Chinchillas, like other types of rodents, groom themselves meticulously. They keep their own fur clean and don't usually need assistance from their owners. However, male chinchillas can sometimes develop fur rings, which are painful rings of excess hair around their genitals, and they can't solve this grooming problem by themselves. Here are five things chinchilla owners need to know about fur rings.
What causes fur rings?
Your pet can develop a ring of fur around his genitals for a few different reasons. The most common cause is getting a female's fur on his genitals during mating. However, male chinchillas that live alone or are housed with male cage mates can also develop this condition. Fur that they or their cage mates have shed can get wrapped around the genitals where it tightens and becomes a fur ring.
What are the signs of fur rings?
If your male chinchilla shares a cage with a female, you need to check his genitals every few days for signs of fur ring formation. If your male chinchilla doesn't have access to females, you only need to do this examination about four times a year.
In between these regular examinations, pay attention to behavioral changes that could indicate fur ring formation. For example, you may see your male chinchilla grooming himself excessively, repeatedly trying to clean his genitals, or urinating frequently.
You may also notice stranguria, which means that your pet is only passing a few drops of urine at a time and struggling to do so. Chinchillas with fur rings may also seem lethargic and depressed and will lose interest in their food.
If any of these signs are present, pick up your chinchilla and examine his genitals for signs of a fur ring.
Why are fur rings a concern?
Fur rings can cause serious problems for your pet. If the ring of fur is tight enough, it will constrict your pet's urethra and lead to urinary retention. Urinary retention means that your pet isn't able to empty its bladder completely. When urine remains in the bladder, additional health problems like bladder stones or bladder infections can occur.
The ring of fur can also compromise the blood flow to your pet's genitals. Without sufficient blood flow, the tissue can become damaged and can even become necrotic (die). To avoid these complications, the fur ring needs to be removed as soon as possible.
How do you remove fur rings?
To remove your pet's fur ring, have a friend or family member hold your chinchilla. They should keep one hand around your pet's chest while supporting your pet's rear with their other hand. Apply a sterile lubricant to the area and then gently roll the ring off of the penis. If the fur comes off, no further treatment is required.
If the fur doesn't come off, don't try to cut it as doing so could injure your chinchilla. These stubborn fur rings will require veterinary attention. Your veterinarian will sedate your pet to make them more comfortable and will then carefully cut the ring of fur, taking care not to cut his skin.
Can you prevent fur rings?
There's no way to prevent fur rings from developing, which is why it's so important to be aware of the signs of this condition. As long as you notice the problem early, before your pet's urethra or blood vessels are compressed, fur rings are just an easily treatable annoyance.
Again, if your male chinchilla has a ring of fur around his genitals, try to gently remove it. If the fur ring won't come off, take your pet to a veterinarian at a facility like Metzger Animal Hospital for further treatment.