Common Chinchilla Ailments
Although chinchillas are relatively robust and hardy, they can succumb to several common health concerns, most of which are preventable.
The most common illness that a chinchilla will contract is going to be either a respiratory concern or heat stroke (see below). With respiratory conditions, people tend not to notice signs until it is too late, as chinchillas hide their symptoms very well.
Signs of a sick chinchilla:
- Labored breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Matted hair
Although, the main signs of a sick chinchilla may seem simple and easy to see, usually you don't notice them until the last few days.
In terms of the chinchilla respiratory system, make sure to never spray can aerosoles in the same room with a chinchilla. If the room smells because of the cage litter, clean it. Refrain from spraying "smell good" sprays.
Never use Febreze near a chinchilla!
Chico—Aug. 31, 2007
- Excessively high temperatures
- Poor ventilation
- Insufficient water
- Direct exposure to the sunlight
If the chinchilla is unconscious and has a higher-than-normal temperature, place him in a cool place and try to lower his temperature back to normal (between 99 and 101°F).
When the chinchilla starts to revive, give him a few drops of cool, slightly salted water.
(If the chinchilla's temperature is too cool, you should reverse the treatment and place him in a warm place. Add a warm heating pad if necessary.)
Proper housing and air conditioning.
Chiko—Lack of energy
Abscesses are caused by infection and sometimes injury. Injuries that can cause an abscess include those caused by sharp protruding objects in the cage and fighting with other chinchillas. Abscesses can also be caused by unclean cages or cages that aren't disinfected regularly, as such conditions can harbor pus-producing organisms.
If your chinchilla has an infection, he will need antibiotic therapy for about three to five days to eliminate the infection. Sometimes lancing of the abcess is necessary.
Remove any risk factors such as sharp objects in the cage, check the front teeth for irregularities (sharp points from a broken tooth can lead to injury), and make sure to clean the cage and accessories thoroughly and regularly.
Cheech—Sept 14, 2007
Hind legs are the most common broken bones, which can be caused by a fall on a hard surface, being stuck by a falling object, or getting the limb stuck in the cage wires or a narrow opening. Improper handling can also result in broken bones.
Put the chinchilla in an isolation cage until you can consult a veterinarian. You may want to construct a splint from stiff cardboard.
Examine the cage regularly. Make sure that wire openings in the cage are about 1" x 1/2" and avoid wire bottomed cages. Learn proper handling techniques.
Broken or Frozen Tail
A broken tail is usually caused by rough handling or a door closing on it. A frozen tail is caused by housing in cold weather in unheated area.
House the animal alone. If there wasn't displacement, you can use an Elizabethan collar to prevent the chinchilla from chewing at his tail. Avoid handling for about four weeks. If there was a displacement, you will need to consult a vet.
Usually, the tail will fall off without any unfavorable results. If the chinchilla starts to chew at the tail, use an Elizabethen collar. You may consider seeing a vet to get prescribed an antibiotic to prevent any secondary infection from occurring.
Torn Ears and Head Injuries
Fights with cagemates.
Put the chinchilla in a separate cage and watch him closely.
You will want to clip the hair around the torn area, wash it with soap and water, and then rinse with a mild disinfectant. And, in extreme cases, you will want to treat the chinchilla with penicillin. For severe injuries, you should consult a veterinarian.
You should see the healing process begin to take place if you follow the appropriate measures. Otherwise, if you notice the first signs of infection, you will need to wash the wound with saline solution two to three times a day to assist the healing process. If infection worsens, consult a vet ASAP.
These cases tend to occur when you introduce a new chinchilla to your existing chinchilla(s) without the proper procedure, so when introducing a new chinchilla do so with patience and caution. You should quarantine the chinchilla for at least three weeks to make sure that he is free of illness. Then you can start introducing him to your other chinchilla(s).
With they first meet, watch for any signs of aggression or fighting, as you will need to separate them, and try again later.
I find that introducing new chinchillas to existing ones works best when you let them play together outside of the cage they will be housed in and, slowly, start to let them play together in the cage.
Broken teeth is usually caused by jumping to the bottom of the cage from a higher level. Sometimes, the front teeth (the incisors) can be caught in the wire mesh caging and broken when struggling to get free.
If only one tooth is broken, you can file down the sharp points. But, if two or more teeth are broken, you will need to clip them off evenly and then file them until they're smooth.
Put the chinchilla on a soft diet until he can eat normally. To make a soft diet, just add warm water to moisten the regular diet.
You may even have to isolate the animal, but that is situation based.
A ring of hair behind the glands of the penis after mating.
Isolate the chinchilla and put a collar on him. Remove the fur around the penis, apply Vaseline, and massage it gently to reduce swelling. Apply an antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, three to four times a day.
Male chinchillas that are in polygamous breeding groups should be examined regularly, especially at any signs of an irritation.
Eye injuries are usually caused by a protruding wire or splinters of wood. This occurs more frequently with new cages and nest boxes.
Isolate the chinchilla.
If the injury is severe or you can still see the foreign body in the eye, seek professional help immediately!
If the injury is moderate, you can apply an antibiotic ointment twice a day.
Check for any harmful projections in the cage, and remove them.
I am not a professional veterinarian by any means whatsoever, so please take this information with a grain of salt, as it is comprised from various sources and personal experiences.
When I say that when you start to notice signs of your chinchilla being ill, it's near the end, trust me: I mean it.
Other Chinchilla Care
- Chinchilla First Aid
Find basic first aid information for chinchillas. This article includes alternative medicines and diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
- Chinchilla Basics
Basic care information from housing to diet, temperament to treats, and behaviors to pet-keeping tips.
- Giardia in Chinchillas
If your chinchilla has giardia, it is important to see a vet. This is how to recognize the symptoms.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized veterinarian.