My chinchilla “Mama” was shrinking. She’s 10 years old and compared to her daughter “Bebe”, only 1 1/2 years younger than her, she was growing thin and looked fragile, so I became concerned. As chinchillas are primarily nocturnal, “Mama” would start squealing in the middle of the night and I’d get up to check on her. The girls were in a clean cage with water, hay, and their beloved pellets; I’d check the pellets and see most of them had only been half-eaten. I was also letting her indulge in unhealthy treats like salty chips and nuts because she begged and loved them so much and was so cute enjoying them.
I decided to take her to the vet! This is something that should ideally be done every six months. However, like many pet owners, I figured my girls were healthy and in good shape and didn’t think to take them to the vet until I saw obvious signs of illness. I now know that with exotic pets, a lot of times it’s almost too late at this point. When I brought “Mama” in, our doctor found her teeth were not correctly aligned and had never grown in properly. They were cutting into her cheeks and making it difficult and painful to eat food, hence the squealing and broken pellets! She was only 503 grams – a little over a pound, which was quite underweight.
I learned a lot about the importance of hay in her proper diet and that I was killing her with kindness: you can’t cater to their wants as they’re like children and love everything bad for them. It might seem like a sweet (pun intended) gesture to give them people food or treats from a pet store like dandelion drops or baked apple timothy hay biscuits but they aren’t great for their GI tracts. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional raisin or other healthy snack but the hay is what keeps their systems functioning properly and helps naturally file their teeth.
Our eyes may be the windows to our soul, but our teeth are an indication of and contributing factor to our physical health, and our pets won’t tell us when they have a toothache. Undiagnosed dental problems can lead to much graver issues. I learned the importance of biannual physical exams including a dental exam, and that Vitamin D3 deficiency can be a cause of these issues. Occasional trimmings end up costing a lot less in the long run than more serious surgeries or extractions, and addressing problems as soon as any tiny change is noted gives much better results than waiting until your little one is dramatically thinner and weaker. Four months later, “Mama” has gained almost a half-pound, looks much healthier, and her energy levels have spiked. She’ll be back to the clinic in two months for her six month exam to ensure her well-being. Call for your pet’s exam today!