Posted: October 27, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I am at my wit’s end! I have been keeping chinchillas for about 15 years. I have three at the moment, twin females about 5 years old, and a male a few years older. I am a soft old bat (57 years), and I don’t have much money but a lot of love. One of the twins has had dental problems in the past six or seven months and has had about three procedures to file/burr rogue teeth. Since the last one, she developed an infection, which I am medicating with antibiotics from the vet. I have been told to feed her with an easily digestible food such as chinchilla food ground down to a paste and mixed with water. Or even baby puree that she won’t have to chew and thereby cause pain. But my previous experience has been that they don’t tolerate too much fluid in their diet. What do you advise? I am determined not to lose her.
A: The best advice is given by your chinchilla’s veterinarian, who gets to see your babies, and it sounds like you are getting excellent care. But I understand your concerns. Hopefully, the diet change will be temporary as the antibiotics work to heal the infection.
Dental problems are more common in rabbits, but we do see similar problems in both guinea pigs and chinchillas. The dilemma you face is that chinchillas need fiber to help grind down their teeth, but if your chinchilla is in pain from overgrown points on the teeth, she might not eat pellets or hay.
The trick here is to help heal the abscess, file down the teeth to stop points from growing and feed her a gruel that is easy to chew while her teeth are still causing her pain. When she feels better, change her diet back to one that includes some fiber to help grind down the dental points.
You are correct about the fluid; too much fluid could change the type of bacterial flora in her intestinal tract, so we try to keep the moisture content of the gruel at a minimum, enough for the chinchilla to eat the mixture with no pain.
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