General HealthChinchilla First AidDiarrhea in ChinchillasFungus

Chins have very few problems, but here are some things to look for:

  • Change in consistency of the droppings could be a sign of illness.
  • Watery eyes
  • The teeth should be checked periodically to make sure they are straight and not growing too long. A chins teeth can grow up to 12" a year, and they are kept short by chewing and just by properly eating their pellets. If teeth problems exist, it also could be a sign of some other illness.
  • Missing fur patches can be a sign of fur biting, which is often stress related.
  • If the underside of a chin is wet or discolored, it could be a sign of infection or miscarriage.

You may also find they develop fungus in their ears, but that can be cured using sand-batch additions.

Avoid putting them in drafty areas; they are susceptible to pneumonia. However, if you live in a warm area, they will need to be kept in a cool area.

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Chinchilla First Aid
by T. J. Pridham, D.V.M., copyright 1969

The practice of veterinary and human medicine today involves the prevention of disease as well as treatment. Although many of the more devastating diseases, those of infectious origin, can be prevented successfully, a great many other problems continue to be troublesome. One of the most tragic diseases, and many times an unnecessary one, confronting both veterinary and medical practitioners is accidental injury or death. Even though public education has been helpful in decreasing the incidence of accidents, this disease still remains high on the list of human killers.

 The veterinary profession faces a similar problem, and realizing that it is impossible to educate animals in accident prevention, it befalls us to help the husbandryman avoid undue financial loss as result of accidental injury or death to his animals. This discussion will deal specifically with some of the more common accidents affecting chinchillas, first-aid measures which you can apply, and preventive steps you can take, as well as predisposing factors, where applicable, will be mentioned. It is important to realize that there is great variation in the severity of injuries and in many instances professional help must be acquired. However, even in cases of major injuries there is always something you can do to make the animal more comfortable.

 The Injured Animal

Before dealing specifically with a few of the injuries affecting chinchillas, some general information on nursing and first-aid may be helpful. Contrary to the thinking of many, the steps that should be taken and the medicines that should be kept on hand for the treatment of accident victims are very simple. Those cases which require immediate, extensive treatment and special aftercare should be placed in the hands of a veterinarian.

 Two or three special roomy cages with solid bottoms and a large door should be present on every ranch for the housing of injured animals. Some injuries such as broken bones or foreign bodies in the eye can be made more serious by excessive or careless handling or ignorance in the proper method of handling. Such animals should be move to quiet, warm quarters and professional advice obtained as soon as possible. If injuries are not severe the chinchilla usually will less disturbed if left in its own pen during convalescence. Some chinchillas when isolated, suffer from boredom and refuse to eat or resort to fur-chewing. When injuries result from a fight the more aggressive animal should be removed.

 Special diets are not necessary unless the appetite is depressed. The appetite often can be stimulated by giving the sick chinchilla a few drops of sugar and water or corn syrup and water (1 part sugar or syrup to 4 of water) three or four times daily by means of an eye-dropper. Animals so treated soon learn and are eager to take nourishment from the dropper without it being necessary to handle them at all. Pablum, a few raisins, or choice fresh greens are helpful to induce an animal to resume eating. As soon as the appetite returns, or if the animal doesn’t lose its appetite, the regular diet should be fed.

 Some of the materials that should be included in your first-aid supplies are hand soap and clean water, mild antiseptic such as Lysol or Bettol, absorbent cotton, adhesive tape ½", gauze, scissors, file, syringe and 22-gauge ¾" needle, and stiff cardboard for making collars to prevent self-mutilation of injuries.
 
 

Conditions for Which You May Administer First-Aid:

Abscesses

Cause

Abscesses are caused by infection and often are predisposed by injury. Such injuries occur when the young bite the mother while nursing. Sharp projections in the cage (especially newly constructed ones) and fighting are other causes. Filthy pens or pens that not disinfected routinely often harbor pus-producing organisms. 

Treatment

Antibiotic therapy for 3 - 5 days will often eliminate the infections. If lancing is necessary it should be done by a veterinarian or at least you should be coached by a veterinarian. If the animal becomes ill (off feed), seek professional help. The front teeth of the young should be examined for irregularities and if present, corrective measures instituted. Sharp projections in the cage should be sought and removed if present. The cage and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. 

Prevention

Prevention consists of removing the predisposing factors mentioned previously.

Broken Bones

Cause

The majority of broken bones occur in the legs, most often in the hind legs. A broken bone may be the result of a fall on a hard surface, being stuck by a falling object when an animal escapes from its pen or a limb may be caught in a narrow opening and twisted. Wire bottom pens, one inch by one-half inch mesh, often allow the hock of chinchilla to go through and be caught, and a broken leg results in the struggle to get free. Improper or rough handling, such as catching or holding by the legs, can result in broken bones. 

