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on the chinny pictures or headings to view a topic~
There is a lot you need to know about
chinchilla nutrition as a chin's digestive tract is very sensitive and
depends upon a healthy, balanced, regular diet with the occasional treat.
- WILD FOODS
- In their native South American habitat,
chinchillas eat steppe grasses, fruits, leaves, and the bark of small
shrubs and bushes. Their life expectancy in captivity is much longer
thanks to a more healthy, nutritionally balanced diet, but they will
only remain healthy if they get enough roughage like in their native
- Chinchilla pellets look very much like
rabbit pellets but are nutritionally quite different. It has been found
that a steady diet of rabbit pellets will cause liver damage in chinchillas
over time. Offer about 2 tablespoons of fresh pellets (no more than
3 months old) per adult chin each evening.
- Where hay is concerned, dryness is a
prime necessity! Preventing mold is the main consideration as mold fungi
cause dangerous attacks of diarrhea in chins. A good test is to twist
a clump of hay into a "rope". If it holds it's twisted shape then it
is too damp. Alfalfa, timothy, bermuda grass, or oat hay can be used,
but if changing to a new hay (new variety or new batch) it is best to
offer only small amounts until it is certain the chins won't develop
any diarrhea. Hay should be offered, in a safe hay rack, free choice
all day and any day old hay found on the cage floor should be removed
each evening. Here in the humid Willamette Valley of Oregon I prefer
not to risk mold fungi in the hay supply and instead use alfalfa hay
- Drinking water should always be offered
in bottles, not bowls, and should be changed at least every 2 - 3 days.
Bottles should be scrubbed at every change to prevent algae buildup.
Bottled water is often recommended to overcome the negative effects
of chlorine in city water supplies as well as contaminants in well water.
If you are uncertain of the quality of your water supply, then go ahead
and splurge on the bottled water. It will be well worth it. Adding 1/4
to 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar per cup of water can stimulate digestion
and is good for intestinal flora, but should be discontinued if loose
- There are several treats that chinchillas
absolutely love - too many in fact! Any treat should be given in cautious
moderation - only 2 - 3 per day. Only one dried fruit is allowed, and
then a few other treats are a nice addition. Giving treats is a nice
way to build your relationship with your chin, but keep his health in
mind. Also, when trying new treats, try only one at a time and wait
a few days to make sure there are no negative effects (diarrhea or constipation)
before trying another. Here is a list of some good treats:
P.S. I feed
my kids as much organic
food as possible, and do the same for my chins!
- Raisins (the favorite!)
- Dried pears,apples,bananas,cranberries,etc.
- Fresh apple, carrot, or celery
- A bit of parsley or cilantro
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Dried bread cubes
- Oat "O" type cereal
- Nuts - almond,hazelnut,peanut
- Dried, chopped rose hips
- Pasta-elbow macaroni is great
- A good, balanced chinchilla (not rabbit)
pellet should be sufficient to meet most of your chins vitamin/mineral
needs, but the occasional supplement may be recommended. Calcium and
vitamin C are important nutrients, so make sure that your pelleted ration
has these or sprinkle Avitron or a similar calcium supplement (available
in your pet store) over the pellets and/or give children's chewable
vitamin C's (50 mg).
- HARMFUL FOODS
- Whatever you do, don't give your chinchilla
foods are designed for other animals, like parrots or hamsters. While
your chinchilla may love these foods, they are no better for him then
a steady diet of candy would be for children. Also, avoid greens. A
few blades or small leaves of grass,lettuce, or dandelions can be beneficial
in very small quantities, but large amounts are unhealthy. Caution is
also called for with hay from fall cuttings or from meadows as it can
contain toxic plants. Another consideration is house plants. Keep these
out of chinny reach as many are poisonous.
