Advice and Information

This section has everything from eye to teeth problems, please read on:

Sickness

Most importantly when in doubt go to a vet.  This section is in no means a substitute for professional veterinary care.  Often when chinchillas show sign of sickness in a lot of cases their condtion maybe advanced as they are good at hiding pain or discomfort until it gets to a critical stage.  I find it best to observe your pet or breeding animal on a regular basis - then small changes can be noticed very quickly and acted upon.

Diahorrea

Firstly look at the amount of treats and if you are giving them raisins or other fruit.  If so stop them for a few days until their droppings return to normal then slowly start giving them thier treats again giving them less than previously and every other day (about 2 - 3 times a week).  Make sure you give your chinchilla extra hay this should help.  Another common cause is a dirty water bottle, they should be cleaned on a regular basis to control and erradicate bacteria.  A thorough cleaning should help rememdy this problem, in every case though it should be remembered that Diahorrea can kill if left untreated or for a prolonged time so extreme caution should be taken.

Other remedies to try for a simple case of wet droppings is feeding your chinchilla a small square of burnt toast, or if you can get hold of any - some charcoal nuts.  If after that it does not return to normal a trip to the vet is advised as chinchillas will become dehydrated and this alone is deadly.  If your chinchilla is appearing unwell at the onset of wet or soft droppings its bet to seek a vetrinary treatment as soon as possible as its likely its a bit more serious than just one to many treats.

Constipation

Constipation is another problem that chinchillas can be bothered by this is when the droppings are more small and round, just give a few more raisins each day watching the droppings until they return to their normal size.  Be sure not to give to many raisins as this may push your chinchilla to the other extreme.  In severe cases where the chinchilla is stretching or making any  uncomfortable signs please seek your vet for appointment or advice.  I have also found some syrup of figs is good at clearing the blockage - offer it to your chinchilla on a tea spoon, most normally lick some off the spoon and a few doses a day can help.

Bloat

Bloat or gas/wind is a build up of air in the stomach/intestines and can be fatal if left untreated in chinchillas, some breeders have used infant branded infacol with success, and also apple cider vinegar, a few drops in a water bottle (250ml) to get the gut mobile and move things along.  Again i cannot stress just how important for diagnosis and treating bloat is as it can and will kill a chinchilla if left undetected.  It has been thought that certain foods can make the condition worse, especially sugary and sweet things like fruit-type sticks which can frement in the stomach and cause the gas that leads to the problem.  So also keeping treats to a minimum is important.

 Furbiting

Furbiting or fur chewing is another condition a chinchilla may suffer and this may often occur when a chinchilla is nervous or upset.  You will notice that parts of the fur become much shorter than the rest usually appearing darker in colour.  In very bad cases you may find small bald spots where the skin may look a bit darker in colour.  If you see a red scaly skin see section below on fur fungus. 

Try to think about what has changed in the chinchillas daily life for example a change in cage, room or even house or even a fan blowing on your chin can upset him enough to start furbiting.  Once you have figured out what the cause is and eliminated it if at all possible the fur biting shoud stop  In some cases however it is said to be hereditary, i myself have never had a problem with fur biters.  

Fur Fungus

If you find your chinchilla has red scaly skin and is losing fur around the eyes nose and genital area (which starts to spread all over), this is likely to be ringworm or fur fungus as it is normally called, treatment via a vet is the course to take as it is a highly contagious and the animal or animals in question need to be quarantined and precautionary measures taken to keep the rest of your herd/pets clear.

Use of a broad spectrum disinfectant like Virkon is important to eradicate any spores that may have been left lying round your home/unit.  As a preventative use one teaspoon of 1%t Tolfnate atheletes foot powder in your chinchillas sandbath per month.  Also quarantine any new animals coming into your herd for a period of around 6 weeks to make sure they dont have it. 

Your vet will treat your animal with either a oral solution and/or a shampoo, the oral solution is what i recommend as shampooing a chinchilla can be highly stressful to them and to you.  Discard any toys bedding you have in their cage to ensure there is no re-infection and also disinfect the cage thoroughly.

Respiratory Infection

If you notice your chinchilla is coughing and has a runny and/or crusty nose a trip to the vet is a must ASAP.  It could be a respiratory infection. If it is caught in time your chinchilla will need some antibiotics and will recover with the correct treatment.  However once a chinchilla gets too sick it can be very hard to get them well again and death maybe inevitable. 

If your chinchilla needs treatment with antibiotics give it some natural yogurt as well.  This will keep your chinchillas strength up and nutrients while it is recuperating and replace any natural bacteria that the medicine has eliminated during the course of treatment.  You can buy pro-biotics from Johnsons, they have a range of animal safe products that you will probably find at your local pet store or online.

Drooling

 If you notice your chinchilla is constantly drooling and wet under the chin and begins to smell a bit sour it may have teeth problems.  In this instance you will need to see a vet.  You can check your chinchillas teeth by looking at the 4 front ones to be sure they are straight and not broken or too long.  On rare occasions a chinchilla can crack or split a tooth and it will need to be clipped or filed insome cases it may also indicate a heriditary problems such as maloclusion.  Teeth problems are best handled by an experienced vet as there could be root problems also - this is often referred to as malocclusion and in some cases its thought to be a hereditary condition.  If you have a breeding animal that has presented with and been diagnosed as having malocclusion its important you do not breed from this animal and also inform if possible anyone that is breeding from its offspring,  Then you will be doing your part to prevent more chinchillas presenting with the condition in future.

