Posts tagged medical
Happy December!

Happy December everyone!

For the month of November, one  (1) chinchilla was surrendered and three (3) chinchillas were adopted. We had one person bring in a chinchilla for pairbonding and never returned to claim them. The legal requirements for going through abandonment procedure is both time consuming and frustrating. In this case, the false hope of an adoption with pairbonding was simply deceitful. I laugh when people tell me they wish they could do what I do. Rescue work is not all about taking in cute, sad animals. More often than not we receive elderly, ill-tempered or sickly chins with grossly unclean, completely inadequate cages. We are met with a variety of illnesses and medical issues that have given us hands-on experience.


Animal rescue nearly killed me…literally. I almost died this year from zoonosis when a certain bacteria from a pair of rescue chins made its way into my lungs. As an asthmatic, pasteurellosis of the lungs is particularly life threatening. Today I would like to talk about cross-species disease transmission.


Pathogens can and do cross between species. A chinchilla can catch a cold from their people, contract fungus from someone who has athlete’s foot, acquire Pasteurella from the house rabbit and more. On the flip side, humans can contract certain diseases from their pets. These can translate as eye infections, skin infections, parasitic infestations, respiratory issues of a bacterial nature, etc.


Handwashing before and after handling your pet seems like a common sense procedure, no? But seriously, how many people really do that? How easy is it to walk by a cage, give a quick scritch or treat and move on to other tasks or pets? At home we generally have a good feel for the health of our pets and environment. In a shelter or rescue situation, there is more opportunity for disease transmission. One time we had a wildlife rehabber come visit who had ringworm patches exposed on her arms. Yup. For the next few months we struggled to contain and eradicate ringworm from the herd.

At home, letting your interspecies pets “play” together can be a deadly combination. Many rabbits carry the Pasteurella bacteria and show no signs or symptoms. In chinchillas that same bacteria is deadly. Unvaccinated horses can pass on strangles, which is also deadly to chins. Rodents can leave behind droppings full of listeria which can be found in hay and hay based products. It is this very reason why we advise against purchasing hay from your local farmer as most are stored where wild rodents can freely roam. So even the cleanest of homes with the most reliable quality supplies is still subject to contamination.

With this in mind, one of the ways you can keep your pet healthy is to watch for signs and symptoms of anything that may be “off”. As pet guardians, we generally have a good idea what normal behavior is for our individual animals. Pet forums are a great place to compare notes and learn from those who have experienced and treated specific issues. Armed with information we can be better advocates when it comes to partnering with our veterinarians. The hard part is being bold enough to resist deferring to someone based on education rather than experience.

It is our sincerest wish that yours and our chinchillas remain healthy and happy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all.

Happy October!

For the month of September, two (2) chinchillas were surrendered and two (2) chinchillas were adopted. The number of chins adopted has significantly decreased lately. Fortunately, so have the number of surrenders.

Someone asked us recently if we are a no-kill shelter. The answer: not quite. On occasion we do receive a chinchilla with severe medical issues that are not treatable. Malocclusion affecting the tooth roots is one of the more common ailments. People also bring chins to us on the verge of death. A vet visit early on could have saved those, but when an animal is lethargic and showing signs of agonal respiration, there is really nothing more that can be done to save them. But for those who are treatable, we treat.

As a rescue shelter we also take in chinchillas with varying degrees of behavioral issues. Sadly, many of the behavior issues are human induced. One chinchilla came in recently whose former owner clearly did not know how to handle the poor thing. It became so cage aggressive that it actually learned to strike out at the hand that was feeding it-- literally! With many of our potential adopters being families with children or first time chinchilla owners, we make it our policy to NOT rehome aggressive biters unless someone is specifically willing and able to take on a huge challenge. 

Like toddlers, chinchillas are natural nibblers, and we understand that an exploratory nibble is not a bite. However, there are some chins that have learned to use their teeth in a way that is more than one of curiosity. We do our best to rehabilitate and allow even the most extreme cases to stay as long as we have space for them. We have, however, expanded our chin room to two rooms and long ago gave up our clothes washer and dryer to accommodate the rescues. Sending chinchillas over the rainbow bridge is not something we regularly do. Rather, it's an act of desperation. Ours and other rescues constantly battle for space and resources to care for waves of unwanted animals.

Our support store has been our primary means of operating the chinchilla rescue. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in unscrupulous, copy-cat vendors making our original products for their gain. Some have even started fake "rescues" as a false pretense. Many try, but few succeed in the long term. Know who you support and support who you know. For those of you who have remained loyal customers: Thank you! For those of you who are new to our website: Welcome! How may we serve you and your fur babies?  

A Case of Prolapse

Babylon, one of the chinnies here at Whimsy's, suffered a rectal prolapse.  A rectal prolapse is an emergency situation. The exposed intestine must be kept moist or you will risk tissue death. As quickly as possible the rectum and exposed intestine must be cleaned, moistened and reinserted before it strangulates or dries out.  It should not be forcefully pushed in or poked with a dry cotton swab. The intestine, rather, is gently rolled and massaged, with plenty of lubricant to help it retract.  Below is a video clip showing Babylon's prolapse and Whimsy easing the intestine back in place. During the filming we were much less concerned with a sterile field than we are with getting the exposed intestine back where it should be.

