Chipmunks are generally tough healthy animals who usually die of old age but as with any animal it is always possible they could get ill at any time. Below is a list of ailments that Chipmunks can suffer with:
I have added some pictures of health issues my Chipmunks have had. Just a warning some of these photos might be distressing so please don't look if it might upset you but i feel its good to have these photos so other owners will know what to look out for if their Chipmunk is ill.
1. Wounds and fractures/breaks of bone - The most obvious is wounds from fighting (these can include bite wounds on the body, loss of part or all of the ear in serious cases and a loss of the tail. The most serious wounds will need treating by the vet, any minor wounds will heal themselves. Loss of the ears or the tail will not affect the Chipmunk in any way and they will recover quickly. When a Chipmunk looses its tail or ears the area will first go black and then fall off, once its fallen off it will then heal itself. Loosing its ears will not affect its hearing, its only the flaps that gets damaged. With the tail once the end falls off the wound will close up but the fur won't grow back over the injury in most cases. The Chipmunk's tail is very delicate and can come off easily. The tail looks furry but underneath it has a thin skin bit which is an extension of the spine so also contains bone and nerves and that is what can get damaged. The fur can be stripped off the skin part. With a tail injury its a good idea to bathe it if you can with an antisceptic just incase of infection. If bitten badly on a front or back paw a Chipmunk can loose the whole limb or at best a toe depending how serious the injury. A loss of a toe won't cause any problem but if the leg/arm injury is serious and its badly mangled the limb will need amputation. If a whole limb is lost the animal will quickly adapt to three legs.
Chipmunks can occasionally break bones but this is rare but could happen with older animals who may not be as steady as they once were and just slip or being chased by another Chipmunk and then slipping. A broken leg or front paw will be held up so the animal will use three limbs to get around, they adapt quite well. Or it may be that the animal limps on the damaged limb but still uses it abit, if bone is coming out of the leg (a serious break) then it may need amplitating. A fractured pelvis may mean both legs cannot be used or sometimes the one leg. Chipmunks that have broken the pelvis cannot be used for breeding as the females will not be able to give birth even if the pelvis has healed, it may have healed distorted. If a minor break of a leg, front paw or pelvis does happen then confine the Chipmunk to a Hamster cage and give it extra calcium so it can build up the leg muscles again. It may take months to recover but should slowly get more active until it is using the leg enough to go into a larger cage. Hazel broke her leg after falling six feet when being chased by another Chipmunk. At first she would only use three legs but after several months in a Hamster cage she started to use all four legs again and very quickly it had completely healed, she could run on all legs and also climb perfectly fine.
Most serious of all is a fractured spine causing the hind legs to be paralysed, the animal will drag its legs and will not be able to climb. Putting the animal to sleep sadly is probably the only option and the most humane, the vet can x-ray to confirm.
Other wounds can be caused by it catching its skin on a sharp piece of mesh which then cuts the leg open or cause other injuries, these need treating as they can become infected and fly striked. Fight wounds are common with Chipmunks, they are very territorial animals which is why wounds from fighting are at number one on this list, it is probably the most likely health problem your Chipmunks will have if housed in pairs and especially groups. Most of mine are missing fur from fights on the rump, tail or the nose but these aren't serious injuries.
Pics below of various injuries of my Chipmunks. Pic one is Pearl with no ears. She was already like this when i bought her. It never affected her, she could hear fine and she was very friendly. Next pics Asriel's tail, this was bitten by Hermione and stripped of the fur and he also had two puncture bite wounds on the tail which luckly wern't too serious and didn't damage the tail nerves. After keeping the tail clean with salt water and an anti-septic the tail healed well and now nearly all the fur has grown back in. He was lucky it wasn't more serious. The tail can completely come off or could be stripped to the bone, with bone sticking out which will then die and fall off. Pic two shows Asriel's bite wound. Pics three, four and five shows the stripped fur from underneath. Pic six is Abigail's broken foot, you can see her left foot sticks up when she sits, she can't spread out the toes and she climbs using three legs. Her foot was like this when i got her and as she gets older although she can still get around quite well, she does struggle when climbing as she can't grip with that foot. Its likely she will be prone to arthiritus as she gets older. These next pictures are Bailey's foot. Unfortunately not long after i bought Bailey he was in a fight and got bitten on one toe which fell off. Pic seven shows all his toes, you can see the toe which is now missing is black in this pic, day after this pic it had fallen off. I first thought the blackness was dirt where he had been digging in the compost. Pic eight shows the toe now missing. Next are all minor injuries. Pic nine Isabella, fur missing on nose, three of mine have had nose injuries, this is very common when fighting, they heal quickly but the fur takes a very long time to grow back. At first there was a small cut but this healed very quickly and all she was left with was a bare patch of missing fur, the fur has now grown back. Last pic shows Nutkin's rump patch where fur is missing this has also now grown in. , Nutkin only had the fur pulled out but they can also get bite wounds here which could become infected so watch out for that.
Infections can be very serious, a sign of infection is a smell from the wound, the wound looks wet, has pus coming out of it, is warm to the touch. If a wound becomes infected it needs vet treatment, Baytril will probably be prescribed. With infections they can spread into the bloodstream and reach the internal organs and cause kidney failure and heart failure.
