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Elvis

Elvis was my very first chinchilla and will forever remain King, of my herd as well as my heart. (Warning, some of the following pictures are not pretty.)

He was born June 18, 2001 at Seward Breeders in Madison, Ohio and we got him as a kit in September of 2001. He was a very sweet, albeit strong willed chinchilla, even then. I made the mistake of letting him out to play in the bathroom before we really bonded and now every time he's out, he thinks it's playtime. But I love him all the same, and once in a while, he'll let me love on him.

Sadly, he didn't handle stress well and started to chew his fur. This is not a desireable trait to breed and I was heartbroken because he's just a beautiful chinchilla and would have given me beautiful kits. I changed his diet at the recommendation of his breeder, and the chewing stopped. Still a novice, I thought perhaps the situation was solved and went ahead and acquired a violet female named Kizmet as a mate for him.

Kizmet and Elvis bonded very well and within 6 months, she was pregnant with his kits. Sadly, he again began to chew, and I knew he could not be bred again. Kizmet gave us two beautiful, healthy kits from their pairing. The female chewed her fur eventually, but I've not been in recent contact with the male's new owner.

After months of indecision, I decided to neuter Elvis. He was lonely and in need of companionship, as was Geri, a female I didn't want to breed. It seemed the perfect solution. I called many veterinary hospitals around my home town and finally found one with chinchilla experience. I expressed that I was only considering it at that time and continued calling around. This was the only clinic in town willing to do the neuter and with a vet with chinchilla experience. A month later, I made the appointment, after re-confirming the vet had neutered a chinchilla before successfully.

I dropped him off at 8am, to find out later that he had an afternoon surgery. This was when I began to worry, as being away from home that long is very stressful on a chinchilla. I was told the surgery went well and picked him up at 7pm that evening. We went home and he seemed to be okay, with mild discomfort. At about 12am, I heard what I thought was Elvis pushing his food dish around his cage. I went in to check on him and it was him scooting his bottom along the cage floor, obviously in pain. I tried to comfort him, calmed him and thought all was well when I went to bed at about 4am. I was awoken by the same noise at about 11am.

The next day, I took him back to the vet for some pain medication (I was a bit put off that he didn't give me any to take home.) and they gave him a topical pain reliever as well as sent me home with liquid Torbutrol, which I later learned can greatly slow GI function in chinchillas. He wasn't defecating and wouldn't even take but half a raisin for me. I tried softening some pellets and was able to force feed him a bit but he didn't want much to do with the mixture.

The following morning, I was greeted with thick, yellow mucous all over the incision sites and his anus. It was indiscernable where it was coming from and I immediately called the vet back. I took him in after consulting with an exotic veterinarian in another town by phone. They simply cleaned off the mucous and were going to give me Baytril and send me home.

At that point, going on the Exotic Vet's advice, I asked for a gram stain to determine what type of bacteria was causing the mucous and they ran one. I also requested Sulfatrim rather than Baytril as it has been used with fewer side effects. They complied and sent me home.

Elvis stopped eating that very day, Friday. He stopped drinking or moving much at all as well. After frantic worry and losing complete faith in the veterinarian who had done the procedure, I called back to the same exotic vet I had consulted earlier and asked if she would see Elvis. She agreed and we made an appointment for Monday morning. Had I known how seriously ill he was, I'd have taken him in over the weekend.

Monday morning arrived and Elvis had just gone down hill. I'd made him a mush of his pellets over the weekend and repeatedly tried handfeeding him but he would have none of it. I was trying to get water into him by syringe but he would only take about 1 CC at a time. By the time I got him to the hospital, he was nearly in shock and severely dehydrated, combined with having a large gas pocket in his cecum (which is the portion of his bowel between the large and small intestine made to hold fiber for digestion).


This is Elvis, just laying on my lap. He felt so awful by this point, he didn't want to do much else. I would have much preferred him to be the feisty, active brat that he normally was.

 

 

The doctor hospitalized Elvis immediately and started him on fluids via a bone catheter as they couldn't get an IV into him, handfeeding, and began to treat what turned out to be mucoid enteritis (a mucous causing GI infection). At this point he was on two different antibiotics, an anti-gas medication, pain medication, and round the clock fluids via the bone catheter. He usually perked up after the pain meds kicked in but still produced no stool after the first night being hospitalized so he stayed another night in the hospital.

The second day, a GI motility drug was added to see if it would stimulate him to produce some feces. Apparently it worked, as he successfully defecated that afternoon and I was able to bring him home that night to see if he would improve more with home care and a quiet, familiar environment. I continued to handfeed every four hours, give his meds, and try to keep him hydrated. Hoping that the antibiotics were simply upsetting his stomach and causing him not to produce stool, I also added yogurt a few hours after every medication dose.

He still didn't improve much at all, so we opted for an ultrasound. This revealed a pocket of liquid in his scrotum which turned out to be a massive amount of pus, dead tissue, and floating sutures. His inguinal canal (a canal leading from the scrotum to the abdomen) was also open, presumably because the stitches had become undone. This was dangerous because it meant infection could seep into his abdomen and complicate things threefold. After flushing the scrotum, a drain was inserted to help the infection heal. This was attached to a vaccum tube (like they use to draw blood) and affixed to a sort of 'back pack' made out of vet wrap around his abdomen. He stayed that night at the hospital and came home with me in the morning.

