Chinchillas’ large black eyes are one of the features that make them easily one of the most adorable creatures on the planet.
Sometimes these black beauties are plagued with excessive tears and discharge, giving them a watery appearance and causing wetness or matted fur around the eyes.
Summary of today’s article:
- How to check for watery eyes in chinchillas
- Possible reasons for watery eyes
- 5 tips to treat chinchilla eye irritations
- 7 ways to prevent watery eyes
As a small prey animal near the bottom of the food chain, chinchillas are experts at hiding their ailments so as not to be seen as an easy target.
For this reason, daily vigilance in monitoring your pet’s health is essential to ensuring she stays optimally well.
A healthy chinchilla will generally never have an issue with her eyes, though at the off chance that she does, it’s important to know what to do and what the source of the issue is.
Chinchillas in good health have clean, clear, dry eyes. Observe your pet daily, looking closely at her eyes to check for tearing, wetness or matting.
Matted fur around the eye can be indicative of recently watery eyes, eyes producing discharge or eye irritation in general that causes the animal to scratch that area.
Watch her behavior to see if she is experiencing discomfort, keeping in mind the fact that chinchillas blink less frequently than we do.
Irritation can be evidenced by squinting, blinking more frequently, keeping her eyes closed or pawing at her eyes.
Eye problems are not prevalent in chinchillas but they do occur occasionally. Watery eyes can be a symptom of a variety of ailments including:
1. Eye Infections
Exposure to bacteria or fungal spores can induce infections in chinchillas, causing eye irritation presenting as watery eyes, redness, hair loss around the eyes, discharge and swelling.
This is an issue that warrants a trip to the veterinarian because an antifungal or antibacterial medication might be necessary to rectify this issue.
2. Corneal Ulcers
The cornea is the transparent, protective outer layer of the eye which acts as a barrier, protecting the delicate parts of the eye from abrasions, foreign particles and germs.
When this outer surface of the eyeball is scratched or irritated, this is known as a corneal ulcer.
Corneal ulcers can be caused by hay, sticks, fur from fur slips, dust from dust baths or by an injury from another animal.
Watery eyes are one indication of this, as well as eyes that are swollen, cloudy or red.
Corneal ulcers tend to resolve themselves, but it’s important to keep an eye on your pet if you suspect one to ensure it doesn’t turn into something more significant.
3. Overgrown Teeth
Though it’s hard to see how the length of a rodent’s teeth would affect its eyes, this can occur due to the anatomical positioning of the teeth and nasolacrimal ducts (tear ducts), which are right below the eyes.
Overgrown incisors (front teeth) of a chinchilla can grow into these ducts, blocking the normal flow of tears from the eyes into the nasal cavity, resulting in excessive drainage from the eye.
Given the opportunity to chew, this will not happen in a healthy chinchilla since chewing is an instinctual process that naturally maintains optimal tooth length.
Make sure your pet always has a variety of safe items to chew available to her such as chew sticks, chew toys and timothy hay.
An extremely rare cause of watery eyes is the growth of a tumor behind the eye. In addition to discomfort and watery eyes, the eyes might seem to bulge.
This condition can only be diagnosed by an x-ray, and is a last resort when nothing else seems to be the cause of eye discomfort.
Treating eye irritations in chinchillas varies depending on the source and severity of the issue plaguing your pet. Follow these tips to safeguard your furry friend’s health if you notice her presenting with watery eyes:
- Monitor your chinchilla closely. If there are no other symptoms, the eye might just be irritated, which will generally resolve itself on its own.
- Apply a warm compress to the affected site to remove crust caused by watery eyes. The crust can be uncomfortable to your pet and might contain bacteria or fungus that would worsen the problem if left in place. To do this, take a clean cloth and wet it in clean, warm water. Hold the cloth on the eye discharge and encrustation to loosen it before gently swabbing it away.
- If symptoms persist or worsen, take your chinchilla to the veterinarian. There is a plethora of issues that can affect a chinchilla’s eyes, and identifying the issue early on is essential to prevent larger issues and to minimize your pet’s discomfort and potential pain before it is magnified.
- Administer treatment prescribed by your veterinarian, exactly how it is prescribed. If this involves giving your pet medication, make sure you give her the full round of meds even if her symptoms disappear. Prescribed treatments can include:
- Eye drops – saline or medicated
- Eye ointment
- Antifungal medication
- Antibacterial medication
- Warm compresses
- Carefully cleaning the eye
- Do not allow your chinchilla to dust bathe until her eye irritations are resolved, as dust has the potential to further irritate the eyes.
Go to a Vet
Some watery eye issues in chinchillas are only treatable by a veterinarian. These include tumors, which must be surgically removed; overgrown teeth, which are treated by teeth grinding and surgical tooth removal; and severe corneal ulcers.
In the worst cases, corneal ulcers can be treated by a going to a vet.
The veterinarian will be drawing some of your chinchilla’s blood, using a centrifuge to separate the serum from the blood and mixing this to create specially formulated eye drops which should help heal the ulcer.
In the event that this method fails, the final resort is to perform a grid keratotomy to encourage the eye to heal.
This is a procedure in which the cornea is scored with a sharp object in a grid pattern. This spurs the eye to heal, one small grid square at a time, instead of having to heal the entire ulcer at once.
Though the random health concern may present itself now and again, eye irritations in your pet should be rare if she is taken care of suitably.
Preventing watery eyes goes hand in hand with taking optimal care of your chinchilla. Here are some points to remember:
1. Keep your chinchilla’s cage clean.
At the minimum, conduct a thorough cage cleaning once a week. If you have multiple chinchillas, you might need to increase this.
2. Regularly disinfect water and food bowls.
This will deter the growth of fungus and bacteria that can irritate your pet’s eyes.
3. Provide regular dust bathing opportunities for your chinchilla.
Do not keep bathing dust in the cage when not in use. Offer your chinchilla a dust bath for ten to fifteen minutes at least twice a week. This will keep her clean and healthy.
4. Provide a variety of different safe chew toys and fresh Timothy hay to your pet.
Having items and food around to chew on all the time will satiate her instinctual need to chew and keep her teeth from becoming overgrown.
5. Limit interaction with other animals, and always make sure it is supervised.
Tussles with other chinchillas or other household pets can end painfully and sadly if you’re not careful. Even if everyone’s intentions are good, mistakes can still happen, especially due to the fragile nature of chinchillas.
6. Keep your chinchilla’s cage dry.
Due to the nature of these rodent’s extremely dense fur, they should not get wet because the drying process takes a long time. Damp fur encourages the growth of fungus and bacteria, which can irritate the eyes.
7. Adhere to a regular schedule of veterinary check-ups, at least once a year.
A thorough yearly checkup should include a physical and a dental exam. The veterinarian will be able to diagnose conditions which might lead to eye problems.
If you notice your chinchilla experiencing watery eyes, make sure to check her all over for signs and symptoms of illness and injury and watch her behavior for anything out of the ordinary.
When in pain or discomfort, chinchillas will often stop eating or develop ileus, which is a life-threatening condition that takes place when the intestines stop moving food through the body and a painful buildup of gas can occur.
It is therefore always necessary to be vigilant about eye issues, making sure they aren’t exacerbated or turn into something else.
Neglecting a chronically watery eye can have dire consequences since certain untreated eye issues can lead to blindness or loss of the eye.
Luckily most of the time a watery eye is a benign and temporary worriment, so just keep your eyes peeled to ensure your big-eyed furry friend is safe, comfortable and happy as usual.