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System Ailments (additional articles, rectal prolapse of the intestine
or bowel, the gastrointestinal system and gi stasis, bloat, enteritis,
lower gi disease, hepatic lipidosis)
Continued on next page:
Red Print: Please Read First
Tragedy: Don't Kill Your Chin With "Kindness!"
Articles (medical and anatomical, senior health and cataracts, vet
articles, vital statistics)
and Penicillin Warning
Fits, Convulsions (articles, brain infection)
Giardia (articles, oreganol article)
Parasites in Captive Chinchillas
Kidney Diseases In Small Pets
Rings and Prolapsed Penis (photos and articles, hair ring removal,
treating a prolapsed penis)
and Urine Scald (articles)
Continued on next page:
Diseases (ringworm and giardia, pasteurella, pneumonia, rabbit viral
hemorrhagic disease (vhd), ectoparasites, listeriosis, bordetella
bronchiseptica, human herpes virus, rabies and monkeypox, frenkelia
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AILMENTS
prolapse of the intestine or bowel, the
gastrointestinal system and gi stasis, bloat,
gi disease, hepatic
Anatomy and Physiology of the Rabbit and Rodent
[includes chinchilla] Gastrointestinal System (.pdf)
Cecal and Fecal Bacterial Flora of the Mongolian Gerbil and the Chinchilla
Constipation and Diarrhea Ebony
Dragon Chinchillas, Crystal
Chinchillas: see Health Articles, then Health Problems
Diarrhea in Chinchillas
Betti Cogswell of CA Chins
Digestive System Diagram
Stool & Diarrhea Alison's Chinchillas
Rectal Prolapse of the Intestine or
Additional Articles: Cuddly
Critters Exotics, Chinchillas
DVM GLlikis-Scott (was Fernandez) of the Birmingham Veterinary Clinic,
The problem of rectal prolapse is not a common occurrence, thankfully,
but it can occur for a variety of reasons. It seems as though young
chins are more susceptible, though is is not understood why. It is
possible that chins under a year of age don't have gastrointestinal
function that is as well-developed as the older chins, therefore any
irritation to the bowel can lead to prolapse in the young.
There are many potential causes of rectal prolapse: intestinal bacterial
infection, parasites (Giardia),
a sudden change in diet or amount of food or treats ingested. It is
usually preceeded by diarrhea or just looser than normal stool consistency.
The straining and irritation caused by the diarrhea or loose stool
causes the rectal tissue to be pushed out (prolapse). Other
possible indications of rectal prolapse include: tentative, hunched
walking movement with sides drawn in; grinding teeth (due to pain);
blood on cage floors, significant change in eating or drinking
As soon as rectal prolapse is
observed, this signifies a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Regardless of its cause,
rectal prolapse can quickly become fatal. The chin should be rushed
to your exotics specialist vet
immediately. The prolapsed tissue can quickly lose it's blood supply
because it is strangulated and the ensuing complications include:
shock, toxemia and sloughing of the prolapsed tissue, all of which
can be fatal without immediate intervention.
The treatment includes assessing whether the prolapsed tissue is still
viable, (pink in color and not purple, which means a compromised
blood flow) and treating the patient supportively with antibiotics,
pain medication and fluids administered intravenously or by syringe.
The prolapse must be handled very gently and cleaned with saline solution,
then lubricated with some KY
jelly and replaced. Generally, several sutures are placed in the
anal opening (while still leaving some space for elimination)
to decrease the diameter of the opening such that the tissue does
not prolapse again.
With continued supportive care it is possible that the chin will respond
to treatment and the sutures can be removed after a week or so. It
can take up to three weeks to know for certain if the prolapsed tissue
has a normal blood supply and has not sloughed or incurred nerve damage.
The worst case scenario is that the tissue continues to prolapse despite
the sutures in the anus or the patient becomes progressively sicker
due to shock or toxemia. Repeated prolapses can cause that section
of tissue to become traumatized to the point where the prognosis is
extremely guarded or grave.
The bottom line is that if a chin has a rectal prolapse, seek medical
attention WITHOUT DELAY, even though the prognosis can be guarded.
