Chinchillas are very lovable, sensitive and gentle creatures, it is no wonder we enjoy holding them, interacting with them and giving them pets and kisses. Although all of this love and affection is perfectly safe when we are healthy, when we get sick, specifically when we catch a cold, we should restrict and minimize our contact with our pet chinchilla because we might get it sick too.
The common cold (rhinovirus) from humans is not transmittable to chinchillas, but the human cold is usually followed by secondary infections due to compromised immune system and some of the infections are caused by the Strep or Pseudomonas bacteria, which can cause health problems with your chinchilla as they can be transmitted from you to your pet.
Therefore, it is not possible for a chinchilla to catch a human cold but it is possible for a chinchilla to catch a cold caused by bacteria transmitted from humans. This type of common cold in chinchillas can pass with no major issues but it can also very easily turn into a lower respiratory infection meaning the lungs can get infected and your chinchilla will get pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Summary of today’s article:
- Why are chinchillas susceptible to colds?
- What are the symptoms of a cold?
- How to treat the cold
- Take precautions
There are many reasons why chinchillas can catch colds, which is a little strange when you consider that chinchillas come from a colder climate and enjoy the cooler weather. Even if chinchillas tolerate the cooler weather, when it comes to high humidity levels, poor ventilation, crowded conditions and human viruses and bacteria chinchillas can get ill and catch a cold.
Human Transmitted Bacteria And Viruses
Chinchilla have a delicate immune system and many outside factors can disrupt it easily. As we are close to our pets and like to interact with them and show our affection, we are putting risk on transmitting certain bacteria and viruses to our pets.
If a chinchilla is healthy and has a strong immune system then it is unlikely that your pet will catch a cold easily just by interacting with you. However, if your chinchilla’s health is compromised by any reason it will be susceptible to catching colds and possibly other diseases, which is why we need to be careful with our pets if we know that we are already ill.
While viral infections will be rarely affecting our pet chinchillas, bacteria on the other hand will easily get your pet ill. The Strep or Pseudomonas bacteria will cause your pet to get upper respiratory infections that are commonly known as colds.
These colds are easily treatable although in some cases can progress into lower respiratory infections by traveling to the lungs and causing your pet to develop pneumonia, which must be immediately treated by a vet.
Other Factors That Cause Chinchillas To Get A Cold
If your chinchilla gets a cold it does not necessarily mean that you or someone from your household is to blame. Chinchillas can catch colds by a number of factors and the good news is that these colds are preventable.
Chinchillas need to be held in a room with an optimal level of humidity (<50%) as high humidity levels can cause your chinchilla to get a runny nose, have difficulty breathing and have damp fur which all contribute to your pet’s health and will cause various illnesses such as colds.
Another way your chinchilla can catch a cold is by poor ventilation around its cage. Just like humans chinchillas need fresh air and can fall ill if they are left in stuffy, non-ventilated rooms.
This type of air is poor with oxygen and rich in spores as they continue to grow and flourish in these types of environments, so make sure you keep your pet’s room and cage well ventilated but not exposed to drafts.
Having a crowded cage is another way your pets will be exposed to a number of illnesses. Illnesses spread like wildfire in chinchilla cages so if one of your pets catches a cold probably the rest of them already have it even if they are not showing symptoms yet.
Since developing a cold, showing symptoms and getting treated is an individual process you can expect by the time your sick chinchilla gets better the ones that were not showing any signs of being ill will start to show the symptoms of the illness and it is just a vicious circle from then on. Avoid overcrowding of the cage by making sure that the cage is big enough for each chinchilla to have its own hide box, enough room to move and stretch, so 1-2 chinchillas in a multilevel 3 feet tall cage.
Once a chinchilla gets sick, quarantine it from its cage mate as soon as possible until it has made a full recovery.
Symptoms of your chinchilla having a cold are similar to human symptoms of a cold. Your chinchilla will develop labored breathing, wheezing, a runny nose or discharge from its eyes (watery eyes).
Your chinchilla might start sneezing, coughing, it could develop a fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. These are the most common symptoms, although not necessarily all of them would be present at once and your chinchilla might show additional symptoms: rapid or shallow breathing, chattering teeth, hoarseness and so on.
If any of these symptoms appear, you should take your chinchilla to the vet immediately before the illness progresses to pneumonia, which is harder to treat, but both the common cold and pneumonia can be deadly if left untreated.
Once you take your pet to the veterinarian, you will get the required diagnosis and treatment for your pet. Your chinchilla’s veterinarian will establish if your chinchilla has a viral infection or a bacterial one and from there it will provide you with antibiotics or supplements, which will help your pet fight the illness.
Some chinchillas would need fluid therapy and force feeding if they have stopped eating and started losing weight. These measures will ensure that your pet’s body is getting the strength it needs to fight the cold.
Depending on the type of cold your chinchilla has your vet will prescribe antibiotics for treating bacterial upper respiratory infections and this medication might be administered by the vet via injections or you would administer the prescribed dosage at home by an eyedropper orally. Most treatments take anywhere from 6-10 days but if your chinchilla has pneumonia then the treatment could take longer.
Once your pet is diagnosed with a cold you should separate it from the rest of your pets and other chinchillas in a cage where your chinchilla will be shielded from stress and it will have uninterrupted rest which is crucial for its recovery. The cage should be thoroughly cleaned with a diluted bleach solution (1:10 bleach and water) so that you can remove any lingering bacteria or spores from the cage.
The cage needs to be completely dry with new bedding, chew toys and a fresh batch of hay and pellets. The same type of cleaning should be done with the cage that your chinchilla was in when it got sick especially if you have other chinchillas in that cage, just make sure you’re removing your pets from it before you start cleaning.
What To Do If Your Chinchilla Develops Pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia are similar to those of the cold, your veterinarian will listen to your pets breathing and take an x-ray to confirm this diagnosis. Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics which will kill off the bacteria that are causing your pets lungs to swell and fill with fluid, the treatment will allow your pet to be able to slowly start breathing normally again.
Treating pneumonia is a long process and if not caught on time this illness can be fatal. It is unlikely that your pet will develop pneumonia all of a sudden, usually it progresses from the common cold, so keep your eyes open and do not try to treat your pets cold on your own especially with human medication.
Proper veterinarian diagnosis and treatment is crucial in ensuring your pets survival.
Although it is hard to distance yourself from your pet sometimes this is the only way to keep them safe from human transmittable diseases. If you are experiencing any symptoms of a cold you should be careful when interacting with your pet, make sure you wash your hands before you touch your pet and make sure that you are not breathing or sneezing directly over your pet.
Taking precaution is the best way in helping your chinchilla stay healthy. The bacteria that you can unknowingly transfer to your pet and cause it to get sick are quite dangerous and if left untreated can cause a painful death.
Always remember that chinchillas are masters at disguise and they will hide all of the symptoms from an illness just like a human, until it is too much to bear.