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Health & Lifestyle Pages (site map lists page contents) Chinchilla Behavior: Relating to People and Other Animals
Chinchilla Introductions and Group Dynamics/ Chintelligence and Communication/ Dental Health/ Exercise and Play Grooming, Fur and Skin Health/ Healing: Ailments & Remedies/ Nutrition/ Origins and Wild Chinchillas Today


*Supplementing Vitamin C for Dental Health (articles, vitamin c sources)
*Supplementing Calcium to Correct Calcium Deficiency (calcium metabolism, moderate ca:no p calcium supplementing, articles, bladder stones in perspective, calcium sources)

Continued on next page:
*The Red Print: Please Read First
*Dental Health (articles and photos, dental formula, facts and problem prevention, crossley articles)
*Malocclusion (defining; articles and photos; environmental factor- calcium deficiency, insufficient tooth wear, implementing changes to address calcium deficiency and malocclusion; symptom progression of malocclusion)

Continued on next page:
*Positive Results from Vitamin C and Calcium Supplementing: Correcting Calcium Deficiency, Reversing Malocclusion (herd of maloccluders; casper in japan; henry, sugarpuff and dinky in the uk; sasha's miracle and more)

Continued on next page from Positive Results from Vitamin C and Calcium Supplementing:
*Sasha's Miracle and More


SUPPLEMENTING VITAMIN C FOR DENTAL HEALTH
(
articles, sources)


Calcium deficiency is a cause of environmental malocclusion and malocclusion is NOT always a "death sentence," it may be reversible in the initial and mid stages with vitamin C and calcium supplementing among other things, see Implementing Changes and Positive Results.


Regardless of whether or not a chin is calcium deficient, EVERY chinchilla should receive vitamin C supplementing. This is because vitamin C helps prevent dental disease by strengthening the connective tissue which holds the chin's open-rooted teeth in place. Loose or crooked (misaligned) teeth can also potentially benefit when the anchoring connective tissue that surrounds them is strengthened. Chinchillas cannot get "too much" vitamin C because it is a water-soluble vitamin, not fat-soluble, they will simply excrete anything unused.



Vitamin C Articles

Also see vitamin C and calcium content of fruits by chimere.org (also in .doc). Fruits are also high in sugar and should be given sparingly.

General vitamin C articles: howstuffworks.com, wikipedia.org


CA Chins (see "food")
"We have noted in the care of our chinchillas that we have fewer gum and tooth abscesses when we put our chinchillas on Vitamin C. There are many ways: giving fruits high in vitamin C like Kiwi fruit [mine especially love dried Kiwi], or giving children's chewable C. You can also give orange juice, although the amount of C in orange juice is very low. We postulate that the antioxident factor of Vitamin C will increase your chin's health and might even help the density of fur - at least that is our subjective findings here. Please Note: We have been asked to state that there is no research to substantiate our views, and that is true. However our experience, for what it is worth, has shown that approximately the same amount of Vitamin C as in guinea pigs is good for chinchillas. But we do need the research to prove or disprove this info."


California Chinchilla Association Ongoing Research Project (CA Chins)
"The teeth are not set into bone, as in the human jaw or some other mammals. So when the teeth are loose in their sockets, they can easily grow into the eye sockets, which are above the back three cheek teeth... To prevent loosening of the teeth in the jaw, give a healthy young chinchilla about 150-200 mg of vitamin C daily."


Chin City
"Vitamin C Be sure to get sugar free and the dosage should be 50mg daily or you can give your chin children's chewable C. Giving fruits high in vitamin C like Kiwi dried fruit. There is proof that giving vitamin C to chins show less gum and tooth abscesses. The antioxidant factor of Vitamin C will increase your chin's health and help increase fur density."


ChinchillAZ
"Additionally, the teeth are not connected to the jaw bone. Rather, they are free floating and are set in the socket with connective tissue. Vitamin C helps to keep this tissue firm. Chewable Vitamin C or rosehips are recommended. Your chinchilla cannot have too much Vitamin C. Just as with humans, chinchillas will absorb as much Vitamin C as they need and pass what they do not need through waste."





Vitamin C Sources

Liquid vitamin C- liquid is absorbed fastest, for syringe-feeding, consult your exotics specialist vet about dosage
TwinLab Liquid Vitamin C, Liquid Vitamin C 1000 by Dynamic Health Laboratories Inc.


Rose hips powder or powdered vitamin C can be used for dusting pellets, to ensure regular daily consumption. We've used both and once chins get over their initial surprise, they really like how it makes their pellets taste. Rose hips powder and powdered vitamin C can be found at health food stores, vitamin or herb websites, or at an outlet like ebay.


