Q: My eight-year-old Chinchilla has been getting wet patches around his eyes quite frequently. Initially, I thought he had an infection, but the patches would quickly disappear after a day. What should I do?

A: You should take him to the vet. If it were a once-off occurrence, I would just monitor him. But since these wet patches have been occurring quite frequently, a visit to the vet is advisable. Wet patches may be due to excessive tearing, reduced tear drainage, or dermatitis around the eye regions. Any of the above can be due to irritation or inflammation—with or without infection.

Occasionally, increased tearing, or discharge around or at the eye region could be due to a dental infection. Tooth root decay can lead to an abscess that could track its way out to the eye socket, or burst near the cheek. An overgrown molar or cheek tooth can also penetrate into the opposing gum or lip, forming an ulcer or abscess. If it is not dental-related, eye inflammation may be due to accidental trauma (such as rubbing or knocking into objects), or foreign bodies (such as dust) entering the eye. This can lead to an infection, depending on the cause and resultant effect. As with any condition, minor ailments have the potential to worsen if left untreated. Possible implications include progression to loss of vision, reduced appetite, Osteomyelitis (infection of the jaw bones), and a drop in weight. This all depends on the root cause. In extreme cases, it may even result in death.

To lower the risk of eye infections, you should feed your Chinchilla a balanced diet, and provide adequate ventilation in his living area. Good bedding is also very important—avoid fine bedding materials that blow around easily, as they may get inhaled, causing respiratory issues. They may also get into your pet’s eyes and cause irritation. It should not be dusty or dirty, as soiled bedding carries more harmful pathogens. Always make hygiene a top priority, and change your Chinchilla’s cage bedding as frequently as you can.