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Spotlight Chinchillas: Owning a Chinchilla

Chinchillas – Owning

General Information

chinchillas-owning-1Chinchillas can make fun, enjoyable pets. The chinchilla is a rodent closely related to the guinea pig. They originated from South America where they live in the Andes Mountains. In addition to their popularity as pets, they are also raised commercially for their soft, luxurious pelts. Their average life span is about 10 years (9 – 15). Chinchillas weight between 400 and 600 grams with the females being slightly larger than the males. They are nocturnal animals and are often more active at night, preferring to sleep during the day. They do not hibernate.

They are a quiet, shy animal that rarely bites. They are fast, agile and love to climb and jump. As with any pet, they do occasionally get sick, and their illnesses are often severe. All pet chinchillas should be examined by a qualified veterinarian within 48 hours of purchase and at least annually thereafter. This “new pet” exam is critical to detect signs of disease and help new pet owners get off on the right foot. So many problems are caused by misinformation; the first veterinary visit can help prevent well-intentioned owners from doing the wrong thing and ultimately contributing to the pet’s early death.

Interesting information about Chinchillas

  • Like all rodents, the chinchilla’s teeth grow continuously throughout life.
  • Chinchillas have a digestive tract (like other rodents and rabbits) that is specialized for digesting large amounts of fiber.
  • The breeding season of chinchillas is mainly from November through April or May.
  • Like their relatives the guinea pigs, baby chinchillas are born with eyes open, fully furred, and active.
  • Chinchillas can exhibit “fur slip”; part of the fur can be shed if the pet is handled roughly or the fur grasped too tightly.
  • Chinchillas love daily dust baths (see our handout CHINCHILLA – HOUSING)

 Selecting A Healthy Pet Chinchilla

Chinchillas are usually purchased at pet shops or through breeders; they are often also for sale at exotic pet shows. As with any pet purchase, avoid chinchillas that appear too quiet or ill. Chinchillas should be bright and alert, and move quickly when startled. Avoid pets with closed eyes or discharges from the eyes or nose. Check the ears for redness or excess wax, which might indicate an infection. If possible, examine the teeth and make sure the incisors (front teeth) are not overgrown. The pet should feel neither fat nor thin; you should be able to feel the ribs with just a small amount of fat over them. Check the anal area for diarrhea or moistness, which might indicate a gastrointestinal infection.

 

The First Veterinary Visit

Your chinchilla should come with a health guarantee that requires a checkup by a veterinarian within a few days (usually 48 hours) after purchase. All pets including chinchillas need regular examinations. Select a veterinarian knowledgeable about chinchillas.

The first visit will include determining the animal’s weight, as well as a thorough physical examination checking for any abnormalities. The animal is examined for signs of dehydration and malnutrition. A fecal test is done to check for internal parasites. Your veterinarian may suggest blood tests as part of a thorough examination. The veterinarian can also determine the sex of your pet. Like all pets, pet chinchillas should be examined at least annually and should have their feces tested for intestinal parasites during the annual visit.

Vaccinations

chinchillas-owning-2Pet chinchillas do not require vaccinations.

Rick Axelson, DVM
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