© Chinnitude.com & Paw-Talk
This article is not to be copied, reproduced, or otherwise distributed
without express written permission of the author
This article is written assuming
that you’ve considered all options, which include a same-sex
pair, a single chinchilla, etc. Neutering a chinchilla is not a common
practice, as it is in dogs and cats. If you feel the best choice for
you is neutering your chinchilla, there are several things that you
need to be aware of.
The very first thing you should do is find an experienced veterinarian.
Go in and personally interview the veterinarian, politely asking questions
as outlined below. Explain that you are concerned about the surgery
and only want the best for your animals. I was told that a vet had
successfully done chinchilla neuters by his staff on two separate
occasions, then after the surgery the vet himself told me that he
had only done guinea pigs and not chinchillas. Two thousand, three
hundred dollars and five months of hand feeding, medication, and subcutaneous
fluids later, my chinchilla recovered from the surgery. Preparation
and knowledge are your best defenses against being in my situation.
While looking for a veterinarian that you are comfortable with and
trust to do the procedure, ask how he or she performs the surgery
in detail. If the vet is hesitant to answer your questions and go
over this with you, keep looking for another veterinarian.
You’ll want to find out the policy for timing of the surgery. Cats
and dogs are often dropped off in the morning and picked up in the
evening, with the surgery somewhere in between. This is extremely
stressful for a chinchilla, especially if he will be exposed to barking
and other noises in a busy hospital. Good recovery situations are
a quiet, dimly lit area with no dogs or cats in the immediate vicinity,
and close observation while at the office. Stress can be harmful on
its own. Combined with a surgery, it’s very dangerous and potentially
fatal. Stress will wear down an immune system, making secondary infections
extremely hard to recover from if they occur. It can also cause GI
upset, leading to enteritis, stasis, parasitic infection, and other
problems. The less stress, the better your chinchilla will recover
from the surgery. An experienced exotic veterinarian will be aware
of this and take all possible steps to ensure a smooth surgery and
Ask what sedative will be used. Isoflurane or Sevoflurane are acceptable
gas anesthesia and they must be given via a mask only. Intravenous
drugs for pre-anesthesia sedation are difficult to impossible to administer
and not recommended for small and exotic animals. A heat source such
as a heating pad or a circulatory hot water blanket (there is a
lower chance of heat injury using a water blanket) set at the
proper temperature should also be used, as sedation causes the body
temperature to drop.
There are two possible ways of performing this procedure. Ask which
method will be used. Closed castration involves only small incisions
to remove the testicles and hopefully tie off the inguinal canal,
which leads into the abdomen. Open castration involves an incision
into the scrotal area to remove the testicles and closing the inguinal
canal with internal sutures. After removing the testicles and securing
the inguinal canal, the incision is closed with external sutures.
You may be surprised to learn that I prefer open castration to a closed
castration. It is more invasive, but I feel it is more accurate. The
inguinal canal is very important and it must be closed, but not completely.
An important blood vessel to the outside abdomen goes through it,
leaving a chance for infection even in a perfect surgery. If infection
develops in the scrotal area, it can be carried into the abdomen via
the inguinal route, and cause peritonitis (abdominal infection).
Additionally, it is possible that the abdominal contents could fall
into the scrotal area, causing a hernia.
Find out if your chinchilla will be given pain medication. Mine needed
it and literally dragged his scrotal area along the bottom of the
cage in an effort to relieve the pain. Not all veterinarians will
use pain medication during/after surgery. However, its use is advocated
by many experienced exotic veterinarians. Elizabeth Hillyer, DVM and
Katherine Quesenberry, DVM, in their book Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents
- Clinical Medicine and Surgery (publisher W.B. Saunders Company)
mention its use:
"In pet practice as in research, the outcomes of procedures can be
markedly affected by the level of stress in a particular animal, and
there is ample evidence indicating that pain is a very important contributor
to level of stress. For this reason, do not hesitate to provide analgesia
for surgery or after trauma in these small species, just as you would
in dogs and cats in the same situations."
