What is Yersinia Bacterial Infection?

If you’re thinking of buying a chinchilla, be sure to acquire one from a reputable source, especially if you already have other chinchillas or vulnerable exotic pets at home. If your chinchilla does come into contact with another infected animal, or if it ate infected feces, it is at risk of developing this condition. Other pathways to infection include infection in utero and nursing from an infected mother.

Yersiniosis, or bacterial infection by Yersinia, is a rare, but frequently fatal infection for chinchillas. The illness comes from contact with infected rodents who live in the wild. Because pet chinchillas are typically bred and born in captivity and sold by reputable pet stores, it’s not very likely that your pet will develop this infection.

Symptoms of Yersinia Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

Once you notice symptoms, it’s imperative that you get your pet to the vet right away. By the time symptoms develop, your chinchilla is already very sick. Symptoms to look for include:


  • Malaise
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Internal lesions
  • Sudden death


If your chinchilla develops symptoms of yersiniosis, it must be isolated from other chinchillas.



Causes of Yersinia Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

The causes of yersinia infection include:

  • Exposure to a wild rodent carrying the yersinia bacteria
  • Eating infected feces
  • Infected before birth
  • Nursing from an infected chinchilla mother


Diagnosis of Yersinia Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

When you describe your chinchilla’s symptoms, the vet may recognize them right away. She also knows that, because symptoms develop so late in the illness, it’s likely that internal lesions have formed and your pet may not survive this illness. 

With Y. pseudotuberculosis, lesions develop on your pet’s lungs, spleen and liver. With Y. enterocolitica infection, lesions develop in the intestines, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, lungs, and kidneys. Once these lesions develop, your pet’s condition is likely to be fatal.

Blood work will be a part of your pet’s diagnostic work. The vet, knowing your chinchilla may have yersiniosis, will work to isolate the bacteria.



Treatment of Yersinia Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

Treatment is quick and direct. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics and other therapies to support your chinchilla’s health, but if the condition is advanced, they may be ineffective. If recovery is possible, the chinchilla will have to live in another cage, separated from any other chinchillas you may have at home.

Once you receive a diagnosis of yersiniosis for your pet, you’ll have to completely clean your pet’s cage to kill remaining bacteria. Replace food water and bedding as well.

If your other chinchillas don’t have any clinical symptoms, your vet may recommend an injection of an autogenous bacterin vaccine. Prophylactic tetracycline can also help your otherwise healthy chinchillas to avoid developing yersiniosis.



Recovery of Yersinia Bacterial Infection in Chinchillas

It’s rare that a chinchilla diagnosed with yersiniosis will survive the illness, even when he is treated with antibiotics. If he does survive, he’ll have to live in a separate cage for the remainder of his life to avoid contact with other chinchillas.

If your chinchilla may have been exposed to yersiniosis bacteria by an infected wild rodent, take steps to correct the rodent infestation and disinfect your home. Close any entrances that rodents may have used to get into your home.

If your chinchilla became ill via the fecal-oral route, before it was born, or through the breast milk of an infected mother chinchilla, you’ll need to ensure that your environment is sanitary and free of the yersinia bacteria. Monitor other babies born to the ill mother and consider that it may be best to raise this chinchilla separately from any others you may have.



Yersinia Bacterial Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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