Chinchilla Shopping List

chinchilla-shopping-list

I remember when I rescued my chinchilla, Jasper. Jasper showed up at my doorstep in nothing but a tiny dog carrier. Yes, I said dog carrier! The woman who owned him lived in a van and had this poor little guy living in a tiny space not even big enough for a mouse! Anyway, before bringing this guy home I did some quick research and quickly made a shopping list of everything my new chinchilla was going to need. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find just one site that had all of the information that I needed! Luckily for me, I had a few hours before I was supposed to pick him up, so I did my shopping list research and away I went to purchase what I needed. I had to read five or six different articles to make a complete shopping list. I have typed up the results of that research into one resource for you. Below is my chinchilla shopping list.

The absolute bare minimum items that you will need include:

(1) Cage: Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation is the cage I use and recommend.

(2) Basic Accessories you will need include: 

(3) Travel Carrier – I prefer the 32.5-inch crate made by Prevue Pet Products or the 24-inch Super Pet Mfh Rabbit Cage  if you have a tight budget is acceptable.

 

In the rest of this article, I’ll give more info on toys your chinchilla will enjoy, supplements to keep him/her healthy, acceptable treats, and types of wooden chews you can provide.

 

Toys Your Chinchilla Will Enjoy

Please take a moment and read my full post about Best Toys And Exercise Wheel For Your Chinchilla.  It will really help you to make sure you get the right size wheel and don’t just buy according to the cute pictures on the front of the packages. Although some wheels show a chinchilla on the front of their packaging, doesn’t mean its safe for your chinchilla!  Here are the items which are suitable to leave in your chinchillas’ cage I generally recommend:

  • hanging parrot toys (Don’t forget to check that they are made from safe trees.)
  • sisal ropes (again designed for parrots, but chins love them)
  • pieces of pumice stone
  • some rabbit or large hamster toys
  • wood or branches, e.g. Safe woods are Apple Arbutus Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Hawthorn, Hazelnut, Larch, Magnolia, Manzanita, Mulberry, Kiln-Pine (not fresh pine), Pear, Poplar, and Sequoia.
  • stuffed Booda buddy

DIY Toys For Your Chinchilla

Make your own toys: It is not very hard to make hanging toys with wooden blocks and it is much cheaper to make them at home than buying them. You just need some wooden blocks, wires (or chains), wire cutters, and a drill. If you don’t have a drill, you can drive a nail through the blocks.

  • Branches: i.e. apple branches. Chinchillas love to chew apple and pear branches so I would highly recommend using these trees. Of course, you need to make sure that no chemicals and such have been used on the trees.
  • Empty toilet paper rolls: Chinchillas’ all time favorite! These are great to hide treats in.
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Plain cardboard boxes
  • Rocks: Rocks of different sizes that have been cleaned and boiled.

Tip! ~ I know I have listed many things above but take a look around your house. You will find things that would be great new toys for your chinchilla. Just watch for glue, tape, staples, etc. Common sense stuff.

Optional, But will help keep your Chinchilla healthy and happy!

Other items you may wish to purchase right away or could need in the future are listed below.

Treats

Treats which can be given are:

  • fruit, try fruits with seeds, not stones or pits, e.g. raisins, dried cranberries, dried strawberries, dried blueberries, dried rose hips, a banana chip, or a piece of apple, pear, a half of a fresh or frozen grape, or kiwi.
  • veg, e.g. piece of carrot, flaked peas, parsley, chard, romaine, a dandelion leaf (small and washed). Avoid anything gas forming, e.g. broccoli, cabbage.
  • dried herbs, if available you can pick herbs, then after washing them, hang them upside down (in bunches) in a warm area until they have completely dried out. Herbs suitable for chinchillas include oregano, comfrey, mint, nettle, dandelion, and raspberry leaves.
  • grain, e.g. rolled oats, oat grouts, healthy cereals low in sugar like Shredded Wheat, plain Cheerios or Cornflakes.
  • nuts and seeds, very sparingly – e.g. almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds
  • commercially prepared, e.g. chinchilla crackers (produced for chinchillas and available in the US & UK), a small piece of dry toast, or an alfalfa-based animal treat.
  • unsalted peanut in the shell, uncooked pasta…

 

Meds & First Aid

  • Acidophilus for balanced gut bacteria
  • Albon – Diarrhea Treatment
  • Antibiotic cream – For minor cuts
  • Baby Oat Cereal
  • Baby wipes
  • Charcoal – balances gut ph
  • Cheek retractor to check molars
  • Eye Wash
  • Gauze
  • Griseofluvin
  • Grooming Combs
  • High-calorie supplement for weak or sick Chins
  • Lavender oil for small abrasions or cuts
  • Lidocaine
  • Life Line helps with appetite
  • Lube
  • Medical tape
  • Ophthalmic Ointment
  • Pedialyte for Electrolyte dehydration
  • Powdered Goat Milk – kit formula
  • Shredded Wheat Biscuits – Diarrhea Treatment
  • Simethicone – For Bloat
  • Tinactin

Is Owning A Chinchilla Difficult?

Owning a chinchilla is not difficult! Here is my personal shopping list, created from the things I use daily! (Chinchilla Shopping List) Here are a few brief instructions that will make owning a chinchilla easier: 

  • Keep your chinchilla cool, below 70 degrees and away from a draft.
  • Give your chinchilla a large size cage.
  • Supply your chinchilla with superior food.
  • Be kind and gentle with your chinchilla!
  • Play with him every day
  • Let him out of his cage every day for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.
  • Give them good chew toys
  • Provide good water – no fluoride or chlorine!

The privilege of owning a chinchilla

Chinchillas are from South America found mainly in Peru and Argentina. These little fur balls love to leap and climb. As a pet, you will be amazed at the heights they jump during playtime. Chinchillas require a lot of exercise and lots of playful interaction with their owners. Since these animals are from mountainous regions, they are adapted to cool, non-humid air conditions. When having a chinchilla as a pet, it is mandatory that they have proper air-conditioning during the warmer seasons. We here at ChinchillaStuff.com have high humidity during summer months this is deadly to a chinchilla. A fan will not cool chinchillas. They do not sweat or pant like other animals so if you use a fan to try to cool them you will only be blowing hot air on them and creating more stress. Temps most comfortable for our pet chins are 64-72 leaning on the cooler side. Temps above 75 in combination with humidity will kill your loving pet. Wintertime most people keep their home at 68-72, and the air is drier; this is fine for the chinchilla.

Chinchillas are inexpensive.

Chinchillas are inexpensive to own the main investment of the chinchilla his cage (see my chin cage) and some accessories can range from a total of $200 to $350 on an average depending on the cost of the cage and of the chin. Chinchillas do not require shots, but please be sure there is a vet near you that can care for your chin if it should get sick or injured. Chinchillas live 15 to 20 yrs, and many are capable of reproducing up into their teens. The key to long life is to get your chinchilla from a reputable breeder who will assist you on your questions as needed, has pedigree information on your pet, and explains a proper diet for your chinchilla. There are a variety of foods on the market, and it is important that you know what to look for and avoid in chinchilla feeds. Breeders that have worked with chins for many years are best suited to explain a healthy diet. It is wise to follow exactly the diet that the breeder recommends since their herd has done well on this routine. Some breeders differ in the diet; this does not mean one is wrong over the other, it means this is what has worked best for them and their chins.

Chinchillas are very smart.

They learn their name in a short period of time; they recognize different people within the house. They will bond to the whole family but may still have a favorite. Chinchillas look at everything as fun and adventure. Always make a new experience positive, so your chin learns that it is always safe. Chinchillas are the “Boss.” They feel the need to always be in charge, respect this and your pet will love you all the more. Always expect more from your chin and you’ll get more! They can learn continually and have a long memory. Some chins are very trainable while others train you 🙂 .

Chewing

Chinchillas need to chew; their teeth grow throughout their life and hays, chew toys, good feed and filtered water all benefit the teeth.

Water

Water is a big concern because tap/city water contains chlorine and fluoride this blocks calcium absorption and can be poisonous to your chin. Well, water has softeners in which contain high amounts of sodium or potassium, these can kill your chinchilla. Purified bottled water, filtered water: filtered refrigerator water, reverse osmosis, carbon filtration systems or distilled are recommended. Some bottled water has sodium added so read your labels; nothing should be added.

Chinchilla feed

Chinchillas eat a specially formulated green pellet designed to fit their nutritional needs. Rabbit pellets should not be used one reason is the vitamin A content is higher, and the calcium is lower than what is needed to meet the needs of a chinchilla which can cause liver damage. Some countries can’t get chinchilla pellets and have substituted with rabbit pellets. This is true with guinea pig pellets also; they are designed to meet the needs of the guinea pig. Be sure to use a top quality chinchilla pellet only.

When shopping for good chinchilla food, you need to be aware of several things;

  1. First, the pellets should contain no corn. Corn, due to the way it is stored it can contain aflatoxins (fungus) that can kill your chinchilla. To research aflatoxins, you can check with the Dept. of Agriculture.
  2. Many feeds found in pet stores are medicated; your chinchilla doesn’t need this daily medication, and it can affect their health over time.
  3. Third, there should be an expiration date on the product. Most feeds have a 3 to 6-month shelf life after this time the nutritional value breaks down, and the food is no longer good.
  4. In our home, we use Oxbow pellets because we feel it is the best on the market for chinchillas. We get this feed shipped in fresh on a regular schedule. A chinchilla eats about two tablespoons of pellets daily; this is about 1.5 pounds per month. The average pet owner purchases 2lb every 4 to 5 weeks.

Hay

The diet is not complete without hay. Alfalfa and timothy hays are among the favorites used. Alfalfa is high in nutrition and highly valued for its protein and calcium content. Alfalfa hay is needed for nutrition and for fiber. The other benefit is for good chewing to help keep the teeth warn properly. Timothy hay is especially good for fiber and dental purposes. The Timothy hay and the alfalfa hay both have different textures this creates the chin to chew in different directions keeping the teeth worn more even. Both hays are found in loose bundles or in pressed cubes. The hays should be free of glue binders and pesticides.