2. MBD - Metabolic Bone Disease (a new disease to me) MBD is caused by a calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency which is a lack of calcium, is caused by an unsuitable diet, this could be too many nuts/sunflower seeds which are high in phosphorus, low in calcium. A lack of fruit, vegetables in the diet, a lack of Vitamin D or caused by all of the above.) If an animal has a lack of calcium the body takes the calcium from the bones which causes them to become weak. It can also be caused by a lack of Vitamin D in the diet. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and if the Vit D gets too low then it causes the body to lose calcium which then causes MBD. Natural sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D but indoors with no adequate sunlight the Chipmunk will get all the Vit D from its diet so Vit D in the diet is very important and the use of a Full Spectrum Reptile light can also help provide Vit D but be careful it is the correct one. Thanks to Doghouse who i have spoken to on UK Chipmunk Owners forum for making me aware of this condition and to The Squirrel Board for their detailed infomation on how to treat. Squirrels and Chipmunks have a very high calcium need than other rodents and this is why Chipmunks are Exotic Rodents and need specialist diets. MBD can take months to reverse and months to develop in the first place but it can also happen in just a few days. Symptoms of the disease generally are lethargic (sleeping all day), wobbily walking, tiredness when out of the nest, damage to the bones/fractures, fur loss/thinning, loss of appetite, not eating, not drinking, seizures, paralysis and eventually death. I believe Pearl was saved from dying from this disease just in time (her symptoms were falling asleep all the time even though she had slept a long time already, seizures which we never saw thankfully, unconsciousness, cold to the touch, slow breathing (barely there, looking dead), her coat was very patchy and looked rough, some also lose fur, once warmed up she was very shaky in her legs, warming up took anything from 5 minutes to 30 minutes) It took two months before she stopped having seizures but they gradually reduced until they were down to once a week, at worst she had three in a week. since December 2008 she was improving day by day, she became more active much more and was stronger at climbing and running about january 2010 she had one relapse where she had a seizure but then she went back to normal and i never saw any more relapses, she recovered i'd say about 95%. On the chipmunk forum i wrote about Pearl's terrible ordeal. We took Pearl to the vet five days after we discovered she wasn't well, the vet gave us a calcium supplement - Nutrobal to sprinkle on her food which she had for several months until it was used up. Then i grated cuttlefish once a week on her Chipmunk food to make sure she got enough. From the chipmunk forum and another forum The Squirrel Board we discovered about what diet to feed her. The combination of removing nuts and sunflower seeds from the diet and adding more fruit to it, yoghurt and the calcium supplement aided to her recovery as well as having restricted movement in a Hamster cage to avoid bad falls.
Chipmunks need a diet that contains both Phosphorus and Calcium but when the Phosphorus level is higher than the Calcium this is when you can get problems such as MBD. Too much Calcium can also cause problems but this is rarer than too little. Once a Chipmunk has suffered from a Calcium deficiency they could be prone to relapsing.If you suspect that your Chipmunk has MBD then you will need to start treatment straight away this disease is often fatal if not treated quickly. The Squirrel Board has essential information about what to do and what diet is needed to treat the condition, they are experienced Squirrel rehabbers and see many cases of MBD which some Squirrels don't make it but they have many successes. The diet will need changing, check The Squirrel Board for good diet information. A Chipmunk with MBD cannot regulate its own temperature so needs to be kept warm by using a heat pad or a sock filled with rice which has been warmed for 30 seconds in a microwave or a hot water bottle. It will need regular calcium given throughout the day and night and as the Chipmunk recovers this will gradually need to be reduced but has to be done very slowly otherwise you can get a relapse. Vets can x-ray the bones to see how much bone marrow has actually gone and also give you a better idea of what dose you need and in bad cases you might be able to see yourself the legs are very weak and skinny. Also it needs to be removed from the aviary or its normal cage into a small Hamster cage or small carrier this is because a fall could cause the bones to break.
Chipmunks need a diet that contains both Phosphorus and Calcium but when the Phosphorus level is higher than the Calcium this is when you can get problems such as MBD. Too much Calcium can also cause problems but this is rarer than too little.
Once a Chipmunk has suffered from a Calcium deficiency they could be prone to relapsing.If you suspect that your Chipmunk has MBD then you will need to start treatment straight away this disease is often fatal if not treated quickly. The Squirrel Board has essential information about what to do and what diet is needed to treat the condition, they are experienced Squirrel rehabbers and see many cases of MBD which some Squirrels don't make it but they have many successes. The diet will need changing, check The Squirrel Board for good diet information.
A Chipmunk with MBD cannot regulate its own temperature so needs to be kept warm by using a heat pad or a sock filled with rice which has been warmed for 30 seconds in a microwave or a hot water bottle. It will need regular calcium given throughout the day and night and as the Chipmunk recovers this will gradually need to be reduced but has to be done very slowly otherwise you can get a relapse. Vets can x-ray the bones to see how much bone marrow has actually gone and also give you a better idea of what dose you need and in bad cases you might be able to see yourself the legs are very weak and skinny. Also it needs to be removed from the aviary or its normal cage into a small Hamster cage or small carrier this is because a fall could cause the bones to break.
