Make sure your chinchilla is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Things you should do
- Feed your chinchillas the correct diet of mainly hay and grass as this will help prevent a lot of common diseases such as dental and gut disease (see Diet). Check that your chinchilla is eating every day and that he/she is passing plenty of dry droppings. Monitor the amount and types of food your chinchilla eats, and how much he/she drinks. If your chinchilla’s eating or drinking habits change or the number of droppings gets less or stops, talk to your vet straight away as he/she could be seriously ill.
- Check your chinchillas for signs of illness or injury every day, and make sure this is done by someone else if you are away. Signs of illness and injury to look out for include sore feet, wetness around the eyes or mouth and fur loss. Consult a vet immediately if you suspect that your chinchilla is in pain, ill or injured.
- Observe your chinchillas' behaviour every day in the evening or at night when they are most active. If your chinchilla’s behaviour changes or he/she shows regular signs of stress or fear, seek advice from a vet or clinical animal behaviourist.
- Take your chinchillas for a routine health check at your vets at least once each year.
- Do not keep your chinchilla with another of the opposite sex unless he/she is intended for breeding and provisions have been made to care for both parents and offspring, or if one or both animals have been neutered. Male chinchillas can be neutered to prevent breeding. Females can also be neutered but this is not commonly done.
- Provide a shallow tray filled with clean fine sand or “chinchilla dust” for your chinchillas to bathe in every day. This should be removed or sieved clean after use to prevent the sand getting soiled.
- Before deciding to buy/acquire a chinchilla make sure you find out how he/she has been bred, what he/she has been fed and how he/she has been cared for. Make sure you know if he/she has had any health or behaviour problems before you buy him/her and always check with a vet if you are unsure about anything.
- Only use medicines that have been specifically recommended for your individual chinchilla by a vet. Some medications used in other animals can be very dangerous to chinchillas.
- Consider taking out pet insurance to ensure your chinchillas are covered if they need veterinary treatment.
- Chinchillas feel pain in the same way as other mammals, including people.
- Without the correct diet, chinchillas are very likely to develop serious dental disease.
- Chinchillas are not good at showing outward signs of pain, so may be suffering a great deal before anything is noticed. Because chinchillas sleep during the day you may not easily notice if your chinchilla is unwell. A change in the way a chinchilla normally behaves can be an early sign he/she is ill or in pain. If a chinchilla is not eating or is more quiet than usual he/she is highly likely to be ill or in pain.
- Chinchillas that are frightened or in pain may change their behaviour or develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression or hiding.
- Chinchillas that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.
- Signs that a chinchilla may be suffering from stress or fear can include vocalising (barking or whistling), hiding, chewing of their own or other chinchillas’ fur, altered feeding or toileting habits, over-drinking or playing with the water bottle, reluctance to move, or repetitive movements such as racing back and forth on the bottom of the cage.
- If patches of fur come away when you are handling a chinchilla it means he/she is stressed.
- Chinchillas need to have access to a dust bath every day to keep their fur in good condition.