Chinchilla Respiratory Problems

Glenna Rogers recently wrote to us about some serious health problems her chinchilla is having. If you happen to have any insight, please respond to this posting. This particular medical problem is over our heads so help if you can.

More than a month ago, our 3 yr. old chin began having raspy breathing and his energy level began to drop. We took him to our vet, who prescribed Baytril twice a day. He seemed to get better for awhile, but the medicine tastes nasty and he hated it. He would fight taking it and would be so stressed out by the time I was done trying to administer it, that he would go to the bottom of his cage and breath hard for several minutes. The vet said there was nothing else they could give him.

Since this was not working, I took him to a vet more knowledgeable in exotics, who prescribed the pink antibiotic twice a day. Since it is sweet, he takes it like a champ. He got noticeably better at first, even running like crazy on his wheel and sleeping in his sling at the top of his cage, but then after the 12 days of the antibiotic were finished, he started going downhill again.

I took him back in and they did an x-ray, finding something in/on his lung, but they do not know what it is, only that it doesn't belong there. They have put the x-ray out on the internet for other exotic vets to look at and it is agreed that the spot isn't right, but they don't know what it is. Meanwhile, he is back on the pink antibiotic, but not doing any better. His appetite is fine, but he is losing weight. He acts like something is caught in his throat and unless he eats very slowly, his sides heave like he has the hiccups. He even does this after taking the medicine. His energy is still way down – he will only go on the floor of his cage and the one shelf above it. I am extremely worried, but I don't know what else to do. The vet is very concerned also.

Has anyone out there had a similar problem? Thank you for your comments.

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  1. Hi, I am a little worried about my chinchilla. He’s 3 months old and is having trouble breathing. It looks as if he is trying to hard to breathe and he also kind of makes a noise doing so. I also believe he is colder than normal. I’ve noticed he has went from being very active to uninterested when it comes to doing any sorts of activity. He also sleeps in his corner a lot hunched over. And he’s been sleeping in the liter box and I’m not sure why. He’s also been just nodding out and falling asleep . I’m not sure if this has something to do with his age considering he’s only 3 months, but I’m a little worried regardless. He kind of look drowsy and depressed. I’ve also noticed that he hasn’t been chewing on the blocks I gave him , which I thought they just do so in their nature naturally. I’ve had bunnies, hamsters, and Guinea pigs before, however I’ve never once had a chinchilla till now. So, that being said I’m not completely sure on what to expect. Also how much are you supposed to feed your chinchilla at the age of 3 months, regarding hay chinchilla food etc. Thank you for your time. Greatly appreciated!


  2. If most of you noticed that the vets easy response for most type of animal including chins problem is by prescribing pain meds and antibiotics. Most vets do this if they cannot find the real problem meaning cannot diagnose the problem correctly.

    Please remember chins original habitat is in the andes mountains, meaning this environment has good source of air, moisture, oxygen. Chins have natural immunity and these are their normal gut bacteria which makes them healthy.

    In order to avoid these type of health problems, chins environment must always be ventilated, cleaned to avoid dust accumulation, chins should be given at least two hours per day out of cage to play for exercise and to relieve them from stress. One of the bad health causing factor for chins is stress.

    Provide chins as well with vit c and probiotics, there are breeders which sells this for very reasonable cheap prices they call this pro.c. by supplying chins water, vit c, probiotics, well ventilated and clean room and giving them supervised stress free play time at least 2hours everyday ( make sure the room is free of toxic plastic any dirt substances which they can ingest) your chins gonna live happy and healthy and may recover from these type of health problems. If your chin is taking antibiotics, give the probiotics or pro c 2 hours before or after the antibiotics.

    Hopes this helps.

    From a concerned chinchilla owner. Learned from experience and research.