Vitamins

We use a whole grain and seed blend that is fortified with vitamins and minerals, Seward’s Vitagrain Supplement. Our chinchillas each get one teaspoon of this product daily and find it to be their favorite part of feeding time. This makes a great bonding tool if you feed it to your new chin out of your hand. Never give more than the recommended amount even though they beg you for more!

If Liquid pet chinchilla vitamins are used instead of our Vitagrain Supplement, this should be added to the water, but it is mandatory that the water bottle gets scrubbed out daily to prevent bacterial growth in the water. A dirty water bottle can lead to bacterial growth that can cause illness and tooth loss in your pet. Always follow dose directions on the bottle.

Treats

Use good judgment on this. Read your labels. I only use natural products for my chins. Spoon size shredded wheat is loved by chins and safe for a daily treat. Other cereals contain BHA, BHT, Trisodium phosphate, sugar, salt, and colors, YECK! Read labels!!! The shredded wheat should not be the frosted or fruit filled type. An occasional unsalted, non-roasted, non-oiled sunflower seeds in the shell are great, or pumpkin seed is healthy and loved by chins. Unsweetened banana chip, ½ raisin, rose hips, unsweetened/unsulphered papaya are safe treats too. Peanuts are not a safe treat. Peanuts can be affected by aflatoxins like corn and should never be given to your pet. Too many treats will make your pet too full to eat the pellets needed in the diet to maintain good health so only one or two little treats daily.

Dust bath

There is one product that I consider safe and superior above all others! Blue Cloud Dust is what I personally use and is real volcanic ash. This is a soft absorbent natural product. Chinchillas in the wild roll in volcanic ash to keep their fur in top condition. A bath should be offered 2 to 3 times weekly for a 10 to 20 minute period. This same dust can be used through the week but should be thrown away at the end of the week. Thoroughly wash the container with a mild soap, such as dish soap rinse completely, dry and place the fresh dust for the week. Do not sift the dust and use for longer than one week. Bacteria will grow in the dust and can cause health problems for your pet. If the dustbin is left in the cage it will get used as a litter box and you will need to discard the dust. Ordinary sand is not suitable for bathing since it will not properly clean your chin and it will damage the beautiful fur there is also the risk of getting into your pet’s eyes or yours.

What Do Chinchillas Eat? Diet, Food, Treats & More

what do chinchillas eat - feeding vegetables

If you’re thinking about getting a pet chinchilla, one of the most important things for you to consider is diet. To allow your pet to live a long and happy life, you need to make sure he or she is getting the right nutrients to not only survive but thrive. Chinchillas are unique animals with extremely sensitive digestive systems which need special care to avoid health problems.

A Healthy Chinchilla Diet

Did you know that chinchillas are primarily herbivores? Their diet in the wild would be primarily made up of seeds, roots, and leaves although they have been observed eating insects and small bird eggs. In captivity, chinchillas do best with a completely herbivorous diet. A chinchilla’s owner needs to focus on providing adequate nutrition to help their chinchilla thrive and live a long, healthy life.

Chinchillas can be fed pellets, but that alone is not enough for a healthy diet. They should also be offered unlimited amounts of hay on a daily basis. Pellets should be chinchilla-quality. High-quality chinchilla pellets should include a carefully balanced nutritional ratio: 16-20% protein, 2-5% fat, and 15-35% fiber. Their diets should also include healthy servings of vitamins A, D, and E.

Try to avoid food mixes: chinchillas are prone to picking out what they like most from a mix, and that could be a dangerous habit! If they’re not eating the entire mix, they will miss out on necessary nutrition. Most chinchillas should be fed approximately two tablespoons of pellets per day: one tablespoon in the morning and one tablespoon at night, times when they would naturally feed. Make sure to put it in a small dish to keep it from getting soiled or spilled!

Avoid substituting chinchilla-quality pellets for pellets made for other animals, such as guinea pigs or rabbits. These foods will typically not include the necessary nutritional values for the care of a sensitive chinchilla, and worse, it could cause health problems such as liver damage.

Chinchilla Diet No Rabbit Pellets
Chinchilla and rabbit pellets may look similar, but they have different ingredients and nutritional value. Photo credit: Andreas Rühle

A controversial topic for chinchilla diets is corn: some owners choose to feed pellets that include corn in the ingredients while others feel it causes bloating or digestive issues. It is generally recommended that owners avoid pellets or treats that have corn listed in the first few ingredients. Most pellets will include corn, so it’s almost impossible to avoid it all together, but higher quality foods will contain smaller amounts.

In the wild, chinchillas’ diets would include a large amount of roughage, a material found in vegetables that assist with digestion. Therefore, in addition to pellets, you should be offering your chinchilla hay for their overall health and to help mimic the diet that chinchillas would feed off of in their natural environment. It also helps keep their teeth healthy!

Chinchillas should be offered loose hay rather than hay in cubed form. Different types of hay contain different amounts of protein, and a hay mixture is likely to be your best bet to provide the highest quality food for your pet. Seek out a hay mixture that includes orchard grass, blue grass, timothy grass, and alfalfa. It is best to have hay available at all times for your chinchilla. Make sure to store it in a dry place, though, to avoid mold.

chinchilla-diet-hay
Hay makes up a large part of a chinchilla’s diet. Photo credit: Andrea

Of course, don’t forget water: your chinchilla should always have fresh water available. Choose a suitable water bottle with a metal spout to give them constant access to fresh water. Avoid feeding your chinchilla distilled water, as trace minerals required for good health are absent in distilled water. You should also monitor your chin’s water intake as a sudden increase or decrease could signal health problems.

What Do Chins Eat Besides Hay and Pellets

Many chinchilla owners enjoy feeding their pets treats, but an excess of treats can cause a variety of digestive issues, teeth disease, and obesity. So, how can you ensure that you’re feeding the right treats to your pet to advance your chinchilla’s health, not damage it?

Many pet stores carry nutritious natural treats, which oftentimes are an excellent form of treat to share with your pet; be careful, however, because there are also a number of treats offered in pet stores that are marketed for chinchillas but do not contain the correct ratio of vitamins and nutritional sources and may be high in sugar and fat, which can do severe damage to a chinchilla’s digestive system. Be particularly careful to examine the labels to ensure that there is not an excess of sugar or ingredients such as honey in the treats.

Other natural foods that can be used as treats include mountain ash berries, fruit tree twigs, dried rose hips, dried herbs, and marshmallow root. Chinchillas often enjoy raisins or dried fruits, but should not be offered more than 3-4 raisins a week as these are extremely high in sugar. Try cutting the raisins into multiple pieces to make the treats last longer!

When choosing a treat, avoid grains, treats with high amounts of vitamins and minerals, fruits, oats, and treat sticks. These ingredients can wreak havoc on your pet’s system, putting them at risk for serious illness.

Can Chinchillas Eat Carrots?

Carrots should not be a staple part of your chinchilla’s diet, but they are not toxic to your pet. Stick with feeding carrots like you would feed other “extras,” or treats: extremely sparingly. Any extra foods that throw off the careful nutritional ratios could be damaging to your chin.

You might also want to check out this video of a chin eating a piece of carrot:

Can Chinchillas Eat Apples?

Can chinchillas eat apples? Yes!
Chinchillas should be given apples only sparingly

Apples are also permissible, but keep in mind that an excess of sugar can lead to obesity and fatty liver issues for your chinchilla. Only feed them small amounts of fruit as a treat.

Safe and Unsafe Foods for Chinchillas

Given their sensitive digestive system, a number of foods are toxic to chinchillas and can make them extremely ill. If you’re looking for a creative food to treat your chinchilla with, try carrot, celery, potato, pumpkin, or squash. However, avoid the following foods!

Anything containing animal ingredients—Chinchillas are herbivores, meaning they only consume proteins from plants. Their systems are not designed to eat meat or other animal products.

  • Chocolate – contains theobromine which is toxic to chinchillas
  • Nuts and seeds – it is a common misconception that because chinchillas are herbivores and rodents, it is safe for them to be fed nuts and seeds. However, the high amount of fat, proteins, and oils damages their digestive system. Protein intake of over 20% per day can put your chinchilla at risk for liver damage.
  • Tree bark – not only are a number of different types of wood toxic to chinchillas, but trees are often sprayed with pesticides which can be deadly to your pet.
  • Vegetables – although vegetables seem like they would be healthy for a herbivore, they can cause your chinchilla to bloat. You should avoid the following toxic vegetables in particular: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peas, rhubarb, and spinach.

With a healthy diet, your pet chinchilla will live a long and happy life. A responsible chinchilla owner should carefully research the different do’s and don’ts of chinchilla care before acquiring their new pet, which will ensure that your pet will be carefully taken care of for the rest of his or her life.

Should I Give My Chinchilla Supplements & Salt

Chinchilla Herd-Supplement & Salt In The Diet

It’s up to you!!!

Without dispute chinchillas should be fed a simple diet of good-quality chinchilla pellets and hay as their staple diet – and that is pretty much it.

This may seem bland, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the chinchilla’s wild cousins have adapted to live on relatively low-nutrient forage, and our own domestic chinchilla’s digestion is unchanged from their wild counterparts.

Herd-Supplement

However, that said, I am now going to be slightly contradictory and go on to say that some breeders (especially American) also give their chinchillas what is known as a “herd-supplement.”

This was once (and perhaps still is) considered to be a very out-dated approach to feeding chinchillas, as it hales back to the days before chinchilla pellets were manufactured and breeders had to make up their own food for the chinchillas.

Pellets have to cater for chins in ALL life stages – including pregnancy, lactating and growing, as well as non-breeding adults. Therefore the protein levels tend to set for the “average” chinchilla.

Currently, there is no demand for a separate type of pellet for young and breeding chins – and another type for maintaining non-breeding adult chins. This is where an additional supplement may come in useful.

Supplements tend to be cereal-based (oats, wheat, barley, etc.) with added wheatgerm (high in vitamin E, folic acid, EFA’s and proteins) and bran. To this mix, edible dried herbs can be added. These are a good source of phytonutrients. A tiny amount of golden linseed will provide essential fatty acids, but only a tiny amount is needed. An addition of a balanced multivitamin and mineral supplement is recommended, as cereals tend to be high in phosphorus and low in calcium.

