Like all animals, there are some health conditions to which chinchillas are prone. As a responsible chinchilla owner, it is important that you are aware of these and can recognize the signs. This will help you to take preventive measures where possible, recognize the signs of illness, and seek treatment for your pet if necessary. Here is an overview of some of the most common chinchilla health conditions.
Common Chinchilla Health Conditions
This is one of the most common health conditions for chinchillas. It is usually caused by overgrown or overlapping teeth that leave gaps in the gums that then become infected when food and bacteria are trapped in these pockets. A chinchilla with a dental infection will have difficulty eating. Other symptoms include swelling to the face, inflamed gums, and pus in the mouth.
Chinchillas are prone to eye infections and there are many causes. These include dust or food getting into the eyes, bacterial or viral infections, and a vitamin A deficiency. Some symptoms of eye problems include squinting, cloudy eyes, discharge, and changes in skin color around the eyes.
The shape of a chinchilla’s ears leaves them prone to ear problems and these are most commonly ear infections. They will experience pain with an infection but, unfortunately, they cannot express this to you. Other symptoms include rubbing or scratching the ears, tilting their heads, and a loss of balance.
Fur chewing is usually a behavioral problem where a chinchilla will bite their own fur or the fur of another chinchilla. This leaves sore bald patches and is usually caused by stress or boredom. However, other causes of this include dietary deficiencies, dental problems, skin infections, parasites, or hormone imbalances. It is important to get a chinchilla checked by the vet to determine the cause of this behavior.
Chinchillas have a survival mechanism that allows them to release large chunks of fur if they are grabbed. In the wild, this allows them to escape from predators. A chinchilla might release its fur if it is attacked by another chinchilla sharing its cage or if you pick it up too roughly. The best way to avoid your chinchilla losing large patches of their fur is to handle them gently.
Chinchillas can suffer from a range of gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Each of these is potentially a sign of another condition and not a condition in its own right. If your chinchilla is showing any of these symptoms, book a veterinary appointment so the vet can run tests to diagnose the underlying cause.
Just like cats, chinchillas self-groom. When they lick their fur, some of it makes its way into the intestinal tract and stomach. It then forms balls because their stomachs do not digest hair. Usually, a chinchilla will release the hairball of its own accord by vomiting it up or the hairball will pass through their system and come out with their feces. However, a hairball can sometimes cause an intestinal blockage, and this is a serious issue. If you suspect that your chinchilla has a blockage, you need to see the vet urgently.
In the wild, chinchillas live in colder temperatures and if they are exposed to too much heat, they will develop heat stroke. This is a serious problem for these creatures. It is important to keep them indoors during warmer months, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. The symptoms of heat stroke include reddened ears and eyes, stretching out, drooling, and rapid breathing.
Malocclusion is a dental condition that is related to overgrowing teeth. If the teeth are misaligned, they will eventually meet. They then have no room to grow further and become impacted in the gums. This can lead to infections and abscesses. Signs that a chinchilla has malocclusion are misaligned teeth, difficulty eating, drooling, putting their paw to their mouth.
Over Grown Teeth
One of the most common problems for chinchillas is overgrown teeth. The teeth of a chinchilla continue to grow at a rate of between two and three inches per year. A chinchilla living in the wild keeps their teeth worn down by eating rough grass. A domestic chinchilla can develop overgrown teeth if they are not given enough hay to eat or they eat too many pellets.
When a chinchilla has constipation or diarrhea, it can lead to a rectal prolapse. This is where part of the rectum protrudes from the anus. You will see redness and an abnormal lump in the anus. This is potentially life-threatening, so a trip to the vet is essential.
The most common causes of respiratory infections are poor ventilation, extra moisture in the cage, overcrowding, high humidity, and drafts. Some symptoms of respiratory infections in chinchillas are a fever, eye discharge, breathing difficulties, nasal discharge, shivering, and sneezing.
Ringworm is a common fungal skin infection. The symptoms of this infection include raised red patches of skin that are itchy and scaly. A chinchilla with this condition may bite their fur to relieve itching and have bald patches in the infected areas.
Chinchillas can easily become stressed and they will display physical symptoms of this. The main causes of stress in chinchillas are changes to their diet or environment and changing a breeding partner during the breeding season. If a chinchilla is suffering from stress, they may stop eating, become weak, and lose weight.
Stomach ulcers in chinchillas are usually caused by eating coarse, bad, or moldy hay. This is a difficult condition to detect and a loss of appetite is generally the only symptom that a chinchilla has a stomach ulcer.
A Few Tips to Keep Your Chinchilla Healthy
Although there are many health conditions to which chinchillas are prone, there are many steps you can take to maintain the health of your pet and reduce the risk of them suffering from these conditions. The following tips will help you to keep your chinchilla healthy.
- Give your chinchilla a healthy diet and avoid foods that can cause them harm.
- Make sure your chinchilla visits the vet for a check-up regularly.
- Avoid overcrowding and make sure the cage is well-ventilated
- Buy chinchilla toys to help them wear their teeth down.
- Make sure your chinchilla has a good supply of fresh water to drink.
- Clean the cage regularly and remove any moldy hay to reduce the risk of infections and stomach ulcers.
- Keep them indoors during hot weather to prevent heat stroke and turn on the air-conditioning.
- Handle your chinchilla with care to prevent fur slip and accidental injury.
- Monitor any changes in the health of your chinchilla.
- Always seek the advice of a veterinarian if you have any concerns.