  3. Hi all, my 8 year old chinchilla is having the exact same problem and it is almost more than a month already. His breathing seems labored, and sounds like hic-ups or duck-quacking. He seems to be uncomfortable... I've brought him to 2 different vets and he his lungs were clear, no teeth problems. His eyes are both swollen (they got swollen and glued shut simultaneously with the onset of the breathing problem). Currently I have administered him 3 weeks of Baytril and Bactrim. He has also received an injection of Baytril at the vet. He seems to prefer Bactrim orally, and he eats about 30ml of critical care twice a day, pretty good for a sick chinchilla. But on some days he will refuse to eat a single mouth of food. He can drink by himself and some days he will finish the pallets in his food bowl by himself too. He is still jumping around and enjoys sand baths, but his breathing gets louder by the day. How long will he last? The doctors could not figure out what's wrong and I am out of options. I have stopped giving him sand baths but nothing is improving. It takes so much time to feed him every morning and night (I have work everyday...) Anyone's chinchilla has improvements? I am wondering if mine is due to old age or is it pneumonia.

    • I believe this is pneumonia , but I’m not 100% sure . Try going to a different vet if there’s no cure. Better to be safe than sorry.

  4. I am really worried about my 5 year old chinchilla . He seems to be having breathing problems and constantly makes a strange snorting/rasping noise . We have taken him to the Vets who gave us antibiotics which he hated with a passion and it was awful trying to give it to him as it tired him out so much he had to lie down afterwards.
    He continued to get worse so we took him back to see the Vet who then kept him and did a series of x rays which came back clear ! No problems with his heart, lungs or teeth.
    The Vet said that he was healthy and really wasn't sure what the noise was so now we don't know what to do!
    He is eating and occasionally drinking and comes out for cuddles but the awful noise still persists and he has lost weight. We are thinking about taking him to see a specialist but they are so expensive. Can anyone help me or have any ideas what could be wrong as I am feeling very helpless and love him very much. Thanks

  5. Hey there its seems as though a lot of us are experiencing this problem.....
    My little Mischief is 2 1/2. He started with this problem in Dec 2011 and was put on injections everyday so took him to the vet every single day for a week ..... He then got better....

    But from the injections he had a skin problem and it resulted in his skin practically breaking open he then had to get 15 stitches which was a nightmare my little guy refused to eat and was in constant pain, eventually we took the stitches out and it reopened and I have been putting on cream to dry it out for the past few months but its still there....

    Now in april 2012 respiratory problems came back they put him on Baytril which does not work waste of time actually I then took him back and was put on doxy which is a cat and dog antibiotic I had to give it to him orally he got so much better :) and unfortunately he can not have injections cause of his skin problem he has also lost a lot of weight..
    He seems to be breathing funny again but not as bad
    I have managed to make him gain abit of weight with feeding him cooked oats(make chins gain weight) in the morning cooled down with his vitamins in which he loves and protextin to help him aswel after all the antibiotics..
    Also what I've learnt that especially when little chins have a respiratory infection or blocked nose or asthma they can not smell anything just like us.... And chins will not eat if they can't smell it what works for me is I try feeding carrot leaves (small amounts) and he will usually eat it, I also count his pellets and if he seems asthough he hasn't eaten I crush pellets and add abit of water wait a few min till its all mushy and add it to a syringe and feed him doing it very slowly and rubbing his stomach in a circular motion so there is no gas build up REMEMBER if your chin is not eating you unfortunately have to intervene as those little guys GIT will stop dead in its tracks and your chin will have another problem added to him x

    My little mischief still keeping strong and I will carry on getting the best veterinarian advice for him no matter the costs even if I live on tin food for a year the sad reality is if you took responsibility to be your chins owner and friend you have the responsibility to seek medical advice we all knew chins were expensive pets when we bought them so live up to your responsibilities:)

    I hope all your chins do get better as I know how heart breaking it is to see them sick
    -big hugs to all-

  6. I don't know if my chinchilla got similar problem but mine is losing weight and sometimes act like something caught in his throat and he eats very slowly..... mine is now taking Baytril and metacam .... still losing weight and he is very nervous ... btw, I found no date information on this page... how is the sick now?