Rolled oats are the safest of all cereal grains to feed – being relatively high in (soluble) fiber and low in digestible energy – they are not normally associated with over-fermentation in the hind-gut – UNLESS there is some degree of gut-stasis involved anyway! Oat hulls or groats are not recommended though!!!

** Hay/forage should always be fed – to promote peristalsis and limit any possibility of gastric stasis. **

A supplement has several uses ………..

  • It helps to condition breeding, growing or unwell chinchillas.
  • It is relished by chinchillas and is regarded as a “treat” by them; this allows a breeder to quickly spot if one chinchilla is off its food, and can then investigate the cause.
  • I f well balanced, it is a useful source of extra nutrients.
  • It can tempt the appetite if the chinchilla has been unwell.

However, it also has drawbacks …………

  • It may encourage obesity if fed excessively.
  • It is expensive to feed if you have large numbers of chinchillas.
  • It is an added and unnecessary chore for larger breeders.
  • Has a very short shelf life (especially wheat germ).

The main limiting factor of most cereals is that they tend to be deficient in a couple of the essential amino acids, especially lysine. They are also rather high in phosphorus with is often present as a phytate, which can bind to calcium molecules, preventing their absorption. A diet that is too high in phosphorus is not recommended, and the ideal ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be around 2:1 respectively.

Kline-Diet

The “Kline Diet” (a top-selling American chinchilla diet) was developed and endorsed by a chinchilla rancher called Alice Kline (now sadly deceased). She swore by a diet of pellets, hay and a balanced cereal-based supplement, and her chinchillas thrived on it. Nowadays, the Kline Diet is still advocated and recommended by Amercian pet-owners and breeders alike, but it is not currently available to the UK.

Limiting & Moderation

Even if a supplement is fed as an additional ration – it is still important to make sure that a chinchilla always eats all its staple diet (hay and pellets), and does not gorge itself on “extras”. So the quantity and frequency of supplemental feeding will need to be monitored and adjusted, if necessary.

It is also very wise not to feed the supplement in the same bowl or feed-hopper as the staple diet, as the chinchillas will throw out all their pellets in an effort to get to the supplement, which often leaves them with nothing left to eat.

Some breeders feed a “treat” mix a couple of times a week anyway, a supplement mix is just taking this principle a step forward – with the aim of providing extra nutrition to those chins that need it.

Although some breeders swear by feeding an additional ration, others feel that it is unnecessary at the least and even dangerous at the worst, due to a chinchillas delicate digestion, which is not suited to a continuous rich diet.

However, I believe that it is very much up to the individual owner or breeder if they feel that a supplement has enough significant benefits to be worthy of the extra effort, time and money to feed it.

Salt in the Chinchillas Diet

Pro’s & Con’s

Salt is an essential mineral. As it is added to chinchilla pellets, additional salt is rarely required. Here are some generic facts and figures ……

THE PRO’S

Most mammals bodies only contain about 0.2% sodium – it is essential for life and is a highly controlled mineral (by the body). Half of the sodium is contained in the soft tissues (muscles, organs etc.) – the other half in the bones. Sodium (and it’s derivatives) are major minerals in the blood and helps to regulate blood pH. Sodium also plays a main role in transmitting nerve impulses and the maintenance of normal heart action. It also helps the small intestine absorb amino acids (protein building blocks) and monosaccharides (simple sugars/carbs).

The other nutrient in salt – chloride – is also essential for life. Chloride is the primary element in blood. Chloride is also an essential part of the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach – which is required to digest most foods.

People assume that if the sodium requirement is met, the chloride requirement will be met also – however, certain studies indicate this may not always be so!!

THE CON’S

Dietary sodium chloride can also cause increased calciuresis (calcium excretion) and this leads to subsequent loss of bone density (over time), and related calcium deficiency problems (cramping, tetany ** etc.). This is because the body must excrete calcium along with sodium. (Please remember that calcium/phosphorus/magnesium imbalances cause excessive calcium excretion too – so does a diet too high in protein and so does an imbalanced dietary acid-base).

My conclusion is ……..

Dietary sodium chloride intake should not exceed (this is purely my opinion based on my own readings – as I do not have access to a laboratory!!) ……..

0.3g of sodium per kilo of DM food
0.3g of chloride per kilo of DM food
(DM = dry matter)

Check your pellets to see how much sodium chloride they have added to them!! I am sure you will find that there is no need to give chinchillas additional salt.

Although wild chinchillas would have access to mineral deposits, I would imagine that they would not consume mineral salts in dangerous quantities, and it must be borne in mind that their natural food would not have salt added to it anyway!!

I hope this has provided some “food for thought” – please excuse the pun!

 

** Tetany is basically muscular seizure/uncoordination.

Pros And Cons Of Chinchilla Calcium Supplementation

Pros And Cons Of Chinchilla Calcium Supplementation

The pros and cons

There is much debate as to whether to provide extra calcium for our chinchillas – for healthy teeth and bone development – or not.

Some owners do decide to supplement – in the form of cuttlefish, vitamin and mineral supplement, calcium block or mineral water etc etc. However, many people cannot understand why chinchillas can still get dental problems when they have always received adequate amounts of calcium in their diet – so hopefully this topic may go a little way to explain why (disregarding genetic or hereditary causes).

Ratio

Chinchillas actually require either 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus or equal amounts of calcium to phosphorus in their diet for healthy bones and teeth. Lots of extra calcium alone is not as beneficial as we think (may also predispose some chinchillas to calcium deposits in their urinary system). Hay, Readigrass and Supa Forage Excel (SFE) are all natural calcium to phosphorus balanced – and most quality chinchilla pellets are too.

Absorption

So how is calcium absorbed? The body does not easily absorb calcium. It needs to be ingested in an ionic form and have vitamin D present for it to be fully absorbed. Some sources of calcium are more ionic (absorbable) than others.

Calcium is absorbed through the intestinal wall (duodenum) into the bloodstream. Vitamin D assists with this – and that is why adequate vitamin D is also needed in a chinchilla’s diet (generally included in the pellets).

Calcium Levels

When levels of calcium in the bloodstream become low, various hormones are released, and this triggers certain functions that remove and deposit calcium to and from the bones when needed. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) stimulates uptake of calcium into the bones – but the absorption of calcium also requires the activity of specialized cells: osteoblasts.

These osteoblasts also make the bone-structure, upon which the calcium can be deposited (stored).

Removal of calcium from the bones (to where needed) requires the activity of cells called osteoclasts. Obviously, the removed calcium has to be replaced again – via the process described above. If the diet is deficient in calcium then the stores in the bones become depleted.

Daily calcium supplementation confuses this process – and can actually cause similar symptoms to calcium deficiency.

Here is why..

  • If more calcium is absorbed into the bones, from the bloodstream – the production and activity of both osteoblasts and osteoclasts is increased. If lots of calcium is absorbed, then lots of calcium is also removed (as excess is only stored in the bones temporarily). But 50 to 70% of the composing osteoblasts die during this exchange activity. The more their activity is stimulated, the more they die.
  • Because the number of times any cell can reproduce is fixed, the reproduction capacity of that cell will be exhausted sooner if too much calcium is absorbed into the bloodstream and then skeletal structure, on a regular basis. If the reproduction capacity is exhausted, there will be a lack of new osteoblasts. And since only osteoblasts can make bone-structure, too little new structure will be made. Without this, the calcium cannot be deposited, and new bone cannot be composed, because there is a lack of structure upon which to build and replacement cannot occur.
  • As with all minerals – the body normally only absorbs just as much calcium from the food and bloodstream as it needs regardless of how much calcium is given. But if calcium is given too regularly then the body has to do something to prevent the blood-calcium level from rising too high – so, to save a life, excessive dietary calcium is ONLY TEMPORARILY stored in the bones, before excretion.
  • Since all this extra calcium is absorbed due to the action of osteoblasts, (as already explained) these osteoblasts die sooner, leaving you with too little new bone-structure!!!
  • After the excess calcium has been absorbed into the bones, two hormones stimulate deportation of calcium from the bones, and the third one stimulates excretion of calcium into the urine.

So….. bones CANNOT hold on to extra calcium – so all that calcium eventually gets excreted anyway.

Therefore it is only recommended that calcium supplements are added to the diet once or twice a week (if needed) and NOT DAILY (unless there is a medical reason)!

So what is the best way to ensure chinchillas can make the best use of the calcium they get?

  1. Only give a calcium supplement once or twice a fortnight and not every day!!!
  2. Make sure the chinchilla’s diet contains adequate amounts of vitamin D by feeding fresh chinchilla pellets.
  3. Try to ensure that the chinchilla’s diet is calcium to phosphorus balanced.(by feeding a simple diet of pellets and hay – and ensuring any supplements are correctly balanced)
  4. Remember Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins D, A and C – are the nutrients needed TOGETHER – in the RIGHT BALANCE that helps keep bones and teeth healthy!

I have deliberately not mentioned the calcium-phosphorus-D3-magnesium link in detail.

Phosphorus as Phytates

Cereal products have an inverted ratio of calcium to phosphorus (also present as phytates – which bind to calcium, preventing its absorption), so buffering any cereal mix with a little extra calcium is recommended.

However, just to confuse things – phosphorus in phytate form is also malabsorbed – so although it interferes with calcium metabolism (i.e., binds to calcium) – it may not upset the 2:1 balance too much due to the fact it is not being retained.

Chinchilla Environment ~ Chinchilla Proofing Your Home & Fixing Boredom

Chinchilla Environment ~ Chinchilla Proofing Your Home & Fixing Boredom

Hopefully, this article will impart some helpful hints, from chinchilla-proofing your home to preventing vices associated with boredom, such as fur-chewing.

Daily Exercise

Chinchillas really do appreciate extra exercise away from their cages. Many breeders are unable to do this; simply because with such large amounts of stock, they would not have enough hours in the day or enough pairs of eyes to supervise them sufficiently. However, the average chinchilla owner with just a couple of chinchillas should be able to make time for them to have a daily run.

Chinchillas will happily take as much exercise as you can allow them, from 15 minutes to a couple of hours a day.

