Q: I have a mouse called Frodo Baggins. He is probably a little over a year old. When I got him, I was told he was approximately 16 weeks old. Ever since I’ve had him, he sneezes. It’s not as much recently, but when he breathes, he kind of wheezes. We had a hamster called Poppy before him that sneezed constantly, but she died a few months before we purchased our mouse, and she was in a different cage. All I can think is that both were/are allergic to our dog. He is a medium-haired border collie named Kipper. Could our mouse and hamster be/have been allergic to him? Before we had Poppy our hamster, we had a gerbil named Sooty. He never sneezed, but we didn’t have Kipper then. All our little pets have used the same wood chips as flooring and the same bedding, which is like cotton wool. Poppy sneezed so badly, we took away her flooring and put down soft kitchen roll and paper and stuff like that, but she still sneezed. She lived till she was 3 years old and died peacefully in her sleep. But I can’t help but wonder if all this sneezing is being caused by the dog. Poppy slept in the corner of the kitchen where Frodo sleeps now, and Kipper sleeps at the other end of the kitchen. I don’t want to get rid of either pet, but we are soon getting a ferret and I don’t want him to be sneezing too. Another thing about Frodo is that he scratches a lot on his back and his bottom areas. I have flea’d him and bathed him, but he still scratches. Could this be something to do with the sneezing? I want what is best for both Frodo and Kipper. Please help us, as we really don’t know what to do.
A: It is highly unlikely that your rodent friends have been allergic to your canine friend. It is more likely that environmental conditions were the cause of the sneezing of both your mouse and your hamster. Although we do worry about the bedding, there are other factors that cause particulate matter to enter the air and cause irritation to the respiratory system.
One of the first things to consider is the heating and cooling system of your house. If you have dogs or cats that have a lot of hair and dander, this could clog your heating/cooling vents. Then every time those vents are open, the particulate matter is spread throughout the house and that might be enough, especially if the cage is near a vent, to cause your mouse to start sneezing. We also look at other causes of particulate matter such as litter boxes, carpet cleaners and any sprays that are put into the air near the cage. We also worry that, over time, these irritants in the air could cause so much damage to the delicate respiratory system of our small mammals that a secondary respiratory infection can occur. If this happens, then besides cleaning up the environment, your mouse might also need a short course of antibiotics.