Bloating is a common issue in people and chinchillas alike! But unlike bloating in people, bloating in chinchillas is severe and requires medical attention.
Can chinchillas get bloating? They can get bloated because of gas, a lack of calcium, or a physical blockage in the gut. Bacteria cause gas in normal digestion, but sometimes this gas can’t be passed because of a blockage or there’s too much. Bloating can signify life-threatening underlying issues so a vet is needed. It can be relieved with gas drops (simethicone for chinchillas).
If your chinchilla’s belly is taut and swollen, take it to a vet immediately. They will administer gas drops if necessary. They may even use a needle to puncture the swollen area and release the gas that way, in severe cases.
Can Chinchillas Get Bloating?
In this context, bloating doesn’t refer to retaining water as it can in people. Rather, this kind of bloating is referred to as tympany by vets; this is where gas builds up in the gut and can’t escape for some reason. This is caused by bacteria producing gas in the gut. Another cause, which can occur in conjunction with the first, is when there’s a buildup of physical matter in your chinchilla’s gut that can’t be passed.
A third, less common cause is when a female chinchilla is nursing her pups around two to three weeks after birth. When this occurs, it may be related to a condition called hypocalcemia. This is where she isn’t getting enough calcium in her diet.
Whatever the cause of bloating, your chinchilla has to go to the vet. They will determine why the bloating is occurring and will tell you what to do about it.
Is Bloat in Chinchillas Dangerous?
In people, bloating is a cause of embarrassment and not much more. But in chinchillas, bloating can kill.
That’s because it can occur alongside a buildup of solid material in your chinchilla’s gut. If this can’t be digested or passed, it will stop your chinchilla eating and pooping. Hypocalcemia is similarly dangerous if not treated.
One of the main symptoms of severe bloating is pain. While this isn’t dangerous, it’s exceptionally uncomfortable for your pet. This isn’t like regular gas, where there’s a small amount that you can’t pass. Rather, it’s a huge ball of gas that for some reason can’t be released. Bacteria in the gut keep adding to it more and more.
Fortunately, there are ways to correct bloating. You must take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
What Causes Bloating in Chinchillas?
Bloating in chinchillas has two main causes. The first is a physical blockage, and the second is gas. These problems can work together and become life threatening for your chinchilla.
Physical blockages can easily build up in a chinchilla’s gut. These are made up of indigestible material like plastic or fabric that the chinchilla has accidentally ingested. These then merge and mingle with what’s naturally in the gut to form a large lump called an ileus. Because of its size and what it’s made of, this can’t be broken down or passed.
Do Chinchillas Get Gas?
The second cause is gas. Gas is a healthy, if smelly, byproduct of an active gut. What happens is that the bacteria in the gut break down the food an animal eats. As the bacteria eat, they pass their own gas from their own process of digestion. This gas builds up inside the gut, swelling it until the gas is passed—either up or down.
This gas can be made worse by dietary changes. If an animal eats more food than it normally would, the bacteria in its gut will produce more gas in turn. A change in what the chinchilla eats can have a similar effect, as some foods cause more gas than others.
Can Chinchillas Pass Gas?
For some reason, there’s a myth that chinchillas can’t fart. It’s thought that this would explain why chinchillas can easily get bloated.
However, this isn’t true. A chinchilla’s gut and rectum aren’t uniquely constructed in a way that means gas can’t escape. If this were true, then even the slightest amount of gas that comes from their food could kill them!
But these aren’t normal circumstances. If your pet has built up an ileus, the gas can’t easily escape past it. It therefore builds up more and more, and becomes very uncomfortable for your pet. It’s the combination of
How Do I Know If My Chinchilla Is Bloated?
The most obvious symptom of bloating is if your chinchilla’s belly is larger than normal. Crucially, the belly will feel tighter, the skin tauter than normal. This is how you tell bloating apart from weight gain (which is an issue in its own right). If you were to tap your fingers against your chinchilla’s stomach, it would feel tight like a drum.
Another symptom of bloating is pain. Chinchillas can hide the fact that they’re in pain well. But you will nevertheless notice certain behaviors like rolling or stretching, which is where your chinchilla is trying to relieve its symptoms and pass its gas. If it can’t, it will appear lethargic, meaning it will stop moving around so much and will seem depressed.
If the case is particularly bad, your chinchilla may have difficulty breathing. This occurs because there is less room in your chinchilla’s abdomen for its lungs to take in air. Too much room is taken up by the gut, which is large and swollen.