- If you have a pregnant or lactating female
or perhaps a chin with a health problem, the addition of certain foods
is beneficial. Some examples are: Kids chewable Vitamin C, fresh or
dried Kiwi, (reduces gum and tooth problems and may increase health
and fur density), Nutrical, Equine Senior, Omolene, Calf Manna (protein
supplements for the stressed or otherwise compromised chin), rolled
Oats (for diarrhea, protein)
- Anytime new feed is offered it should
be done so in moderation and only one at a time. Don't add anything
else new for a few days because if diarrhea or constipation develops
you need to be able to determine the cause. Once the new food passes
it's trial period, continue to offer it regularly to keep your chin
accustomed to it.
BEWARE OF "J"
(picture shows a chin fatally stuck
in the feeder)
This quote comes from a very
sad chinchilla owner:
"Tonight I found that
one of my chins was missing. I couldn't imagine how she'd gotten out,
but she was definitely gone. We searched the house for 2 hours before
I saw her still in the cage. Apparently she dropped nose-first down into
the feeder when it was low on food and couldn't get out. The sides were
too slick for her to grip with her feet so she couldn't back out. I don't
know if she died from dehydration, or just from being upside down too
long, but either way I'm sure it wasn't a pleasant death."
These feeders are best placed
on the outside of the cage, but be sure that you have a lid on the outside
portion as I've also heard of kits escaping by climbing from the inside
- FIRST FEW DAYS
- As much as you will want to be able to
handle your new chinchilla a lot in the first few days, it's best not
to. Even if she is quite tame when you get her, she will still need
time to get used to you and learn to completely trust you. It is a chinchillas
distrust that protects her in the wild, so don't take it personally
if she doesn't seem to like you at first.
- You will want to start with just letting
the chinchilla get used to the normal activities of your
home, so leave her alone for a few days while she does this. This, of
course, will include her getting accustomed to her regular feeding and
dusting time, at which time you will have your hands in her cage. Just
go about the normal routine (and be sure to make it a regular time each
evening- she will come to count on this timing), putting your hands
in the cage as needed, moving slowly so as not to frighten your new
family member. As soon as she is comfortable with your hands in the
cage (this may or may not be on the first day) then start to offer her
a few treats. It's best not to try to pick her up just yet. Give her
a bit more time and then start placing the treat in the palm of your
hand so that she has to partially climb into your hand. A few more tries
and she should be willing to retrieve a treat from half way up your
arm. Now she's ready for you to try holding her a bit.
- Scoop your chinchilla up with one hand
under her and one hand gently but securely on top. Chinchillas are most
comfortable with the least restraint. She will fight it if she feels
confined, but she needs to be safe, so just have a top hand available
to prevent any dangerous leaps to the floor. Holding the base
of her tail between the fingers of your bottom hand is good idea. She
may eventually feel comfortable just riding around on your shoulder,
but this can take some time and some chinchillas just never like it.
- EXERCISE / DAILY
- Once your chinchilla is relaxed about
her new home and being handled you can start letting her out for brief
romps around the house. This certainly isn't necessary if she has a
large cage with plenty of tiered shelves and a large wheel
to get the exercise that is necessary for good health. If you do want
to let her out, it's best to at least start with a small space like
a bathroom, where you can easily catch her back up again. She should
trust you well enough by now to allow you to pick her back up again
without a chase, but one way or the other it is important not to "chase"
her as she will then lose much of the trust she has built up with you.
If she is reluctant to be picked up, move slowly to corner her, slowly
putting your hands under her to scoop her up. This may take some patient
perseverance at first, but within time she will anticipate it and not
run away. Make sure that you give her something to look forward to after
she is returned to her cage, like a treat or her dust bath.
- As I've mentioned before, chinchillas
love to jump and climb, so provide plenty of opportunities for this
in their cage as well as their play area. Branches for climbing and
chewing on are a favorite, but they actually spend most of their time
on larger, flatter surfaces. Provide tiered shelves in the cage and
boxes are easy to provide in a play space. Nothing is loved as much
as an exercise wheel. Make it large (14" diameter) as anything smaller
can be hard on a chins spine. There are also several chew toys are appreciated.