  7. My current chinchilla is having the same problem. I am worried that it may be pneumonia causing this snorting sound but its only when she sleeps. I'm worried because my last chin, a two year old male, passed away due to pneumonia and we had no warning signs at all. If your chinchilla has a spot on their lungs or fluid in them talk to your vet about pneumonia. It could save their life.

  8. i have the same exact problem,but my little guy just got sick,with the hiccups breathing, whole thing,do not understand why because it is just coming on fall so it is still pretty warm,been giving him baytril for the last 5 days,no improvment hiccupping is getting worse,he does not drink or eat,i have to peel an apple and give him thin slices and he will nibble a bit,this morning he looks very tired and week,taking him back to the vet again,he has his friend in with him and i started him on the baytril as well and he seems to be fine,i do not want to see him suffer any longer,i have had phenomia myself before and looking at him reminds me of when i used to breath like that,i just wish that if pet stores are going to capture and sell these little ones that the vets should know what to give them to help them get better,not only that i could not believe it that it cost more to just have someone listen to there lungs than for the medicine,a 5 minute vet check,not at all fair,so stressed out for the last 8 days,watching over him and trying to figure out what and why this is happening............

    • Have you found the cause of you Chin's labored breathing? Ours is doing the same thing. Our exotic vet is scratching her head and after xrays and medication he is still having trouble breathing and he's stopped drinking. The xrays show his lungs and airway is clear.

  9. My 1-2year old chinchilla also suffers with breathing problems, he doesn't seem to have lost any waight or appetite, he is quite happy to run around when he comes out and will often play around in his cage but the problem is he seems to strugle with his breathing, his chest seems to jolt in and out a bit like hicups aswell except without the hicuppy sound although he does make a realy snorty sound like his nose is blocked though, when this sound comes on he will make the sound continuously every few seconds and eventually it will stop, somtimes he only snorts once then stops but often this will contiue for half an hour or so. This all started a few months back when i first noticed his eyes were realt watery, (he never had a runny nose), he had a big wet ring surounding both eyes, we pondered over it been a eye infection an contemplated whiping them with a warm cloth which is usually how we deal with somthing like that with pets, but then he started snorting and then his chest went realy jolty even when he was just sat on his shelf.

    after about a month or so of him being like this he didnt show any signs of tiredness when he was out or loss of appetite but when he was out he would snort every 2 seconds for the whole time and for a while after being put back in. At that point we decided to take him to the vets because we were realy worried. The vet looked him over, weighed him, listened to his chest and although she cound cleary here him snorting she said whatever it was it wasnt on his chest and sugested that it was probably an ifection in his nose and gave us some antibiotics or somthing like that, that we had to sqirt down his throte with a suringe, (she did say we could put it in his water bottle but we wouldnt realy know how much he was getting, plus it was verry sower so i didnt know if he might stop drinking his water),we had him on that for a week before taking him back for a checkup, there wasnt realy any sighn of improvment but she said apart from giving him an exray there wasnt much else we could do, she also said if it was breathing problems and they put him to sleep to give him an exray there is a chance that he wouldnt wake up. she sent us away with two more weeks worth of medicine for him and told us to call if he got any worse.

    after two weeks of him being on the medicine he seems alot better, his eyes have cleared masivly and he hardly snorts, but he has started to snort a bbit more again and im worried he might be getting worse. I can put him back on the medicine but i dont want for him to have to realy on it, plus he hates it and i dont know if it will work long term. the joltiness in his chest never realy cleared and right now im just keeping an eye on him to watch for any mor symptoms.
    Does any one have any information on what this could be.
    here is a list of things that might have caused it.

