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Care Guide

About Care Guides[x] These care guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions, tests, and procedures, as well as to provide basic information about pet care. They are based on the most up-to-date, documented information, recommendations, and guidelines available in the United States at the time of writing. Pharmaceutical product licensing, availability, and usage recommendations are based on US product information. Use the Download Handout button to generate a PDF for printing or e-mailing to your clients.

Caring for Chinchillas

    A chinchilla can be a delightful pet for the right owner. Chinchillas have delicate skeletons and love to chew on things like electrical cords, so a safe environment is essential. Keep your chinchilla’s health on the right track with a healthy diet, lots of safe exercise, and regular veterinary care.

    Biological Facts

    • Long-tailed chinchilla: Chinchilla lanigera
    • Native to the Andes mountain ranges of northern Chile; live in rock crevices and holes on relatively barren slopes
    • Life span: 10 to 15 years
    • Adult weight: 14 to 28 oz (400 to 800 g); females are larger than males
    • Very delicate bone structure; not an ideal pet for small children
    • Sexual maturity: 7 to 10 months
    • Gestation: 105 to 115 days   

    Behavior

    • Primarily active at night, dawn, and early evening
    • Fast, agile, active; good at climbing and jumping
    • Females are dominant and more aggressive than males
    • Difficult to litter train
    • Very clean; virtually odorless
    • Highly social; should be housed in pairs or small groups when possible
    • Rarely bite; enjoy being petted, but may resist cuddling
    • They chew everything; the chinchilla’s environment must be “chinchilla proof” to prevent injuries and escape

    Diet

    • Must be high in fiber, low in carbohydrate, and low in sugar to prevent dental disease and digestive problems
    • No breads, cereals, or nuts should be fed
    • Feed free-choice quality grass hay, such as timothy, brome, and Bermuda grass
    • Feed 1 to 2 tablespoons of commercial chinchilla pellets daily
    • Feed small amounts of alfalfa or clover hay, dried fruit, and fresh vegetables as treats; feed treats sparingly to prevent obesity
    • Diet changes must be gradual to prevent stomach upset
    • Provide fresh water daily

    Environment

    • Provide a large, multilevel cage with shelves for perching, plenty of room for running, and a cage floor of welded mesh wire with smooth areas for resting the feet
    • Place the cage in a quiet location
    • Maintain a humidity level of 40% or lower and a temperature of 50°F to 75°F (10°C to 24°C); temperatures higher than 80°F can be fatal
    • Provide a nest box (one for each chinchilla) for sleeping and for shelter from aggressive cage mates
    • Provide wooden cage furniture, chew sticks, and pumice stones for chewing to help keep teeth healthy
    • Provide an exercise wheel with a smooth running surface to prevent injuries to legs/feet

    Preventive Care

    • A complete physical examination is required every 6 to 12 months
    • An annual fecal examination is necessary to check for internal parasites
    • Examine males monthly for penile hair rings
    • Allow regular, supervised exercise in a chinchilla-proof enclosure to prevent obesity
    • Allow a 10- to 15-minute dust bath at least twice weekly

    Common Medical Disorders

    • Dental disease
    • Drooling
    • Problems eating
    • Eye irritation
    • Conjunctivitis
    • Fur/skin disorders: ringworm (fungus), fur chewing, loss of fur
    • Gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, bloat, stasis)
    • Hair ring accumulation in males (a constricting injury to the penis)
    • Heat stress
    • Respiratory infection
    • Trauma