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Cheeky Chinchillas - Keeping Your Chinchilla Healthy
With   the   right   care,   environment   and   correct   diet,   a   chinchilla   can   live   for   up   to   20   years,   although   on average,   most   live   to   about   12-15   years.   Chinchillas   are   generally   quite   sturdy   creatures   but   there   are some health problems to be aware of. The   information   below   covers   the   following:      Dental   Issues, Heat   Strokes,   Seizures,   Fur   Biting,   Fungal Infection, Diarrhoea, Constipation and Hair Rings. This information is through my own experiences and research and is only a guide line. If you are at all concerned about the health of your chinchilla, please visit your local vet Teeth One   of   the   most   common   problems   that   chinchillas   have   today,   is   with   their   teeth.   This   may   be   due   to uneven   tooth   wear   causing   spikes   and   spurs,   overgrown   teeth,   root   elongation   and   more,   all   of   which   can cause great discomfort to a chinchilla.  Chinchillas have 20 teeth, 4 incisors and 16 molars. The dental formula for their teeth is: I 1/1 C 0/0 P 1/1 M 3/3 Chinchilla's teeth should be yellowish in colour and the top teeth should not overhang the lower set. Their teeth are open-rooted and grow all the time. The incisors can grow 2 to 3 inches in a year. A chinchilla must chew and grind food to prevent the teeth from overgrowing and creating problems. Not all tooth problems are through incorrect or poor feeding, some are inherited. Help   to   prevent   some   dental   problems   by   always   providing   a   correct,   healthy   diet   of   chinchilla   pellets, good   quality   hay   and   suitable   items   to   chew,   which   will   help   wear   down   his   teeth.   Chinchillas   need   good quality   hay   to   chew.   Hay   not   only   provides   fibre,   essential   to   your   chinnie's   diet,   but   also   helps   them   to grind and wear their teeth down. The   first   signs   of   a   dental   problem,   maybe   a   discharge   from   the   eye   and   then   the   chinchilla   might   start   to eat   less,   eat   softer   food   and   as   a   result   will   lose   weight. A   chinchilla   may   also   paw   at   his   mouth   and   drool to   a   point   that   his   paws   and   chest   will   be   wet. The   droppings   may   also   be   much   smaller   and   of   an   irregualr shape. Sometimes, there are no obvious signs and unfortunately, some problems are inherited. If your chinchilla shows sign of having problems with his teeth, you must take him to see your vet. It is not always apparent if there is a problem, so here again, are some of the obvious signs: Drooling/wet chest Watery eyes/discharge Weight loss Small droppings Pawing at the mouth Eating slowly and unable to chew food Crumbled pellets Looking after your chinchilla's teeth is VERY important Sometimes it is necessary to hand feed for a while, when your chinchilla is poorly. Click here to view a page on help with HAND FEEDING Heat Strokes Chinchillas cannot tolerate high temperatures and high humidity. Temperatures above 75ºf plus can cause serious health problems and even result in fatalities. Best temperatures are 60ºf - 65ºf and hummidity levels should be 40% - 60% Poor air flow, excessive heat, bright sunlight and lack of water can cause heat strokes. Chinchillas do not sweat like we do and so cannot cool their bodies down quickly. Therefore, it is essential that the air about them is cooled. Cool the animal immediately and cool the air.   Air conditioners are best to use. Coolers are ok, if this is all you have, but they are not as effective as an air conditioner. If   only   a   fan   is   available   make   sure   that   there   is   a   constant   flow   of   cool   air,   otherwise   you   will   only   be circulating the already hot air in the room. Placing blocks of ice in bowls around the room will also help to cool the air. If your chinchilla appears to be too hot, try a damp, cool cloth around his ears which will look very pink. In severe cases it may be necessary to wrap him in a damp towel - this should be cool but not 'icy' cold. They are suggestions, if you are concerned, please contact your vet. Some Signs of Overheating: Very pink/red ears Chinchilla lying flat out in the cage Difficulty in breathing with mouth open Keep Your Chinchilla Cool: Keep the cage in a shaded area. Use air conditioning where possible ... Portable air conditioners are ideal. Use black out blinds etc to reflect some of the heat. Never leave your chinchilla in an enclosed 'hot' room. Freeze ice packs or put ice in containers and place around the cage and room. (Making sure your chinchilla cannot chew any of these plastic items/containers) Marble slabs/tiles provide a cool area for your chinchilla ... These are available in most large pet shops. Put your sand in a suitable container in the fridge to keep it cool. (Wendy's tip) Your chinchilla will love his 'cool' bath. N.B. Never let your chinchilla chew any of the plastic items, as it is harmful to them. Seizures Seizures   can   cause   the   chinchilla   to   become   unbalanced   making   it   difficult   for   him   to   stand   or   he   may   even appear   'dead'   or   have   muscle   spasms.   These   often   occur   in   young   chins,   pregnant   females   or   chins lacking   in   minerals,   vitamins   or   calcium.   They   are   sometimes   referred   to   as   'calcium   fits'.   Cuttle   fish   is   a good   source   of   calcium   and   it   may   be   necessary   to   add   vitamin   drops   to   the   water.   