What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Infection?

Chinchillas exposed to P. aeruginosa may suffer abortions and develop conditions such as otitis media, otitis interna, metritis (inflammation of the uterus), pneumonia, septicemia, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, and enteritis (stomach conditions).

The Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial infection is what is known as an “opportunistic” infection that develops after the chinchilla is exposed to the microorganism. P. aeruginosa is found in the environment and on the skin of human owners. 

This infection develops most commonly in chinchillas that have been immunocompromised by other diseases, age, stress, state of nutrition, and factors related to their care or husbandry. These factors include dirty, contaminated feed, poor hygienic care, dirty water infested with the bacteria, and poor ventilation in and around the cages of the chinchillas.

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Symptoms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

Once your chinchilla has come into contact with P. aeruginosa, it is vulnerable to developing an illness related to the bacteria. If it is immunocompromised by any factor, you’ll notice the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Ocular ulcers (ulcers in the eye)
  • Oral ulcers (ulcers in the mouth)
  • Pus blisters on skin
  • Conjunctivitis (pinkeye, red, sore eyes)
  • Mastitis (infection of mammary glands)
  • Swellings of genitalia
  • Infertility
  • Abortion
  • Sudden death

Causes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

Risk factors for contracting a P. aeruginosa infection include:

  • Concurrent disease (illness occurring at same time as P. aeruginosa infection)
  • Contaminated drinking water
  • Dirty cage and environment
  • Stress
  • Compromised immune system
  • Direct contact
  • Aerosolized saliva from human or animal carrier
  • Infected feces the chinchilla comes into contact with

Diagnosis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

When you take your chinchilla to the vet for diagnosis and treatment, she will give your pet a full physical exam, to include blood work. A blood test allows your vet to isolate the bacteria so it can be properly identified before treatment.

Because P. aeruginosa causes so many illnesses in so many body areas of your chinchilla, your vet also needs to determine whether your pet has begun to develop septicemia (bacteria in the bloodstream). If so, she has to treat this aggressively and quickly so your pet has a better chance of returning home.

Treatment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

When your vet tests your chinchilla’s blood and finds P. aeruginosa, she tests also to find out what antibiotics this bacteria is immune to. In general, this bacteria can be killed by fluoroquinolone medications, aminoglycosides, and third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics. Other effective antibiotics include imipenem, ciprofloxacin and ceftazidime.

Other effective antibiotics include gentamicin-containing medications and topical polymyxin B. Antibiotics with several components in them (those that kill endotoxin-associated proteins/toxoids and formalin-killed bacteria) are ideal for use in chinchillas that have been fur-ranched. These particular medications aren’t suitable for chinchillas raised as pets, due to their varying immunity against different strains of P. aeruginosa

If these particular antibiotics are given via injection, the chinchilla may develop adverse skin reactions at the site of injection. In addition, pet chinchillas only have an immune response time of six to eight months.

Recovery of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

Your pet chinchilla can recover from a P. aeruginosa infection as long as you get it to the vet quickly, especially if it appears to be getting sicker. While your chinchilla is at the vet’s receiving needed treatment, take this time to give its cage a good cleaning, disinfecting it. 

Going forward, you’ll need to maintain a high standard of cage cleanliness and disinfection so your chinchilla doesn’t get sick with P. aeruginosa or other illness. Reduce levels of humidity and increase ventilation levels around your pet’s cage. Make sure it has clean, fresh water, bedding material and food. Remove soiled items regularly, if not daily.

When you begin to clean your pet’s cage, use cleaners such as 5% hypochlorite bleach. Mix one part of bleach with nine parts of water, then wipe down all surfaces of the cage, inside and out. Don’t forget the cage bars. Once you have wiped it down, make sure you rinse it well, then dry it with a clean towel (bleach is corrosive). 

If any part of your pet’s environment is made of wood, dispose of it and replace it. This includes paper bedding, fabric cuddle cups, and wooden houses.