Can You Explain Why My Chinchillas Died?

I need some serious help regarding chinchillas. We started with one chin about 3 years ago and got another two years ago. They were both supposed to be males, but it turned out that our first was a female. They had one kit at the end of last summer. During the winter the female took ill and she started on antibiotics (at this point she was housed with the male and we thought she was pregnant). Their kit had already been weaned & was in a separate cage in a separate room. She started getting better & we had the male on antibiotics too as a precautionary measure. Ripley (the female) was nearly well and Kozmo (the male) who never showed symptoms suddenly became very ill. In a matter of hours he died in our arms. It was a very sad experience and a major loss. At this point we thought it was a bad strain of Bordetella that crossed species because we had just gotten a pig who came with kennel cough and all the dogs, cats, and myself (I have a weak immune system) got very ill, which happens very rarely and only with severe strains.

About 2 months ago Ripley gave birth to two healthy kits and we were overjoyed to know that she was able to handle the stress, get well, and have two healthy babies (a boy and a girl).

Our joy was soon met with disappointment when Gizmo (the chin in the other room) took ill. The next day after his symptoms began we took her to the vet and he informed me that he thought it was pasteurella, which came on suddenly because of the chinchilla's instinct to not become prey to predators in the wild. The vet treated Gizzy and we took her home, but two hours later she died. Again--it was absolute heartbreak.

Today we were met with sorrow again when we found Ripley dead at the bottom of the crate--her babies are fine. She had no symptoms of anything & appears to have died in her sleep.

What is going on? We buy quality natural chin food that is free from fillers & chemicals, we only feed treats in moderation, they have fresh water, a clean crate, daily dust baths, and are handled with the utmost care. Why have we lost 3 chinchillas in a five month span that weren't even in the same room. Oh and I forgot to mention that after the Bordetella outbreak we threw out the old crate and all of the supplies and started over in order to prevent cross-contamination or further illness.

Chins are supposed to live at least 10 years and ours have lived to be 2, 6 months, and 3, respectively. We love our chins and only give them the best of everything. Do you have any ideas what could be going on? Is there something we should be doing that we aren't? Should we be concerned about the babies getting sick? Should we get Ripley autopsied?

Please help; we are really getting discouraged and have no idea what to do!

Thank you!

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13 Comments

  1. To the last commenter it sounds like prolapsed intestines caused by constipation. When a chinchilla is constipated they will try to poop this can lead to them pushing out part of the bowels in the process. To the lady with the chinnies that were laying on her it does sound like heat stroke. A chinnie has lots of fur and it doesn't take long for them To become over heated whilst laying on you as we give out lots of body heat. Never give chinchillas raisins these are full of sugar and will kill your chinnie early. There are many great alternatives such as goji berries and mulberries.

  2. I need help ASAP something is wrong with my husband's chinchilla. Her name is Babygirl inside her mouth on the top her jaw line there's a white bump which is causing her unable to eat or anything. My husband and I don't want to lose her. We don't have alot of money. I've been reading anything and everything I can think of. This has never happened before. She's lost so much weight and were so scared. Please if anyone can help I would deeply appreciate it. She's suffering and were upset at the thought of her passing away.

  3. So I just found two chinchillas dead at the same time. I FEEL horrible... I have my other chinny in a cage right next to them.. I dont understand.. What I know is that I had moved both cages which are big .. So i could sweep i left then there overnight. The next day my lamp quit working coms to discover they had chewed the cord into three pieces.. I thought i had moved all cords out of the way turns out this one was still too close.. I moved them back they seemed ok.. For 48 hours.. Moving chatting playing.. Today both are not alive at all. I am highly concerned for my 3rd chinny. I am hoping he is not at risk. Does Anybody know of any other reason than the cord they may have both passed at the same time? I dont think my living guy had acess to the same cord, he looks bright eyed and happy but they did too yesterday.. Soo sad..

