For many years, I have believed in and practiced Integrative Medicine which is obtaining a conventional diagnosis and then treating it by combining healing alternative practices along with conventional medicine that will most benefit the chinchilla. I believe this uses the best of both worlds and it has worked very well for all of my furry children.
I have used herbs, flower essences, natural enzymes, acidophilus/probiotics, massage and stress reduction as treatments with good results when needed for the chins. It helps to improve the whole body, mind and spirit. When an animal is happy, loved and well cared for, it makes for a strong immune system, which helps prevent illness and quick recovery should illness occur. A chinchilla that is unhappy, depressed (yes, chins can get depressed) or living in poor surroundings because of bad husbandry are more prone to health problems.
Conventional (or Allopathic) Western medicine treats symptoms of an illness not the underlying cause of the illness. Many holistic forms of treatment will treat the actual cause of the illness. There are times when this is a slower form of treatment, but overall, strengthens the immune system. This can also be a good alternative if you prefer a more natural way of healing. Please don't misunderstand me, I fully support many conventional and modern forms of medical treatment. However, I don't feel that all are appropriate or necessary to treat a chinchilla. I feel some are too harsh or over the top forms of treatment.
If you have an emergency, please do not hesitate to go to your exotic veterinarian for treatment. In those situations, you need something that will work fast if the situation is critical.
Below are some forms of natural treatments that I have used with our chinchillas over the years with great success. As much as I support natural treatments, please do not use any treatment casually. These are still a form of altering the body, even if for beneficial reasons. Too much of a good thing, is not a good thing! Just because these are 'natural', does not mean to give them in unlimited quantity. Everything has limitations, so please respect that.
This guide is based on my years of experience with holistic treatments. I am not a veterinarian and I am not trying to discourage you from seeking the advice of an experienced veterinarian.
I have used herbs for the last fourteen years with my animal companions. I only use Organic Herbs from very reputable sources. Herbs should be dried properly and must be stored in a dry, cool place and kept in a dark sealed container.
There are many herbs that are safe to give chinchillas (in limitations). They serve many purposes from purifying the blood, to calming the stomach and in helping to cleanse the kidneys. Some herbs can be given in small quantities as a dietary enhancement such as my Chinchilla Organic Herb & Grain Fusion.
There are also many herbs that should not be given to chinchillas. Some herbs interfere with medications and you should discuss with your vet any herbs you may want to give your chin. There is no herb, no matter how beneficial it can be, that should be given in large quantities.
Here are just a few of the many herbs you can use with chins:
~ Alfalfa Leaf – high in Calcium and other vitamins and minerals
~ Anise – helps prevent gas
~ Calendula Flower (also called Marigold) – great for skin healing
~ Chamomile Flower - non toxic de-wormer, anti inflammatory, helps with GI upset, nerve tonic,
helps relieve anxiety, do not use during pregnancy
~ Dandelion - liver tonic, blood cleanser, diuretic, vitamin K,A, C, D and B complex and potassium
~ Fennel Seed – good for gas/bloat, promotes the function of the kidneys and liver
~ Flax Seed - laxative, omega 3, anti-inflammatory (give in extreme moderation)
~ Hawthorn Leaf – heart tonic
~ Hibiscus Flower – calms the nerves
~ Marshmallow – soothing to the stomach
~ Milk Thistle – This is an excellent herb to help cleanse the liver
~ Nettle – helps fatigue, source of iron and helps support the kidneys
~ Oat Straw – Vitamin B, supports the nervous system, helps with stress
~ Olive Leaf – supports the immune system, reduces inflammation, natural antibiotic
~ Papaya – stimulates appetite, helps digestion and protects the intestinal wall
~ Parsley Leaf – stimulates normal GI function, can boost kidney/bladder function
~ Peppermint – aids in digestion
~ Raspberry Leaves – mild sedative, diuretic and has vitamin C, helps with nausea
~ Red Clover – blood purifier and relaxant BUT it can be an appetite suppressant and has blood
thinning properties, so use with extreme caution.
~ Rosehips – high source of vitamin C (overdose can cause diarrhea)
~ Willow – natural pain reliever (baskets and wreaths are excellent sources)
This is considered a super food. It boosts immunity and is an excellent overall tonic. It is loaded with mineral, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and omegas 3 & 6. You need only give a small pinch a couple of times a week for it to benefit your chin. Since this is pollen, only give a couple of granules for the first time and please watch your chin after giving it to make sure there is no allergic reaction. I have been giving this to one of our rescues for years now and she is 20 years old!!
