Chinchillas can get sick like any other pet. And when a pet is unwell, you take it to the vet—right? Well, chinchillas aren’t like other pets, so do chinchillas need to go to the vet too?
Do chinchillas need to go to the vet? They do, both for checkups and for emergency care. Exotic vets are best, but chinchillas can go to regular vets too. Vets can perform surgery, administer medicine and diagnose health issues in chinchillas. Chinchilla vet care can be expensive because they’re exotic, so good husbandry will save you money.
That being said, some expert owners don’t rely on chinchilla vet services—instead, they diagnose and treat their pets on their own. But is that a wise choice? And if not, why not? The guide below explores this and much more…
Do Chinchillas Need to Go to the Vet?
Chinchillas have care needs like any other pet. If you don’t meet these needs, your chinchilla will need to go to the vet, as the vet can fix whatever’s wrong. Chinchillas can also experience issues that are no fault of the owner, although these are less frequent than cases of neglect.
Unfortunately, chinchillas are good at hiding the fact that they’re ill. Owners frequently complain that their chinchillas got sick out of nowhere, and became seriously ill before they had a chance to do anything. But this doesn’t mean you don’t need to take your chinchilla to the vet—rather, the opposite. It needs frequent checkups to identify underlying issues.
Common Illnesses in Chinchillas
There are several common health conditions that chinchillas can experience. Most are common because inexperienced owners can neglect their pets. They include:
- Overgrown teeth. A chinchilla’s teeth grow continually, and if left unchecked, cause eating problems and eye infections.
- Respiratory infections. These are like colds or flu, where bacteria or a virus attack your chinchilla’s nose, throat and lungs.
- Bite marks from other chinchillas. Chinchillas can live in pairs, but can also fight. In serious fights, they use their teeth.
- Gastrointestinal stasis. This is another term for constipation. It occurs when a chinchilla is fed the wrong diet.
- Eye infections. This is where bacteria attacks the eye. Pink eye (conjunctivitis) is an example.
Some of these issues—like eye infections—might not sound serious. But they are. An eye infection can cause a chinchilla to go blind, or necessitate surgery to get rid of the eye completely. As such, it’s your job as a chinchilla’s owner to learn what can go wrong, why, and how to fix it (i.e. taking your chinchilla to the vet).
How Often Should Chinchillas Go to the Vet?
You should take your chinchilla to the vet as soon as you adopt it. This will a) identify any underlying issues the pet shop or breeder had missed/lied about, and b) ensure you are a client of the vet in case an emergency happens. You will only need to take your chinchilla for one initial checkup.
After this first visit, the frequency of chinchilla vet visits is a matter of debate. Some owners think regular yearly checkups are the way to go, while others don’t take their chinchillas to vet checkups unless there’s a reason.
Do Chinchillas Need Regular Vet Checkups?
We believe chinchillas benefit from regular vet visits as they pick up on certain health problems. Overgrown molars and incisors are an example.
All rodents need to keep their sharp front teeth in check. They grow continually throughout a chinchilla’s life, like fingernails or claws do. If the chinchilla doesn’t have something rough to gnaw on, like wood, its teeth will grow too long. If you aren’t experienced with chinchillas, you may not notice this, but a vet will.
If you didn’t know, letting a chinchilla’s teeth grow too long stops them from eating. It can also have knock-on effects like causing eye infections.
Frequent checkups also catch problems before they get too serious. Emergency care is more expensive, while checkups cost only as much as they do for other pets. As such, you can save money through taking your chinchilla for vet checkups regularly.
However, we also believe that the rules differ depending on your level of experience. If you are a long-time chinchilla breeder and you know how to identify symptoms of poor health, there’s less need for frequent checkups. But if you’re inexperienced like most new owners, vet visits will pick up on these problems, plus they will teach you more about handling and caring for chinchillas.
Do Chinchillas Need Emergency Vet Care?
Aside from checkups, chinchillas do occasionally need emergency care. This is often necessary because chinchillas are good at hiding health issues. Some only become apparent after they become serious.
This is why it’s good to have your chinchilla registered with a vet as soon as you adopt it. The vet will be familiar with your pet, and may have picked up on whatever caused the emergency issue. This ensures a better standard of care.
Can You Take a Chinchilla to a Normal Vet?
You can take a chinchilla to a normal vet, and they will likely be able to help. Many owners take their chinchillas to the regular vet they take their other pets too without a problem.
Are There ‘Chinchilla Vets’?
There is no such thing as a ‘chinchilla vet’, i.e. a vet that only cares for chinchillas. Chinchillas are rare enough that a vet which specialized only in them wouldn’t be able to make a living.
But there are vets that only look after exotic animals rather than common pets. These vets complete further training so they know more about certain unusual pets. It’s generally better to rely on an exotic vet for an exotic pet, as these vets will have more experience with chinchillas.
Are Chinchillas Exotics?
Exotic pets are unusual animals which are more normally seen as wild than as pets. While chinchillas are almost extinct in the wild, they still fall within the exotic animal bracket because they’re far rarer than other pets.
This means that most vets are relatively inexperienced with chinchillas compared with how much time they spend treating cats, dogs and so on.
Why Are Exotic Vets Better for Chinchillas?
All vets receive the same basic education. Vets go to university to learn veterinary science. But there are further qualifications that vets can get in exotic animal medicine. This is important because these pets can have different anatomies and needs to your average cat or dog.
There are postgraduate degrees (i.e. Masters degrees and PhDs) specific to exotic vet care. These broaden the vet’s knowledge on unusual animals like chinchillas, and open them up to the idea that not all small furry animals are the same!
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t trust what your vet tells you. For advice and information relating to pets, there is no better source than a veterinarian. But some owners do report that inexperienced vets can get things wrong, which is why forums have sections through which you can find vets that are good with chinchillas instead. The same applies to any professional, whether they’re a building contractor or a medical professional.
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Chinchilla Vet Cost
This is a core issue for chinchilla owners. In every other way, chinchillas are cheap to keep: they eat hay, drink water, and don’t need lots of expensive toys. But a visit to an exotic vet can cost a lot.
Are Chinchilla Vets Expensive?
So, how much is a vet visit for a chinchilla? The cost of a basic checkup ranges from $30 to $100. Basic medicines cost between $10 and $20. So far, so normal. It’s emergency care like surgeries that costs lots more; neutering (uncommon, but sometimes done) costs $300 while other operations can cost up to $1000.
Needless to say, this price varies wildly from vet to vet. You may have lots of vets to choose from in your area, in which case you should shop around to see how much your chinchilla’s vet bills will be.
But remember: cheapest isn’t always best! You may find that the quality of care your chinchilla receives is far better if you pay only a little extra. Rely on trusted reviews or word-of-mouth for best results.
Why Are Chinchilla Vets So Expensive?
Chinchilla vets are expensive because vets for exotic animals can charge more. Their expertise requires extra training, and because there are fewer vets for chinchillas than for other pets, this further drives the price up.
As such, proper chinchilla care is very important. You can effectively prevent most health conditions with basic chinchilla accessories, such as:
- Chew toys (stop your pet’s teeth growing long)
- An exercise wheel for chinchillas (stops your pet growing overweight)
- Bedding or fleece to absorb urine, which prevents infections and wet fur
If you learn how to care for chinchillas properly, you can avoid most vet bills and keep both your pets, and your wallet, happy.