  4. I had a pair of chinchillas and when one of them died in an unfortunate accident (their play area was sharing the same space as the lizard cage and when I went to feed the lizard he darted out under my feet as I was walking toward the cage. Although immediately when I saw him dart out and felt his fur brush under my foot I stopped in my tracks to keep from continuing to step down the rest of the way, almost falling over backwards myself but the damage was already done and he died shortly at the ER vet. The other chinchilla became depressed (he followed Stitch around everywhere) so after three weeks I found a suitable new companion for him. I slowly introduced them thru the cage but they almost immediately became "friends." Sadly, this past week; a week after introducing Biggie to his new friend, while I was holding Biggie watching TV I must have dozed off for twenty minutes or so and woke up to a little mnurmur of a squeak from him. He had turned from laying straight on my chest with his nose pointed up at my chinchilla to sideways (my hand was over him before so my arms were across my stomach) so it almost looked like I was rocking him in my arm. I went to pick him up and turn him back the other way and he was limp in my hands when I tried to move him, exactly the same way Stitch had a month before when he darted under my feet. I assumed when an animal went limp like that; unable to move their arms or legs, but still able to vocalize, breathe, etc. that it had to be a spinal issue because I was assuming he somehow got paralyzed or pinched a nerve and the way he was laying must have instigated it and even when I called the ER vet they said to try and keep him as still as possible, holding him myself to ensure he move as little as possible if I could. Sadly, shortly after reaching the ER vet he stopped breathing. They couldn't even guess as to what happened without performing an autopsy and at that point it was just too painful to go through all that. The problem is that the newest one of the three that I had gotten as a new companion for Biggie liked to bite when you would try to handle him for more than two minutes at a time. I tried gently correcting him and holding him closer to me so when he tried to start kicking hard into the air (the vet had mentioned if Biggie had done that he may have pulled something) I could control him easier. Every time he tried to bite I would give him a wood chew toy to bite on and he quickly shredded if to pieces but he soon calmed down and started calmly laying there with me as I watched TV again. Then the exact same thing happened as did with Biggie, he murmured a little squeak and gave me a desperate look and when I went to pick him up he was limp. I had been planning on returning him to the store I got him from because I had gotten him as a friend to Biggie and I knew they wouldn't pay for any vet bill if I took him so I called my father who said it didn't look like he wanted to be handled and that I should lay him back on the couch. I'm not sure why but I thought just in case I shouldn't lay him there but I should lay him on the tile ground because he would most likely prefer the cold and to wait a couple of minutes to see if he started even trying to move, which he did a little after about fifteen minutes. Slowly he started moving around a little more at a time and over the next couple of hours made what seemed like quite close to a full recovery. Before I returned him to the store I got him from he was biting me like normal. So I guess the question I have is whether when a chinchilla is suffering from heat stroke their entire body will just go limp like that or if there was something else going on? I adored the first two chinchillas and although i didn't get to know him too well and the third chinchilla bit the crap outta me I didn't want to see anything bad happen to him. I'm petrified to get another chinchilla now although I fell in love with not just the ones I cared for but chinchillas altogether as a species. It took everything I had to get over what happened with the first one let alone when I thought somehow I was responsible for paralyzing the second one by how I held it or something else (when it happened I also felt what I thought was an unusual lump in Biggie's spine but later felt on his new friend and realized was normal) I managed to do without realizing it. I just want to get over my fear that I'm doing something wrong or that I should have done enough research to know better than to let this happen. If anyone has any experience with anything like this I would greatly appreciate any input or advice you have for me. Thanks so much.

    • First, I'm so sorry for your losses. These little guys become like our children but there are considerations for this breed that we don't always think about (like with cats and dogs). Chinchilla's are very sensitive to heat and have tiny fragile bones. One of mine escaped from her cage and I found her by following the trail of feces to the storage closet. She tried to climb up a folding arm chair and got a front foot stuck in the cross bars. You could see she panicked and started chewing the wood all around the chair in an attempt to escape. When I opened the closet door and saw what had happened I had to fight hard to stay calm as I gently opened the chair and picked her up. She actually stood up on her hind legs as if to say "help me mom!". The vet tried to save the leg but could not. I opted for the $700 dollar surgery to amputate her forearm and began a strict regimin of hand feeding, watering and round the clock attention. I was able to nurse her back to health and maybe that's why we're so close. I didn't have the heart to tell my husband how much the surgery cost but she's going on 12 years and is doing great. In your case, It's possible he got rolled on in your sleep and couldn't breath or injured his spinal cord.. For the other cases above yours, I would make sure the cages are away from windows that can increase the heat coming through but also, check the homes carbon monoxide levels, especially if it's an older house or you use a plug in space heater. Make sure the water supply is constant and the bottles cleaned weekly. I would also ask the vet about the type of food but new mothers can also get mastitis (it's really bad for cattle and maybe chinnies too). Sorry I can't be of more help but good luck in the future. Most breeders don't allow the females to leave their enclosures for breeding. They leave on a sort of spiked collar that won't fit through the openng between cages. This allows the male to go in and breed and keeps the others from hurting each other since they are very territorial. We picked up a female from a pet store and found out a week or so later that she had a massive infection from a bite on her back. You couldn't see it due to all the hair until it started sluffing off. Those are sharp teeth! Just a couple of sugestions. I'm not up on normal chinchilla diseases but the seem to be relatively hardy if handled with care and given the proper foods. Did you know that they should not be given wood from a tree thats fruit has pits instead of seeds? That's why apple sticks would be healthy but pears and citrus fruit trees like oranges and cherry trees could make them ill.

