The practice of spaying and neutering household pets, such as rabbits, cats, and dogs, has led a number of pet owners to ask: can chinchillas be sterilized?
It’s important to note right off the bat that neutering and spaying a chinchilla is a very dangerous procedure compared to other pets, and any potential surgeries such as this should be thoroughly discussed with your chinchilla’s vet, as they will know what is best for you and your chinchilla's specific case.
It is important to note that we are answering this question from the perspective of "Should you neuter your chinchilla?" rather than "Can you neuter your chinchilla?”
This blog will cover everything you need to know about the benefits, dangers, and alternatives you should take instead of neutering your chinchilla.
Is It Necessary To Neuter A Chinchilla?
Spaying or neutering your chinchilla is usually unnecessary, and cruel, and there is a risk that your chinchilla might suffer more harm from the procedure than any benefit it could possibly gain from it.
While preventing pregnancy and behavioral problems is a common reason to spay or neuter any animal, there are many steps that can be taken to curb these issues without an incredibly dangerous procedure, such as housing a male chinchilla and female chinchilla separately and training your chinchillas.
Cancer risk is also another common reason for small pets to get spayed. While not entirely out of the question, the cancer risk for chinchillas is much lower than for other animals around its size, which makes it another reason to avoid spaying or neutering.
In very rare instances, there may be times when an experienced exotic vet advises spaying or neutering your chinchilla for health reasons, such as any chance of reproductive disease in a female chinchilla. In these cases, we recommend speaking with your vet personally about the dangers vs. the benefits in your specific case.
Can You Spay A Female Chinchilla?
It is EXTREMELY dangerous to spay female chinchillas, and this should be avoided at all costs as it can be deadly.
The process of spaying a female chinchilla is much more invasive and takes longer to do than neutering, which is why it is a much more dangerous surgical procedure for them.
As mentioned above, occasionally reproductive tract disease or emergencies make neutering a female necessary, it is vital to find a highly experienced exotic vet that has done this procedure if it is absolutely necessary.
Can You Neuter A Male Chinchilla?
The procedure to neuter male chinchillas is only slightly less dangerous than the procedure to spay females. However, it should still only be done if there is an absolute necessity, such as an infection or injury.
The reason neutering a male chinchilla is dangerous is that their reproductive system is different from most animals.
While the testicles typically are on the outside of the body in most animals, chinchillas' testicles are inside the body surrounded by tissue, muscle, and fat. This makes removal a more lengthy and risky procedure that should be avoided.
At What Age Can A Chinchilla Be Neutered?
Typically the answer to this is from 6-9 months of age. Any younger and there’s an even higher risk for complications under anesthesia or the chance that the reproductive system hasn’t fully developed yet.
If medically necessary, chinchillas older than 8-9 can be spayed or neutered. It is important to keep in mind that the older a chinchilla gets, this procedure will become more dangerous to perform as elderly chinchillas have similar risks to anesthesia complications as baby chinchillas.
Are There Benefits To Neutering Chinchillas?
Typically, the only true benefits from spaying or neutering are in life-or-death situations where the procedure is only necessary for survival.
While some owners say that neutering their chinchillas has improved behavioral issues. However, many owners say that their behavior stays the same.
Preventing breeding is one of the few benefits to getting your chinchilla sterilized, but this is one of the most drastic steps to take for prevention oftentimes caging your opposite sex chinchillas separately and having playtime out of the cage at different times are the best steps to take.
Why Isn't Chinchilla Neutering Safe?
Neutering your chinchilla is unsafe for a wide variety of reasons, and as stated should only be done if medically required to save or prolong your chinchilla's life.
As mentioned above, the surgical removal of a chinchilla's reproductive system is lengthy and quite complicated to perform, even for someone who is an extremely experienced professional. Additionally, there is a high risk of one of the many complications that can occur during surgery.
The risk of neutering or spaying your chinchilla is not only in the procedure, however, as recovery time can take up to 12 weeks and many complications can happen in that recovery period even if you've done all the post-surgery precautions or care.
Common Complications Of Getting A Chinchilla Neutered
Below are some of the most common complications of getting a chinchilla spayed or neutered that owners have reported during both the procedure and the recovery period.
Since chinchillas are very small and delicate creatures, anesthesia can be a huge risk for them during any procedure. This is one of the biggest reasons to avoid any unnecessary surgeries such as spaying or neutering
The biggest concern for anesthetizing a chinchilla is them receiving the proper dosage. Since chinchillas are both very small and have fast metabolisms, this makes finding the correct dosage very complicated.