Early Signs of Bloating in Chinchillas
The early signs of this condition are subtle. This is unfortunately the case for many conditions that chinchillas experience. As such, you have to look for what might cause bloating rather than behaviors your chinchilla might display.
The first sign you may see is that your chinchilla has changed its eating habits. You may notice that it’s gnawing on things that are indigestible, like plastic. This will eventually cause a blockage if not corrected. You may also notice your chinchilla straining to go to the toilet, or that it’s poops are smaller than usual.
You can also think back to dietary changes you made for your pet. Did you change the kind of hay it’s eating? Have you been feeding it inappropriate treats?
Can Vets Diagnose Bloating in Chinchillas?
If you aren’t sure whether your chinchilla is bloated or not, you should take it to the vet. The vet can tell you for sure either way.
What they’ll do first is ask you about your pet’s diet. Bloating often accompanies poor dietary choices like vegetables. They’ll also perform a physical check, looking at and perhaps touching your chinchilla’s belly. Vets call this ‘palpating’ (feeling) the belly.
This is often enough to tell them if there is excess gas in the gut/an ileus. But if they aren’t sure either, the vet can use imaging (e.g. an X-ray) to check whether there is any.
How to Fix Bloat in Chinchillas
Because it’s dangerous, you have to fix bloating as soon as you notice it. For that, you’ll need a vet’s help.
Gas Drops for Chinchillas
If you’ve ever cared for a baby, you might know about simethicone. Simethicone is an over-the-counter drug that treats the symptoms of gas, thereby reducing bloating. It works by reducing the surface tension of gas bubbles that have formed in the chinchilla gut. This makes the bubbles clump together, making them easier to pass. Drugs that work this way are known as ‘anti-foaming agents’, because they force small bubbles to form larger ones.
Simethicone is liquid and is given orally. You’ll need a syringe—not the hypodermic kind, but the plastic kind that you can use to squirt liquid into your pet’s mouth. Administer it according to your vet’s instructions. The vet may show you how to do it during your visit.
Stomach Tube or Needling the Gut
Another way that gas can be relieved is by providing it a means to escape the gut. As it can’t be passed in either direction for whatever reason, the vet can pass a small tube into the stomach to assist in its escape. They can also insert a needle directly into the area with the most gas to allow it to get out. This kind of immediate fix will be necessary if your chinchilla has a bad case of gas.
Extra Calcium Supplements
If the cause of the bloating is hypocalcemia, this can be fixed by supplementation of calcium. The vet will recommend calcium gluconate given intravenously (injected). But other methods of increasing calcium intake include cuttle bones and small amounts of alfalfa.
If you do need to give your female chinchilla more calcium, be aware that it’s possible to have too much, too. Excess calcium causes bladder stones which are a big problem of their own. Don’t give your chinchilla high-calcium foods and supplements if it’s already getting calcium gluconate injections unless told to do so by your vet.
Home Remedies for Chinchilla Constipation
There are no home remedies that we recommend for treating bloating in chinchillas. That’s because home remedies don’t work as well as gas drops.
That being said, there are things you should do at home to correct some of your pet’s bloating. These should be done in conjunction with the use of gas drops.
- Adjust your chinchilla’s diet. Diet can be a cause of bloating. As such, you should ensure you feed your chinchilla the best diet possible (90% hay and hay pellets).
- Remove anything unsuitable from the cage. If the bloating is occurring alongside gastrointestinal stasis, it could be caused by gnawing on unsuitable materials. Get rid of any plastic in particular.
Consult your veterinarian for any further advice.
Monitor Your Chinchilla’s Health
If any health problem affects your chinchilla, it’s possible or even likely that it will come back. You therefore have to monitor your pet’s health continually to check that it’s healthy.
This can be done quickly and easily. All you have to do is spend time with your pet, and spot clean its cage every day. This will show you when:
- Your chinchilla isn’t eating or pooping correctly. If it isn’t, the cage floor will be cleaner than usual.
- You chinchilla is in pain. You can tell because of its lethargic and depressed demeanor, or because it’s rolling and stretching to combat the gas.
- Take your chinchilla for regular checkups at the vet. These can be done every six months or every year (or whenever you feel like in between).
A correct diet must also be followed to fully correct and prevent bloat. Chinchillas should eat almost nothing but hay. Other foods, particularly vegetables, will cause bloat so must be avoided.