Diabetes is a well-known disease of people, but your new chinchilla can develop it, too. Here are three things chinchilla owners need to know about diabetes.
What are the signs of diabetes in chinchillas?
One possible sign of diabetes in chinchillas is a poor appetite. Your chinchilla may not eat their hay and pellets as quickly as they used to, and they may even lose interest in their treats. Lethargy is another possible sign. While healthy chinchillas will run, play, and climb, sick chinchillas will seem lazy and tired and may remain in the same place all day.
Diabetic chinchillas may also lose weight; this happens because they lose interest in eating. Since chinchillas are so fluffy, it can be hard to identify weight loss, so get into the habit of weighing your pet on a daily or weekly basis. These regular weigh-ins will allow you to easily spot weight loss.
How do vets treat diabetes?
While people and other animals with diabetes can be treated with insulin, this isn't an option for chinchillas. The type of insulin that chinchillas have is very different from the type that people and dogs have, so the insulin your vet has available won't do much good. Instead of using insulin, your vet may prescribe glipizide, a diabetes medicine that is used for people; this medication helps the pancreas produce its own insulin.
Lifestyle changes are also important for diabetic chinchillas, just as they are for diabetic people. You'll need to feed your pet a healthy diet that is low in fat, high in protein, and high in complex carbohydrates. You also need to help your overweight pet lose weight, which can be done by ensuring that most of their diet consists of hay, not pellets or treats. If you're not sure if you're overfeeding your pet, your vet can recommend an appropriate dietary regimen.
How can you prevent diabetes?
Feeding your pet a healthy diet is very important, but it's not the only thing you need to do as a responsible pet owner. To prevent diabetes, make sure your chinchilla gets the opportunity to exercise. In the wild, chinchillas get a lot of exercise (including running at full speed and jumping as high as six feet in the air!), and in captivity, they need to do the same for at least one to two hours every day.
Since chinchillas can be destructive, it's best to designate one room in your house as your chinchilla's playroom. Chinchilla-proof the room by taking away any objects that are valuable to you or hazardous to your pet, then allow your pet free reign of the room.
If you think your chinchilla has diabetes, take them to a vet right away at a clinic like Peninsula Crossing Animal Hospital veterinary clinic.