You've probably never told your pet chinchilla that his kind are farmed for their beautiful coats. Don't. But much of the research on common infectious chinchilla diseases centers on those raised in large numbers on fur ranches. Luckily, responsible pet owners keeping only a few chinchillas will probably never encounter these diseases. Take yours to a vet if they exhibit any sign of illness.
Various bacterial infections in chinchillas can cause upper respiratory infections that progress to pneumonia. Among the most common infectious agents are bordetella, pasteurella and streptococcus. Symptoms include nasal discharge, lethargy, sneezing, fever, breathing difficulties, appetite loss and conjunctivitis, the eye inflammation known as pinkeye. Get your pet to the vet at the first sign of any respiratory problem. Promptly treating with antibiotics, as well as regularly cleaning debris from the nose and eyes, can save your chinchilla. Remove affected animals from any other chinchillas.
The gastrointestinal infection known as enteritis frequently occurs in chinchillas. Symptoms include diarrhea, depression, appetite loss, abdominal pain and even partial paralysis. Unfortunately, finding your chinchilla dead could be the first sign of the disease. Take your pet to the vet if he displays signs of illness. Enteritis is often fatal, but your pet might pull through if your vet treats your chinchilla with antibiotics at the first stages of illness. Meanwhile, improper feeding often results in diarrhea in chinchillas. Make any changes in feeding gradual, and don't feed your pet vegetables and fruits containing a lot of liquid. Ask your vet about the best foods or treats for your chinchilla.
Chinchillas' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. If you feed your pet plenty of fibrous foods and give him suitable wood to chew on, his teeth should wear down normally. If the teeth don't wear properly or consistently, malocclusion results. Not only do these teeth make eating difficult or painful, they can also form spurs causing mouth ulcers or lesions. Symptoms include drooling and appetite loss. Your vet can trim your pet's teeth, as well as teach you the procedure.
While ringworm usually doesn't cause lasting damage, your chinchilla can pass the fungal disease to you. If your pet develops scaly balding patches on his face, ears and feet, suspect ringworm as the culprit. Take your chinchilla to the vet -- and wear disposable gloves when handling him. Your vet will prescribe medication to get rid of the fungus. If you develop red, scaly patches on your body, visit the doctor. On people, these patches develop a ringlike appearance, hence the name. It's a fungus with no worm involved.
Chinchillas generally pick up the bacteria causing yersiniosis in the wild from other affected rodent species. A chinchilla may also become infected by consuming infected feces or, if his mother harbors the virus, in utero or while nursing. Symptoms include weight and appetite loss, depression, lethargy and either diarrhea or constipation. Unfortunately, most infected animals do not survive. If you're lucky, antibiotic therapy might save your pet. If he survives, you must keep him separated from other chinchillas.
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Respiratory Diseases
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Chinchillas
- Veterinary Partner: Chinchillas
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Chinchillas - Diseases
- Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital: Care and Feeding of Your Chinchilla
- petMD: Bacterial (Yersinia) Infection in Chinchillas
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.