Eye Problems in Chinchillas

Cute chinchilla of brown velvet color is sitting in his house and looking away, side view.
undefined undefined / Getty Images

Chinchillas have beautiful, dark eyes that compliment their big ears and tiny paws. These lovely eyes are usually problem-free but occasionally you may run into an issue with them which will warrant a visit to your exotics vet. It is important to familiarize yourself with some of the more common eye problems chinchillas can get so you are better prepared to spot a problem as soon as possible.

Types of Eye Problems in Chinchillas

  • Corneal Ulcers: Sometimes chinchilla's eyes get scratched or irritated by hay, hair, dust, or even after a struggle with another chinchilla. These scratches or irritations can cause a defect on the the clear surface of the eye called the cornea. This defect is known as a corneal ulcer. An ulcer is painful and may cause a bit of cloudiness or redness to the eye. Your chinchilla may paw at the hurt eye, keep their eye closed, or even rub it on the ground.
  • Eye Infections: If your chinchilla's eye gets irritated for some reason or exposed to excessive amounts of bacteria or fungal spores it can get infected. Bacterial and fungal infections can affect one or both of your chinchilla's eyes and they need to be treated with the appropriate antibacterial or antifungal medications. Your chinchilla may have hair loss around their eye, redness (conjunctivitis), discharge, swelling, and even keep their eye shut if it hurts.
  • Overgrown Teeth: Chinchilla teeth don't technically have roots but the part of the incisors (the front teeth) above the gumline that would normally be considered roots in other species can grow too long. The teeth grow into the nasal-lacrimal duct beneath the eye and cause your chinchilla's eye to tear excessively. Normal nasal-lacrimal ducts flow through the nose and allow drainage from the eye but if that duct is blocked or clogged, excessive drainage will occur from the eye like a clogged pipe.

Treating Eye Problems in Chinchillas

Most eye problems will require special eye medication but occasionally surgery may need to be performed. Treatment will vary based on the type of eye problem and the severity of the issue.

Corneal ulcers are usually treated with special eye ointments from your vet. Some of these ointments are antibiotics and some are made specifically to heal ulcers. If the ulcer still hasn't healed, a procedure called a grid keratotomy may need to be performed on the eye to encourage healing. This procedure is done under anesthesia and is basically drawing a tic-tac-toe board on the cornea itself with a sharp object, such as a needle, to encourage the body to heal a bunch of small squares instead of one large ulcer.

If your chinchilla has an eye infection, eye ointments or drops will also be used but other tests may need to be performed if those medications don't work. This test is called a culture and uses a cotton swab to gather debris from the eye to see what type of bacteria or fungus is growing there. The results will allow your vet to pick the correct treatment for your chinchilla.

Overgrown teeth and tumors that affect the eyes will typically require surgery to treat the problem. Tumors unfortunately may not be able to be removed completely but teeth can be extracted. Medications to treat various symptoms including pain, pressure, and infections are often used as well.

What to Do if You Suspect an Eye Problem

If you think something is wrong with your chinchilla you should make an appointment with your exotics vet as soon as possible. Chinchillas often stop eating and develop life threatening ileus if they do not feel well or are in pain. Catching an eye issue before it causes other problems is important to your chinchilla's overall well being and eye health.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Corneal ulcers: More than just a scratch. Oklahoma State University.

  2. Control of Parasites and Fungal Infections in Small Pet Mammals. European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites.

  3. Rodent Dentistry. Penn State University.  

  4. Monk, C. Ocular surface disease in rodents (guinea pigs, mice, rats, chinchillas)Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice. 2019;22(1):15–26. doi:10.1016/j.cvex.2018.08.001

  5. Corneal Ulcers. Colorado State University.

  6. Caring for Your Pet Chinchilla. NC State Veterinary Hospital Exotic Animal Medicine Department.