If your Chipmunk suddently becomes lethargic especially if it is sleeping more than usual or is found unconcious or you see any signs above suspect MBD, add some nutrobal you can buy it in Pets at Home reptile section to the Chipmunk mix. If it is a calcium problem the Chip should show improvement quickly if it turns out not to be a calcium problem giving the supplement won't of hurt it. It also won't harm any other Chipmunks eating the food. This will only work if the MBD is caught very early and the Chipmunk is still able to eat by itself. If the Chipmunk is unable to eat by itself then it will take dedicated nursing to get it through MBD, you will have to syringe feed it every day and night for 8 weeks.
The first day it will need 600mg of calcium, feed little and often i did every half hour. Then that first week it will need 500mg daily. After week one the amount can be reduced slightly each week, week two 250mg and by week three it should be about 100mg daily and that dose continues until week eight.
You can crush a plain Calcium Carbonate pill (without Vit D) and add two tee-spoons of warm water and syringe feed it as mentioned above or Tums can be used the same way as the calcium carbonate pills.
I got the above information from TSB.
But if you actually see the Chipmunk seizuring the Chipmunk is very near death and the situation is desperate, an injection of calcium at the vet is the quickest way of getting it into the system or if you can't get to a vet immediately you will have to use the treatment above but will have to give extra doses until the seizuring stops.
If the Chipmunk cannot eat or drink by itself it is also critical they really quickly lose weight and can end up dehydrated. If dehydration happens (you can test this by pinching the skin at the back of the neck if it doesn't go down immediately the Chip is dehydrated) then you have to syringe feed pedyte made with warm water and three tee-spoons of sugar and one tee-spoon of salt, flavour with fruit juice. Keep giving pedyte until the skin is back to normal then don't give no more, pedyte is dangerous if given longer then 24 hours. For food baby food and yoghurt or a puppy milk formula like Lactol are good these will also need to be syringed fed. Never mix pedyte with anything else.
The pics below and videos show Pearl when she had MBD, these pics and videos are really distressing so just a warning. Pic one shows Pearl while not having a seizure, when she was inbetween seizures. Here she would behave normal, eating and drinking. Her patchy coat is a common sign of MBD. Here she was obese, it was a month after i got her Oct 2008. Pic two is Pearl after having a seizure in Nov 2008. Here she is unconcious. Pic three is Pearl after having a seizure, she is still unconcious and was just laying there.
Video one - Pearl is lying on a table unconcious. Video two i'm holding her, shes still unconcious but twitching. Video three she is coming round but moving wobbly. Last video she is coming round but more alert now but still wobbly.
I have moved MBD to second place because i really do believe after fighting its the most likely ailment your Chipmunk could get and before i had it way down the page and it might of been missed if someone didn't read the whole page and being so important its essential every Chipmunk owner knows about it.
3. Upper Respiratory Infection
I have had a lot of problems with Upper Respiratory Infections and know several owners of Chipmunks that have also had Chipmunks with the infection so I have put it near the top of the Health problems for Chipmunks. Most Chipmunks affected have been young babies they seem more prone than adults. These infections are not usually fatal as long as treatment is sought as soon as possible before the infection becomes Pneumonia. Upper Respiratory Infections can be stubborn to eradicate. The most common symptom is clicking or abnormal sounds when the Chipmunk is breathing. There can be minor infections with a little bit of clicking or major infections where the Chipmunk clicks with every breath. The illness also seems to progress the longer it goes on so minor cicking can become major clicking. This clicking is due to the Chipmunk having difficulty breathing, because the nose is bunged up with mucus and the lungs also are blocked with mucus. Very often due to the increase in breathing and general difficultly there is very noticable trembling/shaking of the body, it looks very like shivering. Other symptoms I have seen have been lethargy this is very common, the Chipmunk will become withdrawn and sleep almost all the time, in more milder cases the Chipmunk can remain active. There can also be a loss of appetite and refusal to drink if this happens you will have to force feed the Chipmunk water and food as it could get dehydrated, the Chipmunk can also lose weight from not really eating and may also have a very rough fluffed up coat. This is not something that is going to get better without anti-biotics from the vet - Baytril is the most common used and it can be administered for 5-7 days or longer depending how bad the vet feels the infection is. The vet will either tell owners to put it in the Chipmunks water or syringe it directly into the Chipmunk's mouth. It is VERY IMPORTANT not to stop giving the anti-biotic even if the Chipmunk appears fully better the full dose prescribed by the vet must be given otherwise the Chipmunk will likely relapse. The infection is HIGHLY contagious, any infected Chipmunks must be separated and all treated, the chances of the rest of the Chips the ill ones have been living with also being infected is high, infact I have found the rest rarely escape it unless separated as soon as symtoms are noticed even then there is no guaratees. Hygeine is very important to remove the infection and prevent spreading, you need to disinfect anywhere the sick Chipmunks have been. This infection can also survive in the environment for sometime meaning other Chipmunks can be infected weeks after the first one gets sick or maybe months later. As well as regular disinfecting of the sick Chipmunk's cage you also need to be careful not to spread the infection on your clothes, skin and shoes. Having one set of clothes and shoes for the sick Chips and another for the well animals might be a good idea, it is likely us owners can spread the infection on our clothes and shoes. It may also be able to be transferred through the air. I remove any sick Chipmunks to a separate room so they are isolated from any other Chipmunks. It is importment to keep any ill Chipmunks warm as they can't regolate their body temperature so well. There can be several causes of infection - stress is probably very likely, when Chipmunks get stressed they can be prone to gettting ill, it can be caused by exposure to dampness, changeable weather in particular is thought to be a trigger especially dramatic temperature changes. Other possible causes is from exposure to mold, either moldy damp bedding or from eating moldy food probably it is caused by inhaling dust from bedding as well. Drafts and a build up of amonia in the enclosure may also be triggers. So the best way to reduce the likinhood of Respiratory Infections is good hygeine in particular keeping where the Chipmunk goes to the bathroom clean and also removal of any dusty damp hay or other bedding and removal of any food that has gone moudy, not having over-crowding, try and not keep too many Chipmunks in one cage or aviary, infections spread rapidly in these conditions. Also thoughtly fully disinfecting the aviary and accessories once or twice yearly.How quickly the Chipmunk will recover is due to how bad the infection is, how well it responds to treatment, how quickly you can get treatment and other factors such as stress . It can be very debilating and some Chipmunks may feel so miserable they just give up living most will make a full recovery. As well as Upper Respiratory Infections Chipmunks can catch a cold from humans, If you have a cold it is probably best to keep away from your pet. Chipmunks can not pass on colds or Respiratory Infections to humans or other animals this is because most animals have their own strains of colds and Respiratory Infections. Pneumonia, can be caused by draughts and poor ventilation or Upper Respiratory Infections being left too long without treatment. The vet can prescribe antibiotics.
