How serious is it?
What is it?
How can I recognize it?
Do chins get it?
How do you treat it?
How can I avoid this happening?
Bumblefoot, medically known as ulcerative pododermatitis, is an inflammation of the foot pads. It is most commonly found in captive birds and rodents. Chinchillas are most susceptible to Bumblefoot when exposed to housing conditions that are less than optimal.
Wire floored cages, or cages with wire shelves and ramps are hard on sensitive little feet and are often the culprits of this disease. A chronically dirty cage is also one of the primary contributors of Bumblefoot. Where a chin is exposed to damp, dirty floors or where he/she is inclined to urinate in favorite spots and rest in the aftermath, these conditions are breeding grounds for bacteria that causes ulcers to form. Even a simple case of dry feet from unlimited access to dust baths can crack the foot pads and offer a doorway to this malady.
Treatment for Bumblefoot is a long, laborious process and it is very painful for the chin. The feet must be soaked several times each day to keep the area clean and supple. Epsom salts soaks, vinegar and water, colloidal silver, or prescription Chlorhexidine wash are the usual courses of treatment. Oral antibiotics and pain meds are normally prescribed in conjunction. Additional topicals like Blu-Kote, Silver Sulfadiazine, Bag Balm with or without foot wraps are often applied after each soak.
We had a chinnie surrendered this week with a very bad case of Bumblefoot on all four feet. The hind feet were especially ulcerated with a raging infection. The poor baby also had an infected eye and what originally looked like an ulcer on the base of her tail turned out to be a half healed bone break! The owners tried to do their best, but treating a squirmy chin isn't easy.
Foot soaks can be simple and hands-free with this method: Fill a clean kitchen sink with a few inches of water and additives of choice. A weighted cooling rack or cage panel placed across the top of the sink will ensure the chinchilla receives all the healing benefits without the seemingly endless time it would take to hold the little bugger still. You can simply set a timer for 5-10 minutes and allow the chin to safely debride. This is one of the few instances where it is necessary to get your chinchilla wet.
A modified burrito wrap allows for easy access to the feet without fear of a toothy retaliation. In this manner, you can apply additional ointments or creams, or get a better look at the healing process. This little chinnie seems to enjoy being bundled up. After each treatment we snuggle her like a baby to give her a few minutes off her painful feet.
Bumblefoot is a serious disease with painful and lengthy treatment. The absolute best course of action is preventative. Be sure your cage is properly set up for chinchillas, practice excellent husbandry management, and be alert to any changes in behavior or condition.