When I got home from work the next day, there was not a drop of fluid in the vaccum tube. We took this as a positive sign and I took him into the hospital to have the drain removed and get him some fluids under the skin; Elvis was a lot more comfortable after getting rid of the back pack!

Here is a picture of his sutures, after the removal of the drain. He did very well and left them alone the whole time. I was so proud of him!

 

By now he was taking to handfeedings well and getting a lot more active. He was leaving his scrotal sutures alone, thankfully eliminating the need for an e-collar. He started fighting me when I tried to clean the area and give him medications, which I took as a very positive sign over just lying passively on my lap. He still wasn't drinking at all, so my vet showed me how to administer subcutaneous fluids and I began doing so daily.

Despite my best efforts, he began to drop weight. He was eating more Critical Care each feeding, but it wasn't enough to sustain him, apparently. Not long after, his scrotum swelled to almost twice the normal size. I took him back to the doctor and she reopened the scrotum to find it laden with thick pus and dead tissue. She soaked a piece of umbilical tape in antibiotic and sutured it into the area, with a piece sticking out to act sort of as a drain.

My vet approached me over the phone the next week, while out of town at a conference, with an alternative therapy. She mentioned there being great success in using honey for abscesses in rabbits. At that point, I was wiling to try anything she was comfortable with. Two days later I took him in to her partner practice (two hospitals, two locations, same practice.) to have the umbilical tape removed and try the honey. This was replaced with sugar the second time it was opened for cleaning, and a check for healing.

Elvis then developed a pink tint to his urine. His vet did a culture on the bacteria in his scrotum and it grew E. Coli, which was resistant to Sulfatrim. Thankfully she had put him on Gentimycin prior to the culture and it responded to that particular antibiotic. By this point, he had dropped from 596 grams to 521 grams. I stepped up the feedings from every four hours to every two hours and increased his fluid intake to help flush out his kidneys or his bladder, which ever was causing the blood in his urine.

A couple days later, they re-opened the sutures in his scrotum again and found much better results. The swelling had gone down tremendously and there was a minimal amount of pus. She continued the sugar therapy and coated the inside with table sugar, since it worked so well last time.

He kept dropping in weight so I let him eat as much as he wanted in a feeding. This amounted to about 21 CCs. We thought this would be fine - if he's hungry, let him eat.

But unfortunately we ended up dealing with a large amount of gas and even diarrhea because of it. If you ever have to handfeed your chinchilla, increase the amount slowly over time.

I took him in for an x-ray and she found an alarming amount of gas in his stomach and cecum. She decided to attempt to put a tube down his esophagus to try and relieve some of the gas. She was met with so much resitance, she gave up for fear of injuring the esophagus itself. She also gave me another antibiotic to fight the bladder infection called Chloramphenicol. I gave Elvis his dose late that night and he took it readily, swallowing with no difficulty.

I turned my back to clean the syringe and heard this awful sound. Elvis had regurgitated the medicine. He gagged about four times, bringing the medicine and a little food back up. In the past I'd been told it was impossible for chinchillas, rabbits, etc. to regurgitate at all and I panicked. I immediately paged his vet and she told me it's rare, but possible.

As the night progressed, Elvis began breathing heavily (about 1 and 1/2 times that of normal breathing and more pronounced) and generally looking horrible. After about an hour of this, I paged his vet again (near 2am) and took him into the emergency portion of the hospital. He seemed to improve during the trip and was a lot more active while he was there. I decided to leave him in an oxygen isolette for the night and went home.

He was there when I got to work the next afternoon (I began working at the vet hospital shortly after Elvis began his journey), and his doctor asked me to attempt another dose of the Chloramphenicol. I didn't even get .1 mL into him before he did it again. So we concluded that the medicine was the cause of the regurgitation and no longer attempted to give it to him. My only guess as to the difficulties of the night before was that he aspirated a bit of the medicine while regurgitating. I'm not sure, but I never want to go through that again.

September 9th, a month and two days after being neutered, his sutures were finally removed and the site was sealed with a surgical glue. He was still being handfed, still getting fluids daily, and still on anti-biotics but the worst was over.

September 10 was a huge milestone -- He got to take his first dustbath in a month!! We let him dig and play as much as he wanted and afterwards, he actually got out and ran around!



While sick, Elvis dropped down to under 480 grams from 600 grams. I continued giving fluids daily through probably October (I don't really remember, I did it for so long.). His urine test in early October finally came back without blood in it, and his liver values, despite all of the antibiotics, remained normal.

Some time around mid september, his right ear also started to kind of crinkle and die, almost as if his resources were concentrated elsewhere and it suffered loss of blood. It eventually fell off and it looks like someone took a bite out of his ear! I just call him my Tyson baby! I think it's sort of his mark showing what he survived.

It was a long, slow road but Elvis is finally back to his old self. I hand fed him into November and waited for him to get stronger, fatter, and more energetic. Now he's up to well over 600 grams, as strong willed and bossy as ever, but more loving than I'd ever thought he'd be. Nightly run times consist again of bouncing off the walls, running laps around the couch, and now he'll even climb to the back of the couch, and scramble up the front of me to cuddle on my shoulder.

I fought and won a nearly impossible battle with him, but all the money ($2300+) and heartache were well worth it. I have my baby back and then some for years to come, hopefully. All of the knowledge I gained has also enabled me to help other chinchilla owners, as well as be prepared for just about any illness that may come about. A reason for everything, they say ...

Don't forget to check out our new photo gallery for updated Elvis pictures!