Below is a photo of one of my babies who had the infection bad.
4. The lean in Dilute White Chipmunks - The lean is not something I know a lot about and there is no information about it in books but from what other Dilute White owners have said it does seem to be fairly common, possibly more common than we know, some owners may not realise their Chipmunk's have it. The lean is not illness it is a genetic issue and it appears it can be passed on through breeding it may also skip generations so you may not know at first your Dilute has it in his/her genes. It is thought the gene first appeared through inbreeding many years ago, now due to out-crossing with Agouti's and generally healthier breeding it is not as much as a problem as it used to be. It can affect each Chipmunk differently, some can be severely affected constantly walking, running or jumping round in circles sometimes until they get dizzy, this is not the same as circling through Stereotypical Behaviour (see further down) because it is something they do all the time not through stress from lack of space. The next form of lean is rocking side to side when stationary and the least worse form is they appear to have a head tilt, this can be slight or much more noticable and is usually when the Chipmunk is stationary. The first Dilute I had with a lean was my very first Dilute Chipmunk Creamie, she had quite a severe head tilt but I didn't know what it was at the time.Now I think one of this year's Dilute babies does has a milder form, plus I think my Asriel may have it in his genes, I don't remember last year's baby Dilutes being affected and the rest of my Dilute adults don't appear to have it. Neither does the other Dilute boy from this year's litter. It may be possible some Dilutes develop it in later life but it may be seen from a very young age. Dilutes with any form of the lean should not be bred from, there is a very high chance some if not all babies in the litter could be affected or if not babies in future litters, It could then be passed on generations. In time it is hoped the lean will be eliminated but for now it still seems to be a issue in pure-bred Dilutes and Dilutes from Agouti parents. It only seems to affect Dilute White Chipmunks. Chipmunks with a lean can live a good long healthy life, Creamie in fact was my oldest ever Chipmunk despite her severe head tilt, I had her 9 1/2 years and she was not a baby when I got her so probably was between 10 - 10 1/2 years old when she died from old age.
5. Overgrown teeth - not usually a problem but as their teeth continually grow all their life they need to wear them down and if this doesn't happen then the animal is prevented from eating. The only way to solve this problem is to take the Chipmunk to the vet and have them clipped and to prevent it happening again by giving more hard food. This problem normally is caused by the Chipmunk not eating enough hard food in it's diet. Don't worry if the teeth are orange/yellow this is normal for Rodents.
6. Misaligned teeth - this is caused by a fight or an accident which damages the Chipmunk's jaw misaligning the teeth. The teeth instead of meeting in the middle of the mouth, grow at an angle into the opposite jaw. As the teeth cannot meet properly the upper incisors eventually grow into the bottom jaw and the lower ones into the upper jaw. The Chipmunk can die from this as it will no longer be able to eat. The teeth will need regular clipping at the vets or by you once the vet has shown you how to do it properly which could prove quite stressful, the vet will probably suggest putting the animal to sleep but if you can clip the teeth yourself and the Chipmunk is not too upset then i wouldn't put it to sleep. A tooth could also get broken in a fight or an accident which again would affect the alignment meaning they wouldn't meet properly. This can also be caused by the Chipmunk biting the bars of the cage, my Pearl did this snapping the top teeth and also misaligning them, I think her teeth were weakened due to M.B.D. You can see in the pics below. Healthy teeth should be yellow but Pearl's were going white a sign that she was ill. She sadly had alot of different things at once, she was our most unhealthy Chipmunk ever and sadly she didn't make it this time it was too much for such a small animal. In the second pic i am using a wooden peg to open her mouth so i could get a good look.
7. Tooth infections. The first sign of an infected tooth may be an abscess which will appear on the Chipmunk's cheek. See Abscesses below. The Chipmunk may also be reluctant to eat or may eat on one side of the mouth. An infected tooth will need removing by the vet as the infection could spread to other parts of the body and the Chipmunk will need anti-biotics to clear up any infection which may have spread. The tooth opposite the removed tooth will need regular clipping. I think the removed tooth would eventually grow back.
