By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
I just got a chinchilla from a friend. They didn’t have chinchilla food in the cage with it. It was in a very small cage with no room. It seems to be malnourished, and I can’t seem to get it to eat or drink anything. I have another chinchilla and he is very active, but I can’t get this chinchilla to do anything. Any ideas as to what I should do for the poor little guy?
It sounds like you have done a great service for this chinchilla in “rescuing” it from the situation it was in. Unfortunately, you may have adopted a sick chinchilla. Once a chinchilla stops eating, it can become severely malnourished and develop liver disease. And by not drinking, the chinchilla can become severely dehydrated. Both of these conditions can be life-threatening and need to be treated as soon as possible.
Once these problems are addressed, then it is important to determine what caused the chinchilla to stop eating. This may be difficult for you as you do not really know the history of this chinchilla, because he only recently came to live with you. The best answer is to visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
One of the most important aspects of the physical examination by a veterinarian will be to examine the chinchilla’s oral cavity and the teeth. Overgrown teeth, which are common in chinchillas, are a leading cause of anorexia and dehydration.
Other conditions that stop a chinchilla from eating include inappropriate foods, renal disease, liver disease, toxicosis, neoplasia (cancer) and degenerative diseases.
Once the physical examination has been done, the next step is to start supplementing with foods that increase both calories and fiber for your chinchilla. Depending on how dehydrated he may be, your veterinarian might also recommend subcutaneous fluids.
You can try feeding tempting foods, such as fresh hays and vegetables, but the best advice is to seek veterinary care to find the cause of the anorexia and to start your chinchilla back on the road to health.