It was discovered that all plant matter has a vibrational energy. These vibrations have physical and emotional effects on animals and humans. It is believed that state of mind affects an animal's physical health, thus the essences work with the body's vibration to help with emotional health. I have used flower essence for many years with a variety of animals including birds, bunnies, cats and of course chinchillas. They are safe to use alone or in conjunction with other forms of treatments.
To choose the proper treatment, you need to know your chin, his behavior and any physical ailment that he may be experiencing. Learn how the ailment affects his behavior, so observation on your part is key. You can't really choose the wrong essence, because if you do, it just won't work. If you don't see a difference with your chin in 4-5 days, then you will have to re-evaluate your chins behavior and then choose another essence.
Essences are great for animals under stress from a new environment, vet visits, animals that have suffered trauma such as an accident or attacked by another animal including another chin. You can add essence to your chins fresh water daily, apply it to the top of the nose or rub it onto the gums or ears. There are a few different brands of essences available, but I have always used Bach Flower Essences. The essences are preserved in a small amount of alcohol, but you can also get them in a glycerin base. Even though the final mixture you will be using will be very diluted, some people do not like the small amount of alcohol used. This is called the 'stock bottle'. It is a concentration of the essence and you will be diluting this with 1 oz of spring water. This diluted mixture is called the 'treatment bottle'. This treatment bottle will be good for 3-4 weeks if stored in a cool dark place.
You can get Rescue Remedy Pet (glycerin based) along with the empty mixing and spray bottles from Our Store. You can also get essences and supplies from most health food stores. Any bottles you use should be dark in color (usually brown) to protect the essence. You can use 1-5 different essences per treatment bottle. If you use Rescue Remedy, it is considered one essence.
Directions to Use Flower Essences:
You can use 1-5 different essences per treatment bottle. If you use Rescue Remedy, it is considered one essence. Place 2 drops of each essence you have chosen into the treatment bottle. The exception is Rescue Remedy in which you would add 4 drops. Add 1 oz spring water into the bottle. This will serve as your treatment bottle. Always shake first to stimulate the 'energy' of the essences and give one drop at a time by mouth with a total of four drops at each treatment. You want to give at least four treatments a day. This should continue for 5 days, but can be given up to two weeks if needed. Do not let the tip of the dropper touch the animal's mouth and drops should always be given in the side of the mouth.
You can also add a few drops to the drinking water, but the water must be changed every day and fresh drops added. The problem with this method is that you are not sure how much your chin is actually getting. Making a treatment mixture in a spray bottle can also be used to spray around your chins cage and living area. Do not spray your chin! You can find 1 oz spray bottles at any store often where travel size accessories are available or in Our Store. This works well to spray your chins carrier before a trip to the vet. Just a couple of sprays should do it.
There are many flower essences available, but I will list just a few which may help with some of the more common issues seen with chinchillas.
~ Rescue Remedy is a combination of five essences; Impatiens, Clematis, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum, Star of Bethlehem. It is used during times of stress, shock & injury. It restores calm, reassurance and relaxation.
~ Agrimony for distress or animals that hide pain. It restores inner peace and content.
~ Aspen for fear of unknown things; animals that hide in fear. It restores courage.
~ Beech to calm bad temperament, dominance. It restores tolerance & flexibility.
~ Cherry Plum for extreme fear and compulsive behavior such a fur chewing. It restores control and calm.
~ Heather for loneness or loud attention seeking animals. It restores composure.
~ Larch for animals that have been abused or mistreated. It restores confidence.
~ Oak for animals that struggle with ongoing illness and need strength such as malocclusion. It restores resilience, strength and stamina.
~ Olive for exhaustion from physical or mental illness. Works well for recovery after seizures. It restores strength and restoration.
~ Rock Rose for signs of extreme fear or extreme stress such as heatstroke. It restores courage and calmness.
~ Star of Bethlehem for all forms of shock. It restores mental, emotional and physical calmness.
~ Sweet Chestnut for animals that suffer severe neglect, abuse and suffering. It restores endurance.
