line decor
  
line decor
 
 
 
 

 

 

Disclaimer:

This page is not an exhaustive list of health issues and not intended to replace veterinary care. It is a guide to help owners identify some of the more common problems and seek appropriate care for their animal.No responsibility can be held for its content.

Chinchillas given the right environment and diet are generally extremely healthy animals. Most go through life with few or no problems until they reach old age. There are many reports of chinchillas living to 20 years plus but most, barring any major disease, will live between 8 and 12 years old (8 being on the young side of the norm and 12 being a good age).

Precautions to Take to Keep your chinchilla healthy

Most important is diet and environment . A good quality chinchilla pellet, good mould free hay and clean water is all they need. We all like giving our pets treats but these should be fed in small quantities and be healthy (see chinchilla basics). A safe environment both in and out of the cage is vital to help prevent accidents - they seem to find danger wherever they are!

Digestive Ailments:

Common causes - incorrect feeding, contaminated food and ingesting foreign objects

Incorrect feeding can cause serious short and long term health issues for your animal. Feeding unsuitable feeds like fresh vegetables, poison woods or a diet too high in oils can lead to fatal short term problems or long term health issues (a diet high in oils can lead to liver failure).

Normally the first signs of problems is either soft dropping/diarrhea or constipation. The chinchilla's droppings tell you a lot about the health of the animal. It is not unusual for some animals to have the occasional soft droppings, however, if if it goes on for more than a few days, is extreme, smells, the animal is unwell or has lost its appetite then seek help.Any dropping covered in mucus or strung together is a sign of a serious problem and the immediate help of the vet is needed. Constipation is where the animal produced few or even no droppings and what they do produce, are small and hard. This, like diarrhea, can be a sign of a very serious digestive or other health problem.

For very minor problems where the animals has occassional slightly soft droppings that stick to the shelf, a pro biotic such as Avipro can be added to the water or a pinch a day given with the food (Pets at Home do their own brand). This is for minor problems only, especially since it will take a week before you may see any real results. With more serious problems waiting a week could lead to the loss of the animal . If the animal has any of the serious symptoms above then seek help immediately.

Remember chinchillas are rodents, they cannot be sick and anything they ingest has to go through their system. As a result mould on food (including hay) and especially food contaminated by mice or rats can be fatal to them. Mice and rats (including pet ones) carry diseases that do not harm to them but are fatal to chinchillas, so good husbandry is vital. Any food that has come in contact with mice or rats or their droppings can easily result in a dead chinchilla.

Ingesting foreign objects(e.g. plastic etc.) can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences for them mianly due to blockages of the gut. Chinchillas are all fur and in fact are quite small animals. As a consequence, the intestines are small and vets cannot successfully operate to remove blockages. The only treatment is to give medication to make the gut work so that it passes it naturally and this is often not successful.

Bloat is extremely serious. This is when there is a a build up of gas in the animal and the stomach becomes distended and hard. This can be caused by a foreign object or something rotting that they are unable to pass (e.g. mouldy food or even a mumified kit eaten by the mother) . Normally the first sign is constipation and then the stomach blows up, the animal becomes sluggish and eventually is not able to walk properly, lying on its side. This is more often than not fatal and immediate treatment is required.

Malocclusion:

Maloclussion simply means the misalignment of the teeth. This can be caused by a number of things - incorrect feeding and environment, an accident, hereditary maloclussion or simply old age.

Unlike humans, the teeth of the chinchilla are not embedded in bone but tissue which is weaker. As a result , if an animal has an accident such as a fall, as well as chipping its teeth it can also result in a misalignment of the teeth and roots. This can lead to the teeth growing unevenly/in the wrong direction and the roots to grow towards the jaw and/or eye socket. An unhealthy diet can also result in the weakening of this tissue, allowing the teeth and roots to become misaligned.

A simple chipped tooth/teeth resulting from an accident, if not corrected, can lead to problems eating. This may result in many of the typical symptoms of maloclussion if the teeth are not being worn down in the normal way. Simple cases of uneven/chipped teeth can be cured by the teeth being trimmed so that the animal can eat normally again.

Not having an appropriate diet and not enough things to chew on can lead, medium to long term, to dental issues due to over growth of the teeth and/or a weakening of the tissue. Some times animals develop malocclusion at an older age because they have not worn down their teeth as they should.

Malocclusion when the roots of the teeth become elongated and grow either towards the eye socket or the jaw will almost certainly lead to death Typically an animal is 3 - 4 years old when it develops hereditary problems, but it is very variable. I have heard of chinchillas being treated by vets and their life span being extended. However, personally I am not aware of a case where there has been a long term solution for this type of porblem (although of course that may happen in the future).

