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Chinchilla Won’t Eat Or Drink

What can be done about chinchillas that won’t eat or drink?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: February 27, 2012, 4 a.m. EST

Q: I just got a chinchilla from a friend. They didn't have chinchilla food in the cage with it. It was in a very small cage with no room. It seems to be malnourished, and I can't seem to get it to eat or drink anything. I have another chinchilla and he is very active, but I can't get this chinchilla to do anything. Any ideas as to what I should do for the poor little guy?

A: It sounds like you have done a great service for this chinchilla in “rescuing” it from the situation it was in. Unfortunately, you may have adopted a sick chinchilla. Once a chinchilla stops eating, it can become severely malnourished and develop liver disease. And by not drinking, the chinchilla can become severely dehydrated. Both of these conditions can be life-threatening and need to be treated as soon as possible.

Once these problems are addressed, then it is important to determine what caused the chinchilla to stop eating. This may be difficult for you as you do not really know the history of this chinchilla, because he only recently came to live with you. The best answer is to visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

One of the most important aspects of the physical examination by a veterinarian will be to examine the chinchilla’s oral cavity and the teeth. Overgrown teeth, which are common in chinchillas, are a leading cause of anorexia and dehydration.

Other conditions that stop a chinchilla from eating include inappropriate foods, renal disease, liver disease, toxicosis, neoplasia (cancer) and degenerative diseases.

Once the physical examination has been done, the next step is to start supplementing with foods that increase both calories and fiber for your chinchilla. Depending on how dehydrated he may be, your veterinarian might also recommend subcutaneous fluids.

You can try feeding tempting foods, such as fresh hays and vegetables, but the best advice is to seek veterinary care to find the cause of the anorexia and to start your chinchilla back on the road to health.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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Reader Comments
My chin was fine until a few days ago. He has not been hungry or thirsty. He appears to eat a little timothy hay. Sleeping more, he is not old. He came out of his cage for a little while yesterday, usually he runs around quite a bit. His teeth are fine, eyes and area are not gunky. Does he just have a possible chinchilla flu or something of that nature?
todd, columbus, NE
Posted: 11/17/2013 4:38:51 AM
This article didn't help me much as I am already taking my chin to see a vet and the best they suggested was force feeding her baby foods like squash and sweet potato which isn't working. I would like additional recommendations, things to try feeding her, than what I already know. I also feel that it is important to share that the Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital in Elmwood Park, IL doesn't recommend veggies in the cruciform or cabbage family which includes broccoli and cauliflower as those can make chinchillas "gassy". They say that we are better to stick with leafy greens.
Sherie, Wood Dale, IL
Posted: 3/11/2012 11:56:42 AM
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