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Basic Chinchilla Health Issues

Questions about your pet chinchilla answered.

By Kevin Schargen
Posted: April 2, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT

Chinchilla Lilo/ © Courtesy Allie Lyth
Pet chinchillas usually weigh only 1 to 2 pounds.

Q: What's the average size of a chinchilla?

A: This perfectly packaged rodent weighs in at 1 to 2 pounds, with an overall length of a foot or so. Weigh your chinchilla on a gram scale at regular intervals throughout the year.
Knowing the animal’s normal weight range allows you to monitor for possible unhealthy weight fluctuations that could alert you to disease.

Never rely on visual assessment — seeing your pet every day weakens your powers of noting change, and the animal's dense coat complicates the matter by obscuring its underlying body condition.

Q: How active is this rodent?

A: You need only examine the disproportionately long hind legs of a chinchilla to get an idea of its innate gymnastic ability. Cage size should reflect the animal’s need to exercise this natural behavior — a consideration often overlooked in chinchilla housing.

To keep a chinchilla’s naturally active body (and mind) in peak condition, daily out-of-cage exercise is essential. For in-cage aerobics, provide an extra large exercise wheel. Seek out an exercise wheel designed specifically for chinchillas. Substituting another type of wheel could cause injury.

Q: Do they suffer any other common medical problems?

A: Properly fed chinchillas are hearty, but several disorders must be considered. Internal parasites such as Giardia, dental problems (such as jaw misalignment and loose teeth), inflammation of the intestinal lining (which may cause diarrhea, mucus in the feces, vomiting and dehydration), heart murmurs and ringworm are some of the more common problems.

Proper nutrition, good sanitation and regular veterinary attention are important in preventing and controlling many of these maladies. Closely monitor your chinchilla’s behavior, weight and bowel movements (which should be firm, small, rounded pellets of a dark-green to brown color), and report any abnormal changes to your veterinarian. The body temperature of a healthy chinchilla is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).
Constant exposure to stress predisposes an animal to disease. Because chinchillas are naturally skittish animals, keep cage relocation, loud noises and diurnal disturbances to
a minimum.

The chinchilla’s teeth can be another health indicator. The natural color of a chinchilla’s incisors is yellow-orange.


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Reader Comments
My chinchilla, Lue, has had a popping sound in his neck, followed by what sounds like crying for a few months. Now his pal, Charlie, has developed the same condition. Does anyone know what this is, or how I can help the little guys? Thanks!
Sally, Boise, ID
Posted: 1/24/2013 1:40:06 PM
HELP my daughters Chin, Calven is eating its tail, yes I typed right, it is down to 4 inches. The end of it is bloody and then will heal and they he eats it again. I have plenty of food, water, hay, wood blocks to chew, salt wheels to chew. We have had him for 2 yrs and he just started this, and also just began eating the plastic platforms in his cage. Please if anyone could email me and tell me what to do or WHY he is doing this.
Connie, Roscommon, MI
Posted: 2/25/2012 5:11:12 PM
If you copy and paste the URL from my comment below, please note that the word chinchilla should not have a space in it and be hyphenated. Remove those, and the URL should work.
Marylou, Irvine, CA
Posted: 2/13/2012 1:46:19 PM
Hi Sherie, You ask a great question. I'll forward it to our chinchilla expert to answer in upcoming months. Meanwhile, you might want to read his his answer to a question that involved neutering a male chinchilla LINK
Marylou, Irvine, CA
Posted: 2/13/2012 1:43:20 PM
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