The most important thing to remember when allowing chinchillas out of their cages is that they MUST be supervised at ALL TIMES. Otherwise, they can get themselves into trouble in the blink of an eye!

It is best to slowly increase their exercise time, especially if the chinchilla is not accustomed to being away from its cage. Ideally, the cage should be positioned so that the chinchilla can return to it for food, water, and security whenever it wishes. If this is not possible, then a ramp can assist. Start by allowing the chinchilla about ten minutes of exercise at a time – gradually increasing the time as the chinchilla becomes more accustomed to the exercise (and fitter!).

Chinchillas do not know when to stop and can sometimes exhaust themselves, so ensure that they return to their cages within a sensible time period.

Give the chinchilla a small treat when play-time has finished, and give the chinchilla a sandbath after exercise too. These will encourage the chinchilla to return to its cage more willingly or, better still, voluntarily. Try not to chase the chinchilla around when trying to return it to the cage as this will only make the chinchilla resent being caught and handled.

Obviously, due to a chinchillas susceptibility to the heat, it is recommended to only allow a chinchilla limited exercise on a hot day, confined only to the cooler evening hours.

Chinchilla-Proofing Your Home

If you are allowing a chinchilla the freedom of a room or two, then you will have to take measures to ensure that the chinchilla will not harm itself or your possessions.

Wall & Painted Surfaces

Skirting boards and other painted or non-painted wooden furnishings around the house can be sprayed with a “stop-chew” spray manufactured especially for pets. This is not 100% effective with chinchillas though. However, care must be taken to ensure that a chinchilla does not chew painted surfaces where the paint may contain lead (such as in older houses) – as this will result in lead poisoning. Always keep your chinchilla away from the lead-based paint.

Electrical

. Electric cables can be protected and covered with a rubber “cable-tidy,” a length of garden hose that has been slit open and popped over any cabling will work in the same manner, or simply cables can be unplugged and put out of reach.

Plants

Plants should be removed from the room. There are a lot of plants that are poisonous to pets including chinchillas.

Windows & Doors

Windows and doors should be shut firmly – and family members informed that the chinchillas are out for their daily run.

Toilets

Toilet lids should be closed (many a chinchilla has drowned in toilets, sadly).

Watch Your Step

Watch where you walk too, chinchillas move fast and can get under your feet, but it is unlikely they would survive getting heavily stepped on, as they are fragile little things.

Other Pets

Any other pets that may interfere with the chinchillas should be excluded from the same room while the chinchillas are free (although, chinchillas usually seem unafraid of dogs and cats).

Tiny Holes

Any tiny aperture (believe me, chinchillas can fit through the tiniest gap) should be blocked up to prevent the chinchilla squeezing through or behind objects such as fire-places or bookshelves.

Supervision

Above all, never leave them unsupervised.

 

The Sandbath

A daily sandbath, although performing a necessary fur-cleaning service, also helps with the general well-being of chinchillas.

They are very clean animals and dislike getting soiled in any way. If they are deprived of a sandbath for any length of time, they can get quite depressed and uncomfortable.

20 minutes a day is usually adequate for a chinchilla’s health and well being. Too little sandbaths will result in dirty fur and an unhappy chinchilla, and too many may dry the chinchilla’s skin out (especially those chinchillas kept indoors that may also feel the drying effects of central heating as well).

Use ONLY volcanic pumice or sepiolite (both available in pet-shops) and not silver/play or builders sand.

The sand can be sieved regularly to remove any debris, droppings or wet areas and can be replaced completely every now and then.

 

Cage-Toys

There are plenty of toys available on the pet-market that is suitable for chinchillas. Most wooden items manufactured for pets make great “chews.” Chubes are excellent (vegetable cardboard tunnels), lava bites (made from pumice), the list is endless.

Avoid anything made from plastic or rubber, as if ingested by the chinchilla, could cause an intestinal blockage.

Various kinds of wood twigs and branches make excellent chew-sticks or “climbing-frames,” and the bark can be eaten to provide a treat that is excellent for dental health (as they require much chewing and may help to wear the teeth).

All wood should be sourced from an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals, and the wood should be scrubbed clean and ideally “seasoned” for a couple of weeks too.

Apple-tree twigs and branches come top of the list, and most chinchillas adore eating the bark. Eating, cooking and crab apple trees are all suitable, so are pear trees.

Medlar trees and any other fruit tree are great too – as long as the fruit does NOT contain stones. Hazel and willow are ok – but are not as favored.

Some people also give their chinchillas the tough; woody rose “prunings” (minus the thorns) and dry, seasoned, open pinecones. I have not tried them with my chinchillas – so cannot comment on their suitability from personal experience (yet). I have tried Hawthorn though – and the chins love it and sill strip and eat the bark. It is also safe to give them a few leaves too but introduce these slowly to avoid stomach upsets.

Give the chinchilla one or two of the above items at a time but don’t overdo them or they will lose their novelty for the animals. And please don’t over-clutter their cages, so the poor chinchillas cannot move for toys!

 

Hay

Hay fed ad-lib can prevent boredom, as the chinchilla can munch on it as and when it wishes. Hay (as mentioned in a previous article) also provides the main source of fiber in a chinchilla’s diet too, which is good for digestion and tooth wear.

Wheels vs. Balls

There are a couple of the most expensive “exercise” aids available to pet-owners these include giant-sized “exercise balls” and the (rarely available) chinchilla wheel.

In my opinion, exercise balls are wholly unsuitable for chinchillas. Chinchillas enjoy exploring their environment and not getting stuffed into a plastic bubble. Also, the rolling momentum of the ball makes it very hard for the chinchilla to stop in them, and they can quickly become over-heated and exhausted. This often results in chinchillas having fits. I, therefore, cannot recommend them.

Chinchilla wheels, on the other hand, are usually loved by chinchillas, once they have got the hang of them. They are getting much easier to get hold of in the UK & US. Extra-large wheels, manufactured for rats are not suitable.

Chinchilla wheels need to be at least 14″ in diameter, have fully enclosed bearings, and be of solid construction (not runged) to protect tails and toes from getting trapped. The “Exotic Nutrition 15″ Chin-Sprint” and the “Chin Spin Chinchilla Wheel” (both manufactured specifically for chinchillas) can currently only be imported from the USA and Europe.

If you can get hold of a wheel they are well worth the effort – my chins have two superb 15” wheels, one of each of the above!

Companionship/Breeding

Chinchillas do enjoy company, but there are a few considerations to bear in mind when purchasing a pair of chinchillas or buying a companion for an existing pet.

Firstly, chinchillas are territorial and require an introduction period before being accepted into the same cage together. This time period can vary according to the temperament and age of the chinchillas and whether or not it is a same-sex pair or an opposite-sex pair that you are trying to introduce.

If you wish to keep an opposite-sex pair together, then you will have to bear in mind that they WILL breed, so you will need to be prepared for this eventuality. Extra cages will need to be purchased to wean any offspring, and the original pair will also need to be separated from time to time to avoid over-breeding the female, which can be detrimental to her health. Castration of the male is a feasible option, to prevent unwanted litters, but ensure that the vet has performed the operation before, and do some research on the subject first (I will endeavor to write an article covering this, in the near future, for Fur & Feather).

Young females are the usually the easiest same-sex pair to get together, but there are exceptions to every rule.

If you prefer to keep a single chinchilla, then you will need to bear in mind that YOU will become it’s bonded “cage-mate,” and will, therefore, need to ensure that you spend as much time as possible interacting with it.

What Can Chinchillas Eat List

What Can Chinchillas Eat List

Dietary Basics

This article deals with the somewhat “controversial” topic of diet and nutrition.

There is a lot of contradictory information regarding the feeding of chinchillas, and many breeders tend to have their own methods and opinions of what to feed and what not to feed. But one thing that all breeders will agree on is that chinchillas require a low fat, high fiber diet to maintain optimum health.

Chinchillas CAN eat the following, however only the top two can be given in unlimited quantities! All other foods on this list are in severe moderation.

Fruit: fruits with seeds, not stones or pits, e.g.,

  • raisins
  • dried cranberries
  • dried strawberries
  • dried blueberries
  • dried rose hips
  • a banana chip
  • a piece of apple
  • a piece of pear
  • a piece of grape
  • a piece of kiwi.

Herbs such as

  • oregano
  • comfrey
  • mint
  • nettle
  • dandelion
  • raspberry leaves

Vegetables

  • a piece of carrot
  • flaked peas
  • parsley
  • chard
  • romaine
  • dandelion leaf (small and washed)

Nuts and seeds, very sparingly

  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • flax seeds

Grains

  • rolled oats
  • oat groats
  • healthy cereals low in sugar like Shredded Wheat or Cornflakes

Other

  • a small piece of dry toast
  • an alfalfa-based animal treat.

Really, all a chinchilla requires is a very basic diet of good, quality chinchilla pellets and good quality hay – and that is it! I could really end the article here, as that pretty much covers it, but I will continue with a more thorough explanation.

The majority of illnesses that a pet chinchilla will suffer from will be directly or indirectly caused by dietary intake, so it is, therefore, useful to get a basic understanding of the correct nutritional requirements.

Chinchillas Dietary Adaptations

Chinchillas originally come from a region with low-flora designed for low-energy food such as dry grasses, twigs, leaves, cacti, and herbs. Due to this specialization of the digestive tract, no commercial rodent food may be fed indiscriminately in captivity. Optimal health of your chinchilla can only be achieved by being rich in fiber and low in fat. To extract as much goodness from their food as possible, a chinchilla will eat some of their droppings. This practice is called coprography.

Coprophagy helps to maintain the correct balance of intestinal flora within the gut, and also enables the chinchilla to absorb B Vitamins that are produced in the caecum (part of the gut).

Chinchillas in the wild will eat a variety of plants, shrubs, and grasses. They will consume stalks, stems, leaves, shoots, fruits, seeds and roots, depending on what time of year it is. It is also reported that they may eat the odd grub too, but I believe that this is probably more by accident than design, as chinchillas would not take the time to wash their food.

