Broken legs in chinchillas can be common since these pocket pets are quite active or a fracture could result from being aggressively handled. A broken leg for a chinchilla can be very painful and will stress your pet which could prove fatal if it is not treated. Knowing how to prevent broken legs and what to do if you suspect your chinchilla has one can help your pet avoid prolonged pain.
What is a Broken Leg?
It's common for a chinchilla's tibias to break because they are very delicate and lack any padding. A broken chinchilla leg could be a simple fracture with a broken bone and no skin wounds. The break could also be a compound fracture, which involves a broken bone and broken skin, which is more severe and could become infected if left untreated.
Symptoms of a Broken Leg in a Chinchilla
If you suspect your chinchilla broke its leg you should get it to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your chinchilla will be in a lot of pain if it does have a broken leg and the stress its little body goes through from the accident along with the pain is enough to kill it. Here are the symptoms to watch for:
If the broken leg is a compound fracture, there will be a skin wound in the area, also called a hematoma. If you have more than one chinchilla in a cage, the wound could be from a bite during a tussle and not a broken leg, but your veterinarian can diagnose the problem.
A compound fracture in the leg can also cause the bone to protrude through the skin.
Your pet will naturally not be able to walk correctly so it will drag its hind legs or limp if it has a broken leg.
Avoiding Upper Levels of Cage
A chinchilla with a broken leg will not want to climb to an upper level because of the pain.
Any animal with a medical condition will exhibit lethargy because it is in pain and stressed.
Causes of a Broken Leg
There are many causes that can put a chinchilla's tiny legs in danger of breaking. Some of these causes include:
- Cage wires: A chinchilla's tiny legs tend to fall between the wire spacing of cage ramps and bottoms when it is hopping around. When a leg gets stuck, a chinchilla starts to pull away to free its leg, and it can sometimes fall off the ramp causing the leg to break.
- Objects in the cage: A leg could break if your chinchilla gets it stuck in an object in the cage, such as a hay hamper.
- Dropping: Someone could accidently drop or step on your chinchilla when it's out of the cage.
- Jumping: Your chinchilla could break a leg by jumping from a high elevation inside its cage.
- Malnourishment: A poor diet can cause weak, brittle legs. A chinchilla that does not receive an appropriate diet will have unhealthy bones that are prone to fracturing.
Diagnosing a Broken Leg in a Chinchilla
Your vet may be able to tell if the leg is broken without X-rays but an X-ray is the best way to see where the bone is exactly broken. This will help your veterinarian create the best treatment plan so your chinchilla can heal properly.
If the leg is broken and it is a simple facture without any skin wounds, the vet can typically splint the leg so it can heal, but it also depends on where the break is located and how long the bone has been broken.
A more severe broken chinchilla leg may need to have surgery to place pins in it to hold it together so it can heal. If surgery to repair the fracture is not an option, the leg may need to be surgically amputated under anesthesia to save your pet's life.
Medications to manage any pain, inflammation, and infection will be recommended and syringe feeding may need to be performed. If a chinchilla stops eating then ileus can occur and your pet can have a fatal outcome.
You will need a single-level cage to restrict your chinchilla's activity restriction to allow the bone to heal. Keeping your chinchilla resting will not be easy since it will still try to hop and jump around in the cage. X-rays may need to be repeated to monitor the healing process.
Prognosis for a Chinchilla With Broken Legs
A chinchilla may do well while it has a splint or bandage on its leg, depending on the complexity of the break. If a surgical pin is involved, a good outcome is possible if there are no complications such as a loosened pin or infection. If the leg has been amputated, a chinchilla will usually adapt very well to the loss of the leg.
How to Prevent Broken Legs
There are a few things you can do to help prevent your chinchilla from breaking a leg. Take the following steps:
- Diet Make sure you are providing the proper chinchilla diet to keep the bones strong.
- Cage: Remove objects in the cage that could snag or trap your chinchilla. This includes things like wire wheels, hay hampers, hay balls, and wire ramps. A wire mesh bottom cage with large spacing may cause your pet to trip and catch its leg in the mesh, as well. Switch to a cage with a solid bottom or look for one that has mesh with very narrow spacing. In addition, consider a single-level cage versus multiple levels that could cause your chinchilla to jump.
- Handling: Ensure that anyone of any age who may not have experience holding a chinchilla is sitting on the ground when handling or playing with your pocket pet so the animal is not accidently dropped.
- Awareness: Make sure everyone in the house knows when your chinchilla is out of its cage so that they can pay extra attention to where they are stepping.