Posted: March 27, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I have a 1-year-old chinchilla that got his foot stuck in his cage and severed off the top of his middle toe. My husband and I rushed him to an emergency vet, and she said the rest of the toe would need to be amputated because bone is exposed. The vet cleansed the wound and bandaged it, gave him something for pain and gave us an antibiotic. She said that our chinchilla would require surgery and that she wasn't able to do it, so she referred us to a vet that handles small animals. She also said that this surgery would roughly cost about $500 to $700. The trip to the emergency vet cost us $175. We simply do not have the money for this surgery. My question is: Is it possible that our chinchilla’s toe will heal on its own as long as we treat him with the antibiotics for seven days as prescribed and cleanse the wound daily?
A: Sadly, in the last couple of years, very responsible pet owners have had to make uncomfortable decisions about their pet’s care because the downturn in the economy had forced many people into tight financial situations. It sounds like this is the case for you and your chinchilla. It is a heart-wrenching decision for many pet owners who are used to only doing the best by their pets.
A couple of options exist for your chinchilla. First, the emergency veterinarian is only estimating, in her opinion, maybe based on dogs and cats, how much this surgery will cost. In some areas of the country, the estimate she gave you is correct. In other areas the estimate would be more, in still others, it would be less. And even if this is the average cost for this surgery in your area for a dog and cat, it may not be this much for a chinchilla.
Why would a chinchilla cost less for this type of surgery? The easy answer is that it may take less time than a larger animal to repair this lesion, and it may take less material. Both time and material factor into the estimate of the procedure. Even so, not all veterinarians charge the same fee for the same procedure, and you may want to call a few places to see if there is a price range that you feel comfortable with.
If there are no estimates that you can afford, the other option is self-healing. Many of these types of lesions heal on their own. The injury needs to be cleaned, bandaged and looked after frequently to prevent infection.
If this does heal on its own, your chinchilla could suffer cosmetic changes to its foot, and arthritis later on in life is always a possibility.
Also, pain and self-mutilation are major concerns with a wound like this, and complications can occur.
Most importantly, you need to find a veterinarian you are comfortable with. Be honest about what you can afford, and most veterinarians will work with you to give the best care to your chinchilla within the budget you have.
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