Domesticated chinchillas are very sensitive animals. Their diet is strict, their temperature and housing requirements unyielding, and their handling unique among those of other small pets. While a chinchilla can live up to 20 years, few actually do.
One issue that can easily claim the life of your pet chinchilla is the common cold. Yes, viruses and bacteria can transfer from you to your chin, so be especially careful to keep your chinnie environment healthy and clean. It is best practice to limit handling of your pet if you or someone else has an active infection. But since the cold virus is an air borne illness, sometimes it is impossible to completely shield your pet from harm.
A strong immune system will help keep your pet robust. This includes plenty of fresh air (as opposed to a damp, cold draft) clean cage, fresh food and water, and no overcrowding. Since the cold virus is a communicable disease, your pet may transfer it to a cagemate. We do not advocate separating a sick pet from their cagemate(s). Once an illness shows symptoms, the others have already been exposed. Separation from cagemates causes increased stress, which hinders the healing process. Rather, treat the sick pet and be prepared to treat the others if symptoms appear.
This week we had our very first case of an upper respiratory infection in one of our chinchillas. We attribute it to the fact that this particular cage was temporarily situated near a door with a draft during the major overhaul of our rescue rooms. Bonnie exhibited with wetness around her nose, mouth and chest. At first, malocclusion was suspect, but since she didn’t show any other signs of overgrown teeth, a closer look revealed the moisture from her nose rather than her mouth.
This nasal discharge is a classic symptom of a respiratory infection. Colds can kill! This situation must be treated or your chinnie will most likely expire. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics to help your furbaby. Please note, certain antibiotics will destroy your chin’s appetite, which can then lead to anorexia and gastric stasis. We treated our Bonnie with Trimeth-Sulfa and really like the gentle strength of this particular drug. She was good as new within 10 day of treatment. If your baby is sneezing or has a nasal discharge, don’t wait it out. Go to the vet ASAP and let them know that Whimsy sent you. ;)