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Old 11-11-2017, 05:15 PM United States
sugarandspite sugarandspite is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2017
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Default Special Needs Chinchilla

Hi everyone! I work at a pet store, and we have a chinchilla who got an infection; she's taken all her antibiotics and is perfectly healthy now but her head is still tilted. The vet is not sure if this condition will ever get better or go away, so right now her options are to be adopted by someone who can care for her, or euthanization, as we don't have the space or resources to care for her long-term at the store; so I'm going to be adopting her as soon as she's cleared to go by the vet.

As far as her individual needs go, I'm going to be using a single-level rabbit cage for her, removing any shelves that she could potentially fall from and injure herself, as the head tilt affects her depth perception and ability to jump. I'm going to look for a hide/home with a wide opening and preferably a rounded, not flat, top, so she can get into it easily, but not on top of it. I've already seen how her food and water are placed in her cage at the store to be sure she can access them, and I'm going to be replicating the setup at home. The veterinarian she's been seeing so far for the infection/head tilt is certified to care for chinchillas, and I'm thinking it'd be best to just have them continue seeing her for whatever she might need, considering they already know her and her disability.

So here's where the questions start: I want to use a soft bedding for her, so that if she does accidentally fall over, she won't hurt herself. Would paper be soft enough, or should I use a fleece liner? One site I read recommended fleece for chinchillas with a head tilt. If I go with fleece, should I purchase liners, or make them myself?

As far as toys and exercise go, would it be safe to let her have a wheel? Would she be able to get into and out of it safely on her own? I'll be chinchilla-proofing my room so she can run around freely when I'm home to supervise her, but I'm not sure if she should have something in her cage with her for when I'm working. For chew toys, would loose ones on the floor be better, or ones that hang from the cage? I feel like with loose ones she could move them around if she needed, but she could also trip over them, whereas with hanging ones she may not be able to access them if they're placed poorly, but if she ran into them they wouldn't hurt her.

As far as dust baths, I'm assuming I'll have to help her get in and out of whatever container I end up using, and obviously supervise her. Is there any kind of container that would be better or worse for this? Should I have her bathe in the cage, or during her free-roam time; if she's bathing in the cage, should I leave the container in there even when it's empty, or only place it in for the baths, so she doesn't try and climb around it herself? For the cage itself, would the wire be alright, or should I try to soften it with something? I'm worried if she tried to jump she could hurt herself, or try to chew on the wire and end up injuring herself that way due to the head tilt.

I'm sorry if any of these questions seem silly but I want to be sure I can care for her properly with her disability. Please feel free to tell me if I'm worrying too much, or ESPECIALLY point out any issues the head tilt might cause that I've missed! I want this little girl to be as happy and healthy as possible, and I'm prepared to do whatever she needs.
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Old 11-13-2017, 01:26 PM United States
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tunes tunes is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 9,732
Chinchillas: 300'

First, most of the time the head tilt is permanent. It may lessen over time, but in all the ear infections I've seen, they retain at least some head tilt.

Second, you can use kiln dried pine shavings, Carefresh ultra (the white or pastel colored), or you can use fleece in layers for extra softness. Some chins chew fleece though, so just keep an eye on that.

House: You can get a flat topped house. If she's so bad that she can't handle a low height like that, then she may not be able to function with a good quality of life anyway. Just put it in the corner of the cage so if she needs to lean against the bars, she can. Your idea for a single level cage is a good one and what I would have recommended had you not mentioned it.

Toys: The wheel - I think that might be a judgement call dependent on how she handles it when you introduce it to her. If her balance is impaired, a wheel could end up being dangerous for her. You will have to do a trial and error on that one and see if she can handle it. If you have an area for her to have free time, that really should be enough exercise. Some chins don't do well with a wheel and in fact will drastically drop weight when they have one in their cage all the time.

