Pain in Chinchillas

Not open for further replies.

Claire D

Responsible & wise
Jan 31, 2009
We all know that chinchillas, as prey animals, hide pain and illness to their detriment. However with careful and detailed observation of a chinchilla's behaviour, posture, and habits, pain and discomfort can be determined at an earlier stage.
What follows is a list of signs and smptoms which may indicate that a chinchilla is in pain or discomfort. If one or more signs are present then immediate veterinary assessment and intervention is necessary.

- Lack of Appetite and/or Decreased Food Intake - one of the first signs a chinchilla is ill. There are many possible reasons for lack of appetite so further observation and assessment will be necessary to determine the cause.

- Unusual Stillness - a chinchilla which is unusually quiet, withdrawn, or still for long periods of time may be in pain and should be checked for illness, especially if accompanied by other signs listed here.

- Abnormal Breathing Patterns - Breath holding, rapid or exaggerated breathing, or irregular breathing patterns may be associated with pain or discomfort. Other symptoms are usually present.

- Tooth Grinding - whilst tooth grinding is often associated with eating treats (especially sticky treats such as raisins) it can also be a sign of pain. If accompanied by other signs listed here further investigation must be carried out.

- Ears Held Down - Chinchillas sometimes sit or sleep with their ears held back/down. This can be perfectly normal for them (sleepy ears) however, if continued for long periods of time or accompanying any of the other signs listed, may be an indicator of pain.

- Ear Flicking - Chinchllas with tooth problems will often flick their ears whilst eating (pain from the tooth roots is referred up into the head, causing the ears to flick). If only one side of the mouth is affected then the corresponding ear may flick or both ears may flick. Can be very subtle and needs careful observation.

- Wincing - Similar to ear flicking. This can be subtle but wincing when eating or being touched in an area or when walking etc is a sign of pain/discomfort and should be investigated. The chinchilla will blink and lower it's head, shut its eyes and hunker down a little, or screw it's face up.

- Exaggerated Jaw Movements - This can be a sign of tooth problems or mouth pain. The lower jaw moves in an exaggerated manner whilst eating. Usually preceeds pawing at the mouth or drooling (slobbers or dribbling). Can be subtle and difficult to detect at first. Somtiems a chin will use exaggerated jaw movements when eating something particulalry tasty, sticky or sweet.

- Pawing at The Mouth and/or Drooling - These are signs of mouth pain, something unpleasant in the mouth, a foreign body in the mouth, or ingesting something toxic. Further investigation is necessary. Pawing at the mouth whilst eating is usually an indicator of mouth pain, especially when accompanied by drooling.

- Splayed Front Paws and "Hunkered Down"Position - Chinchillas experiencing pain will often display flattened front paws and thickened front leg muscles from throwing their weight forward. The splaying of the front paws may be temporary or permanent. Often associated with hind leg pain (the chincilla throws its weight onto its front paws to relieve pressure from the back legs and so ease pain/aches) but can also be an indicator of general pain or discomfort. The chinchilla looks "hunkered down". Often associated with older chins with arthritic joints.

- Clenched Paws - As opposed to the splayed paws to relieve pressure, a chinchilla with clenched paws may be experiencing pain anywhere in the body. This sign is often noted in chinchilla kits which are experiencing pain.

- Fidgeting or Restlessness - The chinchilla cannot settle. It moves from place to place and is unable to rest for more than a few seconds/minutes before moving again. Often accompanied by stretching or belly pressing. Can be subtle and involve just shifting slightly - may be one limb rather then the whole body. (e.g. lifting a hind limb slightly if it is achy due to arthritic changes).

- Abnormal Gait, Non-Weight bearing on a Limb, Holding a Limb Up - The chinchilla moves abnormally (runs "funny") or does not use one of its limbs - examples Sprains, twists, fractures, broken limbs.

- Head Tilt - Often associated with inner ear infection and/or pain.

- Belly Pressing or Stretching - the chinchilla rolls on the floor of the cage, stretches upwards repeatedly, sits and/or presses it's belly down to the floor of the cage/shelf etc. They may lie "pressed down" into the floor or shelf. Often associated with bloat or gastric stasis or generalised abdominal pain. This requires immediate veterinary intervention and must never be home treated.

- Squeaking, Whimpering, Screaming - This indicates severe pain when accompanied by one or more of the above signs. This requires immediate veterinary intervention and must never be home treated.

Cross posted from an original thread on CHINformative (here) ©Claire D.


Well-known member
Apr 14, 2009
modesto CA
One other symptom I have observed with my malo chins is they will stop sleeping in their favorite spot and find a strange place to sleep, after a filing they will resume sleeping in the normal spot. Choke motions also point to teeth issues, malo chins don't chew effectively so they are more prone to choke, they can't vomit so they will look like they are gagging or choking with frantic swiping of the face.
Not open for further replies.