Is Your Chinchilla Sick?

Kept under the wrong conditions, a chinchilla will be susceptible to disease and illness. When a chinchilla gets sick, they go "down hill" very fast, therefore it is important that you examine your chinchilla regularly. Symptoms are subtle and often are only noticeable after conditions have worsened. Chinchillas, by instinct, strive to mask any display of pain that would, in their natural habitat, show their vulnerability and make them an easy prey. Recognizing certain illnesses/diseases quickly is important if your chinchilla is to return to optimal health conditions. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure your chinchilla is kept healthy at all times. There will be cases when you have done all the right things for him/her and they cease to live, but give yourself peace of mind knowing you have taken all the steps necessary to prevent it. If medical intervention is needed, make sure you get your chinchilla to an exotic vet who is experienced in chinchilla care IMMEDIATELY!!!

***NOTE*** This is only a guide from previous experiences. We are NOT veterinarians!! When in doubt, seek your specialist's advice.

1. Malocclusion/Dental problems:

Chinchillas teeth constantly grow. They ALWAYS need something to chew on to enable them to wear them down. When their teeth are overgrown, they are unable to eat, will lose weight & become more susceptible to illness.You can give them pumice stone, dried pine, dried cholla (cactus), dried apple branches & lava bites just to name a few items. There is a list of "Safe" & "Unsafe" woods they can have listed on this website. Click on the "Cages and Setup" link. Make sure you let them dry out first. They may have cuttlebone, but only one to two per month so they won't get overdosed on calcium. That could give them more problems. Check with your vet if you are unsure whether or not your chin can have a particular item for chewing. Severe dental problems can be a result from chinchilla's teeth overgrowing. They will have much difficulty in eating. When the teeth overgrow, it causes damage to their jaw & teeth. It might even cause bone spurs. If that happens, the vet can file them down, but it is painful for the chinchilla & can be expensive.

Signs of Possible Malocclusion:

~ eating or drinking more or less than usual ~
~ tiredness or seems restless ~
~ watery eyes or runny nose ~
~ crooked bite or overbite ~
~ drooling ~
~ noticeable bumps on jawline ~
~ bad odor from mouth, ears or genital area ~
~ trouble drinking, eating or moving ~
~ staying in a crouched or huddled position ~
~ difficulty breathing & hearing raspy noises in thir chest ~
~ weight loss ~
~ change in character ~

If you notice any of these symptoms in your chinchilla, don't wait to take them to the vet! Malocclusion is believed to be hereditary. DO NOT breed a chinchilla that has malocclusion! Malocclusion is eventually fatal in chinchillas. Their teeth can grown upward into their eye sockets & brain.

2. Upper Respiratory Infection or Pneumonia:

Uri's & Pneumonia are fairly common in Chinchillas. These conditions cannot be treated at home. A vet visit is required as soon as possible. A course of antibiotics is usually prescribed & they may need oxygen.

Signs of Pneumonia or Uri:

~ wheezing or rapid breathing ~
~ difficulty or shallow breathing ~
~ tiredness ~
~ hoarse sounding throat ~
~ chattering teeth ~
~ loss of appetite ~
~ weight loss ~
~ changes in character ~
~ sneezing ~
~ watery eyes ~

Pneumonia & Uri's are almost always fatal if they are not treated immediately. Just like in humans, if the condition is viral all you can do is treat the symptoms & wait. If it is bacterial usually a course of antibiotics improves their condition. Let your exotic specialist in chinchillas decide what course of action to take.

3. Imbalance in the GI Flora, Gastroenteritis, Bloat, and Gastric Parasites

**GI Stasis** is the lack of gut movement caused by problems in the digestive tract. Usually it is caused by a blockage from something that is undigested or from an inappropriate diet. If left untreated, it could be fatal for your chinchilla.

Signs of GI Problems:

~ Bloat--the chinchilla becomes very tired, losing appetite, chatters its teeth when you push gently on its stomach. The stomach feels very hard & round. You can try massaging the stomach in a circular motion, which might get things moving again & allow gas build up to pass. The GI Tract MUST get moving again or GI Stasis (above) will set in. There are things your vet can do to try to relieve pressure that is built up.

~ diarrhea--runny or mushy poop is something that needs immediate attention from your vet. It can be fatal to your chinchilla. You can try taking your chinchilla's pellets away and offering only hay, small pieces of very burned toast (no white showing) or plain Shredded Wheat for a day. Do not give them back their pellets until the diarrhea has cleared up. Keep some 100% Apple or Cranberry Juice with NO sugar added around for your chinchilla for times when they have diarrhea. If there is no improvement in 24 hours or becomes worse, see your vet immediately. Ask your vet about "Probiotics". It contains live bacteria that helps the imbalance in the intestines by replacing the good bacteria.

~ Constipation--this condition can also be fatal to your chinchilla. Examine your chinchilla's poop. It should be oblong shaped, not round. It should not look very dry. The color should be black, not light brown. They definitely should not have to strain to poop. Constipation can lead to "Rectal Prolapse", which means when a chinchilla strains too hard to poop, it can expel their intestines from their rectum. Signs of hair in the poop could mean there is a hairball blocking the intestines. Try giving them a piece of papaya. Stop their pellets & offer some raisens. Again, if the constipation lasts more than 24 hours or they look seriously uncomfortable, get your chinchilla to the vet.

4. Hair Rings--male chinchillas--Their penis has a sheath over it, which kind of folds back onto itself. Fur can get wrapped around this or the head of their penis. When erect, it can constrict and cut off blood flow to the penis. When the erection is gone & the penis retracts, the hair ring can get caught and cut off the blood supply to parts of the penis. This causes the male to not be able to urinate. Bacteria can build up and kidney and urinary problems can be a problem. It is VERY painful for a male who has this condition. "Hair ring checks" should be done on all males at least once a month if not more.
To Be Continued

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