Chinchilla Care Tips From A Treasure Coast, FL Veterinarian

National Chinchilla Day is coming up on March 23rd! These adorable little balls of fur can be great pets, but they do need proper TLC to thrive. A local Treasure Coast, FL veterinarian discusses some basics of chinchilla care in this article.

Where Is The Chinchilla From?

Chinchillas are native to South America, and were originally from the cold, dry Andes. While they were once quite common, they have long been hunted for their soft fur. Unfortunately, wild chinchillas are pretty rare these days.

What Should I Consider Before Adopting A Chinchilla?

Chinchillas aren’t the most high-maintenance pets on our roster, but these little guys do need quite a bit of care. You won’t necessarily have to do a lot daily, but it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts.

One thing to consider? These guys have much longer life spans than other small animals. Chins can live for ten or even 15 years, which is comparable to the lifespans of many cats and dogs! They are also extremely sensitive to heat, which of course can be a problem here in Florida.

What Are The Downsides Of Getting A Chinchilla?

All animals have their own unique qualities. It really just comes down to what you want. Some of the things that may be a plus to one person could be a con or drawback to another.

there are a few potential dealbreakers to consider, though. Chinchillas need fairly cool conditions. If you like your place to stay pretty toasty, or if you try not to run the AC unless you absolutely have to, a chin may not be the best match.

Also, these little pets are nocturnal, so they aren’t exactly quiet at night. Last but not least, longevity is another thing to consider. Do lots of of research before adopting one!

What Sort Of Cage Do Chinchillas Need?

Chins prefer a cage that is more tall than wide, as they love to jump and climb. The cage should be at least 2 feet long by 2 feet wide. A multi-tiered cage is often a great option, as it gives your pet lots of space without taking up a whole lot of room.

It is important that you choose something with solid floors. Wire floors can cause serious injuries! The walls should be made of mesh, with bars spaced under 1” apart. Avoid plastic habitats, as your furry pal could chew through it. When it comes to bedding, you’ll want to use paper-based products. Don’t use any type of wood shavings, as they can cause respiratory issues and skin irritation.

Finally, provide your pint-sized pal with lots of fun toys, as well as suitable hiding spots, like little boxes and tents. Ask your vet for specific advice on furnishings and cage setup.

What Kinds Of Illnesses Do Chinchillas Get?

While Chinchillas tend to be pretty healthy, they are by no means invincible. It’s important to learn about common illnesses and signs of sickness. The more familiar you are with the warning signs, the easier it will be for you to spot them.

Some of the major ones to be aware of include overheating, fur problems, dental disease, ringworm, and various digestive troubles. Keeping a close eye out for signs that something is amiss is crucial, and understanding when to seek veterinary diagnostics can make a significant difference in your pet’s health. For detailed information on the diagnostics available and how they can help keep your chinchilla healthy, check out our service page on Veterinary Diagnostics.

Here are some of the major ones to be aware of:

Overheating: Chinchillas hail from the dry, arid Andes. They are definitely not made for hot or humid climates, and can overheat at temperatures that seem relatively comfortable to many people. Needless to say, living here in Florida can be rough on them. Keep the room your pet is in at 80°F or lower, and make sure their cage isn’t in direct sunlight. You will need to add air conditioning in summer.

Fur Problems: That soft fur makes these little guys very cute and pettable, but it can cause problems. If your chin feels lonely, stressed, anxious, or scared, they may chew themselves. This can also be caused by hormonal or other health issues. Chins also sometimes shed heavily when frightened or handled improperly. This is a defense mechanism known as fur slip. Be very gentle with your chin, and make sure they are comfy, happy, and healthy.

Dental Disease: Because of their open-rooted flesh, chinchillas are at very high risk for dental issues. If your tiny pal can’t wear their teeth down, they can develop a variety of issues, which can be both painful and dangerous.

Ringworm: Chinchillas are susceptible to ringworm, which, despite the name, is actually a fungus. The issue is treatable, but you’ll have to get your tiny pal to the vet immediately. You’ll also need to be diligent with cleaning as the issue is being treated.

