Community Animal Hospital Blog

Species Spot Light: Chinchillas

0 Comments Posted by CommunityAHAdmin in Species Spot Light on Monday, September 21st, 2015.

Welcome to our first post in the Species Spot Light series, which will be dedicated to providing valuable information on exotic pets. Exotic pets are not as common as dogs and cats and typically require more specialized care. Check out this link (Exotic Pets) to see which exotic pets we treat at Community Animal Hospital.


These cuddly creatures originated in the mountain ranges of South America.  Originally, they were used as a source of pelt (fur) and food.   Their pelt was such a prized possession in Europe during the late 1800s that they actually came close to extinction!  In the 1920s, 13 chinchillas were transported to the United States, providing most of the ancestry of chinchillas in our country today.   Over recent years, they have gained popularity as pets because of their friendliness, sweet disposition and ease of care.  Where they originated from explains a lot of their care guidelines today! shutterstock_279584885

As pets, chinchillas typically live 10 years, sometimes longer.  Adults typically weigh around 1.5 lbs.  They do well in pairs or groups with other chinchillas.  Neutering male chinchillas is more common than spaying females.  The health considerations are not as clearly established as in dogs and cats, so this is something you should discuss with your veterinarian.  We recommend multi-level cages for chinchillas to allow appropriate exercise and separate areas for sleep, play and food.  Wire cages with dropping pans are the easiest to clean.  They enjoy hiding places and you can purchase chinchilla-specific boxes online.  PVC  plumbing pipes also work, plus you can easily sanitize them!  Due to their mountainous heritage, chinchillas do best in dry, cool, low humidity environments.  Temperatures should not exceed 80 degrees and humidity should be kept below 50%.  Chinchillas are the only animal I treat that need dust baths, at least twice weekly.  Dust baths are important for skin and coat health.  What’s a dust bath?  Check out this cute video:  Dust Bath.

As with most exotic pets, inadequate husbandry and diet cause a large amount of the problems we see as veterinarians.  Chinchillas, like other rodents and rabbits, have teeth that continuously grow throughout their life.  If their diet does not have enough roughage (high fiber plant foods like hay and fresh greens), their teeth can overgrow and cause severe dental problems.  Chinchillas should have fresh good quality grass hay always available, like timothy hay.  The hay-focused diet can be supplemented with small amounts of fresh greens (romaine, bib and red leaf lettuces), pellets, grains and very small amounts of treats/fruits.  Skin and coat problems are also commonly seen, including mats, fur slip and skin infections.  Chinchillas can develop diarrhea and gastrointestinal diseases, especially if their diet lacks enough roughage.

Overall, chinchillas are excellent, healthy companions as long as good husbandry and nutrition is provided.  I always look forward to having a Chinchilla appointment on my schedule!  We recommend regular physical examinations on pet chinchillas every 6 months.  At each physical exam, we will screen for health problems as well as discuss diet and husbandry.  Please do not hesitate to call Community Animal Hospital or comment on this blog if you have any questions about chinchilla care!

Michael C. Owen, DVM Associate Veterinarian Community Animal Hospital

Michael C. Owen, DVM

Associate Veterinarian

Community Animal Hospital

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