8. Diarrhoea or Constipation - Diarrhoea is usually caused from eating too much green food such as lettuce or fruits, this can usually be solved by reducing green foods and fruit. The Chipmunk should be taken to the vet if it is discovered to have blood in the droppings, this could mean it's caught an infection which could cause death if left untreated. Animals with loose droppings or diarrhoea could be at risk from Fly Strike (see below). The opposite of Diarrhoea is Constipation, this can be where the intestines get blocked by something, possibly unsuitable bedding and it stops the Chipmunk passing droppings. To treat this condition bedding should be changed to a suitable bedding and greens and fruit given in larger amounts.
9. Injuries to the cheek pouches - caused by the Chipmunk placing sharp objects into the pouches which could cause an infection or a possible bite wound from another Chipmunk. See Abscess below.
10. Abscesses. An abscess is an infection which can develop from a bite or an infected tooth. An abscess will come up as a swelling in the area. If left untreated an abscess can burst if the Chipmunk scratches it and the pus could be swallowed. The Chip may scratch because it irritates them. The longer left without treatment the less chance of treatment being successful and there is a chance of the infection spreading and septicaemia - blood poisoning, especially if the Chipmunk eats the pus. This can lead to renal and heart failure and eventual death. The vet will first prescribe antibiotics Baytril to treat the infection for a week to see if the swelling goes down. It may require surgery if the antibiotics do not work. Under anaesthetic the vet will cut into the abscess and drain the fluid inside. Anaesthetic will be more of a risk for older Chipmunks than young ones but is always a risk for any small animal. With abscesses some may heal with just anti-biotics but most times the abscess will need surgery, the abscess heals best when open so it can drain.
Pics of Hazel with abscess below, Hazel injured her cheek pouch when a sharp seed cut into the delicate pouch lining, this then got infected and caused an abscess. First pic was before treatment, the pic is not very clear but it came up like a lump which looked like hoarded food in the pouches at first. Pic two was during treatment (anti-biotic Baytril) you can see the lump has gone down in size. She did improve at first but it did return and this time it was bigger it almost covered her whole cheek and was blocking one eye. This third pic was after it had got worse (big enough to block eye) but in this picture its getting better again.
11. Heatstroke - if a Chipmunk gets too overheated it can suffer from what is called Heatstroke. It can die of this if not treated rapidly, the Chipmunk's movement will be affected, it may collapse or have seizures and if not cooled down quickly it's heart will fail. If heatstroke occurs the Chipmunk will need cooling down straight away by wetting it with cold water until it shows signs of recovering. Once this happens dry it's coat placing the animal in a draught-free but cool room. Be careful it doesn't then get chilled, hyperthermia can be just as dangerous as heat stroke. Once the Chipmunk has cooled down it should return to normal behaviour. Heatstroke is prevented by making sure that the cage is out of direct sunlight and having shady areas in the aviary if outside.
12. Fleas, Lice, Mange, Worms and ticks - not generally a problem if the pets are housed indoors but if outdoors they could be more likely to occur in Chipmunks. These pests could be passed from a cat, dog or wildlife that come up to the aviary (particularly fleas). Fleas will cause a dull coat which as the animal scratches will result in sores on the skin and patches of fur being pulled out. There wil also be black specs in the fur which will go red on wet tissue paper. In rare cases animals can be allergic to fleas which could cause extreme discomfort and a severe loss of fur. The animal will constantly scratch. Ticks are grey and quite large and bury into the animals skin and suck its blood, its best the vet removes these as if done incorrectly the jaws can be left in the skin which can cause poisoning. Mange is a skin condition which causes hair loss and scabs, there are two types with one being more serious, one can pass to people so be careful when petting your pet. Ringworm can be in damp musty hay it causes flaky skin and loss of fur, although called Ringworm it is a fungal infection. I think Ringworm can also pass on to humans. If the Chipmunk has Ticks it will need to be taken to the vet to kill these parasites.
Flea treatment for small animals is available as a small pipette which you squeeze onto the skin on the back of the animals neck or you can buy a small animal flea spray. I wouldn't use cat or dog treatments on Chipmunks as the chemicals may be too strong. Or you could get an insecticidal shampoo for small animals, these treat fleas, lice and mites. Never use a Cat or Dog Flea shampoo it will be too strong for a small rodent. You can buy these treatments at a pet shop or you could take the Chipmunk to the vet and get it treated there. These pests are external except for worms which are internal. Worms can affect cats and dogs, i don't know if Chipmunks can get worms but could be possible if a chipmunk ate a wild mouse as these often carry these parasites especially tapeworm they get from fleas. Or very likely if your Chipmunk has Fleas, Fleas carry tapeworm eggs. They may also get it by eating tapeworm eggs which are passed in droppings by a Chipmunk or other animal. if they can get worms there are different types of worms to be aware of, most common are Tapeworm and Roundworm but there are others. Some worms live in the intestines and will cause the animal to loose weight and develop a pot belly. Other worms suck blood in the intestines or cause damage to the heart, any of the organs or the brain. Any of these worms may cause weight loss, sickness, respiratory problems, a pot belly or anaemia. Worms are not found in any of the Chipmunk books i have so i cannot be sure if they can affect Chipmunks at all. The bottom line is that if a Chipmunk has any of these parasites they will need getting rid of.
