This article is from the WSSF 2017 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Cheryl Holtzman, CA, Facebook
Q My rat is breathing fast and heavy. I have a vet appt tomorrow afternoon. Is there anything I can do for her until then?
Answer by Karen Robbins
A Some things our members have found to help over the years are putting the rat in a steam-filled bathroom, using a humidifier, using eucalyptus oil with the moist air or fresh crushed green eucalyptus leaves placed in the cage each day for 2–3 weeks, smearing Vicks VapoRub on a tissue and putting in the cage, using VetRX (similar to Vicks in how it works), or nebulizing. Hope the vet is able to help your rat.
Update: OK, will try that stuff. Thanks! She lived after an antibiotic injection and some oral pills, but unfortunately, one of my other rats caught it and by the time she showed symptoms it was too late and she passed away.
Answer by Carmen J. Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D.
A My condolences on your rat who died. Unfortunately, rapid and deep breathing indicates a serious problem and may indicate pneumonia, upper respiratory infection, or other serious problem such as cancer or heart failure. If one rat in a colony has respiratory infection responsive to antibiotic treatment, the other rats in the colony are at risk since respiratory infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses can be transmitted through the air or fomites. Fomites include objects or materials that are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, materials, or even people. I believe there are prior articles on techniques to quarantine sick animals to minimize putting other rats in a home at risk. However, this can be a challenge when multiple rats are housed in the same cage and room. In a home with small numbers of pet rats, a veterinarian may be willing to treat the sick rat and give prophylactic antibiotics to the other rats.