I offer rawhide chews (in moderation - they are rather fatty) as well
as cow hooves, pumice blocks, branches, and the occasional cardboard
(free of ink or tape).
- There are a few cage hazards to consider
as well as several household hazards. In the cage be aware of the risk
of wire hay racks, poorly built exercise wheels, and large gauge wire
(babies can get out of anything larger than 1" x 1/2"). Household hazards
You can see why it's important to SUPERVISE
your chinny on her romps around the house, or just keep her confined
to a "chin proof" space.
- House Plants
- Electric wires
- Detergents, cleaning agents, chemicals, medications
- Kitchen: Stovetops, leftover food, pots and pans, dishwater
- Dogs and Cats (especially visiting ones)
- Filled bathtubs, pails, or large vases
- Heaters, sunlamps
- Stained and varnished wood
- Textiles, plastics, plastic bags
- DUST BATHS
- Chinchillas need and love a daily (or
at least 3-4 times a week) dust bath. Without it his fur will lose its
softness and become oily and sticky or even shaggy. He should be provided
with special chinchilla dust (much like the volcanic ash in his native
habitat) which is finer than any bird sand and has (almost*) no substitute.
It is also very dusty and can leave quite a film of dust around your
home, so find a suitable container with high sides, somewhat larger
than the chin. A fish bowl or cookie jar with its opening at an angle
work well. Clay or pottery containers, or sturdy plastic, also work
well. Put the bath in his cage for only about 15 minutes each evening
to avoid having it soiled with waste, and enjoy watching his delighted
rolling acrobatics. I like to add about 1 part fine scoopable kitty
litter to 2 parts dust to help keep the airborne dust problem to a minimum.
*One chinchilla owner told me that she used finely ground oatmeal for
her asthmatic chin.
- There are a few basics to observe in your
chinchillas. You will want to check his teeth occasionally to
make sure they are not overgrowing (which they shouldn't if he has plenty
of chew toys) and they are a nice yellow color. Also, watch for slow
or exaggerated chewing as well as goopy eyes - an indication of malocclusion
(more information below).
Also, observe the stools. Large, round, dry stools are good,
while small, narrow stools indicate constipation. Soft, loose, sticky
stools indicate diarrhea (more information below).
Male chinchillas of breeding age should be checked occasionally for
hair rings. Rings of hair around the penis can result from breeding
and can cause serious problems. If he is cleaning himself excessively
or appears swollen, inflamed, or prolapsed, this is an indication of
a hair ring problem (more information below).
Your chins general state of health is often indicated by his weight.
It's a good idea to monitor this regularly. Also, because of his thick
fur, visual observation of his weight isn't sufficient. Pick him up
and palpate his ribs, spine, and pelvis, making certain there is sufficient
padding in these areas. Chinchillas are rarely too fat.
- Clean food dish
- Clean Water Bottle
- Wipe branches, solid
- Remove dirty hay from
- Change litter
- Check litter in sleeping
- Brush up dried feces
- Remove shed hairs from
- Replace litter in sleeping
- Replace dust bath
- Disinfect cage
- Check for loose cage
||This is the laymen's term for
RINGWORM. These skin fungi, usually trichophyton or microsporum,
are very common in our environment. Many of the fungi that cause
skin fungus in chinchillas are communicable to humans and other
esp. on ears, nose, feet, and tail. Crusts, scales, scabs on
nose and around eyes, spreading over head and body
of infection increases if the chin is kept in unclean and/or
humid surroundings or if exposed to an infected animal or their
will often clear up on their own, but more advanced infections
are best treated with topical antifungal preparations. These,
as well as antifungal powders, are often found with athlete's
foot treatments. Some active ingredients to look for are clotrimazole,
tolnaftate, and miconazole nitrate.
