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QUALITY OF LIFE AND
"Permissible methods of euthanasia include: pentobarbital
sodium overdose, carbon dioxide inhalation and exsanguination under
anesthesia." Quote by Arizona
State University, from an archived article.
Also see: Medaille
College Euthanasia Lecture and Rabbit
Euthanasia (.pdf), Rabbit
Health and Medicine Reference for cross-referencing with
The following article contains
the compassionate wisdom of three people with considerable individual
experience in the management of long term health conditions in chinchillas,
as well as euthanasia: Barbara of Cheeky
Chinchillas, Jane of R&J
Chinchilla Rescue, and Lori of Bama Chins. For these people, who
have in some instances handfed chins several times daily for years
in the course of managing their situation while quality of life was
still present, euthanasia is always the very last resort, and the
decision to stop pursuing treatment options and euthanize is always
made with the sole consideration of what is best for the chin. Also
bear in mind that some conditions that have been regarded as "hopeless"
in the past, like malocclusion, may be more
treatable today than before; keeping informed of new developments
and working closely with your exotics specialist vet
can be literally life saving.
When a chinchilla has been ill, has undergone surgery or has had dental
issues, he may for a while need extra special care and if he is unwilling
to eat, he will need to be hand fed, as it is vital to keep the gut
stimulated. Hopefully, after hand feeding for a few days/weeks, he
will pick up and start eating again on his own.
When and how do we know if they have some quality of life? Primarily,
you will have discussed this with your vet and hopefully, he or she
will have given you some good advice and guidelines. Also, use common
sense, as you know your chinchillas' behaviour patterns as to what
If they do not start eating on their own after some time, what do
we do? Do we continue to hand feed? The answer is definitely yes,
if they still have a quality of life.
From my own experience, when a chinchilla can't or won't eat on his
own, but willingly takes food via a spoon or syringe, is putting on
weight and still wants to come out to play, then I would say he still
has a quality of life.
However, if after a while, your chinchilla is not willingly taking
food, he may well be suffering. How do we know if they are in suffering
or in pain? If he is losing weight and you are literally forcing food
down, he just sits around all the time, doesn't want to come out and
he shows no interest in anything, then his quality of life is poor.
If he has deteriorated so much that you are forcing very small amounts
of food into him, you might be keeping him 'just alive'. In this case,
it would be kinder to have your pet put to sleep.
I think we should always remember that we keep our pets alive for
their sake and not for ours.
What is Quality of Life and how and when do we make the decision to
euthanize a chinchilla?
A very difficult question to answer, but one that someone somewhere
is facing right at this moment!
The decision made must be with the chinchilla's best interests first
and foremost. As long as they are free from pain, enjoying their surroundings,
maintaining their weight, do not require force feeding and showing
interest in life, then, in our opinion, they deserve that chance to
Every situation is different though, and judgement must be made on
the individual chinchilla. If your chin has to undergo surgery every
few weeks, you need to ask yourself if it's in the chinchilla's best
interests to put him through this, or would it be kinder to have the
chin put to sleep to save his suffering.
Remember, they only have one life and they all deserve a chance to
live that life.
To understand a chinchilla's quality of life, you need to understand
chinchillas. When the time comes that they don't appear to be bright
and active, when they're not showing interest in their surroundings,
or have lost that 'spark,' then perhaps the time has come for you
to say your goodbyes.
With our chinchillas, quality of life decisions have come up in three
1) A chinchilla develops an acute, sudden onset medical condition.
This is a frantic time, rushing back and forth to the vet, trying
medications, hand feeding as needed, doing everything I can possibly
think to help. Time is very much of the essence. Trying every course
of treatment usually takes around 5-7 days in this type of situation.
When the sick chin finally refuses water (offered by syringe), then
I know that I am most likely going to lose them. If they are not in
pain, I keep them with me, and usually they pass away that day. If
there is any discomfort, we go to the vet. This may seem strange,
but ever since Dove made a somewhat miraculous recovery from her first
round of kidney problems, I've been very reluctant to euthanize. Even
though I think I know instinctively that a chin won't make it - I
still remind myself it ain't over til the fat lady sings. I still
hope for miracles.
2) A chin shows symptoms of a chronic, long term illness - such as
epilepsy or malocclusion, which will require indefinite care.
Keeping in mind that every chinchilla's illness is different, and
one can't generalize, my experience has been that it's possible to
maintain a good quality of life in this type of situation. The success
of this depends upon finding an effective treatment plan and also
your level of commitment. You must be sure that you can give medications
and feedings consistently, while realizing that a long term treatment
plan means you'll be staying close to home indefinitely. But if you
can keep your chin fed, comfortable and interested in life, then it's
truly worth it.
With long term illnesses, I've found it's especially important to
have a good rapport with my vet. When caring for Cody, my epileptic
chin, I conferred with him often for both treatment plan decisions
and occasional moral support. My vet's advice on whether I was doing
the right thing for Cody has served as my barometer for quality of
life for a chin ever since. He would say, "Is he eating? Is he playing?
Is he comfortable? If he is - then you're doing the right thing."
It's deceptively simple.
Malocclusion is very tricky. I've been hand feeding Amos for geez,
probably 5 years. We've tried everything, surgeries and constant filings,
but nothing has worked. But he's a very happy, chunky boy that comes
down to play with me each night when I clean his cage. He is a delight.
But a lot of chins present with dental problems that are far more
serious and painful and may need to be put to sleep. I think in these
cases, x-rays and a chin's level of discomfort will determine the
course of action.
3) A senior chin (in their teens) shows any sign of serious
illness, whether it looks like it's going to require long or short
I think the age issue is really important. When one of our senior
chins gets sick, we take a much harder look at the length and type
of treatment needed, and weigh that against the treatment's chance
of success and the chinchilla's comfort level. With a senior chin,
we don't usually pursue aggressive medical treatment. Surgery often
isn't an option, and few of my chins can handle anything stronger
that Sulfa Trimethaprim for antibiotics. I've only had two situations
with seniors like this and in both of them, we kept a close eye on
how the chin was feeling. If it became apparent that the chin was
in pain or uncomfortable, and there was no way we could help, then
we would have them put to sleep.