Symptoms are:-

Watering eyes

Drooling and pawing around the mouth

Constipation

Lack of appetite

Weight Loss

Sometimes you can feel lumps in the bottom jaw line where the roots are growing into the jaw

Remember these symptoms do not necessarily mean teeth problems - they can be related to other problems such as colds etc. I have know a female to very suddenly show some of the classic signs of malocclusion when in fact she had an infection and was slowly aborting a kit - a course of antibiotics and she made a full and fast recovery.

Colds

Chinchillas can develop colds and chest infection. The symptoms are similar to malocclusion but they come on very suddenly. Keep the animal warm and quiet and seek the help of your vet. They need a course of antibiotics since it can easily lead to death and pneumonia .

Cuts and Bruises

Minor cuts and bruises can be treated with a suitable antiseptic solution. Anything serious needs veterinary help because of the risk of infection. Do not underestimate bite wounds from fighting. Like all animals, chinchillas carry bacteria on their teeth and what may appear as a minor wound can quickly develop into a very serious infection. Injuries from falls and accidents also require the appropriate treatment.

Seizures

There are different types of seizures.

Overheating - With this the animal becomes limp and immobile either due to over exertion or temperature. This can esily be fatal. with over exertion keep ths chin in a confined, safe, cool environment. If tempertaure is the issue cool it quickly with something like a fan (not directed at its face) or even put its body in tepid (NOT cold) water. Plunging it into water too cold could mean its body goes into shock.

Calcium Fit - these are rare but very serious. The animal goes permanently stiff with his head tilted back towards its tail. Immediate action is needed. Take it to a vet so they can boost its calcium levels (normally by injection), without this it can die within hours.

Other Seizures - chins occasionally have seizures not related to heat whereby they suddenly go floppy and are unable to move around properly , dragging themselves across the floor. These can last from anything from 30 seconds to over half an hour. They then recover and seem back to normal making it difficult for the vet to diagnose. Keep them quiet and away from danger when they are having the seizure. This is now commonly referred to as an hyperglycemic fit especially since it is normally after a period of inactivity and when he animal goes to feed. The old school of thought (which I personally prescribe to) is that it is a vitamin deficiency, namely Vitamin B (Thiamin) . Although rare, I have experienced it in about 3-4 animals over the years and they were pregnant/ nursing females or in one case a fast growing animal. They probably had a higher than normal requirement of vitamins despite a good diet (a poor diet can obviously lead to problems). With most , the fits were one off's (as far as I know), other's had 3 or 4 . I treated with a daily dose (for 2 - 4 weeks) of a drop of a suitable multivitamin liquid on a small piece of weetabix (which is high in Thiamin) and the problem once cured did not occur. Although the advise of a vet should be sought, this is a good supporting treatment that will do no harm (do not overdose)..

Fur Fungus

Fur fungus is a highly contagious disease and although not usually life threatening, in serious cases can lead to sores and lesions on the animal if left untreated. Ring worm is one form of a fungal infection. There are believed to be different types that infect chinchillas so a negative result by putting an animal under a light at the vets to see if it has ringworm, does not necessarily mean it is free of a problem.

ALL chinchillas breeders treat this as a potentially serious problem and normally take steps to prevent the possibility of their herd being infected. This is usually by isolating new animals, making sure animals come from a trustworthy source, not allowing contact with infected animals and even treating "just in case". An animal can be infected, but it may take a long time for the symptoms to show. It is very difficult to eradicate totally.

Early symptoms include, a thickening and breaking off of whiskers (note: some chins naturally chew whiskers), missing patches of fur (normally they start around the nose and the base of the tail and can be very small ) and in extreme cases sores.

If a chinchilla develops symptoms, it will need to be treated by an anti fungal shampoo/liquid provided by a vet (remember ensure they do not chill when being treated). Athlete's foot powder etc. which is often recommended is rarely strong enough. Also all their surroundings (cage, shelves, toys etc.) needs to be treated with an appropriate strong hospital/farm type disinfectant since the fungus is airborne . If there is more than one animal, it is likley all need to be treated even if they show no signs.

If you have a chinchilla with a problem or suspect you do, ensure that it does not come in contact with another animal and remember it can be carried on your hands, clothes etc..

Fur Rings

Males can develop fur rings (some seem to be more susceptible than others).This is where fur gets caught on the inside of the penis (not usually visible from the outside). Normally it is with breeding males,however, although very rare, it can happen in non breeding males. With breeding males if there are signs they have bred it is worth checking them on a routine basis.

What is a fur ring? They normally incur when fur becomes wet and sticks to the penis during the mating process. After mating the penis retracts and the fur gets caught on the inside. It dries and often it is in a ring acting like an elastic band on the penis. It will cause very serious difficulties for the male, can cause infection and in extreme cases the penis becomes so swollen that it cannot retract . Often males with fur rings will sit on their hind legs and usually some type of swelling is visible (can be mild to extreme).

The fur ring needs to be removed very carefully immediately it is spotted. If you are not experienced in doing this, then the advise would be to seek the help of a vet or a breeder who can show you how it is done.