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What are Roundworms?

Your veterinarian can provide an accurate diagnosis, but the treatments available may be toxic for your pet. The best you can hope for is to provide supportive care for your chinchilla.

Once your chinchilla has been infested and the roundworm begins affecting your pet, you’ll notice he looks sick and less active or fit. The roundworm poses a risk to your health as well as that of your family members. Roundworm infestation is considered to be a zoonotic (animal-to-human transmission), so when you notice your chinchilla is looking peaky, take him to the vet.

The roundworm is a parasite that settles in your chinchilla’s body, affecting his brain and central nervous system (CNS). He ingests this parasite by eating hay that has been contaminated by the feces of raccoons also carrying the roundworm.

Symptoms of Roundworms in Chinchillas

After your chinchilla has eaten hay infected by the contaminated feces of a raccoon or other animal, he’ll soon become ill. His main symptoms will be concentrated in his central nervous system:

  • Head tilt
  • Loss of coordination
  • Lying down
  • Tumbling
  • Torticollis (twisted neck)
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Death


Causes of Roundworms in Chinchillas

Roundworm infestation in chinchillas is caused ingestion of the parasite’s eggs. When he eats hay that has been infected by the feces of another animal carrying roundworms, such as raccoon, the infestation will move into your pet.

Careful husbandry of your chinchilla’s living conditions can help you to keep your pet healthy. Because of the risk of transmission to you and family members, this is even more important. Clean his cage regularly and make sure that his hay has not come into contact with the feces of any animals, including your own chinchilla.



Diagnosis of Roundworms in Chinchillas

Once you recognize that your chinchilla is sick, you may suspect an infestation of roundworm, especially if he has developed CNS symptoms. Describe his behaviors and symptoms to your vet.

The vet will give your chinchilla a full physical exam, including examining his feces under a microscope. She’ll be able to find the signs of infestation if she sees eggs in your chinchilla’s feces. Because egg-shedding takes place intermittently, you may need to have several fecal samples, collected over a few days, to give to your vet.

Though the mature worm can be detected in the vomit of a cat or dog infected with roundworms, chinchillas are not capable of vomiting. Thus, the vet relies most heavily on microscopic examination of his feces.



Treatment of Roundworms in Chinchillas

While treatment of a roundworm infestation is safe and effective for other animals (dogs, cats, horses), it isn’t effective for your chinchilla. Thiabendazole, which can be used to eradicate the roundworms in other animals, is toxic to chinchillas.

Your vet will recommend supportive treatment for your chinchilla, as a way of helping him to feel better. While your pet is still in the hospital, give his cage a complete sterilization and cleaning. Throw out used bedding and infected hay and other food. Empty bowls of pellets and water, sterilize, and re-fill them with clean pellets and water.



Recovery of Roundworms in Chinchillas

The long-term prognosis for your chinchilla may be poor once he has developed a roundworm infestation. Once you bring him home, keep him separated from any other chinchillas you may have in your herd. House him separately in his own cage.

Keep his cage and that of his herd mates scrupulously clean. To prevent transmission to yourself or your family, wear gloves as you clean his cage, then wash your hands when you’re done. Keep your remaining chinchillas healthy by making sure they get hay that has not been infected with the feces of infected animals.



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