It IS possible that with early intervention the outcome can be a positive
The Gastrointestinal System and GI Stasis
Articles on GI Stasis in rabbits, for a comparative analysis
with chinchillas: RWF,
The Silent Killer,
From the 2006 AEMV Proceedings, .pdf
(footnote markers were removed for easier reading, refer to source)
"The gastrointestinal tract is long, 11.5 feet for the
small and large intestine combined in an adult. The cecum is large
and coiled. The colon is sacculated. The cecum of the chinchilla holds
approximately 23% of the dry matter content of the large intestine
compared to the rabbit (57%) and the guinea pig (44%).
Cecrophagy is similar to the guinea pig except that cecotrophs may
be passed in the day as chinchillas feed mostly at night. Fecal excretion
is primarily at night. Transit time of ingesta through the gastrointestinal
tract is approximately 12–15 hours." (more
on chinchilla cecotropes and Coprophagy)
Myth: "Chinchillas need to eat
continuously during their waking hours to avoid Hepatic
Lipidosis or GI stasis." Sometimes
stated as, "Hepatic lipidosis [in chinchillas] is caused by a
sudden cessation of eating."
This myth is connected to the Hepatic Lipidosis myth and that article
explains why this statement is not true.
GI stasis is a lack of gut motility (movement) caused by
problems with, usually a severe blockage (impaction) of, the
digestive (gastrointestinal) tract. Complications from an illness,
the ingestion of something indigestible, such as plastic,
or an inappropriate diet, as described in the Pet Care Veterinary
Hospital article below, are typical causal factors. This condition,
if left untreated, will be FATAL.
Symptoms are subtle and often only noticeable after the condition
has significantly progressed because chinchillas, by instinct, strive
to mask any display of pain or infirmity that would, in the wild,
disclose their vulnerability and make them easy prey. Please
note that once GI stasis has set in, a chin rapidly loses vitality,
even overnight, therefore it is absolutely URGENT that the chin is
brought to an exotics specialist vet
Symptoms include: stays hunched in a corner, on all fours,
swaying slightly as if rocking in pain, eyes partly closed. Has a
painful-looking walk with sides somewhat concave from being drawn
in, impaired hind quarter mobility, grinds teeth (in pain)
and is unwilling to move about, jump or assume positions that were
Peter G. Fisher, DVM, Pet Care Veterinary Hospital:
"Like the rabbit and guinea pig, the chinchilla is a hindgut
fermentor, meaning it digests much of its food in the cecum and colon
(large intestine), which make up the end of the digestive tract.
In the chinchilla, the cecum (“appendix” in humans) is a large
blind-ended sac located at the junction of the small and large intestine.
Inside the chinchilla's cecum, specific bacterial and protozoal populations
aid digestion of foods. Fiber is necessary for the populations of
these bacteria and protozoa to stay in balance and function properly.
Fiber also stimulates gastrointestinal motility, which allows ingested
food to move along properly for normal digestion.
"Without fiber, the gastrointestinal tract
slows down, resulting in changes in cecal pH, fermentation
capabilities and microorganism populations. Over time, these disruptive
changes can result in various forms of chinchilla indigestion: gastrointestinal
stasis, constipation or diarrhea. The chinchilla with gastrointestinal
stasis will be anorexic or have a reduced appetite and will produce
very small stools or none at all. The chinchilla with constipation
will strain to defecate, and the few fecal pellets passed are thin,
short, round and occasionally blood-stained. The chinchilla with diarrhea
may or may not have a reduced appetite and will pass soft stools that
frequently mat the fur around the anus. Again, these forms of chinchilla
gastrointestinal upset are commonly associated with inappropriate
diets – that is, diets that contain excess amounts of grains, seeds
and / or fresh greens without sufficient roughage or fiber."
Bloat (acute indigestion)
(even without dietary changes) can be a predisposing factor
for bloat, but the primary cause is digestive (and often treat
related), as detailed in the internet articles and book excerpts
below. Bloat can be successfully treated with the medications available
today, but this is a serious condition that can also be deadly. If
your chin is listless and cowering in pain, avoiding movement except
when absolutely necessary, or has drawn in his sides around his haunches
in reaction to the pain, then he may have bloat and needs to see an
exotics specialist vet
immediately. Be sure that the vet prescribes a painkiller, because
bloat is painful and the chin could succumb from pain alone.
