Chinchillas - Problems
Generally speaking, chinchillas are fairly hardy animals. However, they do have several unique problems, and understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.
Chinchillas have the ability to release or "slip" patches of fur when handled improperly, when stressed, or when fighting. This reaction developed as a defense mechanism in response to being caught by a predator. No permanent damage is usually done to the chinchilla. The fur re-grows, although the new growth may take several months. Thus, chinchillas should never be grabbed by their skin.
Rodents are very susceptible to antibiotic toxicity.
"Many antibiotics can be fatal to pet chinchillas."
Many antibiotics, including penicillin and erythromycin, can be fatal to pet chinchillas. For this reason, owners should NEVER give their pet chinchilla medications without checking with their veterinarian first. Also, because of antibiotic sensitivity and other unique problems of pet chinchillas, make sure the veterinarian you choose knows how to treat chinchillas properly.
Chinchillas have open rooted or continuously growing teeth that grow 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) per year. The upper and lower rows of teeth must align or meet properly in order to wear down against each other. Malocclusion occurs when the teeth do not meet properly and therefore do not wear correctly, leading to overgrowth. This can happen with the front teeth (incisors) that are visible, as well as the back molars that you cannot see. These overgrown teeth may develop sharp edges, or spurs, from improper wear that may cut the tongue, cheek or lips, leading to difficulty eating, decreased appetite, weight loss, drooling ("slobbers"), eye problems, and pawing at the face. Chinchillas may also develop deep tooth root infections or abscesses. If your chinchillas displays any of the signs commonly associated with dental problems, especially drooling or decreased appetite, immediately seek help from a veterinarian familiar with chinchillas. Anesthesia is often needed to allow a veterinarian to thoroughly evaluate the mouth, and radiographs (X-rays) may be needed to identify problems associated with teeth roots and jaw bones.
"Chinchillas are very susceptible to heat stroke"
Chinchillas are very susceptible to heat stroke; optimal environmental temperature should be 50º- 68ºF (10º- 20ºC) and definitely below 80ºF (27ºC); high humidity should also be avoided, as chinchillas do not tolerate humid conditions at all and can easily die from overheating.
Chinchillas are susceptible to numerous skin and fur problems such as fungal infections, fur chewing, hair loss, and an unusual problem in which the fur becomes wrapped around the penis in a "ring" leading to irritation or constriction of the penis. If your chinchilla develops any of these issues, seek help from a veterinarian familiar with chinchillas.
Chinchillas have a unique grooming habit that is important in the maintenance of healthy fur and skin.
"They require a dust bath for normal grooming."
Dust bathing for chinchillas is a part of normal grooming. A dust box should be at least 6" x 6" x 9" and have 2"-3" of dust in the bottom. This should be provided for 10-15 minutes daily and removed after use. The "dust" can be purchased at local pet stores and consists of one part of Fuller's earth and nine parts of silver sand). Since dust can become soiled with urine and feces, you should change the dust every two to three weeks for hygienic reasons.
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