What is Middle Ear Infection?

Middle ear infections (otitis media) in your chinchilla may happen during or after a respiratory infection. This is a common illness for chinchillas in general. If he has experienced something that put him into shock, he may also develop otitis media. Your pet may also develop a middle ear infection if his diet isn’t of high quality.

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Symptoms of Middle Ear Infection in Chinchillas

Your chinchilla’s symptoms look similar, but not identical, to the symptoms of a human child sick with a middle ear infection:

  • Rubbing the ears
  • Ear pain
  • Loss of balance
  • Walking in circles (related to balance issue)
  • Head tilt

When you notice that your pet is obviously sick and you suspect a case of otitis media, take him to the vet right away. You may have some prior warning, especially if he suffered from a respiratory infection before developing an ear infection. His condition could potentially become serious if his ear canals become blocked off because of inflammation or blockage within his ear.

Causes of Middle Ear Infection in Chinchillas

Middle ear infections are typically caused by the presence of harmful bacteria. Respiratory infections, injury of the ear, and poor health due to an inadequate diet can increase a chinchilla’s risk of developing an ear infection.

It’s possible to reduce the probability of ear infections in your pet by providing him high-quality hay (timothy hay and hay grass), which is what he would eat in the wild. Your pet doesn’t need a lot of treats, which can also set off other health conditions if he eats too many.

Diagnosis of Middle Ear Infection in Chinchillas

Your vet will have an idea of what could be making your chinchilla sick when you take him to the clinic. She will observe your pet, watching his behaviors and actions. Symptoms such as head tilt, loss of balance, and walking in circles will help her to nail down a middle ear infection.

Along with observation, your vet will give your chinchilla a complete physical, which includes looking into his ears to see if she can spot the signs of infection. She may also find that the inside of your chinchilla’s ears are blocked off by swelling. Or they may be blocked by an over-accumulation of dirt and wax, which will have to be removed.

If his ears are dirty and filled with wax, she will have to clean all of this material out so she can see more deeply into his ears, if she suspects otitis media.

Treatment of Middle Ear Infection in Chinchillas

Once your vet knows that a middle ear infection is what is making your chinchilla sick, she’ll prescribe the most appropriate antibiotics to help clear the infection up.

Regarding a possible blockage from wax and dirt, she may need to operate on your pet if the wax is impacted and too hard to remove. 

In a study conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital, researchers found that an antibiotic gel squirted into the ears of chinchillas may be an effective single-dose treatment for chinchillas (and children). Because the gel hardens, it stays inside the ear canal and slowly releases the antibiotic medication directly through the eardrum and into the middle ear, where it does its work. This form of treatment may be more effective than giving high doses of oral antibiotics, which introduce other temporary health issues, such as diarrhea.

Because chinchillas were used in this research test, the researchers found that the treatment was effective. The structure of the chinchilla’s ear is similar to that of a human ear. This means that, if this treatment becomes an option for your vet to prescribe, you may not need to give your pet repeated doses of medication for several days.

Recovery of Middle Ear Infection in Chinchillas

Once your chinchilla has completed his full course of medication, he will return to full health. To help make sure that he doesn’t suffer from future middle ear infections, try to make sure that the bulk of his food intake comes from only high-quality hays. Keep treats and pellets to a minimum.

If your pet needed to undergo surgery to remove impacted dirt and wax, his recovery time will be longer. Once he has returned to full health, your vet may ask you to bring your chinchilla into her office so she can examine and clean his ears regularly. This means that, if he is developing a subsequent infection, she may be able to catch it early before he becomes obviously ill.