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Claire D

Basic Wound Management For Chinchillas

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Basic Wound Management For Chinchillas

Every chinchilla owner will, at some point, come across a wound on their pet – these can range in severity from superficial wound such as a scratch, or a cut lip/nose, to the more serious nipped toe (some chins have had their toes nipped clean off by another chin) to bumblefoot, or surgical wounds, tumours, and abcesses.

The correct care of such wounds is essential to minimise/prevent the risk of infection and to provide the optimum environment for healing.

Research into wound healing has taken place for many years – the following is based on such research and my professional experience and as a chinchilla owner. However, please bear in mind that wound care is a very complex process and it is not possible to go into all the connotations of wound management/healing in this article.

Wounds: A wound can be defined as – a cut or break in the continuity of any tissue caused by injury or operation.

There are many different types of wounds. The most common found in chinchilla keeping will be:

Surgical Wounds

Traumatic – amputations (e.g. toes), bites, abrasions, bruising

Burns

Abcess

Chronic Ulcers (such as bumblefoot)

It is important to assess the wound first and foremost to try to establish the underlying cause (so further occurrences may be prevented where possible) and to formulate a treatment plan.

Assessment of the wound should include:

General condition of the animal (is the chin eating normally, weight bearing, showing signs of pain, behaving normally etc)

Clinical signs of infection which include the surrounding skin condition (red, hot, fluctuant [squishy]), pus

Lost fur

The wound itself (including colour of the wound, depth, size)

Any bleeding or fluid loss

Position of the wound

Underlying cause.

Once the assessment has been made it should be possible to formulate a treatment plan. Please note that referral to a qualified veterinarian is essential if infection is suspected or the owner does not have the experience and confidence to deal with the wound.

Signs of Infection:

It is imperative that wounds are inspected daily for signs of infection which are:

Localised (around the wound site) redness, swelling.

Localised heat, pain. (difficult to gauge in a chin because they are good at hiding pain).

Increased exudate (fluid coming from the wound)

Friable wound (delicate wound tissue – bleeds easily)

Odour – wound smells bad

General increase in body temperature (difficult to judge with a chin)

Treatment:

Wound management works on the same principles for animals as humans – research has found that the optimum environment for wound healing is one which is moist and warm. However, this is also the optimum environment for bacterial reproduction – so always check for signs of infection when treating any wound.

Never use cotton wool to clean wounds – the fibres which get left behind in the wound can slow down the wound healing process by causing a foreign body reaction and inflammatory response. It will also lead to increased risk of infection. Fur should be clipped away from the edges of wounds and the wound cleaned with saline for the same reason. It is very painful to remove cotton wool fibres from a wound - Use a lint free gauze swab.

All wounds should be monitored for changes in appearance, unusual bleeding, or infection - Veterinary advice must be sought if this is noticed.

It is not possible to go into all the variations of wounds and the care which can be given but some examples of wounds and treatment regimes are as follows:

Superficial, small wounds: (eg. scrapes, minor cuts, minor bites)

Cleanse with normal saline (salt water 1 tablespoon in a cup of boiled, cooled water) Cut or bitten lips and noses should not be cleansed unless absolutely necessary [i.e. the nostrils are blocked with blood] Cleansing the wounds with saline in this instance will stop blood from clotting and cause additional bleeding. In the case of cut/bitten noses there may also be a possibility of saline going into nasal passages and causing respiratory distress and infection. Veterinary advice should be sought.

If the wound is very superficial and is small then it can be left to heal without any treatment.

The wound should be monitored daily for signs of infection (as above).

Superficial, large wounds: (eg. extensive scrapes, bites, unexplained skin lesions)

Cleanse with sterile water (cooled, boiled water)

Clip the fur approximately 2cm away from the edge of the wound (all round if possible). This should prevent any fur getting stuck to the wound bed and causing pain or slowing down the wound healing process.

Apply a cream to keep the surface of the wound moist (reduces pain and allows the wound to heal faster). An example of a suitable cream is green cream (Galens Garden)

Monitor for infection and refer to vet if concerned.

Apply ointment/creams as prescribed by your vet.

Simple amputations (eg. Bitten through toes)

Check wound for signs of bone protruding from the wound (exostosis). Bone will be creamy coloured and hard. If bone is present in the wound bed then a veterinary opinion is essential.

Cleanse wound with saline

Monitor daily for signs of infection

Allow to self heal or use ointments/creams as prescribed by your vet.

Surgical Wounds: (eg. After abdominal surgery, castration, removal of tumour)

Monitor wounds for signs of infection.

Monitor for signs of the chinchilla biting or removing the stitches.

Monitor for signs of wound edges opening.

Veterinary opinion if required.

Bumblefoot: (ulcerative pododermatitis)

Provide soft areas in the cage for pressure relief.

Check for signs of infection.

Spray areas with Purple Spray if required.

Veterinary intervention is necessary if the wounds continue to break open, bleed, or become infected.

Use creams as prescribed by your vet.

See this article for further information and case studies.

Cavity wounds/abcess: (cavity wound is a deep hole)

Always require veterinary intervention however the basic principles are as follows:

Fur should be clipped away from the wound edges - 2cm all round - to prevent the fur from becoming stuck to the wound, causing an inflammatory response and pain on removal.

Flush wound with saline/irrigation fluid supplied by vet, ensuring that all the fluid comes back out of the cavity. This may require a syringe technique which your vet should teach you.Flushing the wound should be continued until the fluid coming back out is clear of debris.

If the wound is open, use a suitable gel such as IntraSite (or veterinary prescribed treatment eg. Vetalintex) to keep the wound bed moist.

Keep the wound entrance open – this will prevent fluid from building up in the wound, and becoming trapped, causing pain, infection and further abcess.

Monitor the wound for signs of infection.

Please note ALL bite wounds should be referred for veterinary intervention. Bite wounds can be deceptive - they may look superficial at the surface but may be fatal if left untreated. Chinchilla jaws are very strong in comparison to their body size. The teeth can do major damage below the surface of the skin and, whilst skin can appear unbroken, underneath there may be extensive bruising and bleeding into the tissue.

In all bite cases there is serious risk of abcessation, deep tissue trauma, infection, rapid deterioration and death due to severe shock. ALL chinchillas with bite injuries must be treated for shock and taken for immediate veterinary advice.

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