Dust bath - I wouldn't worry too much about that. If she can walk upright, she'll get in and out of the dust bath. I would imagine it's going to be more painful for you to watch her move around than it will be for her to actually do it. I bathe my chins in their cages, obviously, since I have a ton of them. I think it contains the mess a lot better than having it blow all around a room. You might consider getting one of those big glass cookie jars that she can climb in and out of or maybe a glass Pyrex dish. A lot of people use the plastic houses, but I don't like them because you can't sterilize them. I want something I can throw in the dishwasher and know that it will come out clean.

Always keep in mind it's quality of life over quantity. If she is struggling horribly, losing weight, doesn't seem to be enjoying life, then she doesn't have the quality she should.
Never argue with idiots. They will drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.

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Old 11-13-2017, 07:15 PM Canada
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Amethyst Amethyst is offline
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Alberta
Posts: 1,330
Chinchillas: 2

You don't necessarily need to only have one level. I know I've read about some people with physically handicapped or blind chins that they just make ramps and levels with sides for them. I don't know how well that will work in your situation, or how handy you are with custom making things, but it's a thought. You can also add tunnels on the floor of the cage to crawl though, I use a 3-way pvc pipe for my guys. Low hammocks that are just off the cage floor might also work.

I would be reluctant to use Carefresh, some chins eat it, and if enough is swallowed it can cause a blockage. You don't want a bedding that will expand when wet. I'd stick to either shavings (kiln dried pine or aspen) or fleece. As to whether you should make or by the fleece liners, that is really up to you and how handy you are with sewing.

I agree with the glass candy or cookie jar for a dust bath, they work well, that's what I now use for my guys. Growing up were just used a pan as a dust bath, it was messy but it worked. It's best not to leave the dust bath in the cage all the time, even empty, they tend to end up using it as a toilet.

As far as toys go, you can also try attaching hanging toys to the side of the cage within reach, but not in the way. But I would think even with lack of depth perception she can still see to avoid toys, she might just go wider around them. You can also stick with toys like vine balls, grass hay rings, bamboo crunchers, and loofah, things that will roll out of the way or wont hurt if run into for the toss toys.
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Old 11-14-2017, 07:45 AM United States
sugarandspite sugarandspite is offline
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Thanks so much for the responses! I purchased a single-level cage for her, but in the future when I have more time and money available I might look into using the ramps/shelves with high sides so she won't fall.

Her depth perception really isn't that horrible, I suppose I was just over-worried at first. I've been observing her the past few days and she doesn't really seem to have too much toruble moving around, though my coworker did say she was struggling to access her hay when it was in a manger, so I'm going to be giving her hay on the floor of her cage so she can pick it up and move it where she wants it. I'm just using loose wooden chew toys for now because that's what she's used to, I may experiment with hanging ones in the future but we aren't sure if she'll really be able to reach them or not.

I got a cat litter pan for the dust bath; I figure the high sides should prevent too much spilling, and I can help her in and out of it if need be.

As far as quality of life, she seems perfectly happy in the single-level cage we have her in at work, and she's very friendly and playful with me when I come to check on her. Her head tilt has greatly improved from what it was at first, though it seems some days she has more trouble than others. Still, it hasn't affected her attitude at all, so I think she'll be just fine with a little TLC
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Old 11-14-2017, 10:18 AM United States
aBacardi aBacardi is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 4
Chinchillas: 2

I am really excited to see this post! I adopted a chinny with a head tilt (and lots of other issues).i was told he had an ear infection and was left with permanent damage. After adopted i took him to my vet. My vet after a thorough check up said there was no sign of him ever having an ear infection. At least one severe enough to leave that kind of damage. Ear drums intact. No scarring whatsoever. After letting him run around the office and some more tests it turns out he was actually suffering the aftermath of a stroke. All he really needed was some more love. His head tilt is permanent and he runs circles a lot. He is in a ferret nation cage bottom level. He is super playful. Using his ramps and ledges just fine. No falling. And after i changed his diet and he has been given proper love and care he is walking straighter and getting quicker. Give him lots of love!! Good luck
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