Until he has completely recovered, a chin with bloat will need to
stay in a single level cage by himself, with some cloth (no
strings, fringe or loose weave) or fleece to rest on and cuddle
up to. We saw a chin with bloat jump from only about a foot high and
it ruptured his stomach. This was lethal needless to say, and having
other chins jumping and jostling around the affected chin would greatly
increase his gastrointestinal discomfort. Keep the chin's stress levels
low by providing a variety of chew
toys and relocating his cage to a quieter part of the house, where
he can watch some TV
or listen to soft music.
DON'T give treats
of any kind to a chin with bloat, he should be given only the most
basic, bland diet until his recovery is complete: distilled or filtered
and grass hay
(timothy, orchard grass, etc.) as opposed to the richer hay
(alfalfa, clover, etc.) which are normally very nutritional
and beneficial when a chin is not suffering from bloat .
Internet Articles: Davidson
of Texas Chinchillas, Ebony
Chinchilla Rancher's Guide, 1976, Bernard Koch, DVM:
Defines bloat as: "acute indigestion, flatulence mostly of
stomach. Can also be in intestine or cecum."
Potential causes: "soft diets, irritating chemical, mouldy or spoiled
feed, sequel of digestive disturbances & disease." Also mentioned
is, "these animals become dehydrated when bloated."
Chinchilla Care, 1962, Houston and Prestwich:
Excessive gas formation may be caused by… particular foods of combinations
of foods which do not agree with the animal. Lack of exercise due
to overcrowding or pens that are too small or provide bad footing
for the animals will contribute to increasing the number of cases
of bloat in a herd. Young which are being raised by handfeeding sometimes
fall victim to bloat.
Diseases of Small Domestic Rodents, 1997, V.C.G. Richardson:
This occurs when there is a build up of gas in the stomach, often
triggered by a change in diet, gastric stasis and fermentation by
the bacterial flora. It is associated with a lack of Bacillus acidophilus
(an acid forming organism usually present in the intestine). Bloat
is commonest in hand fed or older animals.
Clinical signs: Usually 2 hours or more after feeding the abdomen
becomes distended and affected animals show obvious abdominal discomfort
by rolling and stretching. The pressure of the gas on the thorax causes
Causes: The most common cause is the feeding of fruits and greens,
which cause a decrease in the fibre intake and allow gastric fermentation
to take place…
Chinchilla Diseases and Ailments, 1952, by A.H. Kennedy,
B.S.A., D.V.M., D.V.Sc:
It is sometimes caused by an atonic condition of the stomach walls.
The sudden changing from one type of feed to another, the overloading
of the stomach with certain kinds of feed, the feeding of some form
of yeast… Certain types of plants, particularly some species of clover,
are prone to cause bloat. Green feeds to which the chinchillas are
not accustomed may sometimes lead to bloat… The feeding of tid-bits,
such as peanuts, nut meats or raisins should be avoided as they are
not too digestible and may lead to the development of acute indigestion
Bloat is often associated with other disease conditions. An obstruction
or blockage of the stomach which may occur at the point where the
stomach empties into the intestine will sometimes be the cause of
bloat. Bloating will often occur about two hours following the eating
of certain kinds or types of feed, when they are not accustomed to
it. The affected chinchillas will suddenly appear dull and weak and
will be found lying flat on their abdomens with their limbs sprawled
out sideways from their bodies. When examined they will be found unable
to stand or move and their bodies will be limp. Breathing will appear
jerky and the affected animals will gasp for breath. On manipulation
the abdomen will feel full and doughy, or it may feel hard and drum-like
The condition of the affected chinchillas will usually quite rapidly
become progressively worse. The breathing becomes quick and distressed.
The eyes assume a dull appearance. The ears droop and the extremities-
ears, legs and tail- become cold. A dribbling of the urine may occur.
The body temperature drops rapidly and may be as low as 94.0 to 95.0
degrees Fahrenheit. Under these conditions, if relief is not given
in a short period of time, the affected chinchilla will soon die.