This tough, fibrous diet that chinchillas have evolved to deal with requires a pretty good set of teeth, and this is where rodents excel. Chinchillas have 20 teeth, all of which grow continuously throughout the chinchilla’s life. A chinchilla requires the kind of food that requires much chewing, just as they would receive in the wild. Often a diet that is too low in fiber will result in the teeth not getting worn down correctly, and dental problems may result. Plenty of fiber is also essential for the chinchilla to maintain healthy digestion too.

Therefore, it stands to reason that we need to give a domestic chinchilla a high fiber diet in captivity also, to maintain health.

Chinchilla Pellets – The food of Choice

Chinchilla pellets are considered to be the best type of food concentrate, but they must be of good quality and fed fresh (within their best before date), otherwise the vitamin content may have deteriorated with age.

The feeding of chinchilla mixes is not considered to be the ideal food. Although they contain a reasonable balance of protein and fiber, they are full of ingredients that really should be fed as occasional treats only, and should not be included in the staple diet.

Chinchillas are total junk food addicts and will stuff themselves with food that tastes nice, with no regard to its nutritional content. If fed a mixed food, they invariably will eat all the “goodies” from it and refuse the healthier pellets, simply because they do not taste as good. This picky and selective eating may mean that the chinchilla is not receiving an optimum diet and in the long-term, this may cause health problems.

I have heard many chinchilla owners say that they cannot get their chinchilla to eat pellets, as they are always ignored, and therefore they are forced to feed a mixed diet! Well, of course, this is going to happen if a chinchilla is given a choice between pellets and a mixed food – as the mixed food contains so many treats!!

Try cutting out the mixed food (gradually) and increase the number of pellets fed, until the chinchilla is fed pellets only. No healthy chinchilla will voluntarily starve itself, and if they are hungry, they WILL eat the pellets. Never change a chinchilla’s diet too fast, most dietary changes should be done gradually to avoid stomach upsets.

You may have to shop around a bit, to find a quality brand of pellet that your chinchilla prefers, as they can be quite variable in quality. If in doubt, ask a breeder what brand of pellets they use. Every breeder we have talked to has said to use Oxbow Essentials Pellets.

An average chinchilla requires about an ounce (heaped tablespoon) of pellets a day. It is not good practice to just fill up a bowl with food and then leave it for days until it is emptied. Just feed enough pellets that your chinchilla will eat in one day, there should be just a few pellets left in the bowl by the next feeding time. That way you are always feeding your chinchilla fresh pellets, you can easily spot if a chinchilla is off its food and you are not wasting any food either.

Hay – the Fibre Provider

In addition to the pellets, it is essential that a chinchilla eats at least a good handful of good-quality hay daily.

In captivity, hay is the main source of fiber in a chinchilla’s diet. It should be of good quality, sweet smelling, and definitely not moldy, damp or dusty. Hay maintains good digestion, helps to ensure correct tooth-wear and may also help to prevent cage-boredom too.

Baled hay for horses is usually very good. I have found that some hay sold in pet-shops is very short-chopped and will just fall through the bars of the hayrack. Hay is now available in various varieties, some being more suitable than others.

Out of choice, I give my chinchillas Timothy Hay as it has good ADF fiber content and my chinchillas love it.

There are two types of fiber found in feeds/hays etc…

ADF’s (acid detergent fiber) – are the least digestible – and found in the stems and stalks. NDF’s (neutral detergent fiber) is more digestible – and found in the leaves of grasses.

Fiber is made up of different components: cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin – the lignin bit is the least digestible ADF.

Chinchillas seem to do better (gut and tooth-wise) on a type of diet higher in ADF (acid detergent fiber). Timothy hay contains a minimum of 32% fiber of which @ 25.10% is ADF.

Hay Alternatives

There are some chinchilla owners that tell me that their chinchillas will not eat hay. I find this quite worrying, as it may be a sign of an underlying health problem. A diet lacking in hay may well be indicative or even causative of digestive or dental anomalies in the long-term.

A chinchilla must be encouraged to eat hay by cutting down on treats and concentrates if necessary. However, if for some strange reason a chinchilla cannot eat hay, then there are a few alternatives you can try.

Spillers Readigrass or Burgess Supa Forage Excel are both dried grass products. Although they contain slightly less fiber than hay, they are correctly calcium to phosphorus balanced and contain other nutrients too. They are ideal as an addition to hay and can be fed a couple of times a week, ideally. Chinchillas usually find them very palatable.

They can be fed INSTEAD of hay – and some breeders prefer to do this.

Supplements

Chinchillas, as with any animal, require a suitable and correct balance of vitamins and minerals in their diet. Many minerals work with other minerals and vitamins (i.e., iron and vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D3, etc. etc.) – so balance really is the key

Although a well balanced diet of top-quality pellets and hay should provide adequate vitamins and minerals, without the need for any extra supplementation, there may be times in a chinchilla’s life when a little extra may not hurt, such as with breeding or convalescing animals.

Complete vitamin and mineral supplements specially formulated for herbivores may be useful for addressing any imbalances, but should never be overdone. Arkvits (available from Vetark Professional 0870 243 0384) comes highly recommended for ill, stressed, breeding or growing chinchillas. Please follow instructions on the tub.

Treats

I have decided to deal with the topic of treats rather thoroughly as 99% of chinchilla owners give their chinchillas treats on a regular basis.

As I have said before, chinchillas are junk food addicts, but their digestion is not very good at coping with rich foods, therefore treats should be kept to a minimum.

Never feed so many treats that the chinchilla does not want to eat its staple diet. Healthy treats may be fed IN ADDITION to the normal diet, in small quantities.

Some treats (such as raisins) are really best used as a remedy for very mild constipation or a hand-taming aid and may be fed while the chin is being handled so it can associate handling with something pleasant.

Treats can be divided into three categories; healthy treats, treats that should only be fed occasionally and treats that should really be avoided.

Healthy Treats:

  • Apple Tree Twigs/Branches – should be cleaned in warm water. Once cleaned, the bark should be left on. You can give a twig or two daily, but branches will last a little longer. Chinchillas love to strip off and eat the bark, which provides an excellent fibrous treat that is good for the teeth. It closely resembles their natural diet too. Willow and hazel and other kinds of fruit tree wood (as long as the fruit DOES NOT contain stones) may also be given instead of apple wood. Hawthorn is relished too.
  • Alfalfa Hay – May be given once or twice a week. High in calcium and protein too. A tasty and healthy treat.
  • Readigrass or Supa Forage Excel – freeze-dried grass. Naturally contains the correct balance of calcium to phosphorus. A good source of fiber. An ideal treat and may be fed once or twice a week.
  • Natural Licorice Root – A very tough, fibrous treat, great for the teeth. A length about an inch or two long may be given once a week if your chinchilla likes it (not all chinchillas do).
  • Dried Herbs – a good pinch per chinchilla can be fed a few times a week too. Some herbs are full of phytonutrients and can provide a good source of vitamins and minerals. However, they can also have medicinal uses, so do check the suitability of your chosen treat before feeding it. Introduce all new foodstuff slowly, as usual.

Treats that may be given Sparingly:

  • Raisins and other dried fruit – Chinchillas will sell their souls for a raisin or other kind of fruit. However, they are usually preserved in a little vegetable oil, and if fed too much, the chinchilla may develop slightly soft or runny droppings. In fact, because of this, many breeders treat them as more of a medicine than a treat and will give them to chinchillas who appear to be slightly constipated. Only the equivalent of a couple of raisins should be given weekly. The raisins (or other fruit) can be split into smaller pieces, to make them go a little further.
  • Baked Dry Bread – I sometimes put sliced wholemeal bread into the oven and bake it until it is dry and crunchy. I feed about a quarter of a slice per chinchilla as an occasional treat. Although the bread is actually quite a healthy treat, it should only be given occasionally as it is quite filling and the chinchillas may not eat up all their staple diet if too much is fed too often.
  • Fresh Apple – If fed in excess can have slightly laxative properties. However, a thumb-sized piece once or twice a week is relished by most chinchillas.
  • Human Food – some cereals that have no added fat or sugar make suitable treats for chinchillas if fed in moderation, such as Shredded Wheat, All Bran, etc.

Treats to Avoid:

Sunflower Seeds/Peanuts – Although some breeders say that they can be fed as a very occasional treat, I personally avoid them totally. Most seeds and nuts, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, coconut, millet, etc, ar.e actually very high in fats and oils. Chinchillas should not be fed a diet that is high in fats, as it is too rich for their delicate digestive system. With so many other more healthy alternatives, there should be no need to feed them to chinchillas at all, and chinchillas will certainly not miss them. If they simply must be fed as a treat, then do so a sparingly as possible, as infrequently as possible.

  • Green Foods – Foods such as broccoli, lettuce, and fresh grass, etc., should not be fed to chinchillas. They can (and have) caused bloat in chinchillas and therefore, should be avoided.
  • Commercially Made Treats – Some types of chinchilla treats available in pet shops are actually quite unsuitable. Try to avoid anything that contains seeds, nuts, oils, and sugars as these will not be healthy for your chinchilla.
  • Human Food – Once again, although chinchillas LOVE biscuits and cereals etc., please use your common sense when feeding them. Biscuits are extremely high in fat and sugar, and you are not doing your chinchilla any favors if you feed them regularly. Some sugar-coated cereals should be avoided too.

Finally, just to reiterate, a basic staple diet of pellets and hay is all a chinchilla needs to stay healthy.

However, healthy low-fat, high-fiber treats, fed sparingly, will add a little variety to the main diet and that, together with an occasional vitamin and mineral supplement (if necessary) should ensure the health and wellbeing of your chinchilla.

Any changes or additions to a chinchilla should be done gradually to avoid stomach upsets.

 

Reference:

MLA

“All About Chinchilla’s: Diet And Nutrition.” bloggingchinchilla. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2018 <http://bloggingchinchilla.blogspot.com/2008/01/diet-and-nutrition.html>.

MLA

“Chinchilla Care. 975 Iris Avenue Imperial Beach, Ca (619 …”docplayer. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2018 <https://docplayer.net/38354677-Chinchilla-care-975-iris-avenue-imperial-beach-ca>.

