Meet Macio (Ma-see-oh) my 1 year old ebony chinchilla. He is full of personality, has moods, has a fan club at work, and is with me everyday. Macio resides at work with me Monday thru Friday and comes home with me on the weekends.
Chinchillas are part of the rodent family. They originated from the Andes mountains in northern Chile. Chins make excellent pets for dedicated parents who enjoy daily care and interaction with a pet that will live up to 20 years. They are not for children. Chins are very delicate – extremely heat sensitive (keep them between 65-78 degrees), hare susceptible to GI tract upset, and fragile little bodies.
This past week, Wednesday, I arrived at work and found Macio’s cage clean. Not a lot of feces, no hay thrown all over as usual and no night time re-decorating of his cage like normal. Then throughout the day he kept ‘barking’. My co-workers and I were puzzled and worried. Very worried when I noticed he wasn’t eating that day. I called the vet and went that afternoon. That’s another thing with Chins, they can get sick and be dead in the matter of hours. The vet examined him and sent out lab work. He had lost about 50 grams since his last weight 3 months earlier. That is quite a bit when you only weigh 500 grams.
His examine was pretty normal, he pooped a little their, but the vet also saw the tiny size and dryness of the feces. The doc gave him fluids under his skin to help hydrate him and I took him home with instructions to syringe feed frequently and watch his poops. Syringe feeding a tiny, fragile, stressed chin is one of the more challenging things I have done as both a pet parent and as a veterinary technician. I had to be careful he didn’t aspirate the food and make sure I got enough in to keep his guts moving. The first 24 hours were terrible. He went back to work with me the next day. I fed him throughout the day, as best I could. Friday, his poops really diminished. We were at work a few hours when even my co-workers said, he needed to go back to the vet.
We saw a different doctor and had another head to toe exam. Gut felt soft and ok, teeth looked good, and blood work was not in yet. The tech taught me tricks to ease the feeding and hoe to give him fluids under his skin at home. We started antibiotics and a pain med/anti-inflammatory for his tummy. Friday night, Macio and I hung out in the office and I let him free roam to help move his guts. Still, he would not eat, not even his favorite treat, oatmeal. My heart was breaking. I know GI stasis is lethal in chinchillas. I had to keep the food coming to ensure his gut didn’t completely shut down. I bought 3 types of hay, new food, I dried fresh herbs he loves, bought chew toys, you name it! Nothing, no interest. He remained very active and stopped the barking – a good sign. All day and night I did feedings every 3-4 hours, fluids and medication every 12 hours. Saturday his poops were smaller than peppercorns. I broke down. I knew his gut was stopping and there is nothing I can do but feed him. My manager, an exotic animal vet, said, just keep feeding him and let him run around. The vet called with the lab test results – organs look good, but he has a stress leukogram – an infection, somewhere for reasons we may never know. The meds he is on were the correct treatment plan, so we press on!
Then, this morning, his cage was loaded with larger hydrated poops!! I was crying with joy! Yes, over poop! So, here we are Sunday evening and he still will not eat. He runs in his wheel, loves his chin scratched, but won’t eat. I will continue the feedings all day. He will go to work during the day and home at night – thankfully he just sleeps in the car 🙂
Today, the lack of sleep and emotional roller coaster finally hit me. I felt like a zombie today. I ran a couple errands and had to come home and lay down. Besides the gym and a store or two, I have been sitting on a couch across the room from my sick baby, just staring and hoping he eats or drinks something…anything! Since his poops are almost normal size and consistency tonight, I might sleep…for more than 4 hours. Please keep my little man in your thoughts and prayers. I think he is on the mend, but we have a ways to go. The things we do for our kids 😉
PS – I apologize for any grammatical errors – My eyes are about to bleed from exhaustion!