~ Vervain for overactive or compulsive behavior. It restores restraint.
~ Vine for domineering and territorial animals that bully other animals. It restores positive leadership.
~ Walnut for animals having trouble adjusting to a new home or that have been hospitalized. It restores the ability to adapt.
~ Willow for aggressive and mean spirited animals. It restores good temperament.
Vitamins – In general a chinchilla should get their vitamins from a high quality diet of pellets and hay. However, there are times when a chin with health issues or senior chins can benefit from a little extra help. I recommend using natural sources for vitamins. For instance, Rosehips are an excellent source of vitamin C and are also a healthy treat to give your chin. We are still learning so much about chinchillas and what some of their nutritional needs are. Giving large amount of vitamins will not help your chin and in some cases can harm him. For instance, giving Rosehips as a crunchy treat and source of vitamin C can be good for your chin. Giving large amounts of Rosehips, especially every day can cause diarrhea, upset their stomach and be too stressful on your chins kidneys and urinary tract.
Please do not ever put liquid vitamin drops into your chins water. These are not the proper source you want to use for vitamins. They can also make the water taste bad and discourage your chin from drinking.
Pineapple Juice Fresh pineapple juice (not canned) can be a miracle worker for chins with an intestinal blockage. The pineapple must be ripe and a nice golden color. Some vets say pineapple juice does not work…..wrong!! It does work and is all natural. The myth, yes I said myth, is that pineapple juice dissolves hair that can cause a blockage. That is not what it does. The juice of a fresh ripe pineapple has enzymes that help dissolve organic matter. A blockage is usually caused by a hard mass that can consist of food, hair and other organic matter. The enzymes help to break apart the organic matter which in turn loosens the mass so it can be passed a small amount at a time. Don't go crazy with how much you give your chin. I only give pineapple juice if a chin is not pooping at all or has very tiny poops. Of course you should be giving your chin high quality timothy hay every day to make sure he is getting plenty of fiber to keep his poops normal and healthy. When I do give pineapple juice, I give .50ml once a day for 1-2 days. This juice does not work instantly, so don't expect those results. It takes a little bit for it to work, but that is what you want. You don't want to give your chins something that will be too harsh on his digestive system. Giving lots of fluids (plain water) is vital if you have a chin that is constipated.
If you don't have access to prepared fresh pineapple juice, then you can make your own juice. Obviously, you want to have the juice available should your chin need it because waiting a few days is not an option if your chin is constipated. When I juice a fresh pineapple, I always freeze most of it. I put small amounts in rubber maid containers and it is always available. All you have to do is add very warm water to a bowl so it is just below the rim of your container. The warm water will quickly start to defrost the juice.
A tip to ripen a pineapple faster: Pineapples ripen from the bottom up to the top. If you get a pineapple that is golden on the bottom, but still green on the top, turn it upside down and let it continue to ripen. You will have to lean it up against something to keep it from falling over. This trick works because the ripened juice from the bottom of the pineapple will flow through the pineapple when you turn it upside down. The already ripened juice will help to speed the ripening process through the rest of the pineapple. If you own a juicer, then you are all set to get the juice. If you don't have a juicer, then you can get the juice from your pineapple by cutting it up, putting it in a zip lock bag and pounding it to a pulp. Then put the pulp in a strainer to get the juice. Do not give your chin the pulp, you want the juice only.
Calendula Cream I love this product and that is why I sell it in my store. It is a very healing product. Calendula is a flower and its oils are great for minor cuts, scraps and dry feet. You can get Calendula in several topical forms; cream, gel and ointment. I recommend only using the cream as it will rub into the skin completely and you only need a tiny dab. I have used this with chins for years. It is fantastic for their dry or calloused feet. It is far superior to use over Neosporin which is greasy.
Cranberries (dried or dehydrated) Provides vitamin C and can aid in urinary tract health. Cranberries, although beneficial, are acidic and should be given in moderation. No more than 1-2 a week. Do not give cranberries that have added sugar or are coated with oil (which is sometimes used to prevent them from sticking together).
