What are Retained Fetus?

A chinchilla may fail to deliver a fetus due to fatigue during labor or if labor stopped and did not resume. If you observe that a chinchilla in labor seems to stopped contracting without successfully delivering a kit, get her to the vet immediately.

The kit or kits she is carrying may die or she may abort for one of several reasons. Your vet can examine your chinchilla and determine just what is happening with her pregnancy. Once he knows, he’ll give her the most appropriate treatment.

A retained fetus in a female chinchilla poses a potentially deadly health issue for her. If she isn’t able to deliver a kit and it remains inside her uterus, it will soon begin to decompose and become the source of several strong pathogens. Those pathogens lead to a uterine infection that, if it isn’t treated, can lead to sterility or death.

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Symptoms of Retained Fetus in Chinchillas

When your chinchilla’s pregnancy isn’t normal or if one of her kits is deformed, she may have a miscarriage. Once the miscarriage is well underway, she may stop having contractions, setting up the scenario for a retained fetus. You’ll notice these symptoms:

  • Blood around chinchilla’s mouth and vaginal opening
  • Licking and biting the vulva
  • Blood spots around the cage
  • Dead kits present
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Chirping, stretching and writhing during delivery
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness 

If labor has stopped or your pet has gotten too tired to continue, you’ll see these indicators:

  • Labor/miscarriage goes on for longer than six hours
  • Contractions stop before the kit(s) are delivered
  • A kit can be felt inside her abdomen with palpation

If she has given birth to a live kit and stops laboring before an additional, dead kit is born, she may:

  • Neglect the live kit
  • Become progressively depressed as toxins build in her uterus

Causes of Retained Fetus in Chinchillas

Several factors contribute to a case of retained fetus in your chinchilla:

  • Poor health in the mother
  • Chinchilla is too young or weak for pregnancy
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • “Breed back” pregnancy (she became pregnant within hours of giving birth to previous litter)
  • One kit or more are deformed in the womb
  • Seizures during pregnancy
  • Physical trauma or stress during pregnancy
  • Bacterial infection during pregnancy
  • Fever
  • Interrupted blood supply to uterus

Diagnosis of Retained Fetus in Chinchillas

When you notice that your chinchilla is in labor, be careful to keep an eye on her progress. If her labor stops, she’s at risk of retaining a dead fetus inside her uterus. Make note of all the signs you can so you can report them to the vet. 

Once the vet has examined your pet, he’ll also order X-rays and possibly an ultrasound so he can see if a fetus (dead or still living) remains in her uterus. He will also want to figure out what led to the death and failure to deliver the fetus in your chinchilla. 

The vet also orders blood samples from your chinchilla. He’ll perform a biochemistry profile to see if lowered blood sugar or low calcium may have led to the lack of contractions. The blood work may also inform the vet if your pet is dehydrated. A hemogram will reveal toxic heterophils (toxic white blood cells). Your chinchilla may also have anemia or she may have developed thrombocytosis (too many platelets), which affects blood clotting.

Treatment of Retained Fetus in Chinchillas

If your chinchilla’s labor has stopped as she’s trying to deliver a dead kit, she may receive a small injection of oxytocin (a natural hormone) to re-start her contractions. Your vet may also decide to perform a Caesarean section on your pet; she should respond well to this surgery, as long as treatment is received early. 

Depending on blood test results, your vet may also choose to supplement your chinchilla with glucose or calcium (the calcium must be administered by mouth). 

After her miscarriage, your chinchilla may have her reproductive tract flushed out gently with an antiseptic solution. She may also receive antibiotics intramuscularly (IM) or intravenously (IV).

Recovery of Retained Fetus in Chinchillas

As long as you got your chinchilla to the vet for care during or after her miscarriage, she will recover. However, if you didn’t spot the developing infection that follows the retention of a fetus, she will have a much harder time recovering because of the level of infection she developed.

Even with delayed treatment, your chinchilla can still recover, but will likely be sterile (unable to become pregnant again). She may also develop endometritis, an inflammatory condition of the uterine lining. You’ll notice that she is acutely (suddenly) depressed and has lost her appetite. She may also have other behavioral changes and appear lethargic. Your vet can help with diagnosing and treating these new conditions.