Chinchilla Leg Amputation

I guess I made up my mind to write up this article as at the time when my baby chin needed to get a leg amputation I could not find any good useful information online and from personal experience I can tell you that it was the most frightening life experience I had in quiet a long time and I think it would be nice to give some information to other chin owners on this subject to prepare them for the unfortunate event of chinchillas amputation and to give them a better understanding what will they have to go through to keep their chin alive and how to prepare for the worst case scenario.

What has happened to our little chin:
        On Friday night 4 weeks ago when we got back from doing our grocery shopping we found our chinchilla girl Spooky tangled up on the rope on her sleeping pouch.The rope was there to tie it up to the 3rd floor roof bars so in case the chinchillas were to move around a lot we could feel safe they wont fall down in the pouch from the third floor and hurt themselves,but it just so happened that somehow our chin got her leg tied up into 2 really horrible and strong knots that we had to use small pointy scissors to try and cut the knots off her gently strand by strand so we don't damage the leg a single bit and do it as fast as possible. It happened on Friday and we were looking for the progress of her legs recovery for the next while about less than half an hour after we freed her her leg swell up and it looked really badly bruised and it didn't look like there was anything else wrong with it it looked like she was limping and we knew it would take a while for her to heal on her own,but its just we are so paranoid about our babies that we made up our mind and arranged an appointment in Bairbre O'Malley's veterinary clinic in Bray as when we had to bring our dwarf hamster to the vet good few months ago she was the only vet who would see small animals such as dwarf hamsters so we really do trust her and had nothing but great experience in that clinic.

    When we brought Spooky over we were given two options to put her down or get the leg amputated as the leg has died completely from the circulation being closed off on the leg for about no more than an hour of her hanging on the ropes and it has gone gangrenous and infected in just 2 days and if we were to leave it any longer the infection could spread into her system and she could easily die tomorrow morning or maybe the day after,but our vet did mention that she would have not mention an amputation to us if she did not feel that Spooky would survive through it and still have a great life.So we chose to bring Spooky through the amputation as she is only 5 months old baby and even tho the operation and after care is pretty expensive we took the responsibility to look after our baby all her life and we cant go back on this promise,pets are their owners responsibility and sometimes we have to do big sacrifices for them like you would take responsibility if you were to have a child.So we went through the whole fear and moment of freak out and trying to digest that we will be raising a 3 legged chinchilla for in around next 20 years and signed the papers and left her at the vet to be operated on.

What to look for to start worrying about your chin chins legs:

1.Is it swelling up and looking as if its bruised (reddish to dark brown blackish color)?

2.Does the leg feels a bit cold almost like touching homebody's cold hand?

3.Have you noticed your chinchilla pulling at a leg or picking at it?(Sometimes it might look like the feeling in the leg is still there,but if the leg is dead you should really look for getting it amputated as soon as possible or your chinnie will start eating at it as soon as possible an could cause a lot of damage to itself or even die)

Before an amputation because Spooky was so young and small our vet needed to examine that she is all healthy and she was not sure will she do an operation the next morning or the morning after as the chinchilla has to be in great health and well hydrated and eat well before it goes under anaesthetic as they are so small and fragile so we were told to give a ring to the vets office the next day after 4pm to see how our pet is doing ,but before we left Spooky got her dose of medication and she was fed emergency food to make sure she gets enough food and water in her for a while.

We were fortunate enough that because Spooky was in great shape and ate well in the clinic so she went into the operation the next morning and it went successful and right after it she was still a bit sleepy from anaesthetic ,but she recovered from it fast and was bouncing around the cage like as if she never knew she had 4 legs before so after the operation she was able to come home in after next 24 hours as the vet wanted to make sure she eats well and poops well before she was to send her home.

When we came to pick up our baby we were given medication to feed the chinchilla that was in the price of the operation we got Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory to make sure she is doing well in next few days and hasn't got any discomfort or pain while she is recovering and we got emergency food mix to make sure she is eating for the time she is recovering as if her gut stops working she could be in a lot of trouble or even die.So we had to give her medication to her through a feeding syringe and her emergency food three times a day via bigger syringe and to be back in few days time for a check up to see how she is going on with the healing.

1st Check up: 
When we brought her over for the first check up she wasn't doing super well as she didn't feel well being in an emergency cage when she is used to having a big luxurious cage and her brother waiting for her in there so she was a bit down over it and nor did she eat her normal food too well as she used to so we had to give her the syringe emergency food to which she was not really a big fan of and she wasn't pooping as frequent as you'd want her to either ,but she would gladly eat emergency food for the vet.So our vet said she is doing OK she had put on a bit of weight which was a great improvement,but she gave us some medication for her gut and she told us to stop giving her the painkiller as she seems like she was not in any pain anymore and told us of few tricks that could work with feeding our baby chin the emergency food,but its all trial and error because chinnies have different tastes and attitudes :

1.Some chins prefer the emergency food mixture to be more runny than the others
2.Wrap up chin in a blanket of some sort so that it can struggle in the blanket ,but still not be able to escape is it would if you were to hold it in hands
3.Mix a tiny but of baby food in the chinchillas emergency mix just enough to give it a nice flavouring,but don't give it too much as they tend to be too sugary and chinchillas should avoid as much sugar as possible,but make sure there is no milk in the baby food.

