Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
There isn’t ever a dull day in the Pets Overload home and yesterday night was no different. Although all of our pets have been doing well, we just experienced a medical scare with Gary.
As we were cleaning Gary’s cage last night we noticed that he was squinting his right eye. I picked him up immediately and peeled back his eyelid to see what was going on. Upon first glances, you could tell that Gary’s eye had something wrong with it since it was very bloodshot, but there wasn’t much else to see.
I peeled back his other eyelid to see that his eye was completely white, further supporting that Gary had something wrong with his eye.
As any pet parent would do, I took to the internet to see what was wrong with Gary.
It seems like eye infections are fairly common for Chinchillas, and while I’m not going to go too far in depth with the medical reasons why Chinchillas may get eye infections, I will break down for you what the past 24-hours have been like.
AT HOME PRECAUTIONS WE TOOK BEFORE FINDING A VET
As is with all of our pets, I always start “home remedies” as soon as I see something is wrong with them just to make sure we start the work well before we visit the vet.
For eye infections, home remedies usually recommend using a warm damp cloth to clean out any discharge from the affected eye, which we did immediately.
The warm cloth seemed to do wonders for Gary as he was able to open his eye for about 10-hours, while we waited to take him to the vet.
I will, however, say that Gary was extremely upset when we used water to clean his eye. I assume this was because of the pain from his eye from the pressure I needed to use to get all of the discharge out.
Gary stood in the corner of his cage screaming and shouting, which is something I absolutely hated to see, but it was necessary.
In the morning I decided not to repeat the process just to make sure that there was enough discharge for the vets to look at in case they needed a sample, or in case there were different types of discharge that could tell us what exactly was wrong. (It turns out that this was the right course of action as many vets do their initial diagnoses based on the amount of discharge and it’s colour.)
TRYING TO FIND A VET
As you may know from a previous article of mine, finding a Chinchilla doctor is a lot more difficult than you’d expect. I called about 6 vets at 9 PM to try my luck at finding a vet that would see him in the morning and similar to the last time it was recommended that I take a 2-hour bus ride out of the city to get Gary checked.
This time around, this became a much more probable outcome since there were clear signs something was wrong with Gary, versus the last time where the symptoms were “off and on.”
I contacted a few of my friends who work at pet stores to see if they had any vets to recommend or if they knew of a vet who would be able to see him and only received one recommendation who unfortunately couldn’t see him, though that vet gave me the number of another vet who would!
Luckily that vet had a cancellation and I was able to take Gary in the same day!
First off, if you don’t have a Chinchilla or a small mammal, let me tell you… the equipment they use to diagnose small mammals is insanely cool!
The doctor began by using Fluorescein Dye to check Gary’s eye with an insanely large microscope. The dye helped us see that Gary had actually scratched his eye on something in his cage and that the irritation in his eye was not caused by bacteria or fungus (which is a common reason why Chinchillas have eye issues.)
The microscope also showed that Gary had an ulcer because of the scratch which actually surprised me.
The night before there was no sign of an ulcer in Gary’s eye (which presents itself as a white spot in the eye) and while it was fairly clear to the naked eye that one was developing it was extremely clear on the monitor after the dye had been facilitated.
The vet proceeded to check Gary’s teeth, nose, ears and mouth to make sure everything else looked good… and guess what… it was all great! The only other thing that wasn’t so great was the fact that Gary has a heart murmur.
Heart murmurs kind of scare me. Gary has a level-2 heart murmur, which isn’t super serious but tends to come with old age in Chinchillas. Our cat, Beau, has actually had a heart murmur all of his life… and while nothing serious has happened to him, our vet has warned us multiple times that there is a chance that Beau’s life may be cut short because of complications.
That being said, this vet recommended that we do various blood tests on Gary to make sure everything else was good, however, at this time that wasn’t a priority for us.