Digestive Aids As much as digestive aids can play an important role in your chins health, please do not over do it. There is no need to give these digestive aids to your chin on a regular basis if there is no problem. They can actually interrupt with your chins natural digestive system if given in excess. If your chin is given a high quality diet and is healthy, he should have a normal, healthy digestive tract without the assistant of outside supplements. However, it can take a simple thing like giving too many treats or sugary treats or even giving too many rosehips that can trigger a digestive problem. Getting your chins system back on track is very important and in those cases the digestive aids works very well. You will usually see some positive results fairly quickly after starting any form of digestive aids. There is no need to give it more than once a day and not more than a week in duration (unless antibiotics are being given).
Probiotics These are good bacteria (microbial organisms) that are naturally in the digestive tract. They assist with normal digestion and benefit the immune system. Having good bacteria in the gut will prevent bad bacteria from taking up space. Having a balanced gut flora with good bacteria will give your chin a strong, healthy immune system. It can kill foreign bacteria/protozoa (an example of this is Giardia) that try to invade your chins digestive tract. You usually want to look for a billion or more active organisms.
When your chin is taking antibiotics, please know that these medications kill ALL bacteria. The antibiotic does not know how to distinguish between good or bad bacteria, so it kills all bacteria trying to get rid of any infection. This means unfortunately, that it kills the good bacteria in your chins GI tract. That can cause your chin to be nauseous and make him susceptible to bad bacteria taking over and building up in his system. That is why it is important to give probiotics to your chin when he is taking antibiotics. Because you don't want the antibiotic to kill the probiotics, you need to give the probiotics two hours before or after giving the antibiotics. You want to make sure the antibiotics are completely out of the stomach before giving the probiotics for them to work.
Acidophilus This is a form of probiotics called Lactobacillus which is friendly bacteria. It is mainly for aiding digestion and repopulating the digestive tract with good bacteria. It helps to increase the acidity of the intestine which makes it unfriendly for dangerous bacteria. It is good for diarrhea and digestive problems.
Digestive Enzymes These are proteins that break down food into smaller particles so the nutrients are more digestible and the body can absorb the nutrients better. The body has its own form of digestive enzymes in the saliva, stomach acid and pancreatic juice.
Oats/Shredded Wheat Using organic whole oats (dry) or one spoon size shredded wheat can help when a chin has soft poops. You should see some improvement in 24 – 36 hours and if the problem persists, you may want to see a veterinarian. If your chin develops soft poops, you need to figure out why. It could be something as simple as too many treats or a change in diet. Do not give too many oats on a regular basis to your chin because they can cause constipation.
Pumpkin Canned pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling, can be given in small amounts to a chin that has slight constipation. You only want to give about ¼ - ½ teaspoon once a day. Do not give it more than two days. If your chin has constipation, then a change in diet is needed. If your chin is given high fiber pellets and hay then you should not have a problem with constipation.
Baby Food There are a few rare occasions when baby food can help feed a sick chin. I prefer to use organic baby food which you can get at any grocery store. The only type of baby food I recommend is Winter Squash or Sweet Potato. The only ingredients should be the vegetable and water. When a chin is ill and won't eat or needs to be fed Critical Care and still refuses, add a very small amount of winter squash into the critical care mix and he will usually eat it. This is to encourage him to eat, so once he starts to eat, stop adding the baby food. If your chin is constipated, you can offer a very small amount of winter squash on a spoon once or twice a day, but don't overdo it. If your chin won't eat it, you can mix it with a small amount of water and draw it up into a syringe and give it to him in the side of his mouth. Winter Squash is high in fiber, so a little goes a long way. Normally I don't recommend giving veggies to your chin and this is the only exception. Do NOT give your chin any other kind of baby food such as beans or fruit. This can give your chin bloat! Giving baby food when needed is a temporary helping aid and should only be given in small quantities for a day or two.
In Conclusion Not everyone is comfortable using holistic forms of treatments and not everyone believes they work. That is fine. I don't want you to use anything you do not feel right about giving your chin. I do a lot of phone and email consultations with chin parents all over the world. I only give suggestions for treatments I have used myself and had success with. However, I always tell people to do what they are comfortable with. There are many veterinarians that specialize in holistic animal medicine. Unfortunately, finding one that is knowledgeable about chinchillas is very difficult. Often, it is left up to the chin parents to learn and treat their chins themselves or in addition to traditional veterinarian care. I really hope these are situations you will never have to worry about and that your chin lives a very long and health life, but should the need arise; it is best to have some basic knowledge about holistic treatments so you can decide for yourself how to proceed.