Digestive Trouble: Several different problems can fall under this general umbrella. These range from parasites to improper diets to various other causes. Keep in mind that gastrointestinal issues can be very dangerous for chins, as they cannot vomit.

Keep a close eye out for signs that something is amiss. Some of the things to look for include the following:

  • Fur loss
  • Withdrawal
  • Chewing themselves
  • Lethargy
  • Restless/unusual behavior, such as pacing
  • Sensitive/sore paws
  • Bloat
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Pawing At The Mouth
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Lumps, bumps, or lesions
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lack of interest in bathing
  • Uncharacteristic silence
  • Dirty bottom
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation (Lack of fecal pellets)
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose

Please get in touch with your Treasure Coast, FL animal clinic right away if you notice any of these things. The sooner an issue is treated, the better!

Do Chinchillas Like To Cuddle With Their Owners?

Once your adorable little pet feels safe with you, they may not mind being held. However, for the most part, Chinchillas prefer to be admired from a distance or just petted softly.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t affectionate; they just show it in different ways. (We’ll get to that later.)

You can still bond with your tiny pal by talking to them, playing with them, and offering toys and the occasional treat. These guys can also be quite the little characters!

How Can I Tell If My Chinchilla Is Happy?

Chinchillas have some pretty adorable ways of showing affection. Your cute little pet may wag their tail or run around excitedly when they see you. In fact, they will sometimes literally jump for joy. This is called popcorning, and yes, it’s just as charming as it sounds. Excited chinchillas may also sometimes ‘wall surf’ … meaning they run around literally bouncing off the walls.

Other signs of affection are a bit less traditional. Your chinchilla may also nibble you gently. This is often a way to show affection. Of course, if your furry buddy does this while you are holding them, it could mean that they want to be put down, or possibly need to urinate. Just like chinchillas, ferrets also display unique behaviors to express their mood. Learn more about deciphering these signs in our article, How to Gauge Your Ferret’s Mood.

What Do You Feed Chinchillas?

Chinchillas have some very specific dietary needs. Like many other small pets, these guys have open-rooted teeth. That means their teeth never stop growing. This is very helpful in the wild, as they can eat many tough plants and roots without permanently damaging their teeth. Pets of course, tend to have softer diets, so you’ll need to offer your furry friend unlimited amounts of grass hay. This can be supplemented with small amounts of commercial pellet food, as well as some dark, leafy greens. Your chinchilla may also enjoy safe branches, such as apple, pear, and blackberry. Don’t offer anything that was treated with pesticides.

Fresh water, of course, is also a must.

As for treats, you can occasionally offer things like plain Cheerios, hibiscus leaves, or blackberry leaves. Your pet may also enjoy fresh, safe herbs, such as oregano, peppermint, and lavender. Just take care not to overdo it!

It’s also important for you to know which foods are not safe.

Here are a few:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Grain
  • Branches from unsafe/unknown trees
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Be sure to ask your Treasure Coast, FL veterinarians for specific advice on this. Never offer anything unless you know it is safe.

Do Chinchillas Need Grooming?

Chinchillas are quite clean. You won’t need to bathe your pet: at least, not the normal way. In fact, you should never give your chin a soap-and-water bath. Their soft fur really isn’t made to get wet, and takes a very long time to dry. This can cause skin irritation. Plus, you’ll have a wet, unhappy furball on your hands!

Chinchillas clean themselves using dust baths. You’ll need to provide a suitable container and clean dust. (Tip: Keeping the dust in the fridge, especially in summer, can help your pet stay cool.) Most chins should be given dust baths about three times a week. You’ll want to get store-bought dust. Don’t use sand: it’s quite abrasive, and may irritate your pet’s skin or eyes. Seeing your little buddy enjoying his spa session can be super cute!

Do you have questions or concerns about caring for a chinchilla? Contact us, your local Treasure Coast, FL animal hospital, anytime!

Comments are closed.