If one Chipmunk has parasites chances are the whole group will also so all the animals will need treatment and the cage thoroughly cleaned to remove parasites from environment. Most Fleas don't live on the animal, for every flea on the animal, another 100 are in the environment and if indoors in carpets and in furnature. Just treating the animal will not get rid of fleas, the environment must also be treated, if indoors a Flea powder specifically for carpets would need to be used. Treating both the animal and environment will stop the flea cycle so no new eggs can be laid and any larve in carpets can't develop into adult fleas.
A product that other owners recommend is Diatomaceous Earth, it is effective against fleas and other parasites, can be used on Animals, around the house on carpets and furnature or can be dusted in cages and aviaries. It is safe for all pets and humans.
13. Stereotypical Behaviour - not a problem unless the Chipmunk is not housed correctly and doesn't have enough space to exercise. A Chipmunk will develop a behaviour that it will repeat for hours such as running in circles or somersaults. Once developed this behaviour is difficult to break, its best prevented. Its best if the Chipmunk has lots of things to keep him or her occupied aswell as a suitable area to live, this should prevent this behaviour. Chipmunks housed in Hamster cages are likely to develop this behaviour which is caused by stress, this could kill the chipmunk and will certainly make its life miserable. Sometimes this behaviour is reversible but not always, sometimes it never goes fully away but may reduce if the Chipmunk is housed in a larger enclosure.
14. Eye problems - Chipmunk eyes can be irritated by unsuitable sawdust or dust from hay or other bedding getting into the eyes or a chest infection which could cause a discharge. The eyes can develop Conjunctivitis or Cataracts and should be treated by the vet. Use woodshavings, wood cat litter or bark chippings in the cage. Be careful about using airfresheners and other aerosoles and other household products that can be breathed in by Chipmunks and do not smoke in the same room as a Chipmunk. All these things could lead to Respiratory Infections, trouble breathing or eye irritation. Sometimes a Chipmunk can get a sticky eye, where one eye may be half closed or fully closed, will be watery sometimes with a discharge and may be red around the eye. The best thing to do is bathe the eye gently with some water and cotton wool (this can be difficult unless the Chipmunk is tame). Sticky eyes should not last long and are similar to what people can get when they wake up tired in the morning, if symptoms persist longer than a week it would be best to take the Chipmunk to the vet incase the eye is infected. Sometimes a Chipmunk will become blind or part blind, this is normally with old age as they develop cataracts or they could in rare cases be born with blindness. Chipmunks can cope with loss of sight as long as the cage is not re-arranged so they know where to find everything.
Pearl had a sticky eye which i have some pics of below (sorry not good quality). Her right eye was watery and red and she was squinting it alot and only opening it half way. Her eye got better quite quickly, i bathed the eye with water on cotton wool daily and it soon had cleared up.
Pearl when very sick, right at the end of her life, her right eye was weaping a white liquid and soon after her left eye went blind. Two pics of this below. Weaping eye pic one. Blind eye pic two. (eye is no longer shiny, its cloudy, glazed over and sticky.)
One of my past Chipmunks Creamie also went blind in one eye.
15. Tumor - there are two types of tumours benign and the malignant. benign tumours can be removed at the vets and are not cancerous but malignant tumours are more serious (cancer). Cancerous tumors can be removed but can spread to other parts of the body unfortunately, these are the worst types of tumour as there is often no permanant cure and the animal may need to be put down. White Chipmunks are more likely to get sunburn and can get skin cancer on their nose or ears. Females may get mammary tumours and males testicular cancer. Seizures could be a sign of a tumour in the brain.
16. Hibernation and Torpor - if your Chipmunk is outside then it will probably hibernate most or possibly all of the winter. Before allowing it to hibernate it must be a good weight, and it must have nestboxes that are frost-proof, the Chipmunk must have some form of shelter during the Winter like a converted shed or wooden House similar to what we have. The temperature must not go below freezing in the nest boxes, ensure extra food and bedding is available in the autumn to avoid Chips fighting over food and for Chipmunks to build up a store incase they need to hibernate. If there are sudden frosts the Chipmunks can get frost-bite and lose limbs or get Hyperthermia. If the Chipmunk gets Hyperthermia it will die within minutes unless it can be warmed up. Some Chipmunks may hibernate in the ground in burrows they dig. It is best not to let young animals hibernate as they may not have had time to put on enough weight before winter especially if born late Summer or early Autumn. Chipmunks may hibernate from october right through to march the next year. On mild days they may be active. Indoor animals will not usually hibernate but sometimes go into Torpor. Last Winter I had two indoor Chipmunks enter Torpor - Asriel and Nugget my oldest males, they generally entered Torpor about once a week, the rest of the time they were sleeping \normally and were active every day. I had never seen my Chipmunks enter Torpor before so it was quite scary especially when they first wake up from a period of Torpor. My boys when they woke were still half-asleep and it was like they were drunk how they were wobbling to the side while trying to walk, their eyes were closed during this time they also were shaking and trembling. Once they were awake though they acted perfecly normal. I don't know what triggered them to go into Torpor some owners think the older Chipmunks are more likely to enter Torpor or hibernate than the youngsters and it is possibly due to the shortening of daylight that causes it. Indoor Animals can still sense this. When a Chipmunk hibernates or enters Torpor it's heartbeat will go down to a couple of beats a minute and it's temperature will drop, this will make it appear dead. A hibernating Chipmunk or one in Torpor can be woken up by being warmed in the hands or near a fire and then placed in a warm room. It's rare for indoor animals to hibernate but if housed in a cold area they may do as it nears winter, they can be woken up by the method above. Like outdoor Chipmunks they can hibernate the whole winter or for odd days. Waking up outdoor animals is not recommended once they are asleep for the winter. I would leave indoor Chipmunks to hibernate and enter Torpor as well if they are healthy and in good body weight they do this naturally in the wild so are unlikely to come to harm.