Treatment

Place the animal in an isolation pen in quiet surroundings and seek professional help. The animal should be collared to prevent chewing the broken bone. The collar should be fashioned from stiff cardboard made in two halves taped together. The difference between the inner and outer radius should be about one and one-half inches. 

Prevention
Examining the door catches routinely to avoid escapes. It is suggested that 1" x ½" mesh be avoided for the booms of pens. Learn how to retrain chinchillas properly.

Broken or Frozen Tails

Cause

A broken tail is usually caused by rough handling or closing a door on it, and frozen tail is caused by housing during very cold weather in unheated quarters. Neither injury is considered serious. 

Treatment - Breaks

House the animal alone. If no displacement has occurred, put a collar on the animal and do nothing else. Avoid handling by the tail for at least four weeks. If displacement has occurred contact your local veterinarian. 

Treatment - Freezing

Usually the tail falls off with no unfavorable results. If the chinchilla has a tendency to chew its tail, apply a collar. It is very seldom necessary to isolate these animals. Antibiotics may be used to prevent secondary infection.

Torn Ears and Head Injuries

Cause
Fights. 

 Treatment :
Place the animals in separate cages and watch them closely. The torn areas should be clipped of fur, washed with soap and water and rinsed with a mild disinfectant. In some cases it may be necessary to give penicillin. Sever injuries should be attended to by a veterinarian. Uneventful healing usually occurs if the above measures are carefully carried out. The pens and utensils must be kept clean. If infection occurs, bathing two or three times daily with warm salty water will cleanse and hence assist healing of the wound.  

Prevention

When introducing strange animals to the breeding herd, patience and caution must be exercised. The new animal should be allowed to get used to his new quarters before coming in contact with other animals.

 Some mechanical means of closing the male out of the female pen should be available and used at the first sign of fighting. If fighting again occurs separate them. Usually, two or three instances of this teaches the lesson. However, a vicious male may be put in a separate pen for several months and then tried again. 

 Vicious fighting is not necessary and should not be tolerated.

Broken Teeth

Cause

This is usually caused by jumping to the floor from a high cage during an escape attempt where the animal us alone or when you are attempting to catch it. As a rule only the front teeth (incisors) are broken. Sometimes the teeth become caught in the wire mesh and are broken in the struggle to be free. 

Treatment

If only one tooth is broken, file down the sharp points. If two or more are broken, clip them off evenly and file smooth. Put the animal on a soft diet until normal mastication can be resumed. It may be necessary to isolate the animal.

Heat Prostration

Cause

Excessively high temperatures, poor ventilation, insufficient water and often direct exposure to the sunlight. 

Treatment

If the animal is unconscious and has a high temperature, place it in a cool place and lower the chinchilla’s temperature to normal but not below (99-101°F). When it revives give it a few drops of cool, slightly salted water. If the temperature becomes sub-normal, the treatment should be reversed and attempts made to conserve body heat and restore the temperature to normal. 

Prevention

Proper housing and air-conditioning.

Swollen Penis

Cause

A ring of hair behind the glans of the penis following mating. 

Treatment

Isolate and put a collar on the animal. Remove the fur, apply vaseline and massage the penis very gently in an attempt to reduce the swelling. Apply an antibiotic ointment three or four time daily. 

Prevention
Males that are in polygamous breeding set-up should be examined at any sign of irritation.

Eye Injuries

Causes

Usually projection of wire or splinters of wood in the eye. This is seen most frequently when new cages and nest boxes have been built recently. 

Treatment

Isolate, and if the injury is severe or the foreign body is still present, seek veterinary assistance. If the injury is moderate and there is no foreign body present, an antibiotic ointment should be put in the eye twice daily until recovery occurs. 

Prevention

Check for and remove any harmful projections in the pen. 
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Diarrhea in Chinchillas
The following information is provided courtesy of:
ChinMom
aka Betti Cogswell

If your chinchilla's stools are wet and mushy, then diarrhea is indicated.

When your chinchilla comes up with diarrhea, ask yourself: is this new, or has this problem been going on for a while? Know your chinchilla's rhythms, and know if this is an indication of an ongoing problem. Diarrhea can be a symptom of many things. If this is an ongoing problem, then check with your vet, and do what you have been doing.

If the diarrhea is a new condition, you should have your chinchilla checked by a vet, particularly a vet experienced with guinea pigs and other rodents. Have your chinchilla's stool checked under the microscope as a wet mount [it must be fresh] for giardia and coccidia. Have your vet check the teeth [which takes a lot of finesse], making sure that the molars do not have spurs or points. If they do, they need to be burred down - a procedure best done under anesthesia. If your animal has giardia, then ask for Albendozol, not Flagyl. Flagyl is still the only accepted treatment for giardia, but unfortunately it kills no more than 50% of the parasite and has been implicated in liver failure in chinchillas. Albendozol, however, usually does kill the bug after 3 days of treatment and does not seem to have bad side effects because it is not absorbed into the blood stream. It does sometimes cause a little loss of appetite for a couple of days, but this usually passes.