    -He caught it in winter and also has his cage placed by the draft of the door. (maby its a cold).
    -During winter we have our wood burner lit which can give some smoke out. (its spring now and we arn't going to light it when he is in the room in future).
    -There is an ilness called Pasteurella which can be passed from rabbits, in winter we did have our rabbits indoors and when it was wet we had them running around in the room the chinchilla was in, i even let them run around together, (wasnt a good idea, they didnt get along and i didnt know the risks back then).

    apart from those i cant think of anything else, i clean him out regually and he has sand baths and cleans him self, he even bites the bars to come out in the evening, (which he did stop doing when he was particually bad, but he has always done that scince i first got him), i let him out every two nights to run about for half a hour, I give him fresh water every night. any inormation on what might be wrong?

    His name is Collin and i love him very much:)

    • I have to same problem with my chin! I'm also concerned and have no idea of the cause. Of the possible causes you listed I have none of the following. What type of bedding do you use? I'm trying to think if it was some type of allergy or something. I have two other chinchillas along with her but none of them seem to have it. The eye problem has been there for the past year but the breathing problems are very recent. Help!!

    • my chinchilla began snorting, sounds like snoring either on the inhale or exhale. i couldn't figure which it was. anyway, my conclusion is that it could be asthma because her breathing seemed heavy too. i took her into an open area for fresh air, but not drafty. it subsided and has not returned. try this..keep the chinchilla from smoke, treat it like asthma, hopefully this helps. fyi: when they dust bath, make sure they shake off before going back into their room/cage. my chinchilla had gotten a dust bath that day and i could see the dust residue on the ledge of the wall and floor. this kicks in asthma. i know because i suffer from asthma.

    • Our chinchilla is experiancing the same trouble and we just finished up with 15 days of the same treatment. He did the same exact thing, started getting better and now it seems that we're back to square one facing more tests. We did have a chest xray a few weeks ago and that was normal, no problems with his chest or lungs. Our poor little guy is starting to have a tough time and it would be great if we could figure out what was wrong so we could help him. He's only 2-1/2. Let us know if you figure out what's going on with yours. Thanks

  10. My 7 yr old chinchilla has lost a lot of weight but still eats very well. I think even more than usual with much more gusto but keeps loosing weight. Any ideas? Can he have tapeworms?

    • If your chin got worms you would know they immediately attack their central nervous system and brain it's crucial. I read an article that it's very unlikely and uncommon for chinchillas to contract worms unless raccoons are defecating in their food supply.

  11. I don't own a chinchilla but I'm looking into getting one. I had a guinea pig that recently passed from the same type of respiratory situation but the meds didn't really help him...he was too far gone by the time we got him to the vet. With your chinchilla taking antibiotics, the weight loss might be due to the lack of "good bacteria" in his intestines...did your vet mention any way of replenishing that good bacteria? He may be having trouble digesting food because of that...

  12. thank you

    • ok, well my parents took him to the vet today beccuase im having a mental break down and pixi is getting worse and i re read your story and pix is most defenitaly loosing wait i thought that he might not be eating but now im not so sure..... i originally re read your story because the vet just called and asked to do an x ray and i googled chinchilla x ray and your story came up again.... i dont know why i am saying all this i just was curious if you could tell me what happened to your chinchilla....hes 4 which is a year older then yours....... im scared sick

      • I'm so sorry that you and so many other chinchilla owners are experiencing these respiratory problems. I have 3 chinchillas and have never experienced this problem. I have read that you shouldn't use any strong cleaners or strong air fresheners around your chinchillas. I've heard some have died from it. Unfortunately, I had to put down one of my chinchillas several months ago. He had apparently eaten something that blocked his intestines. He was very sick. It broke my heart to have to do this, but I know it was the right thing to do. I love my chins, my cat, and my rabbit. They are my children. I lost my only son 3 yrs ago. He was only 24 yrs old.

