Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
We had a mini-scare last week with Gary. He had been sneezing quite a bit, which tends to fatal symptom for a lot of Chinchillas. As soon as I noticed how much he was sneezing I immediately called our new vet, who said there was nothing they could do to him because they didn’t deal with exotics. They happily gave me some numbers to call, but sadly all of the locations that deal with exotics were about 30-minutes to 2 1/2 hours away from us. (Which kind of shocks me and makes me sad that there aren’t more exotic vets in the area.) When I gave a call to what came up to a total of 3 places 2 of them stated that they were booked until next week (being this week) and that there was no chance they’d be able to help me, but one of them offered me at home advice (which I will share with you shortly.) I didn’t end up calling the third place, because a 2 1/2 hour drive would not be possible for me (since we don’t actually own a car), and thought I’d try out the vet’s advice before trying to rush him far out of the city.
The exotic vet (who is about an hour and a half away from us) said that Chinchillas sneeze for a number of reasons, some being: an unclean cage, improper bedding, teeth that are too long, and an unseen illness. The then proceeded to ask me what kind of bedding we used and how often we cleaned the cage. I let her know that we used very minimal bedding at that we cleaned the cage at least once, if not twice a week but that sometimes Gary would really dust up his cage when using his bath which could be the culprit. She said it potentially could be and that we might want to use towels instead of bedding. This was something I’ve never even thought of before. The vet recommended that sometimes it’s cleaner to use a towel and that it virtually does the exact same thing that bedding does, but we would have to make sure to change out the towels at least every other day since Chinchillas can be scalded by their urine or will eat the feces they’re not supposed to eat (I’ll tell you more about this sometime.)
The vet was honestly, really helpful and answered a bunch more of my questions and some questions about Twitch’s death (since the only person I was able to speak to was a hamster expert who bred and raised hamsters, however, isn’t a vet.) The vet gave me a lot of the same reasons she thought Twitch passed away and assured us that we were taking good care of both of our pets. She also recommended that with small mammals you will want to change their bedding at least twice a week, not once a week which is commonly recommended. Apparently, the majority of small mammals poop and pee much more than we think they do so while once a week would suffice for some of them, it doesn’t suffice for the majority of them.
She then gave me their hours and told me to call back at any time if I had any questions and said she can see how she can squeeze me in if I absolutely need it. I told her I would try placing a towel and see if it helped and guess what… it did! I guess for whatever reason dust or debris from the collection basket underneath Gary’s cage was affecting him, and the towel created a good enough barrier to filter the air in between. It’s been about 5-day snow, and Gary hasn’t sneezed at all! He actually seems to enjoy the towel more than bedding, which to me is a bit shocking. I’ve never thought that towels would be adequate enough for small mammals to live on, but in my afterthoughts… why wouldn’t it be? I mean, I’m going to do more research and ask more questions, but the logistics are: it soaks up all of the urine, if you’re changing it regularly there isn’t going to be debris on it, and it protects their little paws from the cage. It does mean we’re going to be doing more laundry, but it will save us quite a bit of money as well as… it will be easier to change his cage as changing bedding can be quite time-consuming and sometimes it feels like it’s ineffective because you actually don’t get to see how much they poop (and trust me, Gary is a huge pooper.
I don’t think I realized how hard it can be for small mammal owners to find a vet. I live in a pretty large city and even when I called the emergency this morning (to see if we could rush Gary to the hospital if we absolutely needed it) they said there wasn’t much they could do for him other than stabilize him. I curiously asked them if there were any vets in the area that would be able to help and they said there were none in the city that dealt with exotics, which is so weird that they didn’t know of the two others a bit closer than the one 2 1/2 hours away. Are there hidden exotic vets that we don’t know of?
All in all, I’m glad I got to talk to the vet that I talked to and I’m glad she can be another resource that I reach out to if I have any problems. I do however wish that there were more resources in the area, but it just means I have to be more on top of my game with personal research. I actually do a fair bit of research on Chinchillas daily to make sure that I know of signs to see if they are sick (which is how I knew that sneezing could be detremental), but research doesn’t always give you all of the information you need. And I’ll admit, a lot of my small mamal training has been inadequate. I don’t know what it is about animal care schooling, but it’s so geared to cats and dogs and they always skim over birds, reptiles, fish and small mammals even though they are very common pets. The main things the schooling covered for small mammals is: they need bedding and they need things to grind their teeth. Great! Well what happens when they are sick? What do you do?
That’s why I’m so greatful for the resources we have online (as long as they are thorough and correct.)
So pet parents, have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what was wrong with your pet and you didn’t know who to turn to? What did you do?