What is Neurological Protozoa Infection?

Still another protozoan that can infect your pet is Cryptosporidium spp, found in the intestinal lining and respiratory system of the chinchilla, as well as other small animals. This parasite can cause central nervous system involvement.

Some treatments may be effective but need be started soon after infection. 

Parasitic infections of the chinchilla’s brain can include Frenkelia spp, which leads to meningitis. The parasites are usually protozoa, which are single-cell organisms. Another protozoal infection that causes neurological symptoms in your chinchilla is Toxoplasma gondii. This infection causes your chinchilla to develop focal necrotic meningoencephalitis, in which areas of your pet’s brain begin dying.

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Symptoms of Neurological Protozoa Infection in Chinchillas

When your chinchilla develops a protozoal infection that affects his brain, he’ll develop the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Blue color to his skin
  • Purulent nasal discharge (pus-filled)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Head tremors
  • Blindness
  • Limb weakness as a result of nonsuppurative meningoencephalitis 

With the Cryptosporidium spp protozoa, you may also notice the following symptoms:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Death

Causes of Neurological Protozoa Infection in Chinchillas

Chinchillas commonly contract protozoal infections through these causes:

  • Eating the feces of other infected animals
  • Exposure or contact with infected cat feces
  • Eating raw meat infested with encysted toxoplasma

Diagnosis of Neurological Protozoa Infection in Chinchillas

When you realize your chinchilla is sick, take him to the vet right away. The vet will carry out a physical exam, making note of your pet’s behaviors.

Diagnostic testing includes looking for cysts. Once these are found, the vet will stain and examine the tissues to determine the exact cause of infestation and infection. Blood testing can also help the vet make a diagnosis. Specifically, the vet will test for IgG, IGM and T. gondii-specific antigens in the blood serum.

If your chinchilla is infected with cryptosporidiosis, your vet can identify the illness by looking for the oocysts (protozoa “eggs”) in your pet’s feces.

Chinchillas whose infections have been diagnosed late in the disease will not likely recover. In these cases, vets make definitive diagnoses during necropsy and microscopic examination of infected tissues.

Treatment of Neurological Protozoa Infection in Chinchillas

Treatment with sulfonamide antibiotics may be prescribed, but in the case of Toxoplasma infection, is only effective before the parasite has become encysted. These antibiotics include trimethoprim-sulfa and pyrimethamine, doxycycline or clindamycin. Your vet may provide supportive therapy and treatment of symptoms to provide relief from seizures or other effects.

Recovery of Neurological Protozoa Infection in Chinchillas

The best way for your chinchilla to recover is if he receives early veterinary care. The infections are best eradicated by appropriate antibiotics before they have become enclosed by cysts. Once the infection is encysted, antibiotic treatment will not be effective.

Once your chinchilla has recovered from a protozoal infection, it’s vital that you keep his cage and general living environment scrupulously clean. Keep sources of infestation away from your pet. Don’t allow small animals or cats infected with these protozoa to come around your chinchilla. Make sure that, once your chinchilla has recovered, you feed him only high-quality hay and only small servings of pellets every day.