CHINCHILLA HEALTH 


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Chinchillas are normally a very hardy animal and do not usually do not need to be taken to a vet.  They don't require vacines or anything like that.  Chinchillas are a prey animal though so they will mask any signs of weakness or illness until many times it is too late when they finally do show symptoms such as lethargy.  That being said knowing what to look for and what to do if you suspect your chin is ill can mean the difference between life and death   

A yearly check up with a vet that knowledgeable about chinchillas is a good idea.  The vet can give your chin a wellness check looking over their teeth, ears, eyes, listen for heart murmurs and check their stool for any parasites.  That way when an emergency does arise you have a vet that you are familiar with and that knows how to treat chinchillas.  Many vets do not treat chinchillas so it is important to find one that does and has experience with them.           

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

Diarrhea or Mushy poop

With mushy poop and no other signs of illness you can try taking the pellets and alfafa hay away from them and feeding them loose timothy hay and distilled water only for 48 hours.  This should clear it up, if not you need to take them to a vet.
If they are having diarrhea, especially with mucos you need to take them to a vet.  

You can also give them strawberry yogurt with probiotics (probiotics are live, good bacteria that help to restore normal digestive movement in your chinchilla)  DO NOT GIVE ACTIVIA.  Also a small piece of toast burnt until it is absolutely blackened with no actual bread visible anywhere can help settle their tummy.  Shredded Wheat can also be used in this instance but do not offer pellets until your Chinchilla’s diarrhea has cleared up.  

You can also give them a 50% water and 50%  Apple or Cranberry Juice to drink   with NO sugar added.  This  gives them back the  nutrients and sugar they lose while haveing diarrhea, is a good boost of vitaman C and calcium and helps to keep them hydrated.  Do not give straight juice, always mix it 50/50 with distilled water.  Also make sure you have another bottle in their cage of just distilled water. Pedialyte is another liquid you can use,  which contains Electrolytes but be sure it is the no sugar added. 

If they have  diarrhea for more than 24 hours this can be an emergency and require immediate veterinary care.  If the diarrhea is severe it may require immediate care.  You need to watch your Chinchilla for signs of a Rectal Prolapse, or stomach spasms that could indicate the beginning of a Prolapse.  If the diarrhea keeps coming back you need to have their poop tested to make sure they do not have bacteria or parasites.

Constipation 
Constipation can be another sign of a intestional problems.  CHECK YOUR WATER BOTTLE.  SOMETIMES THE BALL CAN GET STUCK AND THEY CAN'T GET THE WATER OUT TO DRINK.  If your Chinchilla’s poop is round and light brown instead of oval and dark black brown this can be a sign that they are not drinking water and are becoming dehydrated.  If your chinchilla is straining to poop this is a problem.  Constipation can be fatal in Chinchillas much like diarrhea can.  If not treated it can cause Rectal Prolapse which is most often fatal.  If there are signs of hair in the poop this could be a blockage from a hairball.  For hairballs give your chinchilla a piece of Papaya or  Papaya Enzyme.  Fur chewers are more likely to get hairballs.  If your chin is constipated for more than 24 hours take your Chinchilla to the vet.  If your chin  really  straining and uncomfortable don't wait, take them to a vet.  Take them off pellets and offer a raisin or two.  

In babies under 6 months of age if a raisin does not relieve the constipation in 2 hours or they are really be straining take them to the vet immediately.  Babies are more susceptible to Prolapse because they do not have  the muscle tone to prevent the expulsion of the intestines in situations of severe distress.  Prolapse is almost always fatal in a kit.  You can also give them a 50% water 50%  juice solution but do not give a probiotic unless the vet tells you to because it can make the constipation worse.

Rectal Prolapse  
THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

When your chinchilla has severe diarrhea or constipation the straining can cause them to poop out their rectum or intestines.  This can happen when a baby  
gorges themselves and can also be from bloat or GI Stasis (the intestinal system shutting down).  Wrap them in a towel and take them to the vet.  The vet will try to put the rectum back in and put  a couple of stitches in to prevent the prolaspe from reocurring.  This causes swelling so it is very important that the anus not be stitched too small or this will keep the chinchilla from being able to poop.  The sooner the Prolapse is caught and treated the better the chances the Chinchilla will survive.  It can take up to three weeks and sometimes even more for a damaged portion of intestine to either heal or become necrotic and die.  A complication of a prolapse can be a  secondary infection.  Your vet will give you you antibiotics for your chinchilla to help prevent this from occurring.  They also give you a probiotic (give antibiotics 4 hours apart from probiotics (yogurt) They may also give you Critical Care which you mix with distilled water and feed with a large syringe.  


