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.