  5. I had six chinchillas and I just recently lost one I wasn't aware that they are NOT to have plastic shelves in there cages so I went out and bought a whole bunch of pine because it is safe for them and so is regular pine shavings and they are so happy. With the plastic shelves they were chewing it soo bad and there bodies can't digest plastic but wood is good for there teeth. I give them multivtiams now too. Pet stores don't have enough training about these wonderful pets and they should inform ppl of some of the things to avoid seeing that they don't sell cages specially made for chinchillas everything is plastic it's really annoying. Ppl think they are like ferrets or giunea pigs and they are so different. But I feel ur pain cuz i don't think I can bare anouther loss I've had them for a couple years now.

  6. I'm really sorry for your loss... I only have mine for some months now but I cannot even imagine that something happens to her. I've done a lot of research before I bought her and I am still searching and reading for this species as much as I can. I've read your post twice in case I missed any "clues" but still...it seems so strange to me too!! Perhaps someone more experienced than me could give proper answers, but let me tell you some thoughts that crossed my mind... No doubt you were really careful with their diet, but is there any possibility they ate something (eg. fresh vegetable) that wasn't well-washed from chemicals, fertilizers etc??? Or maybe you have any plants at home that might be toxic for them and they chewed it while being outside the crate??? I believe you have to focus to anything NEW that went into their lives at that period..... I can't think of anything else...... What did your vet say? Did you discuss with him/her about the autopsy? Will it help at all?? And of course you have to get the babies examined in case it was anything contagious....

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I too had a chinchilla that was only 6 months old and he was the light of my life. I had trained him and spent every waking moment with him and the other 3 chinchillas I had. Unfortunately, I left my house for only an hour and came home and found him dying on the bottom of the cage. He died shortly there after in my arms. I have learned from the other 3 chinchillas and the 3 more that I accumulated shortly there after, that there are a few things that you should always follow. Never give them water from tap, bottled spring water only, if they act alittle lethargic give them some pineapple juice, this is better for them then pedialite. Also, use only pellet paper for their bedding this way they don't eat the bedding. I have found they even eat the wooden bedding. I keep my chinchillas on the same three foods and never deviate. Also, treats must be limited. An example is raisins, only give them one, I know they look at you wanting more but their treats really need to be limited. I have had the 6 chinchillas I have currently for the past 2 years and thank god have had no illness issues. I too have a house full of dogs and cats and a ferret. I do take them out to play in a fenced in play area in the living room seperately, that way I can avoid any fights or kits. I always give them daily dust baths always using clean dust. I hope this helps, I know how much it hurts to lose a precious friend and I've learned all of this after losing him, I wish I had known it all before I lost him.

    • I wish I'd known to use pineapple juice. Puck died a week ago from similar conditions.

  8. Chinchillas are very delicate, and have sensitive respiratory and skeletal systems. You NEVER want to spray anything in the same room with a chinchilla. I have heard many horror stories of spraying febreeze, and the chinchilla dying within 24-48 hours without ever knowning anything was wrong. If you must spray in the room, spray on a rag outside the room and bring the rag in, or remove the chinchillas from the room. Your BEST bet is to just remove the chinchillas from the room. And they also cannot get wet! (Just little info I found, hope it helped)

  9. It hard to tell without autopsy. I'm very sorry for your lost.

    • I just lost a chinchilla about a week ago. His name was Scooter. He was bad about chewing on anything he could get his paws on. I seriously made the mistake of allowing a small plastic toy in the room for the youngest chinchilla could play with. They have their own room. Its basically chinchilla proof. On night when I went in the room to clean up, I found Scooter under the nite stand. He was so lethargic. He couldnt hardly move. I freaked out!! Called a vet but had to wait several hours to get in. By the time we saw the vet, he was almost lifeless. He said Scooter was very ill. They couldnt promise to keep him alive in the hospital for even 24 hrs. I began crying and cried in the vets office for 2 hours. They gave me the time to decide what to do. I decided to have Scooter put down. He was almost dead at that point. I am still grieving and feeling much guilt for making the mistake of leaving that plastic toy in the room. I cant say for sure thats what it was that killed him, but the vet seemed to think he had an obstruction in his intestinal tract. So, please make sure you keep plastics away from your chins, and also make sure they arent eating cardboard. Mine are bad about eating cardboard. Make sure you use distilled water, clean their water bottles frequently, dont give them alflalfa hay if possible, give them timothy hay, and try to prevent them from feeling stressed if possible. Thank God I havent had any problems with my chinchillas fur biting. I think its because they are not caged up and are very happy. But, im considereing to cage them. I dont want another incident to happen that could harm my pets. I too am sorry for your loss............

    • my chin was about 13 yrs old he died today he has been eating fine and seemed normal and today as my daughter went to her room from school she shouted to me to see ozzy, he was lifeless and what looked to be some sort of intestines hanging out of his bottom that was wrapped around his leg.there was a lot of blood also was very shocking to see he died within minuets of taking him out of the cage . does anyone know what could have caused this?

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