pigs, chinchillas and degus

Chapter 3 Guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus

Many of the pet rodents presented to the veterinarian belong to the group known as hystricomorphs. The following species are the commonest as household pets:

Nursing care

For general concepts, see Nursing Care in Rabbits.

Fluid therapy

Small rodents by virtue of their size and the high risk of predation are forced to obtain most of their water from preformed (food) and metabolic sources. Dehydration can be critical for hystricomorphs rodents, especially at higher environmental temperatures. For an adult chinchilla, 55.5% of its daily water loss is as urine; 16.7% evaporates form its skin; 22.2% evaporates from its lungs and 5.6% is lost in the faeces. Therefore, 38.9% of its water loss is insensible.

Fluids can be given s.c., i.p. or i.o. – indeed if there is marked dehydration, then i.p. or i.o. is preferable to s.c. Fluids can be given i.v. either by bolus or by infusion and all fluids should be warmed to 38 °C. For sites for fluid administration see Table 3.

Table 3.3 Guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus: Sites for fluid administration

Intravenous (guinea pig) Lateral or medial saphenous and cephalic vein
Intravenous (chinchilla) Femoral, lateral saphenous and cephalic vein. Ear veins can be used for i.v. in some cases, and the use of EMLA cream greatly aids this, but is inappropriate if the chinchilla is considered hypothermic
Intra-peritoneal (all three species) Hold the patient vertically downward and inject into the lower left quadrant
Intra-osseous (all three species) Under GA to insert either an intraosseous catheter or a hypodermic needle into the marrow of either the femur (via the greater trochanter) or tibia (through the tibial crest). Fluids, colloids and even blood can be i.o. if necessary

Jugular catheterization can be attempted in all species, but it is difficult and may result in respiratory embarrassment. Many of these sites may also require anaesthesia and surgical cut down. In hypovolaemic patients, vascular access may be impossible. It is better to consider either i.p. or i.o. administration.



Beware of subclinical respiratory infections. There is no need to starve; prolonged fasting can lead to hypoglycaemia.

Keep the animal warm; as they have a large surface area compared with volume this results in significant heat loss during surgery and hypothermia acts as a general depressant and is also immunosuppressive. Merely applying insulation such as bubble wrap is often insufficient – inactive, anaesthetized rodents are not generating heat and you may be insulating it from a higher ambient temperature. Place these animals onto a heat mat, onto which is placed an absorptive towel or other material to both protect the mat from becoming wet, and reduce the slight risk of localized burns.

Skin disorders

Chinchillas have extremely dense fur, an attribute that has probably been enhanced by artificial selection. This may be why external parasites are uncommon in the chinchilla.

Treatment/specific therapy

Respiratory tract disorders

See also Cardiovascular and Haematological Disorders.

Dental disorders


Treatment/specific therapy

Aug 21, 2016 | Posted by in EXOTIC, WILD, ZOO | Comments Off on pigs, chinchillas and degus

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