Choking in Chinchillas

PetMD Editorial
Jun 30, 2010
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Obstruction of Esophagus or Food Pipe in Chinchillas

Choking occurs in chinchillas when the esophagus is obstructed. Since chinchillas do not have the ability to vomit they are unable to relieve the obstruction, which presses on the windpipe resulting in respiratory distress. The animals may choke when the airway is blocked by a large piece of food or bedding. Females may also choke when eating the placentas after delivering infants. Fluid can get collected in the lungs when the lower respiratory tracts are irritated by foreign particles. Choking needs to be immediately treated, otherwise the chinchilla may die due to lack of breath and oxygen.

You will know your chinchilla is choking when it begins to cough, attempts to vomit, and/or takes gasping breaths. This is an attempt by the chinchilla to expel any foreign body lodged in the windpipe.

Symptoms

  • Lack of eating
  • Anxiousness, restlessness
  • Excessive salivation
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bulging of the esophagus

Causes

  • Large swallowed material
  • Accidental swallowing of material with sharp projections or rough surface
  • Females may choke after eating placenta

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of choke is possible by observing the aforementioned symptoms. The choking action may also be felt by manual palpation during physical examination. However, the only way to confirm the diagnosis is by taking an X-ray.

Treatment

Prompt treatment is necessary. If left untreated, choking can lead to asphyxiation and death. Your veterinarian might administer agents like Arecoline, which increases the movement of the esophagus in order to pass food through to the stomach, thus relieving the chinchilla's sensation to choke. If the obstruction is nearer to the mouth, the obstructing material may be removed by hand or with a forceps carefully. As a last resort the esophagus may be opened surgically to remove the object.

Living and Management

Recovering chinchillas must be given rest in a calm and quiet environment. It should be given an easily digestible diet, preferably in a mashed form to ease swallowing. Follow the advice given by your veterinarian to help your pet overcome the associated breathing difficulties and make an early recovery.

Prevention

Avoiding feeding big sizes of food to your chinchilla. Do not provide your chinchilla with access to bedding material or other foreign objects that it could potentially swallow. Taking these simple precautions can help prevent the incidence of choke in pet chinchillas.

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