17. Fly Strike - more likely in the summer. Rabbits and Guineapigs are the most susceptable as they are producing more droppings than most other rodents, but theres no reason it couldn't affect Chipmunks so i thought it's best to mention. Flies will only be a problem in outside aviaries but should be reduced by keeping the aviary clean as much as possible. Flies are attracted to the droppings and urine and then lay eggs which hatch out into maggots and eat the droppings, if they get on the animals they then eat them or another way it can happen is if the flies lay eggs directly onto the animal and then once they are maggots they automatically start eating the animal, this is particularly likely if the Chipmunk has an open wound or is feeling very ill and not moving much. I've seen this on television with Badgers, Squirrels, Dogs and Cats and it is not nice the animal is eaten from the inside alive, they can be treated but often it is too late. Keep an eye on your Chipmunk's underside that it isn't soiled by droppings or urine as this is when fly strike could happen. Old animals or sick animals may not be able to wash their bottoms or may be incontinent so could be more at risk. Flies will also contaminate the Chipmunks food. Meshed aviary roofs can allow Bird droppings into the cage which can carry bacteria some of these bacteria can really make Chipmunks ill and mesh which isn't small enough can let Mice in which can also cause infections and contaminate food. Cleaning the Chipmunk's toilet area regularly, depending on how many Chipmunks you have once or twice a week may be enough to prevent Fly Strike. If your Chipmunk's use a litter tray this will be much easier to keep clean.
18. Stress and Shock - Stressis often fatal in Chipmunks, it can be caused by many things, as mentioned above Stereotypical Behaviour behaviour is a sign of stress in Chipmunks often caused by not enough room to exercise or carry out natural behaviour. For indoor Chipmunks other animals can also cause stress such as other pets too near to the Chipmunks or too many Chipmunks in a cage which would mean one may be bullied and chased around or attacked. Televisions can cause stress especially Cathrode Ray Tube sets as Chipmunks have very sensitive hearing. Long-term exposure can cause death and females to kill babies and seizures in some cases. For outside animals predators such as Cats stalking or attacking the aviary can be stressful and can cause nervous females to kill their young or miscarry if pregnant. Again bullying, fighting and relentless chasing in the aviary can cause stress and it's best to separate animals which don't get on. Fireworks may upset outside animals and cause a heart attack in very nervous Chipmunks. Chipmunks are also prone to shock and stress from being held.
I have a few cases of where my Chipmunks have been in shock. One of my very first Chipmunks was terrified of everything and when I finally caught him after he had escaped he went into shock and then died less than an hour after being captured. I had two boy babies at the vet because they had Upper Respiratory Infections, the vet picked one up and mucus came out of his nose and then he foamed at the mouth and went into shock and almost died. He went limp with no warning and after the vet put him down he was panting on his side, we thought he was going to die but a minute later he was back to normal. More recently one of my babies had a fall and then she went into shock, hers lasted 12 hours and it was touch and go she would survive. She became temparary paralysed couldn't move without dragging her back legs and was trembling, later she foamed at the mouth and went limp on her side and wouldn't really eat or drink anything. She was also twitching it looked like she was not going to make it but remarkable she started using her legs abit and eating a little and by the next afternoon was back to normal, running and climbing as usual.
The best thing an owner can do if their Chippie goes into shock is to separate her/him from other Chipmunks placing in a well-padded carrier so it is warm and there is no chance of injury and keeping the room quiet and dark, I used a hot water bottle under the carrier for further warmth and just added some fruit if she wanted to eat or drink and just left the Chipmunk to calm down, you want to keep the stress down to a minium and then you can get miracle recoveries.
19. Stroke/Heart Attack - A Chipmunk that has had a Stroke will have it's head to one side which may mean it has difficultly judging distances and may fall or be reluctant to jump. Only a vet can say if it is a stroke. A Heart Attack which may cause unconsciousness can be brought on by stress but again a vet may need to confirm. Older Chipmunks may be more prone to Strokes and Heart- Attacks.
20. Kidney and Liver Disease - usually seen in older animals as these organs deteriate, a sign may be increased water intake and frequent passing of urine. This is very like what Cats can get and the kindest thing would be to put the Chipmunk to sleep. Can also occur from a persistant infection which has spread into the body.
21. Epilepsy - same as people can get. The Chipmunk will have frequent seizures which may vary in severity. Very frequent seizures close together could cause brain damage. There probably isn't much that can be done to save the animal but the vet will be able to diagnose the Chipmunks future. Seizures can also be caused by inbreeding. Seizures can be very upsetting to witness. Non - Epileptic seizures can be caused by Metabolic Bone Disease or brain tumurs so the vet may need to untake tests to find out the cause. Seizures will raise the Chipmunk's body temperature which if prolonged can cause permanent brain damage.