Bloat
Signs of bloat are a bloated up round hard stomach.  Take them to a vet.  You can try giving a baby 1 or 2 drops of Children’s Mylicon, which is to help relieve the gas build up.  Also massaging their belly  in a circular motion can help to get the gas build out.  To try to save your Chinchilla from Bloat you must get their intestines moving in a normal manner again.   If their intestines stop moving it can be fatal. If they do not improve in an hour or two take them to a vet.  This can be fatal in Chinchillas but there are things the vet can try to relieve the pressure build up in the Chinchilla.  Bloat can be caused from moldy hay or pellets to an airborne infection to a parasite to bad water.  

Malocclusion
Chinchillas teeth are constantly growing.  They have to have things to chew to keep them wore down such as a pumice stone, untreated pine, cholla branches, apple branches, lava bites, and willow branches.   Cuttlebones will also wear their teeth down, but I only give these if their teeth are white showing a lack of calcium, especially in nursing mothers.  You do not want to give them too much calcium either.  Also there are many parrot toys that are safe for chinchillas.  If you are not sure ask your vet.  If Chinchillas teeth overgrow it can cause severe dental problems and can make it impossible for your Chinchilla to eat.  If your Chinchilla shows signs of a dental problem take them to the vet.  Signs of Malocclusion are the jaw being crooked, an overgrowth of the molars, a severe over bite, watery eyes, and drooling.  Never breed a chinchilla that has malocclusion.  If your Chinchilla shows any of these signs take them to the vet.  For more  information on malocclusion go to CAChins health site. The vet can file your chins teeth periodically to help treat the malocclusion when the teeth grow out too long, but when the teeth grow upward into the eye sockets and brain this is fatal and the animal should be euthanized so they do not suffer.  


Hair Rings in males
THIS IS PROBABLY SOMETHING YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH UNLESS YOU HAVE A MALE THAT IS IN BREEDING WITH A FEMALE.  OUT OF 100 BREEDING MALES USUALLY ONLY 2 OF MINE EVER GET A HAIR RING.    
Male chinchillas have a layered external penile sheath so it somewhat folds back in to itself like a telescope lens might.  Their fur is so dense that when the males penis is erect their hair or another chin's hair can get stuck to and wrapped around it.  Then when the penis goes back into the sheath the hair ring also stays stuck and can get rolled down to the base of the penis.  This can cut off the blood circulation   It can become so tight that the male will not be able to pee also.  This can cause a build up of  bacteria in the penis and can be very painful.  It can also cause permanent urinary and kidney problems if not taken care of.  Hair ring checks should be once a week and start at  4 months of age.  Males will do their own hair ring checks and try to take care of them on their own.  If you notice a male grooming himself often down there he is probably having trouble with a hair ring.  Also is the penis does not retract all the way into the sheath, he probably has a hair ring.    Even one strand of hair wrapped around the sheath can cause problems so it is very important to check for hair rings.  To do a hair ring check first wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.  Use a little bit of lubricant.  Gently grab the penis between your thumb and index finger and guide it outward until it is fully extended.  Be very careful not to injure the penis by pulling too hard  this can cause a prolaspe penis that could be permanent (a penis that does not go back into the sheath and stays hanging out) .  It's easiest to have someone else hold the chin on his back and wrap his upper body in a towel to hold him still.  Have good lighting and if you see a hair ring gently try to pull it away with tweezers that have been sterilized or roll it away with your fingers, make certain you roll the hair ring down the penile sheath.  Do not try to pull it hard and break the hair ring because this can cause severe damage.  If you can not get the hair ring loose you may need to cut the hair with cuticle nippers (be very careful not to nick the penis).  If hair ring checks are performed regularly you should be able to remove them with your fingers.  After you remove the hair ring let the penis retract by itself making sure to clear any hair out of the way.  

Uterine and Ovarian problems in females
It is very hard to detect these types of problems until it is too late.  To prevent these types of problems make sure to clean the cage every 7 days.   Do not give your females dust baths when they are in heat or have just delivered a baby.  The reason for this is in both cases the vagina is open and you do not want dust to get inside them.  