  13. My son just lost our male Chin, Fozzy, a few days ago after a vet visit that confirmed it was pnuemonia but couldnt tell us more due to lack of experience with this species. Baytril was given but he died hours later in pain and dehydrated(he once was on the chubby side). This has been devastating and we are still trying to understand how he got so sick so one seems to have an answer. He was 2 1/2 yrs old-one day he was fine, the next he could barely breathe. We need more Vet's to learn about these little guys as they become more popular as pets...they have great personalities and become part of the family...hopefully docotors will continue to research more on care & prevention when it comes to these lil guys-Good Luck & Health to all Chin owners and of course, the Chins!

    • im so sorry to hear abour your sons chinchilla but the only thing i can suggest is that when you contact a vet make sure they are quallified in exotic pets although the vets i am registerd with are very good and comapssionate there is as far as im aware only 1 vet that is qualified in exotics and so she has been very good with our old chinchilla and even the ones that aren't experienced have been very helpful until we could get an appiontment with the qualified vet. Also im just wondering if you got your chinchilla wet at all because that can cause newmonia as their fur cant dry with it being so dense and thick i know you probably new that already but i have a book trhat i use so that if i notice a change in my chinchilla i can try to identify the problem myself before i go to the vets. Also for future reference if you notice the eyes looking different this could be a good sign of there being something wrong their eyes shouls be fully open, sparkly and dry if they are not then there could be something wrong. I hope this has helped

  14. My 15 year old chinchilla was having breathing problems not long after i first got her i took her to the vet and he said its probably just a chest infection he put her on antibiotics and it dissapeared. About 2-3 months later it came back and a different vet saw her who was more experienced he said its probably asthma and asked if there was anything we had done differently in our house like decorating or have we been using air freshner because they are so sensitive it can cause respiritory problems so now we dont use any air freshners or sprays around her and she has been fine.

  15. my chinchilla had the same was so weak, .. when i have noticed the problem.even could't keep its balance i took it to the vet , they said ,from their experiences, that it was really really really sick. if they try eveything they can do to help it, it will only have 50% chance to survive. and it cost roughly 500 dollars...... only 50%.....i am a student ,i really cant afford it... and they say if i just leave it there, it will die and suffer a lot......then they give it an injection....then it's gone....i was soooo sad..
    .they say they hide their illness ....btw are you using wood bedding make of pine tree???? they say it might release somekind of oil that harmful for the chins. if you are, remove!!!!!!

  16. This is a reply re respiratory problems with Chins.
    I have an 18 year old boy who is having this problem.
    The anti-biotic is foul tasting but the vets have no alternative. If you are having truoble administering the anti-biotic try following the dose with glucose powder mixed with water adminisered with a syringe. The sweet taste of the glucose helps to neutralise the previous bad taste and gives not only energy but also liquid. Try also a bowl of hot water near the chinchillas cage with menthol and eucalyptus oil which clears the nasal tract. Not too close though as it is quite strong.
    Does anybody have an alternative anti-biotic? Baytril is so foul.
    Try feeding baby food of pureed of fruits with a syringe if your chinchilla is not eating. Again it is good aftr the anti-biotic for obvious reasons.
    Give lots of TLC keep your pet out of draughts and constantly monitor it's condition. you can then respond when needed.

    • my chinchilla had the same was so weak, .. when i have noticed the problem.even could't keep its balance i took it to the vet , they said ,from their experiences, that it was really really really sick. if they try eveything they can do to help it, it will only have 50% chance to survive. and it cost roughly 500 dollars...... only 50%.....i am a student ,i really cant afford it... and they say if i just leave it there, it will die and suffer a lot......then they give it an injection....then it's gone....i was soooo sad..
      .they say they hide their illness so frustuating....btw are you using wood shaving from pine tree???? they say it might release somekind of oil that harmful for the chins. if you are, remove!!!!!!

    • i spoke to my vet recently about using glucose powder or liquid and they suggest not because its no good fopr their teeth.