DUST BATHS! Medicated powder for athletes foot can be added
to the dust bath (about 1 tablespoon) but should be used with
caution. Clean, dry, hygienic living conditions are a must.
be bacterial, protozoal, parasitic, or dietary in origin.
It may also be induced by certain antibiotics.
that stick to the surface on which they fall (even other chins
- drag!) and leave a greenish or brownish greasy film. In serious
cases the stools may contain blood or mucus and the chin may
be lethargic, hunched, anorexic. The tummy may be painful to
moldy hay; algae in the drinking water; too many green foods
or dried fruits; indigestible green plants; ingestion of toxins;
sudden change in diet; overeating in young chinchillas; Giardia
several different approaches to diarrhea ranging from letting
it just run it's course to serious diet changes to veterinary
care. I've found that, if there are no other symptoms of malaise,
dietary changes for the sake of treatment can further upset
an already stressed digestive system. Other then eliminating
any source of mold or algae, it's usually okay to maintain the
regular, balanced diet for the duration (often 2 - 3 weeks).
Limit treats to only one daily, and no dried fruit. More serious
cases benefit from the addition of raw oats to the pelleted
ration as well as chamomile or fennel tea instead of drinking
water. Very serious cases, involving additional symptoms as
mentioned, should be seen by a veterinarian and require a fecal
exam to determine if Giardia or Coccidia are a cause (requiring
medication). Blood work to check for hepatitis may also be necessary.
to prevention is a good, healthy, regular diet with a minimal
of treats as well as a large, clean, dry cage and plenty of
time and structures for running and playing a good amount every
day. Also, a respect for the chins nocturnal habits is a real
diarrhea can lead to dehydration, serious constipation can
result from dehydration and lead to blockage.
that become progressively smaller; listlessness; lack of appetite
treats; improper diet; lack of exercise
all treats except raisins or other dried or fresh fruits (not
bananas). A pinch of Carlsbad salts in the drinking water may
help, as will plenty of exercise.
(only 1 - 2 Tbl. pellets daily), limit treats, provide plenty
Hair rings can
form around the male genitals as a result of breeding and
will need to be removed quickly, and carefully.
conspicuous, perhaps vigorous cleaning by the chin; redness,
swelling of the genitals; penile prolapse with an inability
activity; insufficient "personal hygiene" by the chin.
removal of the hair ring with blunt tweezers. Having an extra
person around can help, or just wrapping your chin up in a towel
(be sure he can breath and doesn't overheat). It will be necessary
to extrude the penis from the sheath. If the penis is prolapsed
and unable to retract it will be necessary to lubricate it (an
antibiotic + antifungal + cortisone, oil based type product
like "Panalog" works well) and work it gently and patiently
back into the sheath. Ice packs can help. It will probably take
several days for the penis to stay retracted and it may be necessary
to use an Elizabethan collar (ask your veterinarian or write
to me) to prevent excessive licking by your chinchilla.
male chins frequently during breeding season, observing for
excessive licking and other symptoms listed above. Removing
any females would obviously help but will hopefully only be
necessary while dealing with a prolapse.
are rodents and, like most rodents, their teeth (including
the roots) grow continuously throughout life at a rate of
2-3 inches/year therefore making it imperative that the chin
have ample opportunities for chewing. When a chinchillas teeth
do not align properly (malocclusion) they wear unevenly, causing
overgrowth or uneven growth of the incisors, and spurs of
tooth from molars and premolars which may grow towards the
tongue and the lips. As the condition progresses mastication
becomes more uncomfortable and only soft foods are selectively
eaten, resulting in further tooth growth as the chinchilla
is no longer chewing.
from the eyes as a result of the tooth root impinging on the
orbit; slow eating; selective loss of appetite as the chin chooses
soft foods over hard foods; food falls out of the mouth while
eating; droppings become scant and smaller; weight loss; increased
salivation; grinding of the teeth; pain on palpation of upper
jaw around the eye socket.