Seek   advice   from   your local   vet   if   you   think   your   chinchilla   has   a   deficiency.   Make   sure   there   is   fresh   food,   hay   and   water   each day. Exhaustion   and   heat   can   also   bring   on   seizures.   Keep   the   chinchilla   calm   -   the   seizures   do   not   usually   last very long and he will return to normal. Do not let your chin get over excited. Fur Biting Chinchillas   will   sometimes   start   chewing   at   their   fur.   The   fur   will   appear   matted   and   wet   and   looks   as   if   it has   been   cut   short.   There   are   various   reasons   for   this.   Some   owners   believe   it   could   be   genetic.   Others, believe   it   to   be   due   to   stress,   poor   diet,   noisy   environments   or   boredom.   It   is   not   considered   harmful   to   the chinchilla   but   will   spoil   the   chin's   appearance.   Make   sure   your   chinchilla   is   in   a   quiet,   well   ventilated   but   not draughty   environment.   Chinchillas   are   sensitive   to   stress   and   noise,   so   approach   them   in   a   quiet   way, handle gently and provide active stimulation Fungal Infections Fungal   infections   can   be   due   to   poor   housing   and   ventilation   or   spores   from   damp   hay.   There   are   two types   of   infection,   one   causes   the   fur   to   fall   out   and   leave   pink,   irritated   skin   beneath,   usually   around   the eyes,   nose   and   genital   areas. The   other   condition   causes   the   fur   to   'break',   and   as   a   result,   the   fur   will   look thin   and   shaggy   and   the   whiskers   may   split   and   break   off.   The   vet   will   recommend   an   anti-fungal   powder to cure the infection Diarrhoea Diarrhoea   can   be   due   to   overeating   in   young   kits,   incorrect   feeding   in   adults   or   from   eating   contaminated food   or   hay.   Remove   any   contaminated   food   if   you   think   this   could   be   the   problem.   Scrub   his   water   bottle and always provide fresh water daily. A chinchilla can soon become dehydrated. Sometimes,   a   chinchilla   may   suffer   from   diarrhoea   through   stress.   For   example,   as   a   result   of   changing   his environment/moving to a new home etc. Try giving a little burnt toast or mix a little 'shredded wheat' into his food for a couple of days. But, If the diarrhoea does not clear up within a couple of days, pay a visit to the vet. Constipation If   your   chinchilla   is   constipated,   the   droppings   will   be   very   hard   and   thin.   This   can   be   due   to   overfeeding, too   many   treats   or   perhaps   not   enough   exercise.   Make   sure   there   is   plenty   of   fresh   water   and   hay.   Try giving   your   chinchilla   a   couple   or   raisins   and   make   sure   he/she   has   exercise.   If   the   problem   continues, visit the vet, in case there is an obstruction Hair Ring Male   chinchillas   can   sometimes   get   a   ‘hair   ring’.   This   happens   when   fur   gets   wrapped   around   their   penis and the chinchilla is unable to remove it himself. He   might   appear   lethargic   and   eat   less   as   it   is   very   painful   and   he   will   appear   to   be   cleaning   himself   all   the time.   If   not   removed,   it   can   severely   injure   or   even   kill   him.   If   you   are   confident   enough,   you   can   remove   it yourself, if not seek help from your vet… immediately If you remove it yourself you have to be very, very gentle ... get someone to help you. You   need   to   push   back   the   sheath   to   expose   his   penis   as   the   hair   is   usually   wrapped   around   the   base. You will   probably   see   a   dark   ring   where   it   is   wrapped   around.   Have   some   luke   warm   water   in   a   dish   and   try   and tease   it   off....gently.   Make   sure   you   put   his   penis   back   afterwards   and   don't   pull   it   out   too   far,   otherwise   you will hurt him. It is easier, if someone holds the chinchilla and another person do it. If you are at all unsure, take him straight to your vet and he will do it for you. Bumblefoot Chinchillas   have   hard   callouses   on   their   feet   to   protect   them   on   hard   surfaces,   but   sometimes   their   feet can become sore when jumping around on rough surfaces and wire-bottomed cages. Bumblefoot   is   caused   by   a   bacterial   infection   entering   by   a   cut   or   a   sore   on   their   feet   and   this   in   turn   can cause   abcesses.   It   starts   starts   with   red   lumps   on   the   feet   ...   these   lumps   are   known   as   'bumbles'   and inside these are the abcesses. As it gets worse the bumbles break open and bleed. It   is   very   important   to   have   it   treated   as   soon   as   possible   as   the   infection   can   spread   and   enter   the bloodstream. Help to prevent this from happening by providing some softer resting areas for your chinnie ... For   example,   if   you   have   a   wire-bottomed   cage,   place   some   pieces   of   untreated,   kiln   dried   pine   on   the floor   or   a   couple   of   marble   cooling   slabs   (available   in   most   large   pet   stores)   to   create   extra   sitting/resting areas. Polar fleece cage liners are also a good idea and provide softer flooring for your chinchillas’ feet. Polar   fleece   is   safe   to   use   because   it   does   not   thread   like   cotton   and   so   chinchillas   are   less   likely   to   chew it.  Having said this, always take care and check, as some might try !
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