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Gen B.
Gen B., Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience:  Dog, Guinea Pig, Hamster, Gerbil breeder / Reptile Keeper / Bunny-Ferret-Exotic Specialist
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My mouse is breathing really heavily and is just standing hunched

Customer Question

My mouse is breathing really heavily and is just standing hunched over most of the time. She is still eating, and still jumps from my hand when I go to pick her up, but I'm really worried about her. I think she has lost some weight too. I called my vet, but they couldn't tell me anything over the phone, and I am at school 2 hours away. I also called the petstore where I got her, and they said that they haven't seen this in their other mice. Is there anything I can do to help her?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
How old is she? How long have you had her?

What kind of cage do you use? Wire, glass tank, plastic "bubble" type?

What kind of bedding do you use?

What food(s) does she eat?

What is the temperature in the room where her cage stays?


Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'm not sure how old she is - she's pretty small though. I got her for snake food but he ended up not being able to eat her (he was about to start shedding, so his eyes were getting covered by scales it just wasn't visible to me yet), so I kept her. I've had her about three weeks. My sister used to have a male mouse, and she's significantly smaller than he was, but I don't know how much of that is due to he rbeing female, and how much of it is due to her age. She lives in a 10 gallon glass tank, and I use Carefresh pet bedding, that says it's pine and cedar oil free - it's a kind of papery bedding rather than wood. She eats a mix of 8 in 1 premium mouse and rat blocks, and LM Animal Farms Vita-Vittles diet - a mix of seeds, peanuts, cracked corn, vitamin enriched pellets, and "fortified nibbles" (the nibbles look like the 8 in 1 block food). She lives in my room, and the thermostat's set at about 67 or 68 degrees F. Thanks for your help! Her name's XXXXX XXXXX the way.
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
Hello and thanks for researching this very important question...I am so sorry that Basil is showing these signs of illness!

Unfortunately, mice sold for "feeders" are often sickly and poor-doing since they are not meant to live a long time, genetically speaking. That is, their breeding lines are not screened against developmental problems and weak immunity.

Mice live about 20-24 months, on average...this means that many animals will fall to the "longer" side of the bell curve, and many to the "shorter" side. Feeders may be any age...even old "breeders" that have been culled from colonies.

Your tank type and bedding are Right On! I like to give mice strips of plain white paper towel or tissue paper so that they can weave warm nests for themselves, as they would do in nature.

Mice prefer warm "closer" environments...this is what attracts them to the walls of human structures. I'd rather see her kept around 75F degrees day and night. You may need to increase your heat tolerance, or carefully use a heating pad under or around her tank during cold months. Cover the tank with a thin towel overnight to prevent drafts.

If not kept warm enough, the immune system can weaken and make a mouse susceptible to many bacterial and fungal agents that they ordinarily would quickly "brush off".

Mice can fall victim to Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) or Rickets (calcium deficiency). Both of these problems can cause the body to shrink up and look kind of "cramped". Offer her a tiny nip of orange and a bit of crushed egg shell (save them from boiled eggs and dry them for storage). Since it is hard to know how long a particular packaged mix has been in storage (and what nutrients may have decayed)...I like to make my own rodent diet.

My mix contains:

4 cups of a barley-wheat based granola cereal (Grape-Nuts or generic equivalent).
4 cups of an oat-based granola cereal that is at least 15% VITAMIN C on the label (it will need to contain whole fruit like raspberries in order to gain this level of vitamin C).
4 cups of song-bird seed mix (more small seeds than sunflower)
2 cups dry lentils
shells from 6 standard chicken eggs (save shells from boiled eggs...dry and crush to a powder)
3 times weekly give a leaf of Curly Endive (or similar vegetable with high VITAMIN K content)

More dietary tips here.

Although I cannot see her and cannot promise that things can turn around at this point, it is certainly worth a try to get some of these changes in place and see how Basil responds! She may need some veterinary support if she is sneezing or has any red discharge around her eyes or nostrils (indicating active infection).

