Syringe Feeding

syringeThere may be times in a chinchilla's life, when during a period of illness or surgical procedure they may suddenly refuse to eat voluntarily.

This can have a detrimental knock-on effect on the overall health of the chinchilla, and may adversely affect recovery times.

Many people provide little in the way of specialist nutritional support during this time, if any. The following articles aim to discuss the importance of syringe feeding (when appropriate) and how it can aid recovery.

Bubble - almost enjoying the food replacement!!

When is Syringe-Feeding Appropriate?

Syringe feeding is often recommended when there has been a lack of food intake for about 2 days or there has been a recent significant loss of weight (useful if you know your chinchilla's "normal" weight prior to illness).

However, in my experience, it is best to commence syringe-feeding as soon as a lack of appetite, droppings or weight-loss is noticed, in order to prevent digestive shut-down and total anorexia, as well as providing essential nutrients as soon as possible.


Why is Syringe-Feeding of Use?

During illness or surgical recovery most animals have increased nutritional requirements, yet may have no appetite or actually physically cannot eat.

This can cause their metabolic rate to slow down, which can slow healing, impair normal gut motility and depress certain organ functions.

During long periods of inappetance, all fat reserves are mobilised and the chinchilla\'s own tissue (muscle) protein is utilised to sustain it.

The metabolism of fatty acids to provide energy produces ketones (a metabolite), which would normally be excreted, but during periods of anorexia can cause a serious condition, called ketoacidosis. Syringe feeding may prevent this under certain conditions.

Syringe feeding also helps to stimulate normal gut motility, provides fluids and helps to stimulate the appetite.

Syringing glucose water alone may be adequate in the early stages of inappetance (to prevent hypoglycaemia) but it can be detrimental in cases of long-term anorexia as it can interfere with the liver's fat metabolism.

Bespoke syringe foods are avaialble from vets or online suppliers - such as:

Oxbow Critical Care

Supreme Science Revovery

Galens Garden NutriPowder

Using a coffee-grinder you can grind chinchilla pellets and hay into a powder, to which you can simply mix with water and syringe-feed as required.

Unsweetened canned pumpkin is liked by chinchillas and can be added to syringe formulas - in the UK it can be obtained from online American food stores.

(Probiotics are a VERY useful addition to homemade syringe-feeding formulas, as they help to re-colonise the gut with beneficial micro-flora, which is often unbalanced during periods of illness and medication)