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Chinchilla health and welfare

Health logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010


Ensure your chinchilla is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Deputy chief inspector Teresa Potter holding adult chinchilla © Damion Diplock / RSPCA Photolibrary

Chinchillas need:

  • Corrects diets; mainly hay and grass help prevent lots of common diseases e.g. dental/gut disease (see Diet). Check chinchillas eat daily, passing plenty of dry droppings. Monitor the amount/types of food they eat, and how much they drink. If eating/drinking habits change or quantity of droppings reduce/stop, consult your vet immediately - they could be seriously ill. Chinchillas have similar pain thresholds to people, but aren’t good at showing outward signs of pain, so may suffer a lot before being noticed. Because chinchillas sleep during the day you may not easily notice if they’re unwell. Changes in normal behaviour can be early signs they’re ill/in pain. If chinchillas aren’t eating/are quieter than usual they’re highly likely to be ill/in pain.
  • Checking for illness/injury daily. Ensure this happens when you’re away. Signs of illness/injury include sore feet, wetness around the eyes/mouth and fur loss. Consult a vet immediately if you suspect they’re in pain/ill/injured. Chinchillas that are frightened/in pain may change their behaviour/develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression/hiding. Stressed chinchillas are more likely to become ill. If patches of fur come away during handling it means they’re stressed. 
  • Their behaviour observing daily in the evening/night when they’re most active. If their behaviour changes/show regular signs of stress/fear, seek advice from a vet/clinical animal behaviourist. Signs chinchillas may be suffering from stress/fear can include vocalising (barking/whistling)/hiding/chewing their own or other chinchillas’ fur/altered feeding or toileting habits/over-drinking or playing with water bottles/reluctance to move/repetitive movements e.g. racing back and forth on the cage bottom.
  • Veterinary check-ups at least annually. Consider pet insurance. 
  • A shallow tray filled with clean fine sand/“chinchilla dust” to bathe in/keep their fur in good condition daily. Remove/sieve clean after use to avoid getting soiled.
  • Careful consideration. Before owning chinchillas investigate breeding/how they’ve been cared for and fed. Ensure you know if they’ve had any health/behaviour problems before buying them - ask a vet if unsure.
  • Treating with only the medicines recommended for them by a vet. Other animals’ medicines are dangerous to chinchillas.