What are Hair Rings?
A hair ring consists of loose fur that becomes trapped on the sheath of a chinchilla’s penis. When the penis retracts itself, the fur rolls up, forming a tight ring of knotted fur that encircles the penis, causing discomfort to your chinchilla and leading to potential health problems. You’ll have to check your chinchilla’s penis regularly to ensure he doesn’t have a hair ring bothering him. It’s best to do these checks monthly.
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Symptoms of Hair Rings in Chinchillas
You’ll notice unusual behaviors in your chinchilla when he is experiencing physical discomfort from a hair ring around his penis. If you notice he’s grooming excessively or straining to urinate, check his genital area. You’re likely to discover the ring. Also, look for these symptoms:
- Prolapsed penis (the penis is extended, not retracting back into the sheath)
- Penile discharge
- Excessive grooming
- Trouble urinating
- Vocalizing when trying to urinate (grunts or squeaks)
- Physical discomfort and pain
- Problems with mating
- Loss of appetite
- Visible swelling of the penis
- Discoloration of the penis
Causes of Hair Rings in Chinchillas
A hair ring is caused by loose fur becoming trapped in the sheath, or foreskin, of a chinchilla’s penis as it retracts. Hair rings may develop on any male chinchilla, though breeding and dominance mounting may increase the risk of a hair ring forming.
Diagnosis of Hair Rings in Chinchillas
Closely examine the genitalia of your male chinchilla. His physiology includes a penile cone, just above his anus. Below the anus, you’ll see the testicles. The scrotum and testicles may not be easy to spot, because of how furry the chinchilla is.
If your pet does have a hair ring, he may not be able to retract his penis. If you see his penis in a prolapsed position and your chinchilla is grooming excessively, take him to the vet so the ring can be removed.
Your vet will examine your chinchilla. He should be able to see the hair ring encircling your pet’s penis. If your chinchilla has been able to retract his penis back in its sheath, your vet will help him to unsheathe it. To do this, he slowly, gently eases the sheath back so the tip of your pet’s penis is visible.
Your vet will wet his fingers with lubricant (water-based only) or water and take the tip of your chinchilla’s penis between his finger and thumb, gently extending it. When the penis is fully extended (it should be about an inch-and-a-half long), your vet will be able to see the hair ring.
Treatment of Hair Rings in Chinchillas
With his fingers and a pair of tweezers, your vet will slowly work the hair ring until it is loose. This makes it easier to remove the ring from around your chinchilla’s penis.
Your vet can show you how to remove hair rings on your own. If this happens again, which is likely, you need to have the knowledge to take care of your chinchilla’s genital health.
Keep a close eye on your pet once a hair ring has been removed. He needs to be able to regain use of his penis so he can urinate and engage in sexual activity. If you see any swelling or redness, or if his penis won’t retract completely, take him back to the vet. He may have developed an infection.
Recovery of Hair Rings in Chinchillas
A penile hair ring is usually not a life-endangering condition for your chinchilla, unless the ring isn’t noticed and removed. When a hair ring stays on his penis, he won’t be able to urinate, which may lead to the retention of urine.
Retaining urine in his bladder puts your pet at risk of developing bladder damage, a urinary tract infection, or even kidney problems. If he loses circulation in his penis, he can suffer tissue damage. If the problem becomes severe enough, he may even develop blood poisoning (septicemia). If the hair ring is tight enough, it can even lacerate your chinchilla’s penis.
Hair rings are fairly common in chinchillas, but are easily treated and a full recovery can be expected in most cases.