Healthy Squeaks, or Sick Squeaks?
What Does Rattie Respiratory Illness Sound Like?
Please take Mycoplasma pulmonis extremely seriously. The majority of all pet rats world-wide carry Mycoplasma pulmonis, an incurable bacterial disease that is transmitted to them by their mothers during birth. When this bacteria spreads, the tissue it affects is permanently destroyed.
For detailed information about Mycoplasma/Mycoplasmosis, and all the top treatments for infected pet rats, read this important page on Ratguide.com..
This page is not intended to provide a diagnosis of the breathing issues of your pet rat.
To evaluate your rat's squeaking or breathing noises, seek the help of a veterinarian skilled in treating pet rats.
To talk about your rat's squeaking or breathing noises, join the Rattie Health Yahoo Group.
Do you think the noises your rat makes are cute, or are a sign she is "talking" to you in ratty language? Please read this and watch - listen to - these videos carefully. Healthy rats are SILENT. All squeaking or other noises, if they are synchronized with breathing (in and out), indicate respiratory illness, primarily Mycoplasma pulmonis. Even if the lungs sound completely clear, such squeaking is wrong. There is not widespread education of rat owners about the dangers of problem squeaks and breathing noises.
Some squeaks can be normal, such as abrupt, limited objections, "Mine!", "No!", or "Don't shove me!", or when you massage your rat and she responds to the repeating finger pressure with repeating squeaks. These are deliberate vocalizations. She is talking to you.
(For the special circumstance of hiccuping in rats, read about hiccuping in this gallery, Rats Do Hiccup.
But if some squeaks are normal vocalizations, and some are abnormal breathing sounds, how do you know what is happening with your rat? This gallery contains videos of rats making various squeaks and noises, most discovered on YouTube. They have been categorized according to the opinion of a licensed veterinary technician with 34 years' experience, whose mentor and personal veterinarian is a rat expert. The suggestions for diagnosis are not conclusive, of course, but the observations are professional.
Some of the owners reported on YouTube that they felt the sounds were normal, some recognized illness, and some did not know what to think. Most eventually reported that their rat finally died of respiratory disease. If they had had access to a gallery like this to "find" similar squeaking or noises, perhaps the owners could have gotten veterinarian input sooner.
There may be other abnormal sounds, or normal vocalizations, that rats make. If you have video of a rat making squeaks or noises of any kind, please consider contacting the JoinRats owner to have it added it to this gallery, so that rat owners can listen and perhaps compare their own rat's squeaks and noises to yours.
NOTE: Messages were sent to all the owners of the videos whose rats might still be alive, to offer concern and information about their rats' squeaking or noises. Lindsay viewed the videos and wrote her comments prior to reading the owners' comments (the latter were posted on YouTube).
Group One: Mild to moderate abnormal respiratory sounds, can't determine lung condition without veterinary exam. Make a veterinary appointment.
(A) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Mild abnormal sounds linked to breathing. This rat needs to be seen by a veterinarian."
Owner's comment: From November 2007: "This is a noise that Rose has been making. He's going to the vet to have it checked out." From approx. January 2009: "I had to take him to a few different vets before we had a problem diagnosed. Rose ended up having a pneumonia, ... I spent months trying to get Rose better before a vet would actually listen to me... Rose got really ill with it, he would do [the sound] intermittently." From approx. September 2009: "Rose has just recently passed away at the age of two years because of another bout of respiratory issues meds weren't helping with, and he had got real ill."
(B) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Moderate abnormal sounds linked to breathing. This rat needs to be seen by a veterinarian."
Owner's comment: From February 2008: "One of my boys making a clucking sound which I think is respiratory infection but the vet says not..." From approx. November 2009: "Kiko is still alive+kicking! He's now 2.5yrs. He's just always been prone to respiratory infections - he's been on antibiotics at least once every 5 months. Some rats are more prone than others. I had 6 living together - one of them never had snuffles, 4 of them had it once, Kiko always has it."
Group Two: Moderate to severe abnormal respiratory sounds, can't determine lung condition without veterinary exam. Make a veterinary appointment.
(A) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Moderate to severe abnormal sounds linked to breathing. This rat needs to be seen asap by a veterinarian."
Owner's comment: From February 2009: "My rat Ryan is sick with myco and after the past week on Baytril he still isn't better :(" From approx. May 2009: "He isnt better yet :( Baytril normally works, if that doesnt add a doxy but they didnt work :("
(B) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Moderate to severe abnormal sounds linked to breathing. This rat needs to be seen asap by a veterinarian."
Owner's comment: From June 2007: "You don't see the rat at first but you hear the noises towards the end of the video you get to see my rat - Spyro."
Group Three: Moderate to severe abnormal respiratory sounds with visible labored breathing. Lung involvement is likely. Veterinary appointment is critical.
(A) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Moderate to severe abnormal sounds linked to breathing and visible labored breathing pattern indicating pneumonia or other serious lung disease. This rat urgently needs veterinary care."
Owner's comment: From March 2009: "My Rat Aiko says strange sounds when sleeping, maybe she's dreaming? After consulting different vets and other rat people it has been concluded that the sound is a behavior she has adopted. It comes sometimes, but not often... and she is healthy, happy and so on... and of course if I get worried about my babies, I take them to the Vet, to be checked."
(B) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Moderate to severe respiratory issues, definitely nasal, probably lung involvement as well, must see the vet ASAP."
Owner's title (from May 2010): "Squirrel the rat barking".
Group Four: Severe Respiratory Disease with Mouth Breathing. Pneumonia or other serious lung disease is likely. Emergency veterinary appointment is critical, these rats may be near death.
(A) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Severe end stage pneumonia or other serious lung disease with open mouth breathing. This rat is laboring to breathe and needs emergency veterinary treatment, may be near death."
Owner's comment: From March 2008: "This guy has some sort of respiratory infection. He didn't suffer long."
Group Five: Sounds heard here are probably in the range of normal. Non-respiratory issues - hiccups, and "talking" in response to tickling type of stimulation by owner.
(A) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "These noises are probably hiccups, but I would need to see the breathing pattern of the rat to distinguish between hiccups (made on inhalation) and repetitive sneezes (made on exhalation). More visual input needed. In addition, even if they are hiccups, there may be problem respiratory symptoms as well."
[NOTE FROM EDITOR GWEN: All mammals hiccup, including rats, but the special circumstance of respiratory disease in rats means the hiccups should be assessed for problems. For the special circumstance of hiccups, please visit Rats Do Hiccup.]
Owner's comment: From March 2009: "My rat makes this noise when my other rat comes near him. Is this normal?" Then from April 2009: "I have done a lot of research on [mycopulmonis] because I know it's common amongst rats. When he makes the noise he does jump a little bit but his fits last for less than 10 seconds. I took him the the locally owned pet store where I bought him and they didn't think anything was wrong with him. If the noise continues my parents and I will most likely be taking him to the vet."
(B) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "Normal squeaking, 'My ball! My ball! Don't take my ball!'"
Owner's comment: "Kropka like ball :) .... ooo yes :)"
(C) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): "It seems plain that this rat is vocalizing (talking) in response to being tickled by her owner."
Owner's comment: "Husband, Dave, playing with Mr. Flash(er) in his shirt."
(D) Observation and opinion (without having read the owner's comment): These are vocalizations in protest, are healthy squeaks, not connected to respiratory nasal sounds."
Owner's comment: "Lilly was a squeaker rat! In this video, which is about 10 years old, I think my husband was trying to take something she wanted away from her."