22. Mastitis - only something female Chipmunks can get. Sometimes the females teats become abnormally enlarged and swollen and can then become infected. The Chipmunk will need anti-biotics. A pic of Pearl below, she got Mastitis while pregnant. Pearl always had one teat which was larger than the others but it never caused her any problems until she was pregnant and developed Mastitis. A Chipmunk's teats should all be the same size or at least not vastly different in size. With Chipmunks who haven't had a litter teats won't be visible, its only once they become pregnant they will appear then you can see. Once a female has had a few litters the teats take longer to disappear again. Mastitis can happen any time during pregnancy or after birth. Mastitis might stop the female feeding her young if it gets painful when they suckle, she could also turn on her young attacking or killing them if in pain so anti-biotics are needed to clear it up. Also keep the wound clean but don't use anti-septic on it if the female is suckling babies. In the pic of Pearl the teat with Mastitis is her bottom left near her leg.
23. Obesity - i count this under health because it can lead to health problems like Diabetes (see below) and heart problems (see below). Its not good for a Chipmunk to be obese, being slightly overweight shouldn't harm your Chipmunk but just keep a watch on its weight. It could end up obese if it puts more weight on. Obesity could cause a strain on the heart and other internal organs, it makes your Chipmunk prone to Diabetes. Obesity will affect your Chipmunk's climbing ability. Pearl was obese i have a few pics of her below before she was on a diet at her biggest. When i got her she was 149g and she should of been about 100-120g. She had a lump of fat under her front legs which inhibited her climbing. Once on a diet she went down to 110g and the fat lump reduced and she was able to climb very well, it improved her quality of life. Sunflower seeds and peanuts are high in fat so avoid feeding too many of these.
24. Diabetes - animals overweight are prone. Symptoms are increased thirst and uritation. You can test for Diabetes using a Diabetes urine test strip. Just match the colour of the Chipmunks urine against the strip. I've never heard of rodents having insulin so not sure what options your Chipmunk would have if it developed Diabetes.
25. Heart problems - an abnormal heart rate could be a sign of heart failure or some heart condition. Heart problems could be linked to your Chipmunk being overweight. If an infection spreads through the body it can lead to heart failure. See breathing Problems below.
26. Breathing Problems - this could be linked to heart failure. Your Chipmunk might weeze while breathing, may be panting if struggling to breath. Any other abnormal sounds while your Chipmunk is breathing, abnormal heart rate either reduced or increased heart beat.
You will have to bear with me i am new to this disease, a friend of mine's Chipmunk has it so thats how i've heard of it. Buddy came from a bad breeder and has unfortunately been inbred, he has multiple health issues the most serious being this.
It is caused by a defect in the esophagus which makes it hard for food to get to the stomach causing it to be regurgitated or it can cause aspiration if food gets into the lungs. It means that Buddy struggles to get nutrition and because of that he has lost alot of weight.
Symptoms are regurgitation of food and water, struggling to swallow food or water, coughing, weight loss, aspiration pneumonia and also in Buddy's case fur loss and he has been lethargic. Buddy has all of the symptoms. This is something Buddy will have his whole life now Buddy is eating pureed foods and getting Baytril because of the aspiration he was clicking when breathing and sneezing, recently Buddy really deteriated he is slowly recovering but its likely he could get ill again, poor guy and he may need pureed food his whole life by thankfully he has a dedicated owner and she will do her best to get him through the bad times.
If a Chipmunk is unwell it should be isolated from the rest of the group to stop infection being passed. A sick animal may be attacked or killed by another Chipmunk. If your Chipmunk is ill it should always be taken to a vet and not everything your Chipmunk could suffer with may be mentioned here, i've tried to include everything i can think of. I will kee updating this page as and when I learn about a new ailment that can affect Chippies.
Giving your Chipmunk medication
Chipmunks are not easy to give medicine too. Giving the treatment by mouth using a syringe is the best way if the Chipmunk will let you. If the Chipmunk is not able to be handled then giving the medicine in its water or in squeezed fruit juice or it can be injected into fruit. I've put it in peanut butter before or you could try honey anything really to get the animal to take it. You can give it on a spoon or in a bowl. When giving anti-biotics also give your Chipmunk some yoghurt. Anti-biotics like Baytril are very harsh on the gut and can kill good bacteria aswell as bad so giving yoghurt helps build up good bacteria again.
To treat minor cuts I use warm water which is slightly salty in a small plant water spray bottle to spray it onto the injury to keep it clean. I then use a human antiseptic spray or antiseptic wipes on it afterwards to stop it getting infected. If a wound does get infected always seek veterinary treatment.
Other owners recommend a product called Colloidal Silver which I haven't tried yet, it is supposed to be very good for healing wounds, it can be put in the Chipmunk's water or applied to the Animal's injuries You can use in combination with anti-biotics from the vet.
A product I have tried and recommend is Rescue Remedy (the human one is the best), when sprayed on animal's ears or feet it helps calm them down and feel less stressed so can help sick , injured or animals in pain feel much better. It is safe to use with anti-biotics and Coloidal silver and other medications.
Last update 16th July 2012