Chinchillas don’t have many of the same health needs as more typical pets, such as cats and dogs. For example, they do not require vaccination.
Most chinchilla owners report that their pets never have to go to the vet beyond their annual wellness check-ups.
An initial spell of Health issues
Chinchillas usually get sick when they first go to a new home. Small animals will be stressed and may encounter new bacteria or microbes to which they have no immunity.
This is especially true of young chinchillas whose immune systems are not fully developed, which is another reason to make sure young chinchillas are fully weaned before being adopted.
You can lessen the chances of an initial illness by feeding your new pet chinchilla exactly the foods it is used to and taking all necessary steps to keep the animal calm and safe.
In almost all cases, scrupulous husbandry is essential for good health. Chinchillas that live in clean, well-maintained habitats are hardy and happy.
Signs of Illness
You are always the best health insurance for your pet chinchilla. The longer you live with your chinchilla, the more it will understand what is “normal” for your pet. If you have a feeling that something is wrong, it probably is.
Never hesitate to seek the advice and help of your veterinarian for fear of sounding like an overprotective chinchilla parent.
Remember that chinchillas are prey animals. They will do their best not to appear ill because hiding the illness is part of their survival instinct.
Although they are normally quite healthy, chinchillas are subject to gastrointestinal disorders that must be addressed quickly. They can also develop serious dental problems that impair their ability to eat.
An owner attentive to any signs of trouble is the foundation of good pet health care.
Things to keep in mind about your chinchilla’s signs of illness include:
- Lack of appetite or a drastically reduced appetite.
- Any difficulty eating such as chewing or drooling laboriously or in pain.
- Changes in the stool, which should normally be dry and firm.
- Grinding teeth or other indications of excessive tooth growth.
- Any lump or injury to the body.
- Dry and flaky skin.
- Difficulty urinating or decreased urine output.
- Drainage from the mouth or eyes.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Apparent lameness or limp as well as weakness or loss of agility.
- Any sensitivity, especially of the abdomen when handling it.
Also be aware of any neurological symptoms like trembling, paralysis, or something like a droopy eye.
10 Most Common Health Issues And Concerns In Chinchillas
The following conditions are the most common in pet chinchillas. However, this is not a complete compendium and is not intended to be a substitute for a veterinary consultation when your pet shows signs of poor health.
1. Bites and Lacerations
When chinchillas, especially males, are housed together, bite wounds are quite common. In many cases, the chinchilla is also bitten by other animals present in the home.
In any case, wounds can become infected as the chinchillas are somewhat susceptible to abscesses. These infections spread rapidly in the body and are often fatal.
Whenever your chinchilla suffers some type of open wound, bite, or laceration, the timely intervention of a veterinarian is essential.
2. Chinchillas and Antibiotics
Usually, in the case of an open wound, a veterinarian’s response will be to prescribe an antibiotic. You should make sure your vet has experience with this species. Don’t just assume at this point ask questions and be persistent.
The balance of microorganisms in the chinchilla’s digestive system is complex and can be destroyed by the administration of antibiotics. This, in turn, can lead to the overgrowth of life-threatening bacteria.
With chinchillas, it is important to avoid:
3. Broken Bones
A broken bone is an emergency that requires immediate attention. Generally, the cause is something in the chinchilla’s housing that has allowed your pet’s paw to get trapped.
For new fractures, the vet will use a standard splint or cast. In some cases, it may even be necessary to pin the bone.
Since chinchillas are very bad at gnawing on casts or bandages, your vet will equip your pet with a cone-shaped collar so that it cannot reach the affected area to chew.
Broken bones in chinchillas usually heal in about three weeks. However, it will be necessary to restrict your pet’s activities for the next several weeks.
If the fracture has not been detected, it is not uncommon for an amputation to be required. Chinchillas tolerate this procedure quite well, without serious loss of mobility.
4. The Slobbers
Slobbers are a dental condition in chinchillas where the teeth are too large and/or sharp edges have formed on the incisors or molars. The condition derives its name from the fact that discomfort and the inability to chew often lead to drooling.
Other marked symptoms include weight loss and tearing of the eyes on the side where the affected tooth or teeth are located. An oral exam is required to determine the exact condition of the mouth.
The chinchilla will need to be sedated, as X-rays may also be required. The teeth will have to be trimmed, and again antibiotics may be indicated.
If the elongation is caused by excessive root growth, the condition is more serious and may be irreversible.
Chinchillas and Anesthesia
Chinchillas, as a rule, do not tolerate anesthesia well. Your vet should be experienced in administering anesthesia to the chinchilla or should consult with a vet who has done so.
