Common Diseases of Chinchillas

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: November 22, 2016
Common Diseases of Chinchillas

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Domestic chinchillas don't tend to get ill if they are given some basic care. First of all, it's essential that your chinchilla is given a proper shelter. This shelter needs to be a dry, well-ventilated and safe place, away from air drafts. It is also very important for chinchillas to be fed correctly, as they have a delicate digestive system.

If these requirements are met, your chinchilla can live for an average of 12 years. There are even cases of chinchillas living for more than 20 years. However, such a long life requires constant attention from their owners, especially in health-related matters. Stay with us at AnimalWised and discover what are the most common diseases of chinchillas and their symptoms.

You may also be interested in: Common Diseases of Persian Cats

Things you should know about chinchillas

Wild chinchillas are remarkably resilient animals. Their natural habitat lies in the Andes, between 1,500 and 3,500 meters in altitude (4,900 to 11,500 ft). The radical climate in that region means that all animals who live there evolve to be extremely sturdy. under such harsh conditions, are very healthy.

In the Andean climate, a wild chinchilla can go all day in 40 ºC (105 ºF) heat when exposed to the sun and face temperatures of around -30 °C (-22 ºF) at night. This explains the dense fur of wild chinchillas.

The domestic chinchilla probably descends from the wild long-tailed chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera). The failed attempts to breed chinchillas in captivity began at the start of the 20th century, aiming to sell on the fur market.

Given the enormous number of hybrids and breeds produced by chinchilla breeders for the pet market, coming in an extraordinary range of colors from black to white, pet chinchillas are hugely different from their primitive ancestors. They aren't resistant to radical changes in extreme weather conditions, and they must be kept at 15 to 21 ºC (60 to 70 ºF).

This weakness is the reason for their popularity as pets; they are more adaptable to home-room temperatures than wild species, and they live for much longer.

Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Things you should know about chinchillas

Alopecia in pet chinchillas

Alopecia or hair loss can affect your chinchilla at various times during its life:

  • During lactation, small chinchillas can pull their mother's hair out.
  • Chinchillas might lose hair if they feel stressed, threatened or there is an incorrect temperature.
  • Chinchillas can suffer alopecia as a result of ringworm.

As you can see, there are various different causes for your chinchilla's hair loss. It is important to go to the vet and get a proper diagnosis.

If it's ringworm, you too can end up suffering it because it is a zoonotic disease. You can prevent this problem by regularly cleaning your chinchilla's cage and giving it dust baths. Never ever bathe your chinchilla with water.

Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Alopecia in pet chinchillas

Heatstroke in chinchillas

As we've explained above, chinchillas are born into a place of contrasts: Intensely cold at night, with warm temperatures during the day. Still, the chinchilla is a nocturnal animal and thus avoids the sun's heat at all costs.

If your chinchilla's cage is close to a source of heat, or under direct sunlight, or if it is summer, your chinchilla can suffer from heatstroke. Don't expose it to temperatures higher than 20 °C (70 ºF).

If you see your chinchilla lying down, agitated or producing a thick saliva, it is suffering from heatstroke. You need to act as soon as possible to avoid its death:

  1. Reduce the temperature.
  2. Wrap your chinchilla with a cool, wet towel.
  3. Call your vet - you won't have time to get there.
  4. Follow their professional advice.

You can prevent heatstroke by keeping the room at the correct temperature. Place a thermometer near the cage to make sure, and check it regularly.

Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Heatstroke in chinchillas

Diarrhea in chinchillas

Some common diseases in chinchillas are digestive disorders, as their organism is quite delicate. Diarrhea is a common side effect of feeding your chinchilla lettuce, or other foods with a high water content. It can also be the result of eating inappropriate or poorly conserved foods, and it can also happen after a change in feed.

It isn't normal to find excessively soft or liquid feces, and in such cases it is best to go to the vet. The chinchilla is a very small animal, and it doesn't take much for it to become dehydrated and die.

By going to a professional, you'll also be able to make sure that it isn't suffering from a more serious problem such as an infection or bacteria.

Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Diarrhea in chinchillas

Intestinal parasites in chinchillas

Parasites are usually the consequence of poor hygiene in your chinchilla's living space. It might also be the case that you adopt a chinchilla that is already ill, or that it catches parasites from other animals that you have at home.

The most common symptoms of intestinal parasites in chinchillas are diarrhea, hair loss and overall discomfort.

In this case we also recommend going to a professional and reading up on what is the best parasite treatment for your rodent. It is very important to separate your chinchilla from the rest if you have more than one.

Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Intestinal parasites in chinchillas

Hair rings in male chinchillas

If you're trying to breed your chinchilla - which isn't at all recommended unless you are an expert - it might be the case that your male chinchilla gets hair caught around its penis, forming a ring of hair. This can constrict around it as a result.

Regularly check your male's genitals; you'll be able to detect it if you see the penis standing out. If this has happened to your chinchilla, try removing the hair ring yourself at home. However, make sure you are very delicate so that you don't damage your poor pet.

Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Hair rings in male chinchillas

Other diseases that can affect your chinchilla

  • Bordetellosis: This is a respiratory disease that can also affect humans.
  • Pasteurellosis: It is transmitted through bites and scratches, and it can have very different symptoms. With proper hygiene, it's appearance shouldn't be a cause for concern.
  • Salmonellosis: This is common in rodents. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or enteritis, among others. It can be easily transmitted.
  • Streptococcal pneumonia: This is caused by bacteria and can even cause meningitis.
  • Rabies: All mammals are susceptible to suffering this disease, but it doesn't usually affect chinchillas. It is impossible to cure.
  • Ringworm: This is a very contagious skin disease, which can be transmitted to humans. Symptoms include red, hairless welts. Go to a specialist as soon as possible. Here you can learn more about the symptoms and treatment of ringworm in chinchillas.
  • Malocclusion: This is molar overgrowth. You should give the affected animals a mineral supplement.
Common Diseases of Chinchillas - Other diseases that can affect your chinchilla

These are the most common diseases in chinchillas. Make sure you know everything about caring for a pet chinchilla, including what is the best diet for this species.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Common Diseases of Chinchillas, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

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