By Debbie Ducommun
Because of the arrangement of the rat’s throat, true choking is rare. If your rat appears to be choking the most likely cause is a piece of food or other substance stuck in her throat. This can cause gagging and drooling. A rat who is gagging will open her mouth wide and pull her ears back.
As long as the rat can breathe, don’t do anything accept try to comfort her. Anything you try to do to stop the gagging may make the situation worse. The offending food will eventually pass down in most cases. You might try offering your rat a small piece of bread to see if that will help push the food down, but do not use doughy bread which might make things worse.
If your rat is having real trouble breathing, and not just labored breathing, you can try doing the Heimlich maneuver, by pressing sharply up and in underneath your rat’s ribcage.
Or you can do a procedure called “the fling” which uses centrifugal force. Hold your rat firmly around the neck with one hand, and by the base of the tail with the other to hold her securely. Make sure there are no objects within an arm’s length. Lift the rat overhead and bring her down in a rapid arc, so that at the end of the path she’s tail up and head down. This can be repeated 3-4 times, then give the rat a rest, check her breathing, and see if anything is visible in the mouth. This is extremely effective in dislodging objects or mucus in the throat.
If neither of these techniques helps, you can put your mouth over the rat’s mouth and try sucking the obstruction out. Be sure you do not cover the rat’s nose. If the rat is still having trouble breathing, try a shot of dexamethasone.
If choking or gagging persists for more than 6 hours, take your rat to the vet. There may be an object lodged in the throat too big to pass down, or there might be a tumor or some other problem. Sometimes respiratory disease can cause gagging and choking due to swelling of the airway and/or too much mucus.
If your rat gags frequently, she may have mega-esophagus, a problem where the nerves to the esophagus are defective. In this case the rat must be put on a liquid diet. Offer free choice of Ensure adult nutritional drink or a similar product. Also give the rat a liquid vitamin B supplement to supply 1 mcg of B12 daily. Be sure keep all paper away from the rat as eating paper can cause a fatal blockage.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park: The Center of Chacoan Culture