Lethargy, not eating, weight loss,  excessive grooming of the vaginal area, warm belly, swelling, odor or a change in personality can be a sign of uterine problems.  A uterine infection can be fatal when they have an infection during a heat cycle and the vagina closes up with the infection inside of her.  Make sure you keep a close up on female when she comes into her first heat and after delivery.  You should check your females once a week for any signs of discharge, odor, bleeding or heat coming from that area.   They need to be taken to the vet immediately to get antibiotics to get rid of the infection.  


Mastitis

When a new mom has a build up of colostrum or milk it can cause mastitis.   It can happen to moms when you wean her babies away from her.  Signs of mastitis are overly red and inflamed nipples, swelling at the base of the nipple and into the chest, nipples that are hot to the touch, weight loss, lethargy, no appetite, and personality change.  If your female shows these signs take them to a vet right away.

Upper Respiratory Infection or Pneumonia

Symptoms are watery eyes, sneezing,  hoarse sounding throat, clattering teeth, wheezing, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, shallow breathing, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, and personality changes.  If not treated URI or pneumonia are almost always fatal.  They require immediate veterinary care.  If they are viral and not an infection all you can do is treat the symptoms and wait for the virus to run its course.  The vet will probably do a blood test to see if it is an infection.  Remember any time antibiotics are used they destroy the bad and good bacteria so you will need to give yogurt with live cultures 4 hours after antibiotics to restore the good bacteria.


Fungus
A vet can diagnos ringworm with a special fluorescent light.  You can apply 1% miconazal to the affected area and put 1 tsp of tinactin foot powder to 1 cup of dust for their dustbath.   


Parasites

It is widely believed that chinchillas can not get fleas or mites because their hair is so dense.  My vet says this is not true, but I haven't ever had a chinchilla with either.  I have also read that they can get ear mites which can be transported in pine bedding, but have also never had this happen.  If you chinchilla's ears get really red or bumpy or they are scratching them excessively I would take them to a vet.   

Chinchillas can get internal parasites, especially if they are housed near other animals that can carry them or if they drink tap water.  Diarrhea, Constipation, bloody stool, lethargy, weight loss, and loss of appetite are some signs of a parasitic infestation.  The only way to properly diagnose and treat internal parasites is by having your veterinarian perform a fecal examination and float.  Some parasites are near impossible to get rid of such as Giardia and Coccidia so if you suspect a parasite do not delay in seeking veterinary care or you could lose your Chinchilla.  Internal parasites are often contagious as well and if they are coming from a water supply or a food source it is highly likely other Chinchillas in your herd or even other animals in your home are infested so it is necessary to obtain enough ant parasitic medication to treat everyone and it is sometimes advisable to have yourself tested as well, especially if you share their water source.  Some parasites such as Giardia do not affect humans and you may never know you are infested so if you want to rule out the water source a good way to do so would be to test yourself or other animals in the home.


Heatstroke: Chinchillas overheat very easily.  They should be housed in temperatures not exceeding 75 degrees with 65-70 being ideal.  Fans do not cool Chinchillas; all they do is move warm air around the room.  In order to ensure your Chinchilla does not overheat and suffer heatstroke you must make certain to monitor the temperature and humidity in the room.  Remember humidity can raise the temperature and anything over about 100 degrees combined is almost always fatal to a Chinchilla.  A good thermometer and a humidity sensor (also known as a moisture meter, humidistat, or hygrometer) are critical to maintaining the perfect temperature and humidity balance in your Chinchilla’s living space. They are wearing a fur coat so please try to keep that in mind.  Signs of heatstroke are lethargy, rapid breathing, shallow breathing, and red ears with blood vessels being notably visible, and laying on their side.  If you suspect your Chinchilla is suffering heat stroke you must cool them off immediately.  You can do this by placing terra cotta pot bottoms or bricks in the freezer and then letting the Chinchilla sit on it.  You can also place a cake pan full of ice in the cage for the Chinchilla to sit in.  Some sites suggest submerging your Chinchilla up to the neck in cold water.  I don’t know if I would be comfortable with that simply because it would be impossible to dry them and would cause huge mats in the fur I would think, but in an emergency it might be necessary.  The best treatment for heatstroke is prevention, always be mindful of your Chinchilla’s room and cage temperature.  If the cage sits on the floor the thermometer should be at floor level and if the cage is higher the thermometer should be higher.  By keeping the thermometer level with the cage you will get the most accurate reading.  In an emergency such as your air conditioning going out you can freeze bricks, terra cotta pot bottoms, metal pans, etc… and place them in the cage.  You can use freeze packs but please make sure if that is your only option you are right there with your Chinchilla, if they try to chew them you will have to remove them, often the gel inside is toxic. 