It would be nice to know if everything was alright with Gary, but since he’s very active and is “getting old” (their words not mine) we’re not too concerned. A major factor to this was the cost of the blood tests (starting at $300+ with a discount) which seems to be a bit ridiculous for an “I was just here for a check-up.”
The vet tried to push the blood tests onto me a few times, which made me a bit uncomfortable and at that point, it felt less like she was trying to help out my pet and was more into running tests for the sake of running tests.
My response to her repeatedly asking me to run tests was something along the lines of “well based on first impressions with what you’ve seen with Gary, do you even think it’s necessary.” Her response was something like, “Not really, Gary seems to be in perfect shape. His teeth are great, his ears are great, everything looks great minus his eye. You would just want to run the blood work to see if something underlying is happening.”
While I agree with that sentiment, I never know how I truly feel like as a pet parent. What I mean is, early on in my pet parent life I said yes to a number of tests that proved negative, especially when it came to urinary issues. In the history of having Beau, I think I’ve taken about 4 urinary cultures (extra test) that have all turned out negative, about 3 blood tests (extra test) also negative and basic urine tests (recommended test) which showed positive.
Now, that’s not to say that all “extra tests” are useless and your pet is probably fine, it is, however, to say that if the symptoms you see aren’t directly related to whatever they are testing for… you may be wasting your money. Am I wrong for thinking that?
Either way, less about that more about Gary!
THE MEDICATIONS & FINAL COST
The vet made it clear to me that Gary’s eye was actually healing on its own and that the ulcer didn’t look too bad. She did, however, still recommend some antibiotics and painkillers.
These medications given were Meloxicam (5 doses) and Tobramycin (10 doses).
These alone were over $100, which was very shocking to me since even cat painkillers/antibiotics have been cheaper.
I did buy them both, especially because I want Gary to get better quickly, but it did make me question whether or not because I have an “exotic” pet, things were just going to be more expensive right off the bat.
Again, this isn’t meant to be an “I don’t want to pay for my pets” kind of post, but it’s more of a… “hey, if you’re going to get a Chinchilla, these are the costs you may be looking to expect.”
To get your cat checked by a vet usually costs around $40 with no medications, to get your Chinchilla checked it costs $105. This is actually around the cost of an emergency fee, which is absolutely nuts!
To get your cat rechecked by a vet is usually free (at least with the 3 vets we’ve had to recheck with), to get your Chinchilla rechecked at this location (which was highly recommended by the vet) costs $60 + $40 for examination materials (which was already put as assumed costs on my bill). Pretty crazy, right?
I’m sure that it has to do with the equipment the vet is going to require to actually check your Chinchilla, but again it makes me question why fees have to be that high.
I’m truly very grateful for Gary and for the help I received today with his condition (I will write a longer piece about all the things I learned about Chinchillas and their eyes very soon), but it’s hard not to feel like there’s no way to avoid being smacked with a very large vet bill anytime I take Gary to the vet.
The original quote the vet gave me for all of the tests she wanted to run plus the medications was around $600+ and we were luckily able to scrape it down to $235, which in my opinion is much more manageable.
Again, this isn’t to say that the vet was “trying to cheat me” or that she was a bad vet who didn’t care about my animals, it’s just shocking to me how much could be cut out due to being “actually unnecessary” or “not pressing.”
At the end of the day, I’m just glad we got everything we needed from the vet. Again, I’m so grateful for the invaluable information she gave me about Chinchillas and for reassuring me that I was doing everything I could to take care of Gary.
I do, however, hope that I can find more information about Chinchilla care and the costs that I am to expect in the future or if this is the standard at all exotic vets.
I personally think it’s extremely important to know what the costs are for pets before you adopt them and although I would 100% say yes to adopting Gary again, I wish I had some of that information before I got to the vet.
So friends, my question for you today is… how do you choose what tests to do on your pets? Have you ever been slapped with a very pricy bill that you didn’t fully understand? Let me know in the comments below.