Q: Our 3-year-old chinchilla has developed a golf ball-sized swelling on one side of his jaw. It came up very quickly and was first noticed last night. He seems somewhat less energetic. We haven’t been able to observe his eating or droppings as of yet. We live in Manhattan, New York, and don’t have a veterinarian. Do you have a potential recommendation, if that’s what we need, or a way to search for one? I looked in a few chinchilla blogs, the vet listings are all out of the city and quite a ways away.
A: Fortunately, for you and your chinchilla, there are a number of excellent chinchilla veterinarians in New York City, particularly in Manhattan. As is the case for many of us who live in urban areas, we have a choice of veterinarians who have an expertise in exotic pet medicine.
Still, having choices of which veterinarian to see does not always make it an easy decision. You may worry about making the wrong choice or maybe you and the veterinarian just don’t see eye to eye on the care of your baby. Rather than picking a name out of a phone book or off a website, I always suggest personal recommendations.
If you have friends who have chinchillas or other small mammal pets, ferrets, rabbits or guinea pigs, ask them for recommendations. If you live in Manhattan, you may live in an apartment building with a doorman. Doormen always seem to be a wealth of knowledge for neighborhood recommendations. You can also ask the breeder or the pet store you obtained your chinchilla from, if they are located in your area. If you have a dog or cat and your veterinarian does not see small mammals, I would still ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. If you still cannot find a veterinarian, call up the local veterinary medical association also known as the “VMA.” They usually keep a listing of veterinarians who will see exotic pets.
I would suggest you try to find a veterinarian as soon as you can. Obviously, what you have observed on your chinchilla’s jaw is not normal. Chinchillas are prone to tooth disease that can lead to dental abscesses, so it is likely this is an infection due to incisor or cheek tooth disease. Although not an emergency, it is a condition that needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later.
The veterinarian will likely recommend a thorough physical examination, including an oral examination, possibly while your chinchilla is sedated. Your chinchilla will also need radiographs of the jaw and teeth. Finally, if there is dental disease, it is likely that surgery will need to be performed to remove this mass and correct any problems with the teeth.