Chinchillas are cute and soft, but also frighteningly delicate. When an accident happens, it's all too easy for your pet to be seriously injured. If you suspect your chinchilla has suffered an accident and broke its leg, you'll need to take action immediately. Here are some tips on what you can do to care for your pet throughout various stages of the recovery process.
When You Discover the Injury
Broken legs are most often caused by the paw getting stuck between small gaps in toys, ramps, or wire mesh. If your chinchilla's leg is stuck, the first thing you have to do is free it. If you can't remove it easily, try rubbing a little bit of petroleum jelly around the part that is stuck. You may have to forcibly pry the gap open a bit as well. If you absolutely can't get the leg out, you'll have to take whatever it's stuck in to the vet's office or have your vet come to you.
If you're successful and the chinchilla is freed, immediately put it in the smallest cage you have. You want to discourage movement to prevent complications from the injury. Give your pet water and fruit to distract it from the pain, and immediately head to your veterinarian, or to an emergency vet if the incident happens outside of your vet's office hours.
While you may have to go to an animal clinic, keep in mind that a general purpose animal hospital may not have staff trained to care for chinchillas. Even if the broken leg can't be directly treated, it's likely that you'll be given some medicine for your pet's pain and inflammation. Be sure to administer it as soon as possible. Chinchillas are delicate enough to die of shock from an injury, but reducing the pain and swelling can help to stop that from happening.
Immediately After the Vet's Office
Depending on the severity of the injury, your pet's leg will either need to be splinted or amputated. If it is the latter, don't worry—chinchillas can still hop and climb quite well with only three legs. After the procedure is complete, your vet will give you more medicine for your pet, and you'll need to keep it in the small cage while the leg heals. This may take a week or two, but typically amputations heal in just a few days.
While your chinchilla is recuperating, make sure it gets extra food and water. Supplementing its diet with calcium treats and chewing sticks will help it develop stronger bones, as well. Administer any prescribed medicine as instructed, and add a probiotic to your pet's water. This will keep its internal bacteria balanced during rounds of antibiotic medication.
Prevent Future Accidents
Once your chinchilla is well enough to graduate back up to its normal cage, you'll need to check the cage for safety. Whatever the chinchilla was stuck on before should absolutely be removed, and other toys and decorations should be scrutinized for potential risks. Ramps are especially likely to catch a chinchilla's foot, so you should remove these unless they are absolutely necessary. Your pet will likely be able to jump quite high and get around the cage without them.
Mesh at the bottom of the cage should be covered with dried pine or fleece to protect your chinchilla from getting caught in the bottom mesh. Avoid using cardboard or other fibrous bottom layers, as chinchillas will quickly chew and destroy them. You should also make sure the cage bars are close enough together than the chinchilla will not be tempted to try and squeeze through them.
Continue feeding your pet vitamin and calcium supplements in order to reduce the risk of future broken bones. At this point, you can let your chinchilla celebrate its recovery with a long-awaited dust bath.
A broken leg can be scary, but it doesn't have to be fatal. If you act quickly when you discover your chinchilla is injured, you may be able to save its life. Ask clinics like 1st Pet Veterinary Centers for more information about chinchilla emergencies, so you can be prepared for anything life throws your way.