If none of the above is present. Then give the chinchilla some Kaopectate for children. Cherry flavor seems to be most favored. Pour some into a teaspoon, and let your chinchilla lap up as much as it wants. If one or two doses in one or two days does not cure this, try some yogurt with a little Metamucil. Mix about 1/4 teaspoon into an ounce of yogurt and give to your chin. If this does not help, and the diarrhea persists, have a longer exam by the vet including a complete blood count. Sometimes coccidia does not show up under the microscope but it can cause anemia because it causes hemorrhage.

While this is going on, go to a basic diet: pellets and hay only and a lot of water. You need to replace fluids your chinchilla is losing. You might want to put some Pedilyte into the water for electrolytes. Weigh your animal daily. If it is losing weight, then switch to alfalfa and grind up pellets and some calf manna and mix with baby food (fruits seem best, oddly enough) into a soft mush and get your animal to eat it. Weight loss is dangerous. If your chinchilla's weight drops below 14 ounces (400 Gm), your chinchilla is in danger of failure to thrive and needs to be fed frequently. Stay in close contact with your vet here, as this is probably a major problem.

ChinMom
can be reached at chinmom@aol.com

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Fungus
by Greg Riedstra
What is fungus?

The fungus that affects chinchillas are fungi that grow on the skin of the animal irritating first the outer layer of skin, and then deeper skin layers. This causes fur and/or whiskers to fall out and the animal to be quite uncomfortable. This can be similar to ringworm or athletes foot that people get and can be caused and spread the same way as well

How is fungus caused?

Fungi grow well in areas that are dark, moist, dirty and that have stagnant air. Areas such as these give the fungus a great start but the fungus does not have to start in the chinchilla unit to be a problem; air fans that bring air in from over wet manure piles for instance can bring in the disease. Another way is to bring in infected animals.

 Fungus is an airborne disease, it can be spread through the air, by your hands, by a breeding male, sharing dustbaths or trays, etc.. Once a fungus is in a chinchilla unit and even after several animals are infected, it still needs reasonable poor conditions to survive. By this I mean that after a herd has fungus if cages are kept clean, humidity is low (below 70%) , air circulation is good and lighting is on during daylight hours, then the problem will be relatively easy to cure.

 What does fungus look like?

Before the problem can be solved it is important to be sure that the problem is fungus. Many ranchers get confused between fungus and fur chewing, slipped fur, etc..

 The first signs of fungus are usually at the nose or tail area. Whiskers will break and skin around the nose or on the tail will look red, dry, irritated and flaky. The animal is often seen rubbing the infected area.

 As the animal touches other animals or other parts of its body the fungus will spread in patches. The fur will fall out at the skin and the skin will have the typical symptoms described above.

 Ranchers who can not decide if an animal has fungus or is chewing is usually not chewed off at the skin and the skin will not look infected. A real giveaway is when the fungus reaches an area of the body that the animal can not reach to chew.

Curing the problem

The first step is to find the cause. If an individual animal is cured but the cause is still present, the problem will keep reoccurring. The rancher needs to discover whether the problem is the unit conditions (i.e. humidity, air circulation, cage cleaning schedule, etc.) or if it is a vented-in problem. I've seen several herds struggling with fungus because their air intake was coming from an area that had fungus growing.

 Once the cause has been taken care of the problem can be treated. The affected animals' cages should be disinfected and the tray and dustbath should be kept to that cage.

 There are different medications that can be used for treatment: Chinchilla fungus powder is a medicated talc powder designed for the chinchilla fungus problem, medicated athlete foot powder is sometimes substituted for this. A paste designed for ringworm or athletes foot can also be used.

 A quite successful program is to treat the affected area daily for five days and also mix a table spoon of the powder in the bath. To treat the animal directly with powder, a makeup brush (blush brush) is a useful tool. When using paste or powder, be sure sto apply to affected and the surrounding area of about one half inch. Be sure to wash your hands after handling these animals to help prevent spreading the fungus.

 Another agent often used is alcohol. This is applied directly to the fungus area. Alcohol does kill the fungus, but when used more than three or four times, it will irritate the skin. For this reason and the fact that it is effective only for a short period of time since it evaporates quickly, I prefer using fungus powder on the animal directly and in the bath.

 When a herd is in real bad shape there is a treatment of a drug called griseofulvin (available and used by vets treating cows and horses). This should only be used in severe cases of fungus and only as a treatment, not as a prevention as breeding will be disrupted. As a matter of fact, it is best to take males out of breeding for some time before and during treatment. It is best to consult a veterinarian before using griseofulvin.

 The best cure, of course, is prvention. By maintaining a reasonable cleaning schedule, good ventilationa and lighting, the rancher can prevent fungus from becoming a problem.

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