What Are Roundworms in Chinchillas?
Baylisascaris procyonis is one of the most common types of roundworms to spread to other mammals. Chinchillas can be exposed to them by eating hay that is contaminated with microscopic Baylisascaris procyonis eggs, passed by mammals that have the roundworm, such as raccoons and dogs.
Chinchillas are known as hosts for a type of roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis. This means that ingested eggs are able to hatch and larvae can migrate around the body, but the worm will not reproduce in chinchillas and create new eggs like they would in dogs or raccoons. However, roundworms in chinchillas are considered a medical emergency and unfortunately fatal if ingested by a chinchilla.
Symptoms of Roundworms in Chinchillas
Larvae of Baylisascaris procyonis parasite in chinchillas will most commonly migrate to the brain and cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which can have associated neurological signs. Symptoms may include:
Ataxia (unsteady gait/lack of coordination)
Nystagmus (rapid eye movement)
Opisthotonus (stiff, craned upward neck/head)
Causes of Roundworms in Chinchillas
Chinchillas are exposed to Baylisascaris procyonis most commonly by ingesting hay or other foods contaminated with fecal matter with Baylisascaris procyonis eggs present.
How Veterinarians Diagnose Roundworms in Chinchillas
Your veterinarian will perform a fecal float which allows the eggs of a roundworm to be identified from a fecal sample. Diagnosis is only definitively made through isolation and identification of larvae. As roundworm larvae are typically found in the brain in chinchillas, definitive diagnosis can usually only be conducted after the pet has passed.
Treatment of Roundworms in Chinchillas
Since Baylisascaris procyonis roundworms are most often found in the brain of the chinchilla, there are unfortunately no effective treatments for them. Treatment is also limited by how far the infection has progressed by the time of diagnosis.
Recovery and Management of Roundworms in Chinchillas
There is no long-term recovery potential for chinchillas infected with roundworms. For these chinchillas, it is important to separate them from any other animals in the household and treat their symptoms to improve their quality of life.
The best way to prevent a Baylisascaris procyonis infection is ensure food and hay is not stored for your chinchillas anywhere that racoons or rodents can access them–since they will be the most common hosts of roundworms.
Roundworms in Chinchillas FAQs
Are roundworms contagious to other chinchillas?
Baylisascaris procyonis roundworms are not directly contagious from chinchilla to chinchilla. However, multiple chinchillas in a household can have the infection due to sharing an infected source.
Are roundworms contagious to humans?
Baylisascaris procyonis roundworms are not directly contagious to humans from chinchillas. However, roundworms that can produce eggs in chinchillas will shed these in their feces. If fecal matter is accidentally ingested by a human, they can become infected (but this is incredibly rare).
Featured Image: iStock.com/Savushkin
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