Malocclusion

Malocclusion as described briefly in the Drooling section above can arise through various things.  Lifestyle has been said to play a part in some chinchillas maloccluding, by that i mean diet, living conditions, toys (for chewing and wearing down teeth).  It is also thought to be hereditary and quite a few cases i have seen with some chinchillas i know of it certainly has been hereditary.  The condition is serious and eventually chinchillas with the disease need to be put to sleep because of how bad they become.  The teeth are affected as well as the roots in most cases and all start growing erradically and start to cause problems in the chinchillas jaw and eye sockets - eventually either leading to stavation through being unable to eat - or the tooth roots bursting through the lower jaw or into the eye sockets and brain area leading to a very painful death.  Some teeth operation can be performed on the outer teeth if the outer teeth are the only problem but in the case of root problems its best to let the animal in question be euthanised before it gets to a critical stage.

White teeth

All chinchillas are born with white teeth.  As they get older their teeth turn a nice yellowish-orange colour  If your adult chincilla begins to develop white teeth this is a clear indication that it needs calcium.  There is a multivitamin liquid i recommend to add a few drops into your chinchillas water bottle once a week, its called Abidec Childrens liquid vitamins and a few big breeders use this method to ensure their chinchillas have a boosted calcium supply.  This can be a problem with pregnant or nursing mothers for obvious reasons, hence why its best to supplement regularly anyway to avoid problems in future.  There are other supplements available, but again its best to consult your vet on what they have available or can recommend.

Eye Problems

Chinchillas can at times be prone to eye infections or watery eyes.  Some steps you have to take to ensure you arent harbouring impending eye infections are to limit sand bath times.  Leaving a sanbath in promotes infection and this will result in your chinchilla requiring costly vet treatment and also the need for an antibiotic eye drops or cream as your chinchilla will use it as a toilet and also continue to bathe in the infected sand.  This also requires you changing the  sand once or twice a week  Other foreign bodies can lead a chinchilla to have an eye infection.  I have had a chinchilla with a small lump growing in the eyelid which was probably caused by a foreign piece of dust or article irritating the eye.  This was quickly treated with some antibiotic cream from the vet.

One other cause for eye probelms is a condition known as maloclusion which is related to teeth problems as mentioned in the section, i always advise to seek out vets advice when encoutering this type of problem.  See my section below on teeth problems for further advice.

Never leave suspected eye problems to clear on their own, your chinchilla could end up blind if the infection becomes to bad to reverse with antibiotics.  Remember a chinchilla with nice bright clear eyes is usually a healthy chinchilla.

Heatstroke

 

A chinchilla is a special animal and which has special requirements and a healthy environment.  There is things you need to look out for and heatstroke is one of the most important ones to be aware of and put all measures in place to prevent.  If a chinchilla falls victim to heatstroke it is due to the owners fault and not the chinchilla.

A chinchilla neeeds a cool dry envirnoment they do not like to be wet or damp they also do not like humid weather and can die through over-heating.  Certain pices of eqipment you may need to buy is things like an air conditioning unit to keep temperature and humidity down.  This is why you need to do some research into chinchillas before keeping them and check out the environment you will have them in to make sure you can maintain or lower the temperature if needs be.

Chinchillas are more active if the room is about 16c or lower which is about 60f.  It can be cool but not so cold to the point where it would freeze or chill their water bottles as kits born will not survive this cold.  The most important thing is not to let them go over 20 degrees clecius as this can prove fatal in chinchillas.  One way to spot if a chinchilla is too warm is that they will be laying on their sides and/or their ears will be bright pink with the veins being very prominent..

What to look out for the signs of over-heating

Treatment

Things you can do to keep your chnchillas cool on hot days:

It's always best to be prepared for a hot summer I always do and it could save your chinchillas life.  Dont always be under the assumption that they can cope themselves - they cannot.  Please also keep in mind that hot air rises and cold air sinks, so if your chinchilla cage is up high try to find a lower surface to keep them.  Always keep an eye on the weather forecasts where you are as this will let you perpare yourself in advance for any suspected heatwaves.

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungus which effects the skin of chinchillas and other animals so its also highly infectious

There are three Fungi that are prominent in this disease...


What are the signs of Ringworm
Loss of fur from around the nose, eyes, genitals and possibly broken whiskers. The skin will be reddened . You may see tiny lesions, flaky scabs, scaliness and itching. Your chin may be scratching a lot as ringworm is very itchy.

What are the Causes of Ringworm
Ringworm can be caused by dampand/or humid conditions and dirty living conditions.
Sick or stressed animals are more susceptible to ringworm.
It is highly contagious and is passed on by atmospheric spores.
In the home dogs, cats and humans can also carry ringworm.


The Treatment


Firstly quarantine any suspected cases of ringworm. Then seek veterinary advice. Your vet should use a UV light which will help him to see if there is a possibility of ringworm. This test is not 100% accurate !
Your vet would have to take a fur sample to determine the cause. It takes up to three weeks for the cultures to grow so in the meantime your vet may prescribe grisofulvin or another brand of medication.
Your vet may tell you to use anti fungal powder in your chins sand bath. If you do need to use this make sure all food is out of the way before placing the bath in.
You will need to clean the cage with a recommended cleaner such as Isopropyl alcohol which can be bought at the chemists (it is suggested to use this on the ringworm itself using a cotton-bud, as it should kill the spores but I think this would sting a lot!). Make sure all the shelves and toys are also cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the cage to dry then return the chins to their cage.
Another thing which can help stop the spores from escaping is to use an opaque cloth to cover the entire cage during the daytime and to only open one side at night which will help to contain the spores.

How to prevent spread any further cases


Keeping the temperature below 70 f by using an air conditioning unit and de-humidifier.
Good quality damp and mould free hay should be used.
Keeping your chinchilla quiet and stress free.
Regular exercise out of the cage.
And always wash your hands.

copyright 2008-12 wenda christie all rights reserved