If you need additional support at this time, please "REPLY".
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I have some Ezekiel whole grain granola in the house that I can give her - the ingredients are organic sprouted whole grain wheat, organic malted barley, organic sprouted whole grain barley, organic sprouted whole grain millet, organic sprouted whole lentils, organic sprouted whole soybeans, organic sprouted whole grain spelt, filtered water and sea salt.
I also have some Hodgson Mill Multigrain hot cereal - you're supposed to make an oatmeal type thing out of it, but I thought maybe I could just give it to her as is - the ingredients in that is oats, unprocessed wheat bran, milled flaxseed, soy grits, untoasted wheat germ, and cracked whole wheat. I also have just plain oats if that's better for her.
And I have plain dry lentils, and also raw peanuts. And "healthy" peanut butter.
I don't have any fruit in at the moment - the only orange I have left in the kitchen is looking a bit black, so I won't give her that. I can go out and get her some though. I also don't have any eggs because I'm vegan - is there anything else I can give her to replace the egg shell? If not, I'll get her some anyway, and make the dogs some scrambled eggs.
Do the cereals/other food I have sound good for her? Or do any of them sound bad? Do you know if Kale has a high Vit. K content? I'll definitely find a towel/blanket to cover her cage up, and try to do something about the temp. I have an extra under the tank heat mat for reptiles - do you think that would be ok, or too hot?
I really appreciate your help!
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
The granola bars and mixed cereal sound perfect (no refined sugars--super!)...she will need some vitamin C, so some dried raspberries, cranberries or similarly-sized bits of dried fruit (I avoid raisins with pets since grapes/raisins cause kidney failure in dogs--we don't know why yet).

I usually avoid high-calcium plants (like Kale) with rodents since these leaves also contain a lot of oxalates...can cause inflammatory problems in the kidneys and bladder. Boiled egg shell is best since it is calcium-rich without being unbalanced in other ways...and when boiled, they have been sterilized against any bacterial agents (Salmonella, etc.). The dogs will enjoy the boiled eggs! Very healthful for dogs.

No plant I have found that is higher in "K" than Curly Endive...grab a bunch next time you shop. Its healthful to the blood and circulation.

Peanuts and peanut butter can be hard to digest (too oily)...and also may contain trace amounts of toxic mold spores. Stick to any dried small grain/beans...soy, barley, lentils, and similar are great.

Let me know if you have other great questions about all this!

Gen B., Retired Veterinary Technician
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 2227
Experience: Dog, Guinea Pig, Hamster, Gerbil breeder / Reptile Keeper / Bunny-Ferret-Exotic Specialist
Gen B. and 3 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok, I'll go out and get the Endive, fruit and egg now! Thank you!
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
You are welcome...let me know if you have other questions as you go along,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I could only find dried apricots that didn't have added sugar - are these ok? They have 35% vitamin C.
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
They should be fine!....I'd cut a single one up and give one piece twice daily...like the size of a large raisin or a cranberry.

Good job!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
ok, i'll do that - thanks again! Do you think the heat mat is ok to put under the tank?
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
Well if you cannot raise the room temperature...you can use a heating pad set on LOW under only about 2" of one end of a glass tank...make sure you can put your hand on it and keep it there indefinitely, and check for "hot" spots. This is not the safest way to heat her...for her or you! Electrical coil heaters and heat tapes can malfunction, etc.. Use a power strip that has a "trip" switch.

You might try putting hot water in plastic water bottles..slip them into gym socks and lay them around the tank (OUTSIDE, not inside). This would have to be checked periodically to refresh them as they cool down.

Use your best judgment about what types of heating devices would be safest where you live, and watch her response (does she move toward or away from heat sources, etc.).
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
ok, thanks. I'll think about the best way to do heat.
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
Let me know how things come along!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
will do - I really appreciate your help, and interest in her well-being!
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
Well, she's recruited a Snake and two Humans in her quest for life...let's see how little Ms. Basil does!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Basil died :( She was eating this morning, so hopefully that means she wasn't feeling too terrible throughout the day. I really appreciate your help though, and if I end up with any more mice, I'll at least know the proper diet to feed them. Thanks again. -Eirinn
Expert:  Gen B. replied 4 years ago.
Well, I'm certainly sorry to hear this news! You gave this your all.

I still wonder if she weren't quite Old...like a "cast-off" breeder from the feeder supplier (I think we talked a bit about that).

Mice with infections do not eat, so I imagine her passing was quite quick indeed (heart failure, for instance).

Thanks so much for making her so comfortable these past few days!

Best to you in your studies and Always,

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