Given my chinchilla's previous
experience, I would be most comfortable being sent home with pain
medication. Talk with your veterinarian about it and perhaps just
have some on hand in the event that it is needed. Some signs of pain
include but are not limited to: grinding of teeth, reluctance to eat/drink,
abdominal pain causing odd movement or constant position shifting,
stiff movement, reluctance to move, tremors, and even vocalization.
Rimadyl, Buprenorphine, and Torbugesic are commonly used analgesics
are another important topic to cover with your veterinarian. Some
will automatically use them to prevent infection, some not until an
infection presents itself as a complication. Antibiotics can disturb
the natural flora of a chinchilla’s gastrointestinal tract, which
can cause added problems. Be sure to avoid antibiotics known to cause
problems with rodents and small animals such as Penicillin, Lincomycin,
Ampicillin, Amoxicillin, Cephalosporins, Clindamycin, and Erythromycin.
Discuss the pros and cons and come to a decision you are both comfortable
Post surgical care is equally important as the surgery itself. Be
sure to ask your veterinarian if there are any special precautions
you need to take or any medications to give at home. A one level cage
is a good idea, as jumping can dislodge sutures, causing further problems.
Clean t-shirts for bedding would be ideal for post surgical care.
Avoid towels with loops, as chinchillas are inclined to chew and possibly
ingest these threads. A quiet environment is recommended to reduce
stress levels and allow the chinchilla to recuperate fully.
It is not unusual for an animal to be quiet and less active after
a surgery, and a chinchilla’s appetite will likely decrease as well.
Have pellets and hay on hand, but also be prepared to hand feed your
chinchilla if necessary. Watch how much he is eating. If he is not
eating pellets and/or hay by the second day, it may be necessary to
hand feed due to their need to have constant GI function. Hand feeding
formulas can be made yourself of pulverized pellets and hay, or you
can use a commercially available product called Critical Care, manufactured
Hay. I prefer the Critical Care due to ease of preparation, balance
of nutrients, and the presence of probiotics in the formula. Probiotics
can help to keep the natural balance of a gastrointestinal tract and
allow the chinchilla to better digest food and fight off a bacterial
infection due to imbalance caused by stress or antibiotics.
Hydration is a very important factor after a surgical procedure. Often
rodents will not drink due to complications such as pain or infection,
which can make things infinitely worse. Monitor the levels in the
water bottle multiple times daily to ensure your chinchilla is indeed
drinking. If you notice that he is not drinking, act quickly. Offer
him water via a syringe, dribbling a little onto his lips (Do not
squirt it into his mouth, as this can cause him to choke and aspirate
water into his lungs). You may also offer Pedialyte
as an alternative. Pedialyte contains water and electrolytes and some
will drink it more readily than water after a surgical procedure.
It can usually be found in the baby section at most grocery stores.
Be sure to get the kind without artificial sweeteners, as these can
be harmful. Syringe feeding water will not generally be enough, as
they need 30-60 CCs daily, but it can help to jump start his willingness
to drink on his own. If he will not accept either, take him back to
your veterinarian and discuss subcutaneous fluids. This entails an
injection of fluid under the skin, allowing the chinchilla to absorb
the needed liquid.
Keep an eye on the incisions, be they open or closed. Monitor the
area closely for any swelling, heat, discharge, or discoloration.
If any of these are noticed, call your veterinarian immediately. Antibiotics
would likely be indicated to help treat the infection that has probably
The most important thing you can do is to pay attention to your chinchilla.
You’ll need to monitor (or record on paper if you’re able)
everything that you can monitor. This includes appetite, hydration,
incision status, stool consistency and frequency, urine color and
frequency, attitude, and activity level. Your chinchilla’s best defense
against complications is an owner who acts quickly and is aware of
As you can see, the decision to neuter your chinchilla is not one
to take lightly. It will take work and diligence on your part to ensure
a smooth recovery and a healthy chinchilla. Be aware of all possible
complications, and most of all, find an experienced veterinarian that
you can trust with your pet’s life.