What Do Chinchillas Need

What Do Chinchillas Need

Once you see a chinchilla, you will not be surprised why many people desire to have this rodent as a family pet. They are very cute! When you take care of them correctly they could live up to 17-20 years. There are a few important things to take into consideration before purchase this small animal. Since they are rodents, their teeth never stop growing. Another important thing is that they need a sand dust bath on a weekly basis.

What Do Chinchillas Need?

There are a few important basic things to take into consideration before you purchase this small animal. Since they are rodents, their teeth never stop growing. Another important thing is that they need a sand dust bath on a weekly basis. They need a safe place to live, food, water, regular grooming, toys & vet care plus plenty of playtime!

  • A Place To Live
  • Safe Cage Interior
  • Food
  • Water
  • Proper Hygiene
  • Active Playtime 
  • Toys For Entertainment And Stress Relief
  • Vet Care

A Place to Live

What Do Chinchillas NeedOther than meeting the health demands of their chinchillas, pet parents are responsible in making certain that their home is ideal for taking care of a small animal. Prior to buying your chinchilla, be sure to take this in mind. Your funny companion will live in a cage but he will need a space outside the wire mesh to exercise.

If you would like them as pets, ensure you have sufficient place exactly where they could maneuver around, look for food, and also play. These creatures are also very sensitive to noise. In reference to that, you need to keep the chinchilla pet in a quiet spot.

Apart from noise, they’ve got this sensitivity to heat. This is why you must place the house in locations that are far from heat, with low humidity and also moderate temperatures.

It is best to place a chinchilla in a large cage where they can remain healthy as well as amused. These animals want to run around and hop, so the housing should be high and tall. The residence should have a number of levels. A wire mesh serves as the flooring. To help make the cage more enjoyable for your own chinchilla, you must add playing accessories. Give your pet something to chew on by placing natural wood sticks.

Safe Cage Interior

In general, pet owners cover the floor with safe wood shavings. If that is not on hand, make use of shredded cardboard that does not have any ink! Never use newspaper!  It is important that your chinchilla receives the correct amount of bedding materials, which you should change twice a week. Additionally, put a wooden house inside the cage. This will be the exclusive place where the domesticated rodent can hide or relax.

Food

Wild chinchillas are naturally inclined to live in dry climate. Plants and vegetables which grow in mountainous areas are what precisely they normally eat. Their diet consists of leaves, herbs, and very few specific fruits. Hay is the ideal food for chinchillas as long as it is green in color, never buy brown looking hay! It is also good to feed them grass. Aside from that the point that it has got low calories, it’s also protein rich. If you are not careful when choosing what food to provide your pet; their health will be jeopardized. The perfect food for a domesticated chinchilla is Oxbow essentials, APD-Alffy Pellets (American Pet Diner) and Mazuri pellets

High fat and sugary foods are not appropriate for chinchillas. Food products like snacks, raisin, and nuts can make your pet fat. That’s the reason why they should be averted too. Dry apples or banana chips could be provided as snacks. It is also helpful to realize that chinchillas aren’t fond of eating fresh plants.

Water

Keep your chinchilla well hydrated by adding freshly filtered water in its cage. Always keep the water bottle clean, and replace the water every day to avoid bacteria growth.

Grooming and Hygiene

Another important item that must be placed inside the cage is a special sand and box. Like most products today, you can get this online or you can go to the local pet shop close to you. This is important for their grooming since the only way for chinchillas to keep their coat thoroughly clean is to do the dust bath. Chinchilla dust bathing must be completed two to three times weekly.

When are Chinchillas most awake and active? Active Playtime

What Do Chinchillas Need

Chinchillas are Crepuscular (derived from the Latin word for “twilight”), and not nocturnal as most people think. Being crepuscular means that your pet chinchilla will be most active and awake during the low light times of day, which are at dawn and dusk. Sub-categories of crepuscular are the terms matutinal (or “matinal”), meaning active at dawn) and vespertine, (referring to active at dusk). Chinchillas are not the only animals casually described as nocturnal that are in fact crepuscular. You might be surprised to learn that cats and dogs are also crepuscular, along with rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, skunks, and rats!

If you are wondering why chinchillas are primarily active at dawn and dusk, think for a moment about how they adapted to survive in the wild. Chinchillas are a preyed upon animal, and many predators hunt intensely at night. Other predators are active at mid-day and see best in full sun. So the low light of dawn and dusk would have provided some respite from being hunted. There is also the likely possibility that being out and about at dawn and dusk was a way of avoiding the hotter mid-day sun, while still capitalizing on available light.

So, the moral of the story for pet chinchilla owners are:
1. Although your chinchilla will get some sleep at night, be sure to allow your chinchilla some privacy and quiet to sleep during the day as well.
2. Socialize and bond with your chinchilla in the evenings when they perk up and are more active.
3. If you’re not an early riser, make sure your chinchilla’s cage is not near or in your bedroom, since they will be up and active with the dawn’s early light!

Do Chinchillas Need Toys?

If you trek to the Andes to have a look at chinchillas’ natural habitat, you won’t see a variety of fun-shaped, colorful, sisal-pumice-wood combination chew toys laying around or hanging overhead. But what chinchillas DO have in the wild is lots of natural stimulation, activity, and herd interaction. Wild chinchillas are constantly busy foraging for food, and hopping and scurrying around the rocky terrain taking care of their young, grooming themselves, dust bathing and avoiding predators. They don’t have time to be bored because they are busy with day to day survival activities. And yet even then they still find time to ‘play’ with various natural objects.

For your pet chinchilla, out of cage playtime with tunnels and obstacles, and a variety of chew-friendly chinchilla toys are key ingredients to “recreating” the natural activity that your chin is missing. There isn’t a whole lot of rock jumping to be done inside a wire cage, and that food bowl is pretty easy to find – no foraging required! Chinchilla-safe toys and playtime provided by you are necessary to satisfy and serve some of your cchinchillas’ basic needs:

Chewing – Chinchillas chew on objects instinctively to meet their health needs (keeping their constantly growing teeth in check!) It is annoying to some people that the cute toys they buy for their chinchilla are inevitably destroyed by chewing. But enjoyment and stimulation through play and chewing is precisely the point to providing them! Chewing satisfies both physical and psychological urges by exercising a chinchillas jaws and by occupying his mind. If you don’t give your chinchilla some chew toys, I guarantee he will FIND something to chew that might not be an item you agree with!

Exercise – Pet chinchillas do not have to run from predators, search for food, or navigate rocky terrain like their wild brothers and sisters. No matter how big a cage you have or how much time they spend on their wheel or saucer, your chin still needs the activity of outside of cage and toy playtime. Without adequate exercise, your chinchilla will become overweight.

Boredom – One of the main reasons to provide toys for your pet is to prevent boredom. Don’t take it personally, but as much as you may interact with your pet chinchilla, it just does not have the same busy life that its wild brothers and sisters do. Many chinchillas in captivity become bored and depressed when their environment is not enriched with toys. Your pet chinchilla relies on you to provide variety in his life.

Stress Reduction – Imagine how stressful it is for a little chin who has to learn to adjust to the sights, sounds and smells of your home, get used to the comings and goings of other pets and people in the house, learn what can be chewed on and what can’t, all while feeling confined. The diversion that toys provide can lessen the stresses of life as a pet. Toys are a great way to help your chinchilla vent its extra energy.

Interaction with YOU! – You are a very important figure in your chinchillas life. Chinchillas are social creatures, and you are a key member of his/her herd! And so your pet wants to play with you. The shared fund of playtime with you, among toys and playground items is a great way to interact with and bond with your special friend!

 Proper Vet Care

You must be vigilant since most chins will hide/subdue most health issues until it has become quite desperate. This is when most keepers will run for the first vet office that will see their pet. WARNING! Chins are still basically wild animals. They will hide all symptoms and health problems very well until they are quite sick and literally miserable. If you suspect your chin is not feeling well, you have to get to a qualified vet ASAP. Many chins have been lost this way. Please don’t have this happen to you. It is best to find a vet that has experience in exotic animals and have experience in treating chins. Find this clinic and speak with the vet as well as the staff before you need them.

 

Chinchilla Care Sheet

Chinchilla-Care-Sheet

Before bringing your chinchilla home:

  • Ensure you have a cage set up and ready,
  • Be sure that your family is aware your new pet will need peace and quiet to settle into their new home.
  • Ensure your chinchilla is not unduly disturbed by other pets such as cats and dogs.
  • Ensure that any younger children understand a small animals nervousness and that they will need to be gentle and patient

 Setting up a Chinchilla Cage

There are many types of cages which will make a wonderful home for your chinchilla. The one we use is the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation. As chinchillas love to run around, choosing as large a cage as you can accommodate comfortably would be a wise decision. We don’t feel a cage should be smaller than 24″ x 24″ x 18″ as this allows a single chinchilla some running room. Two-story cages are larger and nice if you are accommodating several chinchillas. You can buy your cage or make it yourself. It is nice to incorporate shelves, a hideaway house, toys and a wheel for exercise. Our preference is to use ½” x ½” on the bottom and 1″ x ½” on the sides and top. This is especially important if you are planning to breed a pair of chinchillas. Babies are great escape artists and can get out of wire mesh that is larger than 1″ x ½.” Also, if you have babies, it is best to have them in a single story cage with no shelves as they can fall or be injured by a jumping adult.

You can choose to have a wire bottom cage or a cage which rests in a pan. If you choose a cage that rests in a pan or has a solid metal bottom, you will want to use natural pine shavings that contain no oils or tars. Do not use cedar shavings as they can be toxic to chinchillas. If you choose a wire mesh bottom cage, the size of the mesh is extremely important. The mesh bottom of the cage should be no larger than ½” x ½.” If the wire is larger, a chinchilla can get a foot caught in the mesh. In its distress, a chinchilla can chew off its foot, break its leg or the leg trauma may necessitate amputation. Why take a chance! If using a wire bottom cage, be sure the chinchilla has areas where it can sit or rest where its feet are not directly on the wire. We use houses or shelves and sometimes wood planks (which we change regularly because they can harbor bacteria). Chinchillas can develop sores on their feet from the continued direct contact with the wire.

A standard chinchilla cage is constructed of strong wire mesh; this mesh should not be coated in plastic which could be chewed and swallowed. Wooden shelving should be provided inside the cage to give them a place to rest off the wire; they will also appreciate a wooden house or box to retreat to.