Babylon re-prolapsed dozens of times while waiting for the emergency vet to attend him to sew a purse-string stitch around his anus, where it remained in place for two days. A week later he prolapsed twice, but has since stabilized without the need for another stitch.

It took nearly two weeks for Babylon to pass a normal stool during which time he has been on a regimen of Critical Care hand feeding formula, subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics, metacam for pain, simethicone to dissipate the gas buildup, and antiparasitics. Throughout this ordeal, Babylon lost over 100 grams of body weight!

We are happy to announce that Babylon has survived this radical situation. He is now eating and drinking on his own and continues to get healthy and strong. If you are faced with this situation, please know that it is not automatically deemed a no-win case. With quick intervention, the outcome can be successfully treated.

This intervention was subsequently utilized when a second baby chin prolapsed 6 weeks after Babylon's ordeal. After inserting the exposed rectum, Whimsy also quickly administered antibiotics and continued to reinsert the prolapse as needed. Within an hour the little girl stabilized and did not prolapse again. She is currently receiving antibiotics and has shown no further signs of distress.

We hope that this post will inform and give hope to anyone who finds their chinchilla in this situation. 

Diarrhea Strikes Again

Periodically we receive reports of chinchillas who suddenly exhibit symptoms of loose, watery, or mushy stool with no known obvious cause. If your chinchilla has not experienced a change in environment, change in diet, too many treats, a switch in food, or a new food source, medical intervention may be necessary.

Please keep in mind that a stool sample which is deemed "negative" for parasites does NOT necessarily imply that your pet is free from harmful invaders. All that implies is that the stool sample tested reveals no obvious parasites. Because chinchillas tend to be extraordinarily sensitive animals, a conservative approach may actually lead to its demise.  

Regretfully, we had to learn this lesson the hard way.

By experience we have learned that mushy stool or reoccurring loose stool requires an aggressive treatment. Home remedies like offering shredded wheat cereal may firm the stools temporarily, but ultimately only masks the symptoms and can actually exacerbate the problem when a lethal number of harmful bacteria grow in the chinchillas' digestive system. 

Years ago, in a fit of desperation, our local vet prescribed a wide spectrum antibiotic to treat some chins who were wasting away and did not respond to more homeopathic measures. This last-ditch treatment actually halted the death toll and cured the sick chins. 

In recent years we have seen similar outbreaks in chinchillas both in our herd and those not associated with us. On rare occasion, fecal tests have revealed coccidia, cryptosporidium, and clostridium; all waterborne parasites. Albon and Panacur became the prescription of choice and once again quickly relieved the symptoms, even though the majority of the chins showing symptoms tested negative for infection. 

If you are already using reverse osmosis water, please keep in mind that washing the water bottle in tap is still enough exposure to pass on to your chinnies. Certain parasites that are usually relatively harmless to healthy humans can cause illness in chins. You can boil your water bottle to sanitize it, but some parasites are resistant to even the harshest chemicals such as bleach! 

As an added precaution against waterborne parasites, we have started using a UV-C sanitizing wand to kill harmful bacteria that may have gotten through the city filtration system. Sunshine is also another germ fighting resource excellent for helping to disinfect cages and accessories. But for instances of obvious loose stool, we do not hesitate to administer our treatment of choice.  Please share with your local vet the information we have gleaned about the administration of Albon and Panacur as treatment for loose stool/diarrhea that has no obvious cause. 

On knowing when to let go…

We all live in hope.

We can be blinded by this.

For pet owners, knowing when to seek vet care and knowing when to let go are very, very, difficult decisions. With chinchillas, they mask their symptoms for as long as possible, but certain biological symptoms cannot be hidden. If a chin refuses to eat, drink, is lethargic or has unusual bowel movements or activity level, those are all cause for concern.

Many times treatment can be effective if intervention is provided before the point of lethargy. A slow, sleepy or wobbly chin is not normal. It is a downward spiral that will not get better on its own. This is true IF the cause of lethargy is not overheating. If the chin is overheated, the immediate course of action is not to force feed or medicate, but to cool. Don’t fool yourself into seeing improvement that isn’t there. If there is the least bit of nagging suspicion that all is not well, please trust your instincts and get veterinary help right away. 

Having experienced just about every chinchilla ailment with the hundreds of animals that have come through our doors, we have a fairly accurate sense of knowing when a chin is not going to pull through. There are certain characteristics that chinchillas show when they have reached the point of no return.

A chin can be lethargic, which is usually the kiss of death, but if they accept hand feeding and medications by mouth, they still have a fighting chance. Even the most radical medical emergencies can succeed if we gauge the chin’s behavior and act accordingly. A chinchilla with a spark of hope will fight hand feeding, chew or lick whatever comes in contact with their mouth: the more vigorous the movements, the better the prognosis. But it is important to get help while the chinchilla is still strong.

A lethargic chin who simply drools out is not likely to have the fight to survive. As painful as it sounds, it is at this point we should prepare to say our good-byes.