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Chinchilla Age And Signs Of Sickness

Learn whether there are visible signs of age or sickness in chinchillas.

Marty Hull
Posted: October 24, 2013, 7:55 p.m. EDT

chinchilla sitting by hay
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
It's difficult to estimate the age of adult chinchillas.

Q: I have one chinchilla. How can I tell how old it is? I’ve had him for a of couple years. I also had a chinchilla that was supposedly his son. I got them both from a pet store. Also, what are some signs of a sick chinchilla?
 
A: It is difficult to determine the exact age of a healthy, adult chinchilla. Activity levels and appearance of chinchillas between ages 2 and 10 may be very similar. Some chinchillas may reach full size by 8 months while others may continue growing for up to two years. Some chinchillas begin to show signs of age as early as 6 years, while others may look youthful and have gorgeous coats until well into their teen years.

In later years, a chinchilla may start to gradually lose weight. Maintaining weight is important for chinchilla health. If you notice your chinchilla is losing weight, then try supplementing the diet with a little more alfalfa, oat groats or other food supplements that have a little higher calorie content.

Be careful not to supplement with foods high in oils like sunflower seeds or with foods high in sugar. Chinchillas do not have gallbladders and are therefore unable to easily metabolize oils, which can result in liver damage. A high-sugar diet (too many treats) can cause diabetes.
 
Illness: In most cases, the sooner you notice an illness may be starting, the easier it is to correct and the more likely your pet will return to health and will not need a trip to the vet.
 
Signs of sickness in chinchillas:
1.  A decrease in activity level or other changes in the chinchilla’s normal routine or behavior. For example, if your chinchilla usually greets you at the cage door when you come to feed but this day, he/she sits in the corner. If your chinchilla normally uses an exercise wheel but stops using it.
 
2.  A decrease in food consumption. Some chinchilla owners feed their chinchillas once or twice per day while others feed larger amounts once or twice per week. Weekly or twice-weekly feeding is acceptable, but if you feed your chinchilla daily, it is easier to notice when a problem starts to develop.
 
3.  Change in size/color/amount of droppings. Normal droppings are dark brown to black, between 1/4 and 3/8 inch long, and moist. If the droppings become less frequent, smaller, lighter in color (light brown to tan) with less moisture or if they become soft and runny with mucus, then a problem is most likely developing.
 
4.  Runny nose, coughing, weeping eyes
 
5.  Difficulty breathing, seizures
 
6.  Ketone odor (fruity or like nail polish remover) as chinchilla exhales
 
7.  Standing in a corner with head down and ears outward.
 
For (1), (2) and (3) above, check to be sure the water bottle and food bowl are clean, give you chinchilla fresh chinchilla pellets and an abundant supply of fresh timothy hay as soon as you notice changes in behavior.
 
(4), (5) , (6) and (7) are conditions that may occur but a discussion of these is beyond the scope of this question/answer format. If you notice these symptoms, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary.

See all of Marty Hull's chinchilla Q&A, click here>>
See Marty Hull's author bio, click here>>

Posted: October 24, 2013, 7:55 p.m. EDT


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