A 250 or 500 mg chewable tablet every other day is sufficient to supplement vitamin C in a chin's diet, and acerola and rose hips as ingredients are fine. If the chewable tablet come in flavors, in our experience chins tend to prefer the flavor that's more tart or sour. Check the label to see where sugar is listed in the ingredients, the less (or none at all) sugar the better: "Food manufacturers are required to list all ingredients in the food on the label. On a product label, the ingredients are listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount first, followed in descending order by those in smaller amounts." (ref- fda.gov)


Critter Be Better Vita C by American Pet Diner


Oasis Vita-Drops with Vitamin C for Guinea Pigs


Whole Rose hips are also a good source of vitamin C, they can be sprinkled on feed or added to the chin's treat mix.


Citrus C Treats for Guinea Pigs can be cut into small pieces and given every other day






SUPPLEMENTING CALCIUM TO CORRECT CALCIUM DEFICIENCY
(calcium metabolism, moderate ca:no p calcium supplementing, articles, bladder stones, calcium sources)


Also see these articles that have a direct bearing on this section: The Red Print: Please Read First
and
Environmental Malocclusion: Calcium Deficiency

Calcium deficiency is a cause of environmental malocclusion and malocclusion is NOT always a "death sentence," it may be reversible in the initial and mid stages with vitamin C and calcium supplementing among other things, see Implementing Changes and Positive Results. While only calcium deficient or pregnant/ nursing chins need calcium supplementing, EVERY chin should receive vitamin C supplementing because it strengthens the connective tissue around their open-rooted teeth.

Calcium supplementing in chinchillas can be beneficial because chins aren't like rabbits and guinea pigs, whose atypical calcium metabolism predisposes them to urine sludge and bladder stones. While vitamin C and calcium supplementing can improve some dental problems, they are not being suggested as a miracle cure-all for every type of dental problem. Chins that are NOT calcium deficient, including those who are maloccluded from causes other than calcium deficiency (genetic, accidental, environmental malocclusion from insufficient tooth wear), do not need and may not be helped by calcium supplementing.

Be advised that past care, age, general health, and the type and severity of the dental problem, including how long it's been neglected, will affect how the chin responds to any kind of treatment. For instance, it is much easier to correct calcium deficiency before malocclusion develops. As stated in ChinCare's disclaimer, there is no suggestion, advice or recommendation on this site that is intended to serve as or substitute for the expert diagnosis and treatment of an exotics specialist vet.



Calcium supplementing is only necessary and recommended under the following two conditions. If your chin does not meet either of these conditions, then you don't need to do calcium supplementing:

1) To correct calcium deficiency, as indicated by light colored tooth enamel (clear/ white to light yellow). Once a calcium deficiency has been corrected, as evidenced by dark orange tooth enamel, further supplementing is not necessary. The focus of this section is on supplementing calcium to correct calcium deficiency.

2) For pregnant/ nursing chins, who should always receive both vitamin C and calcium supplementing because their bodies are being depleted by the process of creating and nourishing new life. Supplementing calcium in particular at this critical time can prevent calcium deficiency and malocclusion from occurring in the mother or kits in the future.



Be forewarned that there is misinformation on the web regarding calcium supplementing (and bladder stones) in chinchillas. If there are no sources credited by the person making claims, then it is wise to consider their assertions suspect. We are not scientists or veterinarians, but we do research what they have to say and credit our sources.





Calcium Metabolism, as it Relates to Calcium Deficiency

A few of the many articles that we've researched on calcium metabolism in mammals are contained in Calcium Articles, and they go into greater depth and technicality than is our purpose here, where we will attempt to discuss calcium metabolism in mammals as it relates to calcium deficiency in chinchillas in simple, straightforward terms.


Mammals share a common calcium metabolism (with the exception of rabbits and guinea pigs,
whose atypical calcium metabolism predisposes them to urine sludge and bladder stones) which is largely centered around the body's regulation of the relationship between calcium and phosphorus. That relationship is expressed in a ratio, a calcium:phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio, which is actually representative of the more exact measurements of an animal's calcium and phosphorus requirements, as shown and discussed in more detail in this .doc. "The Ca:P ratio, however, is of secondary importance. Of primary importance is sufficient amounts of both calcium and phosphorus in the diet to meet the animal's requirements." (ref- book, "Equine Clinical Nutrition: Feeding and Care" by Lon D. Lewis, Anthony Knight, Bart Lewis, Corey Lewis, 1995, pp. 28-29)


It has been suggested that "Chinchillas actually require either 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus or equal amounts of calcium to phosphorus in their diet for healthy bones and teeth," but it must be understood that this statement is not certain fact, it is supposition, in reality only a statement in observation of the common Ca:P ratio range. (.doc)


To date there have been no scientific studies to verify what the chinchilla's actual Ca:P ratio is, we confirmed this both in our research and in correspondence with the source of the 1:1/ 2:1 statement. 1:1/ 2:1 actually represents a very WIDE range, there is a VERY big difference between "equal parts of both" and "twice as much of one than the other," and an animal that requires calcium in a 2:1 ratio will be very calcium deficient if they're only getting 1:1.


