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Multiple choking episodes

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 5:55 pm
by ScissorCrow
Hi, looking for advice as Bear (nearly 10 months old) keeps choking when eating his meal in the cage.

The group get fed twice a day, scattered in their cardboard substrate, containing Rat Rations 11a, Science Selective Nuggets and Barley Rings. He shares the 50x75cm floor space with three other rats, I haven't witnessed much squabbling over food/space, they tend to just get on with their own foraging side by side.

His choking isn't what I would call 'serious' each time, usually just 5minutes of gasping then he goes back to eating. Sometimes he chokes multiple times a session, and it has been happening daily for over a week now. He hasn't choked out of the cage, just in. I haven't seen him drool anything up to be able to guess what was in his mouth.

Don't know if he's eating too fast? Can't see anything physically wrong with him from outside but can't get a good look in his mouth. Doubt the vets will be any good at looking either.

Any suggestions what I could do?
Thinking of feeding him separately and seeing how he gets on, but will have to keep an eye on portion sizes as he's the heaviest rat in the cage and I don't want him having double portions if he eats all his then gets put in the main cage and hoovers up all the leftovers!

Re: Multiple choking episodes

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 6:53 pm
by ScissorCrow
Just fed him separately and he still choked :(
Might try picking the nuggets out and seeing how he gets on with just the RR food

Re: Multiple choking episodes

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:53 am
by cyber ratty
I've known of other rats who had a habit of choking occasionally, never worked out the reason though.

It sounds like he's choking every time? If so, maybe the first choke hurt his throat and once it heals he'll be able to eat normally, but equally there's presumably a risk of a growth that's getting in the way which would only get worse.

I hope he improves soon.

Re: Multiple choking episodes

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:55 pm
by Little_Lovelies
Hi ScissorCrow,

I'm really sorry to hear that that's happening, it's heartbreaking and terrifying to watch every time, even if they clear it a few seconds later a go right back to eating.

One of mine is the same. He started doing it around Christmas time, went from once or twice, to once or twice a week, then a day, then two or three times a meal, it was awful. We took him to the vets who Xrayed him and found nothing and all we can think is that it's behavioural with him.

When we adopted him he was very over-weight, so we had to put him on a diet. Ours are fed twice a day too and he knows that once all the food is found, that's it. I think this is what caused it. I imagine he had been used to an unlimited supply of food before, and gradually realising that once his treat balls and foraging areas were empty that was it until the evening/morning might have caused him to start rushing his food. He also ate stupidly quickly compared to our other guy. So we still don't know but we think that he eats too quickly, and swallows the last mouthfull when it's still too big so as to get onto the next bit, because he was almost always fine until the last mouthful of anything.

The difference with him is that he had been showing a lot of food aggregation so we know he was desperate to get to the next piece before his buddy. Feeding them in separate cages helped but it was still happening, me putting my hand in the cage would be just distracting enough that it would happen, eating while standing on a not entirely flat surface such as our legs was also causing it. Mine were on loads of different types of food and I found that the Science Selective and the tiny grains in a shop bought mix were his worst triggers. Anything that needed shelling was fine, but the one-mouthfull grains were a big problem. He would also choke on the Burgess nuggets occasionally though.

I don't have a clue why this works, but we started wetting the pellets and he's never done it on them since?! :D :D :D So all I can think is maybe he was inhaling bits/dust from the bits slightly in his frenzy to eat as fast as he possibly could? He would do the full running around the cage gasping, terribly sad to see stuff, so you would think it was more than just dust from the pellets, but I just can't think how wetting them would help otherwise? If anyone has any thoughts on that, please, please chip in!

Since then he's had ragey issues so he's now not the man he used to be ;) And that's helped a bunch too, he's no-longer in a mad panic to eat....well he is, but not on half the mania of before. So as to be safe I very rarely give him the smallest grains, and if I do it's when he's in a cage on his own, standing on a flat surface, having already had most of his dinner so that he's not crazy hungry. And I wouldn't dream of trying to clean bits around him while his eating anymore because that was definitely a big trigger for him. Complicated fella or what??

As others would say, if it doesn't stop and you have a knowledgeable vet it's well worth getting him there to either catch something right as it starts, or better still rule anything medical out.

I really help this helps and please let us know how you're getting on, this topic could be so useful to other baffled owners out there.

Good luck with your little angel!