What is Constipation?

Constipation is considered to be a digestive problem for your chinchilla because the process of defecation completes the eating and digestion process. Once your pet has become constipated, he should be seen, diagnosed, and treated by a vet as quickly as possible; his health can deteriorate rapidly. If his condition isn’t treated right away, he can develop bloat or a prolapsed rectum (where the last part of the large intestine slides out of place and protrudes out of your pet’s anus).

When your chinchilla cannot defecate, or if its feces appears hard, crumbly, smaller than normal, or pointed on the ends, he may be suffering constipation. Your pet has a limited diet for a good reason. The foods he eats provide the nutrition his body needs. If he is given too many pellets or treats, this alters the digestion of his food after he has eaten.

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Symptoms of Constipation in Chinchillas

You’ll realize quickly that your chinchilla isn’t feeling well. He’ll display the following symptoms:

  • Small, crumbly, hard, and/or light-colored feces
  • Bunching his back when he tries to defecate
  • Straining to defecate
  • Peeping or chirping (signs of pain)
  • Producing less feces than normal
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritable mood
  • Obvious discomfort

Causes of Constipation in Chinchillas

Your chinchilla’s constipation develops from several causes:

  • Dehydration
  • Illness/pain
  • Unexpected change of feed
  • Insufficient nutrition or fiber in feed
  • Excessive or inappropriate treats
  • Stress
  • Hairballs
  • Lack of exercise
  • Ingestion of a foreign object
  • Pregnancy
  • Giving birth

Diagnosis of Constipation in Chinchillas

When you believe your chinchilla is constipated, he should be seen by an exotics vet right away. The vet will give your pet a full exam, which may include an X-ray, to allow the vet to see whether your chinchilla is suffering from a blockage in his gut. 

The small feces droppings (or lack of) will tell your vet that your pet is constipated. If your chinchilla is suffering from bloat, which has led to constipation, it must be treated immediately; chinchillas with bloat or gastric stasis may have a long, hard road to recovery.

Treatment of Constipation in Chinchillas

Once your vet has diagnosed your chinchilla with constipation, he’ll administer several medications, such as injectable Reglan, a gut stimulant. If your pet is in stasis, injectable medications are the order of the day, since oral medications may not reach his gut until his digestive system begins moving again.

Along with the injection, your pet may receive Metacam and subcutaneous fluids, and if he is in stasis, the vet may prescribe Cisapride or Simethicone (gut stimulant and an anti-gas medication, respectively). 

Liquid recovery food may be recommended to help your pet to increase badly needed fluid intake. He may be eager to drink it, because of its appealing taste.

Recovery of Constipation in Chinchillas

Once your chinchilla has recovered from constipation, you’ll need to ensure that his digestive system continues to function normally. If you had previously been giving him too many treats, stop this practice and make sure he has plenty of fresh water and timothy hay. 

If bloat or gastric stasis has caused his problem, he can recover, but his prognosis is more guarded. You may need to continue giving him recovery food until he is able to eat his normal foods regularly. You may need to force-feed small amounts of food to your pet several times daily until his system has begun to move more normally. Be sure to follow the advice of your vet and avoid feeding dried fruits or other home remedies without their approval. Even though these methods can reverse constipation in humans, their effect on chinchillas may not be the same.

To prevent future constipation attacks, gradually change your chinchilla from one food brand to another, especially when this happens to be pellets. Check to see if his sipper bottle is functioning normally. He may not be getting enough water even though you see him sipping from the bottle. If a bubble has lodged itself in the spout, it may be blocking water from getting to the end of the spout, thus stopping your pet from getting sufficient fluid.