Neurological Infection (Protozoa) in Chinchillas


PetMD Editorial

Published Jul. 7, 2010

Protozoa in Chinchillas

Protozoal infections are quite rare in chinchillas. Certain protozoa (single-cell parasites) cause a disease called necrotic meningoencephalitis. When chinchillas are affected with protozoal infection they exhibit signs of nervous system derangement due to inflammation of the brain and its associated membranes. It is difficult to diagnose protozoal infection and usually the confirmatory diagnosis is possible only after post-mortem examination of the brain tissue.

Protozoal infections in chinchillas are symptomized by lack of coordination, lethargy, lack of appetite, listlessness, weight loss, respiratory difficulty, thick yellowish nasal discharge and cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin due to lack of oxygen in the tissues). Usually the treatment is symptomatic with antibiotics and antihistamines for various symptoms. However, a general treatment directed towards the infecting protozoa is not possible. It is best to prevent the protozoal infection by maintaining hygienic living environment for your chinchilla. The food and water provided to the chinchilla should be fresh and free of any contamination.


  • Poor coordination
  • Inactivity
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the skin
  • Pus-like discharge from the nose


Protozoal infection in chinchillas is caused by certain protozoa that infect the brain and cause inflammation of the brain and its meninges.


Non-specific clinical signs exhibited suggesting nervous system involvement will make your veterinarian suspect apart from other causes protozoal infection also. However, a confirmation of the diagnosis is only possible during postmortem examination of the infected chinchilla when certain characteristic lesions may be observed in the central nervous system of the infected chinchilla. Isolation of the microbe from the brain of the infected chinchillas after postmortem examination also helps in confirming the diagnosis.


Treatment specifically directed against protozoal diseases in chinchillas is not practical. Some active infections are treatable with antibiotics. Symptomatic treatment to deal with the seizures and rhinitis may be provided by your veterinarian as a short-term relief.

Living and Management

Surviving chinchillas should be maintained separately and handled carefully. A well-balanced, fresh diet will help the chinchilla recover quickly.


Make sure that the food and water given to your chinchilla is fresh and uncontaminated. Maintain good sanitation and a clean environment inside your chinchilla’s cage to reduce the chances of protozoal infection.

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