In heat, or potential health issue?

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Well-known member
Nov 3, 2021
I just had a brief moment of panic, but I think I managed to research myself out of an overreaction to a normal biological function. Even still, I just wanted to make sure I don't need to rush Margaret to the vet.

I noticed this evening that Margaret's vagina seemed a little more open than usual. Her genital area seems slightly damp and I found a small spot of a milky-coloured fluid on her liner (I blotted it with a paper towel and it's definitely white-ish clear and has no green or yellow tinge). She also seems to be grooming her genital area a bit more than usual. I'd never seen any of this with her before, so naturally I panicked and assumed she was dying, but decided to do a little research before driving her to the emergency exotic vet an hour away. Somewhat to my relief, it seems like the most likely explanation is that she's in heat. Does this sound right? Per a suggestion I found on an old thread on here, I managed to scoop her up and gently palpated her lower abdomen. Nothing discharged from her vagina when I did so. My research suggests this is a good sign, as it points towards her being in heat rather than having an infection.

Aside from all this, her behaviour is normal. She's active and bouncy and is eating, drinking, and pooping totally normally.

I will, of course, take her to the vet if necessary, but I'd prefer to save her the stress unless it really is necessary. She hates pretty much everything about going to the vet. If a vet visit is necessary, can I wait until tomorrow morning so she can see her usual vet (much closer to my house, and I know and trust the vet), or do I need to rush her to the emergency vet (closest one that will see small mammals is about an hour's drive and had never seen Margaret)?

Thanks in advance for any guidance!
If it's just a little wet, it could just be she is in heat, but I don't remember my female chins having discharge when in heat (it's been like 20 years though and just like dogs some are better at keeping clean then others), maybe just a little damp since it's open wider then normal down there. I think it only lasts like a day or two, so if goes on for longer or she start acting off at all (other then possibly grumpy) it's best to get her checked out. If however you notice a lot of fluid, like her belly area looks like she pee all over herself amount of wetness, or if you notice a lot of milky white or other colored fluids, that is a sign of a possible uterus infection and you definately need to see a vet.
This morning is much the same as last night. Her belly isn't wet at all, just the area immediately surrounding her genital area is slightly damp and her vagina still looks slightly open. I haven't found any more obvious spots of fluid. Her behaviour and eating/drinking/pooping is all totally normal, aside from her grooming her genital area a little more than normal.

I'll continue to keep a close eye on her, and if anything worsens or if she's still exhibiting dampness and increased grooming in the next day or two, I'll take her in to get checked out.

Thanks for you response, as always!
Margaret's vagina is looking much more normal this afternoon (still maybe slightly more open than usual, but only ever so slightly), the area around it is no longer damp at all, and she doesn't seem to be so focused on licking her girly bits. I haven't found any more evidence of discharge since the small spot I found last night. It seems that things are quickly returning to normal.

I'll continue to keep an eye on her, but so long as these symptoms don't return any time soon, I guess I'll just chalk this up to her heat cycle. And now maybe I won't have a panic attack next time it happens! (That said, I'm a little unclear on how often chinchillas go into heat. Does anyone happen to know? Just so I can be prepared in the future, I seriously almost had a heart attack when I first noticed these symptoms in her yesterday.)
Someone else can probably give you a more specific answer, but I think it's about once every one to two months for about a couple days each time. Also even though they can breed year round, the natural "breeding season" in the wild is November to May, so they likely go into heat about once a month during that time, and about every 2 months the rest of the year.
Thanks for the info! We're right in the middle of that November-March time frame, so I won't immediately panic if I notice similar symptoms next month. Although from my research, it seems like the degree of obvious symptoms she-chins exhibit while in heat can be pretty variable, even in the same individual, from cycle to cycle. Lots of people say their females hardly show any signs at all most of the time, so I guess I may or may not see these symptoms in the future. I'll just be sure to keep an eye out for excessive and/or strangely-coloured discharge, lethargy, decreased appetite, or discharge lasting longer than a couple days, since those are signs of something more serious than a normal heat cycle. Does that all sound about right?

It occurred to me that this could very well have been her first heat. Not sure if symptoms become less pronounced as they age or not. I guess I'll find out!
Yeah, as I said I don't really remember my females heats that much, so it must not have been very obvious, at least for mine. A breeder would likely be able to give you a more clear answer. Depending on her age, it is possible this could be her first heat, or it could just be the first one you noticed.
Honestly, I only noticed my girl chin was in heat when I still had the boy (neutered male, but that didn't seem to make a difference). He would start chatting away and losing his mind and I knew...I'd have to separate them for a while because he wouldn't let her eat/sleep/drink water and she would start getting obviously annoyed and they'd fight.

It seemed to happen about once every 40-50 days or so.

Ever since the male passed, I haven't noticed anything obvious. Could be that her cycle is a bit different now that she's older (she'll be 12 this year), could be that the lack of a male makes for a hormonal difference, or could be that this is how it would've been her entire life if she had been alone.
Definitely sounds like being in heat! Ripley does all the same things/symptoms. She gets pretty cranky, too. Sometimes she has a real hard time of it.
I can see the pattern of grooming & not wanting to be touched until she “loses her plug”. (I don’t usually see it.) Then she will be more affectionate. Lasts about a week. She has it several times a year, mostly in that November-March time frame.
Definitely sounds like being in heat! Ripley does all the same things/symptoms. She gets pretty cranky, too. Sometimes she has a real hard time of it.
I can see the pattern of grooming & not wanting to be touched until she “loses her plug”. (I don’t usually see it.) Then she will be more affectionate. Lasts about a week. She has it several times a year, mostly in that November-March time frame.
I really haven't noticed Margaret being especially cranky, but maybe just a tad more stand-offish and less affectionate to me for like a day and a half. Though sometimes she just has days where she's like that, so I'm not even totally sure that was related to he being in heat. Now that her symptoms seem to be wrapping up, she's back to being quite social and affectionate with me. Maybe the past times she's "been in a mood" and not wanted as many cuddles was actually previous heat cycles, and I just never put two and two together until now, since this is the first time I've observed any physical symptoms.

Regardless, I'm just glad this was all a normal biological function and not some sort of illness! I'm still a bit of an anxious new parent, haha. Every time I see something that even has the vague potential to hint at some sort of problem, I generally assume the worst. Whenever I see her grooming her whiskers, there's a part of me that's like, "Oh no, she's pawing at her mouth, OH GOD IT'S MALO!!!" But she quickly moves on to grooming other parts of her body, and I realise it's just part of her normal self-care routine. 🤦‍♀️
I get it. Ripley is my third chin. My first was almost 30 years ago when I knew nothing about them (and there really wasn’t internet then)! So I get concerned when Ripley does things that the other two didn’t. (Why does she drink twice as much water? Etc.)
Plus, I want to be sure that I don’t miss anything since I know better.
I read so much about how chins will hide illness and injury so you have to be really observant so you can notice the little things before they turn into big things.....but then I have no point of comparison to really know what's "normal" chin behaviour. The first time I saw her popcorning, I thought she was having some sort of seizure, haha. I'm just so in love with that little fuzzball, I want to be sure I'm doing right by her.

I'm just so glad I have this resource! Thanks, everyone! You guys are the best. ❤