What is Bloating?

Additionally, bloat can prevent the intestinal tract from functioning at all; the chinchilla cannot digest food or pass feces. If food cannot be moved from the stomach to the intestines, the animal will be vulnerable to the growth of bacteria (bacterial dysbiosis) that could have fatal results.

For chinchillas, bloating is an extremely painful condition that occurs when gas becomes trapped in her digestive system. If the gas isn’t dealt with by a veterinarian, her intestines may twist or her stomach and intestines can rupture. Both of these conditions will eventually be fatal. 

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Symptoms of Bloating in Chinchillas

When your chinchilla develops bloat, you’ll notice these symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hard, swollen belly
  • Pressing belly against floor of her cage
  • Stretching out
  • Walking with “army crawl”
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Standing with rear in the air
  • Rolling from side to side
  • Lying on side
  • Stomach gurgling
  • Sitting in hunched-over position
  • Small feces, if produced at all
  • Grinding teeth
  • Reluctance to move
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Bloating in Chinchillas

You’ll find several causes for chinchilla bloat:

  • Bad food or hay
  • Unexpected (to your pet) changes in feed
  • Medications
  • Fruits, dairy products, vegetables, sugary treats, nuts
  • Abdominal obstruction 
  • Constipation 
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Too many treats
  • Underlying illness  (dental disease, metabolic disease, cancer, parasites, infection and environmental changes and strange noises)
  • Stress
  • Pain from another condition
  • Ingestion of toxin
  • Ingestion of foreign material (such as cat litter or carpet fiber)
  • Obesity
  • Confinement and inactivity
  • Some drugs
  • Antibiotics that promote the growth of toxin-producing bacteria or that damage beneficial intestinal bacteria

Often, the source of bloating is in a chinchilla’s diet. Your chinchilla relies on grasses and long-stemmed hay for good health. If you give her too many simple carbohydrates, these convert to sugar in her digestive system, and commercial pellets may not comprise a complete chinchilla diet. Cereal products (bread, breakfast cereals and crackers) can also cause your pet to develop bloat. Her digestive system isn’t intended to process simple carbohydrates, raisins, dried fruits, fresh fruits and vegetables, or yogurt.

Diagnosis of Bloating in Chinchillas

As soon as you discover an issue with your chinchilla, make note of her symptoms. Your vet will rely on your description of what your pet is experiencing, and how long symptoms have lasted.

If you can, take a sample of your pet’s feces pellets to the vet for examination. Sometimes, just seeing how the feces looks helps the vet to determine what is wrong with your chinchilla. 

He’ll examine your pet completely, taking note of a swollen belly. He’ll ask you about possible causes, so be ready with a list of what she eats, how she has been behaving and any environmental changes she’s experienced.

Treatment of Bloating in Chinchillas

Your vet should be experienced in handling and treating chinchillas. You shouldn’t try to treat bloat at home by yourself. Allow your vet to handle all treatment plan aspects. 

The vet will give some pain medications to your chinchilla, such as meloxicam. She may also receive gut stimulants that keep her system moving so she can process and digest any food remaining in her system. 

You may be advised to buy simethicone (gas drops for babies). These drops help to break up the bubbles of gas in your pet’s stomach, which allows the gas to finally move through her system.

If your pet has been put onto antibiotics, your vet may recommend probiotics with acidophilus. You may need to make her eat through a syringe, which will increase her digestive motility. 

Your vet may recommend warm compresses and can teach you how to give your chinchilla gentle abdominal massages to stimulate her gut into movement, pushing gas and fecal matter through her intestines. When she is able, gentle exercise also stimulates gut motility. 

If she is in serious condition, your chinchilla may need intravenous fluids for hydration and to soften the contents of her stomach and intestines.

Recovery of Bloating in Chinchillas

While bloat is a serious issue for your chinchilla, she can recover fully. You do need to get her to the vet just as quickly as you can because, if this condition isn’t treated, it could potentially be fatal.

After she has come back home, try to keep her environment as normal as possible. Don’t spring sudden changes on her (new pets, new foods). Reduce the amount of treats you give; provide good, high-quality foods, which should consist of roughage and long-stemmed grass hay. If you do give her treats, make them occasional at the most. Make sure she has access to clean water as often as she wants it. Provide it in the way she prefers (sipper or bowl, but don’t switch back and forth).

After treatment, Once she has come home, you may need to monitor the number of fecal pellets she produces. Once she is back to normal, her appetite will return and she should start producing her usual volume of feces.

Pets that have been taken to a vet soon after developing bloat have the best chance of recovery. Chinchillas who were moderately to severely ill and receive intensive treatment have a good to fair prognosis;, while those pets whose bloat was advanced and went unnoticed have the worst prognosis, which is guarded to poor.