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CHINformative - Promoting Chinchilla Welfare
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Claire D

Initial Post Operative Care Of Chinchillas Following Surgery

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The Basics

A chinchilla who undergoes any operative procedure requires careful pre and post-operative care.

Immediate priorities when a chinchilla returns from a surgical procedure are:

Pain relief

Fluid replacement

Eating

Shock

Incision (wound) monitoring

The importance of post-operative pain relief for animals who have undergone any surgical procedure cannot be over-emphasised. Sadly, anecdotal evidence shows that there are instances when post-operative analgesia (pain killers) have not been prescribed for chinchillas.

Lack of adequate pain relief, shock, and separation from familiar surroundingsn can lead to problems - a chinchilla can mask pain very well, may refuse to eat or drink, and go into shock.

Lack of fluid and high fibre foodstuffs may lead to dehydration and gastric shut-down. These two events, plus uncontrolled pain, combine to create a viscious circle which may be hard to reverse.

Pain Relief

It is essential to obtain the following information when collecting a chinchilla after surgery:

- that a chinchilla has been given some form of pain relief during surgery

- ascertain what the drug was and how long the pain relief will last.

- ask what form of analgesia can be given, the correct dose, and if a prescription will be necessary.

It is considered unthinkable to allow a human to undergo any surgical procedure without some form of analgesia being given post-operatively. The same applies to animals!

Analgesics (pain relief)

Please note that I am not a veterinarian, nor a pharmacist - professional veterinary advice must always be sought and followed with any analgesia (even Paracetamol!). These are examples of analgesics I have been prescribed for my chinchillas (see reference) - it is not a definitive list, nor is it a list of recommendations.

Rimadyl (Carprofen) - 50mg/ml small animal injection. Chinchilla dose: 0.04ml once daily injection. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory often given by injection during surgery and has an long analgesic effect (24-48 hours). Only available on Veterinary Prescription.

Meloxicam (Metacam) - oral solution 1.5mg/ml. Chinchilla dose: 0.05ml (1 drop) daily. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory given orally (by mouth). Effective long term pain relief. Only available on Veterinary Prescription.

Paracetamol (Calpol 6+) - oral liquid 50mg/ml - Chinchilla Dose: 100mg/kg up to twice daily. An average 500g chinchilla would require 1.0 ml twice a day. Useful in cases of pneumonia. Available from chemists.

Drug information taken from: VGC Richardson 2003, Diseases of Small Domestic Rodents.

Fluid Replacement

Any chinchilla who has undergone an anaesthetic will have lost fluid during both the procedure and the recovery period. Whilst fluid replacement may be given under the skin (subcutaneous) during or just after the anaesthetic is it imperative that chinchillas are given extra fluids once they return home.

Syringing fluids into a chinchilla, especially when they are drowsy, takes practice - it is essential that chinchilla owners do not syringe fluids quickly due to the risk of the animal inhaling the fluid (fluid "going the wrong way"), potentially leading to pneumonia.

Suitable fluid replacements include:

Dioralyte Standard (available from chemists). Mix according to instructions - most chinchillas seem to prefer the Blackcurrant flavour. Do not use the Dioralyte Relief.

Vetark Critical Care Formula - mix according to instructions and administer via syringe.

Eating

It is also essential to get chinchillas eating high fibrous foodstuffs as soon as possible after surgery/anaesthetic. It can take less than 12 hours for a chinchilla to become dangerously unwell without fluids and food. Lack of fibre will cause the gut to stop functioning and the chinchilla will deteriorate rapidly.

Suitable high fibre food replacements include:

Oxbow Critical Care - can be diluted into liquid form more firm depending on how the chinchilla prefers it. Can be watered down to a highly fluid consistency in the initial post-operative phase to provide both fibre and fluid replacement.

Supreme Science Recovery - can be diluted into liquid form more firm depending on how the chinchilla prefers it. Can be watered down to a highly fluid consistency in the initial post-operative phase to provide both fibre and fluid replacement.

Syringe Feeding Technique

Shock

I do not propose to go into the treatment of shock here - there is an excellent, comprehensive article by Debbie here.

It is imperative to closely monitor a chinchilla who has undergone any anaesthetic or traumatic event (falls, fits, fights etc) for changes in behaviour and condition.

Warmth, fluids, food, and a peaceful environment are basic essentials to aid recovery.

Incision (Wound) Monitoring

Incision lines may be closed using sutures (stitches), clips (staples), or tissue adhesive (wound glue). Which ever method is used all incision lines must be checked regularly for signs of clinical infection, nibbling, and removal of clips or sutures.

It is essential that a chinchilla does not nibble or remove their clips or sutures - any attempts to do so require rapid intervention.

Clinical signs of infection:

It is a normal body response to injury that the area around the wound will be slightly hot, red, swollen, and raised. There should be little or no oozing of blood or fluid from a wound post-operatively. However, if any of these signs persist after day 3 post-operatively (in the absence of nibbling!) then infection should be suspected. Oozing of pus or fluid from the wound after 3 days should also be taken as a sign of infection. Immediate veterinary advice and treatment should be sought and antibiotics may be necessary. The wound may need to be flushed with saline if infection is deep-seated.

Nibbling:

If a chinchilla can reach their sutures or clips then there is a potential for some clandestine nibbling! Providing adequate pain relief in the initial days post-surgery will reduce the risks of a chinchilla worrying at their scar line. Collars made from cardboard or soft plastic "elizabethan" style collars can prevent access to the scarline but please bear in mind that the use of a collar will dramatically reduce mobility and the ability to hold food to the mouth. It may be necessary to hand feed or supervise the chinchilla feeding with the collar removed for a few days until the sutures/clips are removed.

Unexpected removal of sutures/clips:

Early removal of sutures or clips by the chinchilla can be disasterous. Depending on the position of the incision there is a risk of gaping wounds or disembowelment etc and a massive increase in the risk of infection. Immediate veterinary intervention is required if sutures or clips are removed.

Further information on wound management is available from the Basic Wound Management Page

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