deficiency during growing period; too little gnawing material;
an accident - broken teeth have grown back abnormally; congenital
teeth need to be treated by a veterinarian and may require regular
visits for filing much like an older horse needs. Monitor your
animals weight and realize that a chronic problem could lead
to the animal starving to death. Serious cases can be very difficult
and/or expensive to manage and, because of the animals severe
discomfort, euthanasia may be necessary.
intake during the growth period (Avitron sprinkled over the
pellets); plenty of fresh gnawing materials; prevent
accidents (like those caused by jumping from too high, getting
stepped on, or caught in doors); do not breed animals that have
a genetic predisposition to malocclusion.
or "fits", can occur for several reasons:
tremors, muscle spasms, contortions, seizures, or temporary
inability to move.
cold food, excess exercise, calcium or vitamin B deficiencies,
stress (often in pregnant females), toxic infections resulting
in meningitis, heat exhaustion, or excess salt intake.
veterinarian for vitamin B injections, calcium gluconate, and/or
hyoscine. In the case of too much salt (which causes the kidneys
to seize) give 70% cranberry juice/30% water for 3 days to flush
out the system.
clean, dry, housing with plenty of space and exercise opportunities,
no cold food, avoid excessive exercise, and, most importantly,
a balanced chinchilla diet!
(thanks to Pitter
Patter Chinchillas for the seizure from excess salt information
I use the term
"colds" loosely to include inflammation of the nares, upper
respiratory tract infection, pneumonia, and on to pleurisy.
All of these conditions, just as in humans, are predisposed
by conditions that weaken the respiratory system's defense
against infection. The bacteria involved are the same as for
most species - Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, and Pasteurella
- and therefore it is suggested that chinchillas can catch
a cold from you, and you can catch one from them!
(infrequently) all of the following: watery or purulent nasal
discharge; frequent rubbing of the nose; sneezing; ocular discharge;
loss of appetite; fever; lethargy; shallow or heavy breathing;
chest pain; "hunchback"
(especially during transport and during a change of surroundings);
drafty, humid, cold conditions
therapy through your veterinarian is usually called for. The
standard naturopathic remedies for colds can be tried first:
Vitamin C and Echinacea (can be found in a children's chewable
or drops). Vaporizing oil of eucalyptus and friar's balsam or
mentholated vapour ointment (e.g. Vicks) can help clear plugged
nasal passages to prevent nasal infections. Provide quiet, warm,
cold, damp conditions and unnecessary travel. Prevent infection
by other infected species (like you!)
This is a term
that refers to an extreme symptom of chronic disorders such
as liver damage and inflammatory bowel disease.
back of neck appears sunken and back is hunched when animal
disorders such as liver damage and inflammatory bowel disease
caused by improper care and particularly by improper diet.
and improving the chin's diet and close attention to meeting
the ideal housing requirements should help. Veterinary may be
is the same as treatment in this case. Also, avoid stress and
make your pet gets his daytime rest and exercise.
These are two
separate disorders. With fur biting the chin either chews
on his own fur or is being chewed on by another chin. Either
way a behavioral disorder needs to be addressed once the offending
chin has been identified. Fur slip is the result of a chinchilla
ability to shed their hair readily if roughly handled, during
fighting, or out of fear.
Biting: a moth eaten, chewed appearance over the shoulders
and sides of body. Usually the darker undercoat remains.
Fur Slip: hair lost in chunks leaving a patch of bare
skin with no inflammation.
fear, socialization problems, hormonal changes.
fur biting right away, especially considering any changes in
the chin's environment within recent weeks and making any necessary
changes. With fur biting, the fur may not regrow while the short
undercoat is present. The dark, dead fur must be plucked from
the affected areas, applying a soothing cream afterward. Use
of an Elizabethan collar may be necessary to prevent further
self-mutilation for a short time.
noise and handling, boredom, overcrowding, small cages, drafts,
high environmental temperatures, pairing of incompatible animals.