.

    Also, the number one reason for sneezing rats in new rat owners is they go too long without changing their bedding or have the wrong type. Here’s some things I’ve learned through trial and error with Steve(Who has been a very patient teacher with me 🙂 )

    +Changing the rats bedding is very, very important. I change his every 3 days. This prevents 75% of what would otherwise be almost constant hacking up poryphrin and having less energy than they could.
    +Having a well ventilated cage(I made one for him, a giant 10sq. ft rat mansion from chicken wire and an old, giant rubber trash can bottom+lid). Glass cages seem to allow alot less circulation so I wouldn’t advise anything that doesn’t have grates on at least 4 sides.
    +Changing water daily(twice daily if you have time) so they have cool, clean water is SUPER important

    Thats about everything I’ve learned so far to prevent rats from having bad sneezing breakouts and keeping them as healthy as possible :3 Varied diet is probably important, IDK. I spoil poor steve with so many vegetables/chocolates/fruits/cakes and junk foods he’s got a cornicopia of variety.

  15. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing that Monster!

  16. lyndsay
    | Reply

    my 8 year old sister just got a young rat about 3 days ago. It just died tonight. we are looking for awnsers. she was sneezing in the pet store but we thought nothing of it. she sneezed for the 3 next days. then she started acting really sick(not being able to walk, closing her eyes ect.) and had a nose bleed and then she died. i want to know ,because my sister dropped her when she was in a rolley ball, could she have died from being dropped. our family wants to knoe so we can be more educated for our next rat.

    • Mel
      | Reply

      Nearly all pet store rats get a sneezing problem, its to do with their reactions to dust and such. But even rats with that problem can live long healthy lives. But it really depends how it was sneezing. Was it wheezing? A wheezing rat may have some sort of other problem that the vet needs to handle. The not being able to walk part may have meant she had cancer or a bladder infection, it happens to almost all rodents, but usually when they are much older. With the blood nose part, was blood actually dripping from the rat’s nose, or was it just stained around it? because that stuff is like when human’s get sleep in their eyes, rats get red around their noses, so it is natural and nothing to worry about. If the rat was dropped in a rolley ball i dont think that could effect the rat’s death. So, all in all, this seems pretty unusual, the problem may have just been in the rats genes. But, if she was young and died so soon after having her, all the different environment and change may have stressed her and brought on problems. The most important thing is to make a rat comfortable, especially in a new environment, and to do that it would help if you let them settle into their new home, and once they are use to that, gradually get them use to taking them out of the cage and being with people. And the next most important thing is, you should never buy just one rat, because rats do get alot more stressed and lonely without a rat friend. It is always best to get at least 2, so they can interact with their own kind. If your rat was by herself, that may have caused the problems she got since she may have been a bit scared from being alone. Anyway, i hope this helped 🙂 good luck.

      • Curt
        | Reply

        It doesn’t sound like your sister did anything right away. The dropping, while sad, doesn’t sound like the culprit. Sneezing at the pet store makes me think that the little one was sick to begin with, it very well could have been Myco, but even something like a cold could, if untreated, become something worse. The lack of walking does make me think UTI or something, but could it have been just plain lethargy? When my Wattie died of pneumonia he couldn’t walk at the end, he was just so weak.

        The staining is not good! If it’s porphyrin then it should probably be checked out by a vet. In fact, I would sooner scratch the ‘probably’ and say just go! A healthy rat shouldn’t have porphyrin staining around the eyes or nose.

        I don’t believe it was your sisters fault by dropping the ball. If he was sick at the pet store then it was probably already decided. I hope she tried again! Rats are the most rewarding pet, and at a young age they can be perfect companions. Good luck!

  17. Lindsay
    | Reply

    I just bought a little cute baby rat, well i should say young. i’ve had her for a week and a half and all she’s done is sneeze. at first she sneezed wheezed and everything and now she seems to be just sneezing. Her bedding is Kleenex and hypoallergenic shavings….
    any ideas for me and Claire?

  18. Debby
    | Reply

    Our vet told us to take the kleenex out of the cage because it has microfibers in it that can irriate the rats repiratory system.

  19. Gina
    | Reply

    My rat is constantly sneezing. But not wheezing at all what should I do?

  20. madeline
    | Reply

    I have a half dumbo/half fancy rat that is almost a year old and he needed some friends, so I went to the pet shop and let him play with some of the baby rats in a pen and they got along, so i bought two young male dumbos. But one of the babies has been sneezing like crazy since I got him home 🙁 he is also very timid and keeps stretching out and opening his mouth really wide, at first I thought he was just yawning but after reading this and seeing other peoples rats are doing this I thought it must be something more. Can anyone help me, should I take him to the vets? thank you.

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