The recommended anesthesia for chinstraps is isoflurane and sevoflurane because animals wake up very quickly.
Make sure your vet is also aware of chinchillas’ tendency to become easily dehydrated, as subcutaneous fluid supplementation may be indicated.
Any alteration in the consistency of your pet’s droppings should be dealt with promptly. If you have made a change to your chinchilla’s diet, eliminate the new food or drastically reduce the amount given to it. It can also help to offer small pieces of dry toast to his chin.
Chinchillas have specialized digestive systems with an intermediate sac at the junction of the small and large intestines called the “cecum.” The bacteria and protozoa that are present in this organ are crucial for digestion.
Oftentimes, digestive ailments can be attributed to an alteration in the pH level in the cecum and will resolve when the diet is stabilized. However, if no improvement is seen within a few hours, seek veterinary treatment.
If your pet has parasites, an antiparasitic agent is indicated. Bacterial infections will require antibiotics.
Never use over-the-counter medications with your pet for any reason, unless directed to do so by a qualified veterinarian.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, chinstraps can also suffer from constipation if they have too much protein in their diets or if they are stressed. Their stools become hard and are quite small.
Typical remedies include a raisin, some prune juice, or a feline hairball remedy. If the stool does not soften or if your chinchilla has pain when defecating, contact the vet immediately.
7. Gas or Bloating
When chinchillas are fed fresh grass, vegetables, or any food with too much sugar, they will develop a painful case of gas. For this reason, these foods should never be part of your pet’s diet.
If your chinchilla suffers from gas, it will burp or flatulence when the body tries to release pressure.
Remove your pet’s food for a day and encourage the chinchilla to exercise.
If the stomach is distended or feels spongy or “doughy” to the touch, your pet is bloated and will need immediate veterinary attention.
Heatstroke is an emergency condition in chinchillas that must be addressed immediately or it can result in death. If you find your chinchilla stretched out with difficulty breathing, immediately move the animal to a cooler area.
Turn on a fan in the room, but don’t let the air blow directly onto your chinchilla. Gently apply a cool washcloth to the armpits, groin, and neck to help lower body temperature.
The best “treatment” for heatstroke is ”prevention”.
Never place your chinchilla’s enclosure in front of a window and carefully monitor the temperature in the surrounding area, using fans for air circulation if necessary.
Strive to maintain a temperature of 75 ° F / 24 ° C or lower. Chinstraps tolerate colder temperatures much better than heat. After all, they have thick fur coats!
9. Fur Chewing
If you see evidence of fur chewing in chinchillas housed together, first separate the pair to determine if the damage is self-inflicted or if the caged partner is responsible.
Overcrowding is often the root of this particular problem, especially if a new chinchilla has just entered the habitat.
Other environmental causes of fur chewing include lack of sleep (often due to too much light) and any loud noises that scare your pet and cause anxiety.
When the cause is stress, it can take a while for the coat to grow back and, unfortunately, the behavior can become habitual.
It’s important to do everything you can to make your chinchilla feel more secure, including buying a larger habitat and increasing the places available to hide and sleep.
Since it is extremely rare for chinchillas to be affected by parasites that attack their skin and fur, chewing on the skin can almost always be attributed to an environmental problem. On very rare occasions, if your pet is not getting enough fiber, it may need to eat foreign substances, including its own fur, to compensate for a condition called “pica.”
Skin irritation from a change in bedding is also a potential problem, but if you’re sticking with aspen shavings instead of pine or cedar, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Chinchillas do not have a problem with external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites because their coats are simply too dense for the “insects” to reach the skin where they normally feed on blood.
However, chinchillas can be subject to internal parasites that attack the gastrointestinal tract, including but not limited to:
All are treatable, but your vet will need to analyze a fresh stool sample to determine the correct treatment.
Caring for older Chinchillas
Since chinchillas can live to be 20 years old, at some point you will have an older chinchilla on your hands. Older chinchillas generally become less active and their habitat may need to be redesigned so they can climb more easily.
Since older chinchillas are less able to regulate their body temperature, make sure that the room temperature is kept constant in the room where they are staying.
Cataracts are common in older chinchillas and are evident as a cloudy, milky coating on the eyes. This condition is generally left untreated, and in addition to contributing to a decrease in activity, it is tolerated well by chinchillas.
Extra vigilance in monitoring tooth growth is also essential in older chinchillas, and it is important to check the color of the teeth. If excessive yellowing is observed, your pet’s kidney function should be evaluated.