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Here are a couple of stories about how diet changes may have helped chins dental health.
In January 2005 I noticed Basil (aged 2) wasn't eating his food properly. He was pulling funny faces and seemed to have difficulty chewing, so I caught him and had a look in his mouth. I was shocked to find his incisors overgrown and uneven. I immediately rang my local vet and took him down for an examination.
The vet had a look in his mouth and said his teeth had simply overgrown
and asked me to hold him whilst he used a pair of clippers to trim them!
Breaking one tooth down nearly to the base to my horror. He said things
should be fine now and sent me home with some antibiotic gel for the wet
eye infection that he appeared to have!
When Basil showed no improvement I posted a question about dental problems in chins on a chinchilla forum. I was advised ( by Donna! ) that an x-ray and a dental examination under anaesthetic would be the best course of action.
So I set about trying to find a vet with more knowledge about chins, who would be capable of doing this for me.
A week later Basil had his x-ray and dental and I was told Basil had malocclusion and his upper and lower roots were affected. The vet said they didn't feel they could treat Basil appropriately and suggested a referral to a specialist. Following this dental Basil still couldn't eat properly, so two weeks later we headed to an exotics vet in Manchester through this referral.
Basil had further x-rays and another dental procedure in March 2005 and a severe abscess was found in his mouth. He was put on pain relief and antibiotics. The vet told me that in the wild chinchillas forage and eat wild grasses and leaves etc. and that in order to wear the teeth down I should introduce greens into his diet and reduce the pellets I fed (as they have no teeth wearing properties). He stressed to me that these diet changes must be gradual, so his tummy didn't get upset!
So I took Basil home and he began to recover. I slowly reduced his pellets and started to introduce small amounts of fresh green foods e.g. cabbage, broccoli, beans, spinach, kale, coriander parsley, dandelion leaves, just about anything, except lettuce. Gradually increasing these foods and hay whilst reducing the pellets.
In November 2005 Basil had a further x-ray and dental check up. I was told there had been no further root progression! but the molars were still uneven and to try and increase the leafy vegetables even more.
So this I did and since January both Basil's eyes are now dry, he eats well, has gained weight and has a good quality of life. I monitor him daily for any signs of problems.
I am convinced that I would have had to have Basil put to sleep if we had not tried this diet. It is not a cure, but maintenance of a condition which can be kept under control. I don't know if Basil will have a normal life expectancy now, but I hope he does!
By Dawn (Dula) - Basil's mum
Update November 2006
Just thought I'd say hello and let you know the boys are fine. I weighed Basil yesterday and he is the fattest he has ever been -
a whopping 610g!
Its almost a year since his last dental and he's doing great.
By Dawn (Dula) - Basil's mum
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Here is Robin’s story. I’ve had him for 3 years now, he used to live with Simon but decided he wanted exclusive accommodation so has a cage all to himself, Simon having found another more friendly buddy to share with.
Back in March this year I started getting worried about my Beano (Robin…Robino… Beano – you see?) He was eating strangely, swiping his mouth with paw, making a real meal of his meals taking ages and leaving crumbs. He also seemed constipated and there were lots of undigested hay fibres in his droppings. I didn’t really know what to do, trying him on prune juice and raisins, neither of which worked. Also he was starting to really loose weight so things were not looking good.
So, it was off to the vets for Robin. She gave him an X-ray under anaesthetic and found he had a big ulcer on one side of his mouth and signs of malocclusion on his top jaw. Not good news. She said she’d clear his ulcer (debride it) to get rid of the infection but said there wasn’t much I could do about the malocclusion.
Round about this time I read on the Chins site about Donna’s experiments with dried vegetables. The idea is that they are closer to what our little guys eat in the wild – very rough fibrous food that keeps their teeth in check, wearing away at them as they chew. Maybe this would help him – definitely worth a try. Barbara my vet was initially sceptical but, like me thought it was worth a go. Robin’s weight had dropped from 530g to 440g over a period of 6 weeks.
So, I introduced all my chins to a new diet, easing them off the pellets and on to a healthy mix of carrots, potatoes, parsnip, broccoli and swede. Sounds a bit like the five veg a day healthy eating programme for humans doesn’t it?! The chins all seemed to love their new diet and for my 30th Birthday I was given a dehydrator so I could start to dry fresh veg myself
Robin started putting on weight – gaining 100g in three months and reaching 570gs in October. The only problem seemed to be slightly uneven teeth because of how he’d been eating earlier on with the ulcer. So back to the vets he went last month where Barbara evened out his front teeth and gave him a full check up – showing the ulcer has all but gone and there’s no noticeable root growth in his upper jaw – just the same as back in March.
I have to say, I am no chinchilla expert but did expect his teeth to be a little bit worse over the 6 months but it would appear perhaps his new diet is helping to match the rate of growth of his teeth.
By Melanie - Robin's mum
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Update July 2007
He has just been back to the vet again and his roots have not moved at all. So he's had two xrays since since the above was written and both his teeth are not moving