Accessories you will need include: 

  • a hay rack (unless one is built into the cage),
  • a water bottle,
  • a food dish which cannot be knocked over,
  • a dust bath,
  • food, and hay,
  • Chinchilla dust or chinchilla sand. Do not use ordinary sand as this is too coarse.
  • Litter – wood based cat litter is ok. Alternatively, you may line the litter tray with newspaper provided the chins can not reach the paper. Do not use sawdust as this is too fine, and do not use cedar wood shavings (cedar is harmful to chins).
  • exercise wheel

The cage is best placed where other animals will not bother your chinchilla; away from drafts; not directly in front of a radiator; and not in direct sunlight where they may be at risk from heat exhaustion. A good spot is against the wall, or in the corner of the room where the chinchilla will feel
less exposed.

When your chinchilla arrives home, place them in their new cage and leave them alone for the rest of the day. Before they start to interact with you, they need time to settle in, investigate their home, and become accustomed to all the new smells and sounds around them.

Exercise Wheel:

When choosing a wheel, do not select a wire mesh wheel or a hamster wheel. Many chinchillas have had legs amputated or have been killed when caught in these wheels. Choose a wheel that is solid all the way around. The ONLY two that I have found to be safe are the Exotic Nutrition 15″ Chin-Sprint and the 15″ Chin Spin Chinchilla Wheel (Handmade in the USA)

Water Bottles:

Many good water bottles are available. Heavy glass water bottles are nice because they can be sterilized in the dishwasher, but be sure the drinking tubes are very heavy glass, so the chinchilla does not bite through them. There are also many varieties of plastic water bottles from Lixit and Nivek which also work well. Be sure the bottles do not leak, especially if the chinchillas sit on litter. Damp litter is very unhealthy for the chinchilla. If using plastic water bottles, it is important to put a sheet metal guard between the water bottle and the cage. Chinchillas will chew through a plastic water bottle at every opportunity. We cut a piece of sheet metal large enough to shield the water bottle and make a hole for the water nozzle. This has worked very well. Also, be sure the water bottle is securely fastened to the cage as the chinchillas enjoy unhooking the wires that hold it to the cage.

Chinchillas need access to fresh water at all times. It is important to change their water daily and keep the water bottles clean so as not to breed bacteria.

Toys:

Chinchillas enjoy chewing and need to chew to prevent their teeth becoming overgrown; chewable toys are therefore ideal for chinchillas. Avoid toys that have small or sharp, metal parts, or have plastic parts. If (or when) your chinchilla chews these they will end up swallowing the plastic
and could end up with a blockage in their intestine.

Many chinchillas enjoy hanging toys with bells on the bottom and wood blocks (usually pine or fir) stacked on the chain. They delight in chewing off the blocks and like the sound of the bell. It is important that chinchillas have adequate items to chew as their teeth continually grow. We often supply wood blocks, hanging toys, pumice blocks, booda bones, etc. If you use any wood in the cage, be sure to change it often as wood can harbor fungus and bacteria.

Be sure your chinchilla has a little hideaway house so s/he can have somewhere to go when s/he needs to feel safe. They do truly enjoy their houses and often feel comfortable lying on their sides or backs totally relaxed.

Food Dishes:

We like to use stoneware crocks that sit on the bottom of the cage. This allows us to monitor the food intake to be sure the chinchillas are eating well. Although sometimes the chinchillas will soil the dishes and the food, they can be easily washed and refilled. We tend to use different size crocks depending on the number and age of the chinchillas in the cage. Crocks that are 4″ and 5″ tend to work well. There are also metal feeders which hook onto the side of the cage. However, with these, the chinchillas tend to pull out the food, and it scatters over the cage bottom.

[alert style=”warning”]Items which are also suitable to leave in your chinchillas’ cage are:

  • hanging parrot toys
  • sisal ropes (again designed for parrots, but chins love them)
  • pieces of pumice stone
  • some rabbit or large hamster toys
  • wood or branches, e.g., kiln-dried pine (not fresh pine), apple, pear, or willow.[/alert]

Feeding

Two words: Hay and Pellets

All a chinchilla needs are good quality hay and pellets; and fresh water – a very basic diet is, without a doubt, the best diet for them.

Hay needs to be available at all times as it is essential in helping wear down their teeth and keep them in trim. If your chinchilla is not eating its hay then reduce the amount of pellets you feed to encourage eating of hay. You can’t give a chinchilla too much fresh hay.

It is also a good idea to provide a cuttlefish bone to chew on as this provides calcium which is essential for healthy teeth.

You will see mix foods which say they provide a well-balanced diet however problems which become apparent when feeding a mixed food are:

  • Most mix foods contain treat foods.
  • Given a choice, most chinchillas will pick out their favorite food and choose not to eat the rest. Chinchillas can become picky – they will tend to eat more treat foods and less of the other ingredients.
  • A diet rich in treats is not considered a good diet for a chinchilla.
  • A mix of food is formulated to provide a well-balanced diet based on the assumption that all ingredients are eaten.

We recommend feeding your chinchilla twice per day (morning and evening). Chinchillas enjoy a routine and look forward to being fed at the same time each day. We have used APD-Alffy Pellets (American Pet Diner) and Mazuri pellets. Our chinchillas have maintained excellent health on this diet. We offer timothy hay, hay cubes, and alfalfa cubes.

Always be sure that any food, timothy hay or alfalfa you use is fresh, free of mold, mildew and toxic weeds. If your chinchilla eats “bad” hay, diarrhea often results. This can sometimes lead to intestinal problems which, if untreated, can lead to an untimely death to your pet.

When changing your chinchillas’ diet do it slowly to decrease the risk of digestive problems. Start by mixing in a little of the new food into the existing food, then throughout a one or two weeks (approx.) gradually increase the quantity of new food, and decrease that of the old food.

Feeding Treats

Although pellets and hay are all that a chinchilla needs they can be given some treats. All treats offered should be low in salt, sugar, fats, and oils. Therefore commercial foods, e.g., biscuits, crisps, crackers, etc. should be avoided. Nuts and seeds should also be avoided or given only occasionally as
they are high in fats and oils, for example, pecan nuts contain approx. 70g of fat per 100g. All treats should be given in small quantities, and only one or two each day as too much fresh fruit, veg, and grains can cause digestive problems. Peanuts and corn should not be given.

Treats which can be given are:

  • Fruit, try fruits with seeds, not stones or pits, e.g., raisins, dried cranberries, dried strawberries, dried blueberries, dried rose hips, a banana chip, or a piece of apple, pear, grape, or kiwi.
  • Veg, e.g., a piece of carrot, flaked peas, parsley, chard, romaine, a dandelion leaf (small and washed). Avoid anything gas forming, e.g., broccoli, cabbage.
  • Dried herbs, if available you can pick herbs, then after washing them, hang them upside down (in bunches) in a warm area until they have completely dried out. Herbs suitable for chinchillas include oregano, comfrey, mint, nettle, dandelion, and raspberry leaves.
  • Grain, e.g., rolled oats, oat grouts, healthy cereals low in sugar like Shredded Wheat or Cornflakes.
  • Nuts and seeds, very sparingly – e.g., almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds
  • commercially prepared, e.g., chinchilla crackers (produced for chinchillas and available in the US & UK), a small piece of dry toast, or an alfalfa-based animal treat.

When introducing a new treat, do it slowly – introduce one treat at a time, and when first feeding it to your chinchilla only give a small piece. If you have just bought a chinchilla and are not sure if they have been given fruit before then start by only give one small piece at first.

Fat/oil content of nuts and seeds

The table below is provided for information only to allow a comparison of different nuts and seeds. The fat/oil content is expressed as a percentage, e.g., sunflower seeds contain 47.5g oil per 100g. I know sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds can be fed to chinchillas – I can not guarantee that all the items listed below are safe for chinchillas to eat!

Nut or seed type Fat/oil content (%)
Pumpkin 45.6
Peanut 46.1
Sunflower 47.5
Cashews 48.2
Pistachios 53.7
Almonds 55.8
Hazel 63.5
Brazil 68.2
Walnuts 68.5
Pine nuts 68.6
Pecans 70.1
Macadamia 76.9

 

Possible problems resulting from feeding peanuts

Your chinchilla will benefit from some essential fatty acids provided by nuts and seeds. However, it is believed that too much fat in a chinchillas diet may make them prone to hepatic lipidosis. Hepatic lipidosis tends to occur in animals which cannot metabolize fat well. It is literally fat infiltration into liver cells – fat globules build up in the cells until they are unable to perform their natural function. Severe hepatic lipidosis can cause major problems and even death.

Peanuts may also be a source of aflatoxins. This carcinogenic mycotoxin is produced by certain fungi and is a potent poison. It remained undiscovered until 1960 when 100,000 young turkeys died after eating contaminated feed. Aflatoxins appear to work by modifying the structure of DNA in the liver cells resulting in highly corroded livers. It is thought that there is a link between primary hepatocellular carcinoma and the consumption of aflatoxins. Foods most likely to be contaminated are corn, peanuts, and cottonseed, although it has also been detected on other foods.

While many chinchillas are given peanuts as a treat with no apparent ill effects, it is considered better to avoid peanuts, give seeds as a treat instead, and reserve other nuts as a ‘special’ treat.

Sugar and fiber content of dried fruit

This information is included because a few owners have reported tooth cavities in their pets. While the diet of those animals is not known, it seems sensible to limit the amount of sugar your chinchilla eats.

Dried fruit is often high in sugar because the sugar that is naturally present in the fruit becomes more concentrated by the drying process. It is, therefore, best to avoid feeding fruit with added sugar to your chinchilla.

Information in the table below is based on dried fruits to which no sugar was added. Once again this table is provided for information only to allow a comparison of different dried fruits. The sugar/ fiber content of each fruit is expressed as a percentage, e.g., raisins contain 71.4% sugar, and 5.8% fiber per 100g. All these fruits can be fed to chinchillas – in small quantities, e.g., one or two raisin-sized pieces.