There have also been many reports from owners post-op of their chinchillas developing gut stasis, where the digestive system either slows down drastically or stops completely, after the surgery.
While an experienced vet knows these risks and how to mitigate them, they cannot fully eliminate the risks altogether.
Another considerable risk is your chinchilla developing shock due to a sudden drop in blood flow throughout the body. Shock in chinchillas is most times deadly and must be treated quickly.
If shock happens during surgery, your vet may be able to abort the procedure and treat your chinchilla immediately. However, chinchillas can display delayed shock and won’t show symptoms until they’re back home.
If your pet displays any of the symptoms of shock (lethargy, loss of appetite, cold to the touch), it is imperative that you contact your vet immediately and take them to a vet who specializes in emergency treatment.
The risk of infections is especially common in open castration (where the incision in the abdominal cavity is left open to heal on its own) on male chinchillas.
Considering that the surgical site lies so close to the bottom of the cage, infection is extremely hard to prevent, making neutering your chinchilla an unwise decision that should be avoided.
Infections can also be caused during a dust bath, where the dust lodges itself in the incision site and may not only cause pain for your chinchilla but also a high possibility of infection.
Signs of infection in a wound are similar in both humans and chinchillas, so if you notice the surgical site swelling, are having discharge or discoloration, or see pus seeping out, it is vital to take your chinchilla to the vet ASAP.
Chinchilla Removing Stitches
In many different surgeries, including closed castration and spaying, chinchillas removing their own stitches before the surgical site is healed is incredibly common and increases the likelihood of infection after surgery.
While there are a handful of things you can do to prevent your chinchilla from ripping out their stitches, it is better to avoid the need for stitches in the first place.
When a chinchilla has a multi-level cage and goes through a procedure like spaying or neutering, trauma to the surgical site from jumping up or down levels can cause hernias.
When your chinchilla gets a hernia, another surgery is usually required to fix it, starting the healing process and risks complications all over again which can be very stressful for both owner and the pet chinchilla.
Alternatives To Neutering Your Chinchilla
Now that you know getting your chinchilla neutered or spayed is most times unnecessary and runs the risk of too many complications, you may be thinking of what else you can do to prevent the common reasons for sterilizing a chinchilla, such as pregnancy or behavioral problems.
Identify the Sex of Your Chinchillas Properly
Before looking at any alternatives to neutering your chinchilla, it’s important to verify the sex of all of your chinchillas.
This is fairly simple to do yourself, but it’s also important to verify with a vet as they’re much more experienced in the process of sexing chinchillas. It’s important to do this process quickly to not stress out your chinchillas too much.
The best way to start with this is to lay them on their back somewhere comfortable, or hold them so that their stomach is facing you, then note the space between the chinchilla's genitalia and anus.
For males, there will be a considerable amount of space between the genitals and anus, and for females, there is little to none. You can also gently press upwards and if the genitalia moves, it is most likely a male.
House And Play With Them Separately
If you indeed find yourself having two chinchillas of the opposite sex, it is vital to house them in separate cages a reasonable distance away from one another.
Additionally, it’s incredibly important to make sure their routines are also different from one another so there’s no chance of them breeding when together.
In short, backyard breeding (breeding chinchillas that are not pedigreed) is extremely dangerous and can result in birth defects. This is why it’s so important to prevent your pet chinchillas from breeding with one another.
Train Your Chinchillas
Behavioral problems like other pets are another reason for many male animals to be neutered, but many of these issues can be solved by training your chinchilla.
While we have an article here on how to properly train a chinchilla, we will share the basics of training here.
Most times, bad behavior in chinchillas is a result of fear - so it’s incredibly important to be patient with your chinchilla and in some cases, be on their terms. The most common bad behavior is biting, and that is typically solved by training them to be comfortable with your hands around them.
Start by getting a chinchilla-safe treat ready and calling your chinchilla to you, laying your hand flat on the ground with your palm facing up, holding the treat either in your hand or right above it. Gradually you can do this process without needing the treat to reinforce the behavior.
In most cases, it is not necessary, and often dangerous, to neuter or spay your chinchilla unless this is a medical necessity, therefore it should be avoided.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to spaying or neutering chinchillas that have been offered, including viable solutions to the reasons why pet owners decide to spay or neuter their pets to keep them in good health.
Have Questions About Neutering Chinchillas Or Chinchillas?
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