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Agalactia is a fairly common condition in chinchillas, which may lead to the mother becoming stressed. If this does happen, she will become upset at her kits and vocalize her feelings.
A chinchilla unable to feed her kits because she has no milk coming in is in a serious situation. She needs to feed her babies so they can thrive and grow. Lack of milk is known as “agalactia.” While the direct cause isn’t always known, the underdevelopment of the mother chinchilla’s milk glands is one contributing factor. She may be underdeveloped or just too young to have been bred. Lack of milk may also develop as a result of genetics, or she may be undernourished and not fit enough for her body to respond to all of the tasks it will need to do to support the kits, both before and after they are born.
The symptoms don’t always appear in the mother chinchilla. The kits’ behavior may tip you off to a problem:
If the mother’s litter is too large for her supply of milk, problems develop. This won’t become evident until three days after the kits are born. This is when the mother’s milk should normally begin to flow.
The causes of agalactia are diverse:
As soon as you realize there is a problem, take your chinchilla and her kits to the vet for an examination. Observing them as the kits try to feed from their mother will give him the biggest indicator that the mother doesn’t have any milk (or lacks sufficient milk) for her litter of kits.
The vet will also weigh each kit. At home, weighing each kit regularly and tracking their weight can help you know if they are getting sufficient nutrition from their mother.
In order to overcome a lack of milk in a mother chinchilla is to provide hand-raising for the kits. You’ll have to feed them replacer milk every two hours so they can begin to gain weight and thrive. If you have another nursing mother, she can foster the kits temporarily until they are taking solid food.
Another technique is to rotate the kits, especially if there are three or more to the litter. Leave only one or two kits with their mother and remove the rest, placing them in another cage. Doing this enables the mother to feed the kits in her cage with what milk she creates while you hand-feed the kits in the other cage. Create a soft, warm environment, placing a heating pad on a low setting on one side of the cage. This way, if the babies get too warm, they can move to the unheated side of the cage. Remember to add a small dish of chinchilla pellets, because the kits will soon begin eating solids.
Switch the kits that have fed from mom to the warming cage and replace them with the kits that have been in the warming cage. Soon (within two weeks), you’ll be able to stretch out the time that the kits spend in the warming cage. You’ll only have to do this if it’s still necessary to rotate kits because of mom’s low milk supply. After they have been on the four-hour rotation schedule, try to reunite all of the kits with the mother and see if she has enough milk for them now that they are transitioning over to solid food.
Provided that you have been able to spot the lack of milk issue developing early, the kits should be able to make it through this early time. Your vet will direct you to begin hand-rearing the babies as well as rotating them from the home cage to a warming cage. If one or more kits has become so weak that suckling is too strenuous for them, you’ll need to help them by feeding them replacer milk until they are strong enough to nurse from their mother.
If you weren’t able to spot the situation developing, the kits will lose weight, weaken and decline, especially if their mother doesn’t interact with them. To prevent this situation from happening with future litters, try to delay a future mating until mother has regained her strength. Provide high-nutrition timothy hay and grass hay for her so that, when she does mate and become pregnant, she will be in the best possible position to nourish and care for her newest litter of kits.
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