We ourselves picked up a fruity baby food with carrots apples and parsnip as our chinnies have sweet tooth so we got a pack of organic baby food as it had nothing else added to it like sugar or lactose and it seems like it worked the trick for us now our chinnie is munching away onto it more gladly rather than running into her daddies hoody and hiding away from the evil formula.

2nd check up:
At this point every few days we have a check up just so our vet can see how is the healing progress going as Spooky is so small and she had to go through this operation and she want to make sure she is recovering as great as she possibly can and few days before the second check up we have noticed Spooky nibbling a bit not on the stitch line but on the side of it and it looked all red and sore and me being paranoid I was just freaking out that she will start bleeding or get rid of all the stitches herself and one morning we will find her laying there with all her guts out so we tough considering second check up is a day or two away we shall bring her there and tell our vet about our concern on the day as there was a chance spooky could stop nibbling on herself,but if it is to get any worse I would bring her in right that moment,but she seemed like she wasn't picking at it that much so we brought her on her second check up and there was a bit of small infection in around the area that our vet squeezed out and she gave us some antiseptic to bathe her wound in just to prevent any infections and make sure its healing OK and we were to come back in a week to get her stitches out.

3 weeks in the healing this is how she nibbled on the wound it looks much worse than it is and in around 5-6 weeks time it should heal up nicely.

The week the stitches were to come out: The week the stitches were to come out was the most frightening I guess for us because 4 days before they were supposed to be off she still kept picking at the wound and it still looked red,but wasn't bleeding so I have her some of the leftover painkiller we had left from post surgery and after 2 days she seemed like she was doing much better and didn't pick on it,but after few more days she started to pick more at it and it looked more sore and it really is frightening and really sore looking that you feel like you don't want to handle her just in case you make it any worse,but we still bathed her wound in the antiseptic to make sure it doesn't get infected,but when we brought her over to get her stitches off our vet reassured us it wasn't anything serious it just was a bit itchy for her so she was picking at it like we would scratch ourselves if something felt itchy so she gave us an antiseptic cream to make her cut heal faster and when she weighed Spooky it seemed like she was 8 grams less in weight then the previous check up so we were to try and feed her more often if possible to make sure she gets enough food in her and we are to come back in a weeks time for the next check up,but we were to treat her like we would our other 4 legged chinchilla now and she is able to go on her ramps and run around the place like she usually does so when we got back we put her in the big cage and to be honest she seems like she has livened up a little and instead of just sitting there and sleeping all day long curled up in the covers shes nibbling away from time to time and runs around the ramps and passes out on her favorite wooden log.

Last check up:
A week after the last check up we were to bring her again to see how her healing progress is coming along and this week she was the liveliest we seeing her for the first time after the operation.She seemed like she was fully on track and more crazier than ever ,but her cut was still there and we still put some cream onto it,but it was significantly getting much smaller than it was before.When we brought her to the vet she did an overall check-up and it seemed like Spooky was putting on some weight and she really truly was back to her normal self so there was no need to bring her for any more check ups really and our vet said it is safe now to give her sand baths that she loves so much ,but we must clean her wound with antiseptic and out some cream on top after every sand bathing she gets as the little cut is still there and we need to make sure it heals up OK,but apart from that its just a timing game until her cut finally heals up completely and hair grows back to cover up the area where operation was done.

I have to admit I was delighted to hear that our chin chin went through it all and in the end came out alive and happy she became even more affectionate with us ever since the operation and she is just the perfectest pet you can ever ask for after the operation which was a pretty scary experience for us ,but we were lucky enough we picked an experienced vet who we could trust to do an operation on our little girl and know she will be in bestest of care so I would definitely recommend Bairbre O'Malleys clinic to anyone with a small pet in need and for those not from Ireland if your chin is ever in trouble go that extra mile for them to find a vet who has worked with chinchillas and small animals before because the price you pay could be the life of your chinchilla and if somebody operated on a cat it doesn't necessary mean they'll be good at operating on a chinchilla.

[Update 05/06/ 2013] Spooky is still alive and doing amazing we haven't had a reason to bring her to the vet since and she can actually climb onto 3rd storey of her cage on her own without any railings or anything she genuinely can do anything that a 4 legged chinchilla can do if not even better and has learned to stand on her back paw holding onto the cage walls to ask for a treat :) I'm still happy we were able to pull her through the operation and that she still is entertaining us with her company every day!


  1. We know a chinny at the vets now who may have to have an amputation and we're going to adopt him. We already have four. So glad Spooky is happy and doing well. Thank you for your story it has helped us understand what having a chinny with an amputation is like. Best wishes to you and chinny hugs to Spooky.

  2. Replies
    1. I cant rember as it was few years back now,but she is very reasonable with the price of the amputation and aftercare, best bet is to call her and enquire about it over the phone I'd say.So I wouldnt stress over it being a fortune like we did back when it all happened.


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