Fruit Sugar content (%) Fibre content (%)
Banana 29.6 6.0
Cranberry 57.1 28.6
Mango 62.0 ?
Strawberry 71.4 7.1
Raisin 71.4 5.8
Blueberry 81.8 9.1
Apple 84.6 11.5
Pineapple 86.4 4.5

 

Changing your chinchillas’ food

Changing your chinchillas’ diet should be done slowly to decrease the risk of digestive problems. Start by mixing in a little of the new food into the existing food, then throughout a one or two weeks (approx.) gradually increase the quantity of new food, and decrease that of the old food.

When introducing a new treat, again do it slowly – introduce one treat at a time, and when first feeding it to your chinchilla only give a small piece. If you have just bought a chinchilla and are not sure if they have been given fruit before then start by only give one small piece at first.

Taming and Handling

A chinchilla can live up to 20 years, so you have plenty of time – take your time getting to know your chinchilla, a weeks progress can suffer a severe setback if you inadvertently scare your pet.

Remember that chinchillas are timid and can easily become frightened; each chinchilla is different and the time it takes to develop trust between you and your new chinchilla will vary with each animal – some animals can take six months or more to trust their owner completely. It is worth remembering that in the wild a chinchilla is a prey animal – and they have evolved to be alert to dangers, and to run and hide if there is something they are not sure of.

Approach the cage slowly and speak quietly and gently to your chinchilla, offer them a raisin or some other small treat. Chinchillas are naturally curious so after a while, s/he should come to the side of the cage and accept the treat. When your chinchilla is happy with this try reaching into the cage and offering a treat, do not pursue your pet – be patient and let them come to you, and allow them to explore your hand and arm. As your chinchillas trust in you increases you can try stroking their back, and in time you may be able to pick them up. It has to be said here that some chinchillas will never like being picked up.

Exercising Your Chinchilla

It is important for chinchillas to have exercise. A safely constructed wheel (not wire) in your chinchilla’s cage provides both entertainment and exercise. A wheel (if your chinchilla enjoys using it) also helps to keep your chinchilla from becoming overweight and lethargic. If you have a spare room, a closet or a bathroom that you can “baby proof,” use this for your chinchilla to run free. They leap, jump and ricochet off the walls with abandon. If you are sitting on the floor, they will use you to leap upon as well. It is important to be there to supervise a chinchilla’s playtime to ensure there are no mishaps. Be sure toilet seats are down; garbage cans are covered, no cupboards open no electric outlets are exposed or cords accessible to the chinchilla. We usually take a few chinchilla toys (toilet paper rolls, PVC pipe tubes, plastic balls, whiffle balls, etc.) and spread them on the floor. Chinchillas are very nosy and love to explore the toys, carrying them around the room. Often your chinchilla plays so hard, s/he wears himself out and then goes right to sleep when you put him/her back in the cage.

Whichever play area you chose you will need to chin proof. This involves ensuring that:

  • no electrical (or telephone) wires are available for chewing,
  • they cannot get behind or under any gas fires, fridges, freezers, washing machines, etc. where they may become stuck or may come to harm,
  • you have no objects lying around that you really don’t want to be chewed,
  • the toilet seat is kept down – chinchillas have died or been badly harmed by toilet incidents.

Your chinchilla will need to be supervised at all times. When you leave the room for five or ten minutes, you may walk back in to find your pet has managed to climb up and reach some electrical wires or has discovered the delights of wallpaper stripping!

Use caution – while your pet is outside the cage it is extremely important to know their whereabouts, they can move very quickly, but at other times they can move very quietly – it is very easy to turn around and tread on your chinchilla! Likewise, before sitting down check the seat, your chinchilla may have pinched that spot.

Getting your chinchilla back in the cage can be a challenge. It is a good idea to avoid chasing them, especially if you are still working on gaining their trust. One method is to offer them their bath when they hop in just take them back to their cage.

Health

The most important thing to keep in mind is that by the time you notice your chinchilla is feeling poorly, they may have been ill for some time. If an infectious illness is suspected isolate them from other chins, then take them to the vet as soon as possible rather than try to guess what may be wrong
and possibly give inappropriate treatment.

Having said that chinchillas tend to be healthy animals. Problems that may occur include overgrown teeth, diarrhea, constipation, heat stroke, fur fungus, eye infections, colds, hair ring.

Teeth

Chinchillas can get overgrown teeth or tooth spurs. If your chinchilla appears to be having difficulty eating, is reaching their paw to their mouth frequently, and particularly if you notice wetness around the mouth or on the chest then take it along to the vet as soon as you possibly can. These symptoms may indicate tooth problems which in some cases can require surgery – treatment is best undertaken before the chin loses too much weight and weakens through lack of food.

Chinchillas can also develop cavities – so beware of giving too many sweet treats!

Digestive problems

These can occur due to change of diet, too much fruit, and vegetables, or through illness. Again a visit to the vet is in order. A chin with constipation may benefit from extra exercise, while in the event of diarrhea the following may help: withhold all treats, offer your chin charcoal in the form of bird
charcoal, or extremely well-done toast (completely blackened).

Heat stroke

Chinchillas generally will not survive temperatures over 75 degrees for extended periods. They can become very stressed even at 70 degrees if humidity is high.  If kept over 80 degrees, chinchillas can suffer heat stroke and die. Keep your chinchilla in a cool place, being careful to avoid drafts. It is important to have a good exchange of air in the room. You should consider acquiring an air conditioning unit if you have chinchillas in your home (and perhaps a backup unit if you have many chinchillas). We repeatedly warn people of the heat dangers to chinchillas since chinchillas cannot perspire as we do.  We are adamant about instructing people not to put their chinchillas outside during the summer months because of the risk of heat stroke.  If you leave your chinchilla outside in the sun, on a porch or even under a tree during very hot weather, you will be killing your pet.  So many chinchillas die from heat stroke every year, and it doesn’t have to happen!

In the book, Joy of Chinchillas, there is a section that talks about heat stroke.  The following is an excerpt from that section:

 Chinchillas can die from heat stroke, and it is preventable!  If temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity add up to 150 (e.g. temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is 60%, the sum equals 150) then that is dangerous to the chinchillas.  The chinchilla comfort zone is 65 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit tops.  They can tolerate cold far easier than heat (of course, they have a nice fur coat).  Humidity should be around 30% to 40%.  Below 25% humidity even humans develop dry cracked skin – so, decrease bathing which causes dry skin if done excessively.  Remember, if you are uncomfortable from either heat or humidity, your chinchilla will also be uncomfortable.  The rule of 150 goes for humans too, and if the temperature plus humidity is 150 or above you also are in danger of heat problems.  If you are in danger, how much more your chinchilla, which cannot sweat nor take off its nice fur coat!!!”

Air movement by fans cools just by circulating the air, so use fans to blow air around your chinchilla.  Don’t blow air directly on your chinchilla, but cool the environment instead.  Having access to an air conditioner can save your animal’s life.  Filling your chinchilla’s cage with jars of ice, or dishes of ice cubes, so they can lie next to the ice to cool off, also helps.  (Chinchillas sometimes chew on ice cubes, and though this is thought to crack teeth, it is not as yet been proven.)  Other ideas are:  soaking them in cool (not cold) water, turning the water sprinklers or misters onto the cage or spraying the cages with water, or putting wet sheets over cages and using a fan to speed evaporation can also cool off your chinchilla.  Anything to cool them off will make a difference and can save a life. Heatstroke is fatal…

A chinchilla suffering from the effects of heat may lie on one side and remain motionless, the ears may become pink – this is most noticeable in beige chinchillas or those with pale colored ears. They may also have difficulty breathing.

To keep your chinchilla cool:

Keep the heat out

  • If the sun shines in through the window, then ensure the cage is not near the window. Keep the curtains at least three quarters closed when the sun is on the window.
  • A thin dark material over the window will help keep out the sun, but let in the air.
  • Consider buying curtains or blinds which have thermal properties – these keep out heat in summer and retain heat in winter.
  • For a chinchilla room, or chinchilla outbuilding you could paint cool glass on the window. This is used on greenhouses to provide shading and will wash off. Look for it in shops selling gardening products.

Let the heat out

  • Opening the windows may cool the room down, however, if there is no breeze you may simply be letting warm air in!

Cool the cage area 

Some methods have been suggested to do this:

  • Find some really cheap tins of soup/beans etc. Remove the labels and freeze them. When they are frozen run them under a warm tap for a moment to remove the white frosting (the kind your fingers may stick to!), dry them and put them in the cage.
  • Fill and freeze ice cream containers, or use frozen tins, ice packs, or terracotta tiles. When frozen place them on top of the cage. Warm air rises and cold air sinks, so the temperature in the cage below should fall. You may want to ensure condensation does not drip into the cage.
  • Large beach stones (or similar) can be frozen and put in the cage – your chin can sit on them and try chewing them. Alternatively, use terracotta pots/tiles.

I use ice packs on top of the cage if I am out all day during very hot weather; however, if you use any water-filled plastic container (e.g., ice packs for picnic boxes) then ensure your chin cannot chew the plastic and make it leak! Note that terracotta tiles are best wetted before freezing.

Fur fungus

If your chins have fur fungus the vet will prescribe an antifungal powder which can be mixed in with the bath sand – the fungus should start to clear in a few days. Do not confuse this with fur biting – some chins bite their own (or other animals) fur so that it appears short and bristly – it is thought this
can sometimes be caused by stress.

Eye infections

If your chins eye is closed and has a discharge coming from it, then this may be an infection, or it may the result of a scratched eyeball. Until you see a vet you can make the chin a little more comfortable by trying to keep the eye open: make some tea (no milk, no sugar) and allow it to cool,
use some cotton wool dipped in the tea and wipe the eye from the inside corner outwards to clear away the discharge.

Colds

Cold symptoms in chins are similar to those in humans, including a runny nose! Ensure your chin is warm enough and is continuing to eat and drink. If the chin has problems breathing or appears to have a fever then see a vet immediately.

Hair ring

A male chinchilla may develop a penile hair ring if they do not clean themselves properly. This can result in severe discomfort and even death, it needs to be carefully removed, either by the vet, or yourself (if you are confident and have a friend to hold the chin). A little lubricant like Vaseline or KY
jelly can help.