Hypoglycemic Shock/Seizure: Chinchillas (especially kits) can suffer from episodes of hypoglycemic shock and/or seizure.  If your Chinchilla has a seizure and you can not be absolutely certain it’s a hypoglycemic episode then you will need to take your Chinchilla to the vet to rule out other causes.  Seizures can be a sign of something more severe such as a tumor in the brain or brain damage, they can even signal impending death so please if you are not absolutely certain it’s hypoglycemic in nature do seek a vet’s treatment immediately.  If your Chinchilla has recurring hypoglycemic episodes then you will need to seek a veterinarian’s advice in treating them.  Hypoglycemia itself can actually be a long term disease and is often hereditary so while it is fairly common for a Chinchilla to have one hypoglycemic episode, recurring episodes are cause for concern and should be treated by a veterinarian.  Hypoglycemic shock and seizures are in essence a bottoming out of the blood sugar.  Most often times it occurs when a Chinchilla over exerts themselves, when a Chinchilla has suffered heatstroke or has overheated causing the body to absorb the excess fluids and sugars, when a Chinchilla is dehydrated, or when a Chinchilla has suffered a loss of appetite.  It can also occur when a Chinchilla is convalescing so it’s important to always be mindful of your Chinchilla’s energy levels and food intake if they are recovering from illness or trauma.  This is why your Chinchilla should always be monitored during free time and why kits should have limited out of cage run time.  30 minutes is the maximum we ever let any of our Chinchillas run outside of the cage and if they start to show signs of fatigue we immediately place them back in the cage.  Instances of hypoglycemic shock also seem to be prevalent in Chinchillas allowed to run in a Critter Ball.  We do NOT use critter balls with our Chinchillas for any reason.  There is simply not enough ventilation and they can promote heat stroke rather quickly.  If you have ever allowed a Chinchilla to run in a Critter Ball you have probably noticed them collapsing on to their side when returned to the cage (and sometimes even while still in the ball if not closely monitored), they may have bright red ears and prominent blood vessels in the ears, and they may be breathing rapidly.  All of these are signs a Chinchilla has overheated and are often seen after a Chinchilla runs in a Critter Ball so for that reason we absolutely do not allow them around our Chinchillas.  Some signs your Chinchilla is suffering from hypoglycemic shock are, stiffened limbs, limpness when you pick them up, tremors, body spasms, rapid breathing, an inability to stand, acute lethargy, unresponsiveness, and  teeth clattering.  If your Chinchilla is able to respond you need to give them a raisin immediately.  This is one of those rare times you can give a raisin to a kit under 6 months.  You can also try taking them outside if the weather is exceptionally cool.  Once they seem to be over the worst of the episode you can give them a juice/water mixture in their water bottle or via syringe to get their sugar levels back up to normal.  If your Chinchilla does not seem to recover within 10 minutes of eating a raisin or being syringed juice then you will need to seek veterinary care immediately.  If this is a hypoglycemic episode the introduction of sugar should eliminate it within 10 to 20 minutes and 30 minutes at the maximum.    If a raisin doesn’t bring them out of the episode then they may require subcutaneous injections or oral syringing of lactated ringer which is somewhat like sugar water and can only be obtained by visiting or phoning your vet. 

Chinchillas can suffer from Epilepsy, which is a seizure disorder and could be hereditory.  I haven't had this in any of my animals and would never breed an chin who showed any signs of this disorder.  The vet may be able to give them some type of anti seizure medicine.


Euthanasia
I feel the only humane way to put a chinchilla to sleep is to have the vet put them in a small anestetic chamber that puts them to sleep.  Then the vet gives them a short that puts them down.  

CHINCHILLA'S URINE COLOR CHANGED TO REDDISH BROWN

Chinchilla urine is darker than our own.  Color can range from dark yellow to a dark reddish or orangish brown. The color of their urine can change depending on what the chinchilla has eaten and the level of certain hormones in the body. Sometimes there's no reason for the color change . 

If your chinchilla is acting normally and eating they should be fine. If the urine is  has clots in it, is bright red or thick, then there might be cause for concern.  Also if your chinchilla strains to pass urine, but little comes out. Those symptoms can be signs of a urinary tract infection, sludge or stones in the bladder, or kidney disease . You would need to see a vet. But without any of those symptoms, brownish red urine isn't cause for alarm.
Dedicated to 
Ms. Tuffy and Amanda