Chinchilla Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Chinchilla Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Chinchillas are native to the Andes mountains in South America (Bolivia, Chile*, Argentina, and Peru). They live in colonies called “herds” and at very high elevations requiring them to have some of the densest fur of all land mammals!

These cute, small rodents weighing 1-1.5 pounds (450-650g) make wonderful pets for the right family and are smart, inquisitive, and loving. Chinchillas are some of the longest-lived exotic mammals we see if cared for appropriately and reach ages in their late teens to early twenties!

Housing

  • Caging: Wire mesh cages may be used, but a solid floor must be provided to prevent foot pad injuries. Branches or climbing areas should be provided to allow for exercise and arranged in a way so as to prevent contamination of the food and water bowls with feces. Glass aquariums or plastic containers should be avoided due to poor ventilation. Wooden cages should be used with caution as Chinchillas may chew through the enclosurePaper based bedding is recommended.

  • ChinchillaBathing: Dust baths should be provided several times a week to remove oil and dirt from the fur. There are many types of commercial chinchilla dust available. The dust bath should only be left in the cage for 15-20 minutes as excessive use may lead to eye problems

  • Group Housing: Chinchillas may fight when housed together with the females being the more aggressive gender. Solitary caging is typically recommended but when slowly introduced, pairs may live peacefully together.

  • Temperature: Chinchillas do not tolerate heat or humidity well. They should be kept in a cool, dry, well lit area with adequate ventilation. The optimal temperature is between 60-75 F.

Diet

  • Pellets/Hay: We recommend a commercially available chinchilla-specific pellet supplemented with unlimited high-quality hay (timothy, orchard grass, meadow grass, or oat). Hay should be fed in unlimited quantity and the main part of the diet. We feel that alfalfa hay should be regarded as a treat food and not recommended as the only fiber source due to its higher calcium content and potential to lead to urinary issues.

  • Treats: Treats should comprise no more than 10 % of the diet. Dried rose hips, hibiscus, dandelion leaves, dried fruits, and fresh vegetables are excellent treats for pet chinchillas but should be given sparingly.

  • Water: Chinchillas can learn to drink from sipper-type bottles. Water must be changed daily.

Handling

  • Chinchillas are easily restrained and rarely bite. Care must be taken to avoid injury like ‘fur slip,’ which is the patchy shedding of fur as the result of rough handling or tension. During restraint, the base of the tail should be grasped with one hand while supporting the body with the other hand.

Common medical conditions

  • Dental malocclusion: This condition is sometimes referred to as “slobbers.” It is characterized by excessive drooling or accumulation of food material under the chin. A decrease in size and amount of feces is another sign associated with this syndrome. The underlying cause is the overgrowth of the continuously growing cheek teeth and will most likely require regular molar trims with your veterinarian. Providing and encouraging the consumption of hay may aid in prevention of dental issues, but some cases actually have a genetic basis.

  • Heat stroke: High temperature and humidity are not tolerated well. Chinchillas in high humidity and poor ventilation will show unkempt, damp fur. Signs of heat stroke include extreme lethargy, panting and bright red mucous membranes. If these signs are seen, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

  • Fur Chewing: Some of the potential causes for this behavior include stress, boredom, dietary imbalance, or hereditary factors. Providing chew toys and enrichment along with a proper diet may aid in decreasing this behavior.

  • Fur Ring: This is a condition when fur tightly wraps around a male chinchilla’s genitalia and may develop into a life threatening condition. Symptoms include, but not limited to, any male chinchilla that grooms excessively, strains to urinate, or frequently seen producing only small amounts of urine. If any of these are observed, your chinchilla should be checked by a veterinary professional for a fur ring.

  • Diarrhea: The most common cause of diarrhea is an inappropriate diet or decreased fiber intake but bacterial and parasitic infections may also be present. Giardia, a common intestinal parasite, may be brought out by stress, overcrowding, and poor husbandry.

  • Respiratory Disease: Upper respiratory infections are commonly seen in pet chinchillas. Signs include an increased respiratory rate and accumulation of mucous on nostrils and inside of forearms.

 

Specific Requirements
Unlimited hay (timothy, meadow, and/or orchard grass), heat intolerant, frequent dust baths
Reasons To
Visit A Veterinarian
Healthy annual examinations, not eating/defecating (>8 hrs), sneezing, drooling, trouble urinating, appears painful, bloated, itchiness and/or hairloss, lethargy