Prevention and Treatment-Care should be taken when changing from one
feed to another… Feeds such as dry beet pulp and pablum, especially
when being fed persistently and in fairly large amounts, are at times
suspected of being the cause of digestive distrurbances
By All Creatures
Animal Hospitall, archived article:
Enteritis complex, (inflammation
of the intestines), affects chinchillas and includes mucoid enteritis,
diarrhea, and fecal impaction. Enteritis complex may be the most common
problem of the digestive tract of chinchillas. This condition involves
disruption of the complex system responsible for fermentation of non-digestible
fiber in the diet. Factors involved in enteritis complex include changes
in diet, effects of antibiotics, stress,
and genetic predisposition to gut dysfunction.
Diets high in sugars or protein or low in fiber may cause changes
in the fermentation process in the cecum, leading to changes in pH
and motility, which in turn lead to enteritis. Additionally, some
antibiotics that affect the normal bacteria of the hindgut (penicillin,
cephalosporin, erythromycin, clindamycin, and lincomycin) allow
overgrowth of bacteria found in the intestinal tract, which can cause
enteritis. Signs of enteritis complex include loss of appetite, tooth
grinding, painful and possibly bloated abdomen, crying or moaning,
lethargy and reluctance to move, diarrhea, or absence or stool, and
sudden death. Treatment includes the use of "safe" antibiotics, fluid
therapy, and correction of the diet.
Susan Brown, DVM, Midwest Bird & Exotic Animal Hospital:
One of the most common disease conditions of chinchillas is enteritis,
which is an infection of the digestive tract. In many cases, the exact
cause may not be determined. Bacterial, viral and protozoal agents
have all been associated with the syndrome. A few specific agents
include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhimurium, E. coli and
Giardia. Poor husbandry and management is often associated with an
outbreak. Clinical signs are ariable, ranging from depression to death.
The chinchilla often exhibits diarrhea, but not consistently. Other
signs of illness include loss of appetite, partial paralysis, and
a painful abdomen. Examination of the feces through fecal flotations,
direct smears, and cultures may reveal the causative agent. Veterinary
care and treatment must be sought at the first sign of illness. Treatment
of enteritis involves appropriate antibiotic therapy and supportive
care. This disease is often fatal despite aggressive therapy due to
the severity of the illness.
Lower Gastrointestinal Disease
"Clinical Approach to the Chinchilla" by Heidi L. Hoefer,
Lower gastrointestinal disease
is a common problem seen in chinchillas. Chinchillas are hind-gut
fermenters with a relatively long gastrointestinal tract. The stomach
and cecum are large and the colon is highly sacculated. High fiber,
low energy diets are the driving force behind this herbivores' digestive
physiology. Disruption in the system results in anorexia, painful
abdomen, diarrhea, hair and fecal impaction, intussusception (telescoping
of intestines), mucoid enteritis, ileus, bloat, and rectal prolapse.
Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver) is a common sequelae to prolonged
Predisposing factors include abrupt diet change, inappropriate antibiotic
use, overcrowding and stress,
and diets too low in fiber, and too high in fat and protein. Changes
in enteric pH or normal gut flora results in bacterial overgrowth
and can lead to enterotoxemia. Clostridium, E. coli, Proteus, and
Pseudomonas are common isolates. Clostridial enterotoxemia (C.
perfringens) causes severe diarrhea, shock, and acute death.
Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and history. Anorexia and decreased
fecal output are early warning signs. Whole body radiographs are taken
to assess both body cavities. Varying amounts of gas and ingesta may
be seen normally in hindgut fermentors. It can be difficult to determine
simple gas production from an obstructive ileus; repeat radiographs
in 24 hours and administer oral barium by syringe if neccessary to
aid in visualization and motility determination.
Treatment for the acute abdomen includes supportive care (fluids,
temperature regulation), anti-inflammatories (Banamine®)
or analgesics (buprenorphine), antibiotics, and surgery if
obstructed. Human pediatric anti-gas preparations (e.g., Phazyme®)
may be helpful to decrease gas production. Keep in mind that a sick
chinchilla is a poor surgical candidate and medical management may
be indicated prior to abdominal surgery. Blood testing is recommended
in anorexic individuals (CBC and plasma chemistry).
