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Claire D

Bloat

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Bloat is classed as a true medical emergency. It is a painful, often fatal condition caused by the build up of gas in the stomach and intestines. It can be accompanies by twisting of the gut or bowel.

It is essential that a chinchilla with suspected bloat is assessed and treated by a veterinary professional immediately. Waiting for symptoms to disappear or trying home remedies are not appropriate - the vet needs to see the chin ASAP.

The medical term for bloat is torsion, gastric torsion, and gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) when the stomach is also twisted.

Signs and Symptoms of Bloat.

Lack of appetite, lack of droppings, sitting uncomfortably or hunched, lethargy, rigid, swollen abdomen (chinchilla looks like a football), rolling around on the floor of the cage, stretching up to the cage bars repeatedly, pressing the belly down on the floor, wandering about aimlessly, shallow, rapid breathing, squeaking in pain, grinding teeth in pain.

Preventing Bloat In Chinchillas:

An Alternative Feeding Regime for Sick Chinchillas

When chinchillas become ill one of the first signs is often a lack of appetite and constipation or no faeces at all. This can be a result of a slowing down of gut motility (peristalsis), accompanied by an imbalance of gut flora (the ‘good’ bacteria is swamped by ‘bad’ bacteria and possibly yeasts).

Traditional attempts to stimulate a poorly chinchilla into eating has focused on treats – getting the chin to eat anything in the hopes of stimulating healthier eating and encouraging production of faeces by promoting gut motility. Treats are usually high in sugar and even quite sick chinchillas will nibble a raisin or two.

However, it may be that an increase in pathogenic (bad) bacteria and yeasts, combined with an increased sugar intake, and poor gut motion may lead to bloat. The theory behind this is yeast combines with the sugar in the gut and ferments, causing formation of gases. This is then very painful for the chinchilla and can lead to rapid deterioration in general condition and even death.

A chinchilla who has not been eating for a few days is traditionally given some form of high fibre food substitute such as Supreme Science Recovery or Critical Care. This gives the chinchilla’s gut a mass of fibrous bulk which the then distended gut cannot move along due to decreased gut motility.

Basically it may be a vicious circle – without food and roughage the gut cannot move food along and goes into ileus (stops moving) and without movement of food the gut builds further gases and undesirable bacteria, leading to pain and a decrease in appetite.

It is possible then, that traditional treatments may not be the best form of help for a sick chinchilla. If the theory proposed is correct then it may be better to give probiotics to promote healthy gut flora and stimulate the appetite for “good foods” rather than give treats which increase the sugar content of the stomach.

Appetite can be stimulated by using apple cider vinegar (1/2 teaspoon in 250ml water) Probiotics contain bacteria which are acid-loving (acidophilus). The inclusion of cider vinegar may inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts in the gut and aid in the production of “healthy” gut flora.

Following on from this theory then, a logical proposed treatment for chinchillas who go “off their food” would be:

No sugary treats

Probiotics in the drinking water

Apple Cider Vinegar to stimulate appetite.

Reasonable food intake (good quality hay, in unlimited quantities, and pellets)

Supreme Recovery Science or Oxbow Critical Care if required in the early stages of illness.

Exercise is beneficial with chins who have abdominal pain/bloat as it stimulates the peristaltic process and can initiate gut motility.

Gentle abdominal massage will also aid the process and can relieve pain by encouraging gut movement.

It is also worth noting that gut motility drugs such as Metoclopromide might be a useful adjunct to the above regimen - these drugs speed up the motility of the gut and can be used orally or in injection form and should be available from your vet.

Please ensure that professional veterinary intervention is sought if a chinchilla shows signs of abdominal discomfort or bloat.

This article has been compiled after considerable research and thought. My thanks go to Debbie ( Azure Chinchillas ) for her valuable input.

I believe that this alternative treatment for chinchillas who go "off their food" is based on sound reasoning and clinical knowledge and I have implemented it with success in several of my chinchillas.

Please note: no one should attempt to treat any form of bloat without immediate professional veterinary assessment, diagnosis, and prescribed medication.

There are several possible reasons for a chinchilla being unable to pass droppings including simple constipation to bloat or intusussception (telescoping of the bowel), torsion (twisting of the bowel), rupture, or obstruction (total blockage). Accurate, professional assessment is imperative if the chinchilla is to be treated effectively.

Treatment options for bloat which I have known to be effective (not all at the same time and only under veterinary supervision) :

Simethicone (Infacol) - for breaking down gas bubbles allowing them to pass through the gut

Metoclopramide - gut stimulant

Milpar - old remedy but still available from some chemists - laxative - softens faecal matter to push it through the gut

Liquid paraffin - softens faecal matter to help shift it through the gut

Buprenorphine (Vetergesic) (potent opiod analgesic) - pain relief

Meloxicam (Metacam) (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) - pain relief

Probiotics (especially if antibiotics are being or have been used) - to promote "good" bacteria in the gut, assiting with gut function.

At least 30mls fluid (water) daily (oral or subcutaneous injection if required).

Syringe feeding high fibre recovery foodstuffs such as Oxbow Critical Care or Supreme Science Recovery (both excellent for use in this situation because not only are they high fibre but contain probiotics to aid gut flora maintenance and vitamins/minerals etc to maintain adequate nutrition). Aim for 60-70ml per day if possible.

Gentle abdominal massage - to stimulate gut motility (movement) and assist in moving the faecal matter/gas through the intestines.

Gentle exercise - if tolerated, exercise (in very small amounts) aids in "shifting" everything in/through the gut.

The usual treatment is Metoclopramide and Simethicone and analgesia as required, and syringe feeding (including plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration).

If the bloat is acute then Metoclopramide by injection is preferrable to oral (by mouth).

Unfortunately Cisapride (Perpulsid) was taken off the market several years ago - this was the most effective gut motility drug for treating bloat. :)

Extensive bloat is very difficult to treat - chinchillas do deteriorate quickly - their guts seem to go into stasis very rapidly and it is difficult to get peristalsis started again, particularly because the animal is in pain and the guts are distended due to the bloat - they stop eating, drinking and moving; all of which increases the constipation aspect of the problem (primarily due to dehydration) making it almost impossible to get the faecal matter passed through the gut.

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