Chinchillas are adorably floofy rodents that hail from the Andes Mountains in South America. Did you know they have the densest fur of any land-based mammal? Unfortunately cute as they are, they’re prone to many health issues. Small Pet Select wants to keep your chin healthy and happy, so today we’re addressing one of those health issues: kidney or bladder stones in chinchillas.
What are Kidney or Bladder Stones?
Bladder and kidney stones, also known as Urolithiasis in chinchillas, consist of solid build-ups of small crystals. The crystals come from minerals and proteins found in urine. The picture below shows a selection of hooman stones. Sometimes they are tiny enough to be discharged during urination. However, many are not, and they can get stuck anywhere in the urinary/renal system. Don’t those sharp edges look painful? 😧
Why do Chinchillas Get Kidney or Bladder Stones?
Very few species can go for long periods without water. As the Andes region is arid, over time, chins adjusted by not needing a lot of water. Domestic chinchillas maintained this minute water requirement. In turn, this makes their urine very concentrated.
Additionally, an improper diet may exacerbate this issue. Chinchillas are herbivores and should eat unlimited Timothy hay, which is low in calcium. However, some pawrents feed them Alfalfa hay, which is fantastic for your chin in moderation. Primarily, it is useful for warding off hay boredom and as a treat. Additionally, it gives baby chins and nursing mothers the extra nutrients they need. Just keep in mind Alfalfa hay is very high in calcium. The extra calcium is one of those minerals that might turn into bladder or kidney stones.
If you feed your chin greens, be sure to stay away from those high in oxalic acid. Kale, mustard greens, and spinach are in this category.
If you want to be sure you're feeding your chin the correct diet, check our article on what they eat. Additionally, your exotic vet knows your cutie best, so don't hesitate to ask them for advice.
Returning to chins’ minimal water intake, they may not empty their bladders frequently as they don’t generate a lot of urine. If the bladder is partially full and not voided for long periods, this is a prime crystal growing opportunity.
Finally, if you have a male chin, they may develop a hair ring around their penis. The ring can restrict the urethra, therefore making it difficult for him to urinate. Again, not emptying the bladder entirely may cause stones to develop.
What are the Symptoms of Bladder and Kidney Stones in Chinchillas?
It’s important to keep in mind that the symptoms for stones are similar to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). After you see one or more of these symptoms, a trip to your exotic vet is in order.
🐹 Aggression/signs of pain: Body language tells you a lot about how your chin is feeling. Here are some clues:
🐹 Ears held backward
🐹 Hunched posture
🐹 Low appetite
🐹 Tooth grinding
🐹 Blood in urine (hematuria): Chin urine is very dark due to the concentration. The easiest way to see blood in their urine is to wait until it dries.
🐹 Dribbling urine: Check to see if the fur around their urethra is damp that progresses to wet. That is how you can tell your chin is dribbling urine.
🐹 Straining when peeing
What Happens at the Vet?
Bladder and Kidney stones in chinchillas can be fatal, so you want to get your floofy friend to the vet as soon as you notice something is wrong. There are two ways to check for stones:
🐹 Abdominal exam: the vet may be able to feel the stones
🐹 X-rays: confirms size and location.
If the vet determines stones are the problem, the next step is surgery. Leaving the crystals in place allows them to congeal and grow. At some point, they will be so big, they will cause a rupture.
As we mentioned before, diet is critical to preventing bladder and kidney stones in chinchillas. You’ll want to feed a diet low in calcium, including treats or toys. Small Pet Select has a full chinchilla product line, including Timothy hay, and safe treats and toys.
If your chin develops stones once, there’s a decent chance more will grow more in the future. Your vet may propose some other solutions to increase their water intake to help prevent them.
We've left no stone unturned today addressing bladder and kidney stones in chinchillas. If you have experience with them in your chins, we’d love to hear about it. Please share with us on our socials or send us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!