You Make The Diagnosis: Name A Common Health Problem for Chinchillas

Chinchillas are small mammals native to South America where they live high in the Andes Mountains.  To cope with the harsh environment, they have thick hair coats that require dust baths to keep them in shape.  Pictured below is Razzy, one of the nicest chinchillas I have ever met.  She sat on her owner’s shoulder while I performed a physical exam.   

Chinchillas are prone to a health problem that causes weight loss and pain.  Name the health problem.

Diagnosis:  Dental Disease

Like most herbivores, chinchillas are prone to dental disease.  Over time, the grinding of plants may produce uneven surfaces on the molars and premolars.  These “spurs” abrade the gingival tissue and make it painful to eat.  The roots of the premolars and molars are continuously growing so the chinchilla will never wear out its teeth.  Unfortunately, the roots can become infected or grow excessively, causing extreme pain.  Signs of dental disease include weight loss, drooling, problems eating such as dropping food out of the mouth, pawing at the mouth, poor hair coat because they don’t feel well enough to take a dust bath and/or excessive chewing on their water bottles.  I think the cool water brings relief to their inflamed mouths. 

Like all pets, chinchillas should see a veterinarian at least once a year.  During the physical exam, the veterinarian will insert a cone into their mouth to examine the teeth and check for dental problems.  

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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