Other reported causes of gastroenteritis in chinchillas include Salmonella,
Listeria monocytogenes, and Yersinia pseudotuberulosis. Intestinal
parasitism is uncommon but nematodes, coccidia, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium
can sometimes be seen in chinchillas. Low numbers of Giardia are thought
to be normal in chins but an overgrowth can lead to diarrhea. Always
check a direct fecal and perform a fecal flotation on any animal with
diarrhea. Be careful with metronidazole administration; there are
anecdotal reports of toxicity to Flagyl® in some chinchillas, although
this author has not seen it.
Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
need to eat continuously during their waking hours to avoid Hepatic
Lipidosis or GI
Sometimes stated as, "Hepatic lipidosis [in chinchillas] is caused
by a sudden cessation of eating."
Chinchillas are rodents that
can safely go up to 24 hours without
food (this is vet verifiable; a state of extreme
either mentally or physically can put a chin temporarily off his food)
barring other complications, but the
dietary staples of fresh, high quality pellets,
and distilled or filtered water
should ALWAYS be available for consumption; chinchillas will not overeat
of their dietary staples, only treats.
If your chinchilla refuses to eat for ANY reason for more than a day,
take him to your exotics specialist vet
for a thorough examination.
Chinchillas CAN get Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, and
in chinchillas this is associated with a poor diet or excessive treats,
especially those high in fats (nuts,
seeds). However, after consulting veterinary expertise, we
are able to assert that chinchillas are NOT prone to Hepatic Lipidosis
from going for a period without eating the way that cats (felines)
and rabbits (lagomorphs) are and the following quotes,
which in the past have been erroneously projected onto chinchillas,
actually pertain to rabbits:
"Rabbits that don't eat will rapidly develop hepatic lipidosis,
a condition that occurs when a rabbit is not taking in enough calories
or nutrients to meet its metabolic needs. When a rabbit stops eating,
as it commonly will when it is sick, triglycerides are mobilized to
the liver from stored body fat elsewhere in the rabbit's body. This
sets off a chain of complex metabolic processes that cause liver enzymes
to elevate in the rabbit's bloodstream, which can then rapidly lead
to potentially life-threatening liver disease." (ref-
"Anorexia can rapidly cause gastric ulcers and hepatic lipidosis
(fatty liver disease) in rabbits. Even 12 hours without eating is
cause for concern. As long as your vet has determined that there is
no actual blockage, and that there is enough slow movement of the
GI to keep the stomach from becoming overly full, keep the bunny eating!"
Chinchillas4Life, excerpts from their article "Hepatic Lipidosis,"
reproduced with permission:
Many people will feed peanuts, sunflower seeds and
other fatty treats to their chinchillas. When we take in rescues,
they often come with a bag of peanuts along with other little sins!
The problem with feeding chinchillas peanuts/fatty treats is all down
to their inability to metabolise fats. I will not feed my chins peanuts
and I have seen the problems caused by this. Chinchillas need some
essential fats but it is always better to never over do it.
Hepatic lipidosis is a condition of the liver caused by an overload
of fats. The liver eventually becomes swamped with fat globules which
stops any nutrients from reaching the liver cells. This leaves a very
sick chinchilla . The chin shown came to us as she was very ill and
her owner didn't know why she was losing weight. Her owner was killing
her with kindness by giving her and her sister four whole monkey nuts
a day. We fed her and medicated her for around six weeks. She ate
very well, but as her liver was swamped with fat, she sadly never
gained weight and died. Giving one peanut rarely may do no harm, but
with so many other healthy goodies that they really love, I don't
really see the point...
PLEASE do not feed your Chinchillas high fat treats. If you have a
chinchilla who has the slobbers on and off and no other explaination
can be found for this, consider lipidosis. I am sure this goes undiagnosed
quite often and is mistaken for dental issues. Lipidosis can be treated
with steroids/lactulose/vitamin B injections but I guess it has to
be diagnosed early on to have a happy outcome.