Chinchilla health and welfare

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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:

  • The correct diet; mainly hay and grass which help prevent lots of common diseases e.g. dental/gut disease.
  • 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 - as 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 or in pain. If chinchillas aren't eating/are quieter than usual they're highly likely to be ill/in pain.
  • Check 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 or injured.
    Chinchillas that are frightened or in pain may change their behaviour or develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression or hiding. Stressed chinchillas are more likely to become ill. If patches of fur come away during handling it means they're stressed. 
  • Observe their behaviour daily in the evening or at night when they're most active. If their behaviour changes/show regular signs of stress/fear, seek advice from a vet or a 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.
  • Take your chinchilla for veterinary check-ups at least annually. Consider pet insurance. 
  • Provide a shallow tray filled with clean fine sand or chinchilla dust to bathe in and keep their fur in good condition. Remove or sieve clean after use to avoid getting soiled.
  • Before owning chinchillas investigate breeding, how they've been cared for and been fed. Ensure you know if they've had any health or 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.
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