  17. Hi Anna,
    We have not done the shot with Sheldon, but every day he is a little better! I believe the fact that he never lost his appetite has a great deal to do with this. He has much less difficulty breathing (it is inaudible now) and only once in a while does he sputter when he eats. He is doing a little running in his wheel and one morning when I went in to feed him, he climbed his wire cage clear to the top, just like he used too! But he does tire easily and these activities are not done everyday. I am just so thankful for every little improvement. He loves fresh fruit and some fresh veggies, though I wish he liked his veggies better. He has a sweet tooth, but he also likes cheerios and a shredded wheat biscuit in the morning. I will keep you informed as to his progress. Thank you again for caring. Glenna

    • I read you give him fresh fruit? Everything I read says not to give them aything fresh...... I have 3 chins. Two females (one of them is a rescued) and last night I bought a black male. He will start making a loud hoarse noise when he is scared. I don't know what to make of it.... my other two chincbillas did not make this sound... what worries me is the hoarsing.... it sounds like when you scream too much and then your have no voice lwft and what comes out us a weird hoarse noiae. The thing is that he has only done it 3 times. Once last night when I bought him on our way back home, when he met the other 2 chins, and today at 4 am when I wenr to check on them. Picked him up, recomforted him. The sound stopped but it still concerns me, because he came out of the store like that. He was silent all night, but it still concerns me. When I bought him he was alone on his cage, so thwre were no other chins around. One qeird thing is that the pet atore said they never.get black chins and that is was weird that they got one, they always get just grey ones..... which made me think could the breathers know he is sick and sold it to the store to get rid of him....? Because I have only seen this type of chins on website at a much higher price than what the store usually sells them for. Anyone that can enlight me on the hoarse sounds....

  18. Thank you Glenna.
    My little guy is doing well. We have
    an appointment with his vet just to trim his teeth, but otherwise he is
    great. We feed him with fresh vegetables. Did you look into it?
    Good luck with Sheldon.

  19. Hi Anna,
    Sheldon's vet had a consultation with the exotics vet and unfortunately, he didn't think there was anything further he could do for him. He said you can't open a chinchilla's chest to look around. He also didn't know what the spot on the lung could be. He did say that if it was a resistant infection, we could try an injectable antibiotic to see if that would help. He is looking into that right now. I feel like I have to give Sheldon every opportunity to get well. At this point, he is not getting any better, but he is also not getting any worse. I feel that as long as his appetite is so good and he will eat all the wholesome food that I can give him, he may have a chance that his body can fight off whatever it is. I will keep in touch as things progress. Hope your little guy is still doing well. Glenna

  20. I am little paranoid about my chinchilla's health. He is my first and the only one chin. We don't have any other pets. I understand, they are very sensitive and they need a lot attention. It is heart braking to see them suffer, so my heart goes for you. I hope the specialized exotic vet will be able to diagnosed him and help. Please let me know about his progress.

  21. Thank you so much for your comment, Anna. We have had Sheldon's teeth looked at, because he sputters and coughs as he eats, but the vet said they were very good. Sheldon continues to eat well and is holding his own, but his life is not what it once was. He doesn't have the energy to run on his wheel or jump from shelf to shelf like a monkey. We have a referral to a more specialized exotics vet, so maybe he will be able to shed some insight into Sheldon's problem. He is, of course, loving all the extra attention showered on him, though I wish his health could be like it was before. I am very glad your chinchilla has made a full recovery and I appreciate your writing in to help Sheldon. Glenna

  22. I am not sure if this is the same problem. One day I found my chinchilla almost without breath. We took him immediately to the vet. I insisted on emergency appointment. Thank God for the best vets ever. They took x-rays which showed a fluid in his lungs and gas in his stomach. Turn out to be his teeth problem. While he couldn't chew, somehow gas built out and created the pressure on his lungs. That is all I could understand. We left him in the hospital under the oxygen tank. He is completely better. He hated the medication and forcing it wasn't pleasant for us either.

    I hope your chinchilla is doing better.

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