For this reason, and others to follow, it is important to realize that the 1:1/ 2:1 concept should NOT be misconstrued as a suggested formula for calcium supplementing, as it has sometimes been in the past. Based on observations made during our years (since 2001) of conducting moderate
Ca:no P calcium supplementing on hundreds of chins, we believe that the chinchilla's Ca:P ratio is at least 2:1 but may very well be greater (Ca greater than P, phosphorus always being at "1," or requirement met, .doc).


Calcium deficiency, as indicated by light colored teeth (clear/ white to light yellow), can occur due to the inherited factor, problems with diet, or both, see article. When the calcium requirement is not met or when phosphorus is in excess of its required amount, calcium deficiency results. Although research has not yet confirmed what the exact calcium and phosphorus requirements are for chinchillas, since phosphorus is never the greater number (the requirement is always equal to or less than calcium- .doc) and since the phosphorus requirement is easily met if not exceeded in other animals and man (there are more foods with high phosphorus content, and many have an inverse Ca:P ratio, i.e., more phosphorus than calcium, which is why a chin's dietary extras must be monitored), we concur with what we were told by our exotics specialist vet, that the chinchilla's dietary staples of pellets and hay already meet their phosphorus requirement.


Phosphorus can occur in excess of the requirement when chinchillas are given grains (barley, wheat germ, bran, oats, wheat, etc. in the form of grain hays, supplemental grain mixes, grain treats, cereal or uncooked pasta, etc.) or fruit as treats, popular practices not entirely reprehensible when done seldom or in strict moderation. Grains are very high in phosphorus, as are many fruits (see Ca:P charts), and either is very likely to have an inverse Ca:P ratio (P greater than Ca, which constitutes a Ca:P imbalance), as in the case of raisins, whose Ca:P ratio is 0.5:1 (.doc). If fed in substantial enough amounts, the excess phosphorus from these dietary extras can adversely affect a chin's Ca:P ratio and result in calcium deficiency (a cause of environmental malocclusion) and critical bone conditions caused by low bone density. The ill effects of a diet too high in phosphorus have long been scientifically established for both animals and man (.doc and Journal of Nutrition, .pdf).


"Grains have the inverse relationship and contain more phosphorus than calcium. Research has proven that diets that contain an inverse ratio of calcium and phosphorus can cause stones and soft tissue calcifications."
(ref- Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)


The body regulates and maintains the balance between calcium and phosphorus in both the blood and the bones, and the balance in blood Ca:P is prioritized in order to keep vital body processes functioning. The bones serve as a reserve, or storage for calcium once blood Ca:P requirements have been met. When blood phosphorus is raised above the required amount and there isn't enough incoming calcium available to keep the blood Ca:P balanced, then the body begins to remove calcium from its reserve in the bones to maintain the blood Ca:P. This prevents bodily processes which rely on good blood calcium from becoming compromised: "muscle contractions, heart contraction, intestinal movement and nerve impulse conduction." (.doc) In brief, excess phosphorus inhibits calcium absorption by, or can cause calcium to be removed from, the bones (and teeth!).


As long as blood phosphorus requirements are MET (not exceeded), then calcium in excess of what is needed to maintain blood Ca:P gets stored in the bones. As noted previously, the chin's Ca:P ratio is probably 2:1 if not greater, meaning that a chinchilla requires at least twice as much calcium in his diet as phosphorus (see Ca:P ratio chart, .doc). This underscores the importance of supplementing ONLY calcium (not phosphorus) to correct a deficiency once the phosphorus requirement is met through the dietary staples of pellets and hay. Adding phosphorus in some misguided attempt to create a 2:1 "balance" would in fact cause a constant state of imbalance, worsening the deficiency, making it
impossible to correct. As long as the chin's phosphorus requirements are MET (not exceeded), then only additional calcium is required when supplementing and it will be utilized by the body, stored in the bones, to correct the deficiency.


Regarding this misleading statement, "bones cannot hold onto extra calcium," that is true only after the bones have already stored sufficient calcium. Calcium in excess of that is excreted and that is why calcium supplementing is only necessary until the deficiency is corrected.


The idea of supplementing just calcium, or Ca:no P (calcium: no phosphorus), is not exactly revolutionary. It is well known that for years pet chinchilla breeders in the U.S. have successfully prevented or corrected calcium deficiency in their breeding females by administering Ca:no P via Tums, cuttlebone or calcium chews, pet owners commonly provide likewise and our exotics specialist vet has prescribed Ca:no P liquid calcium (calcium gluconate) to treat malocclusion cases that involved low bone density, Osteomyelitis and malocclusion in the initial and mid stages.


Assuming that the chinchilla's Ca:P ratio is 2:1, it has been asserted that pellets and hay are "balanced" according to that ratio, and this is approximately true, given averages in pellet and grass hay ratios (although it must be noted that calcium requirements are greater for pregnant/ nursing and calcium deficient chins!). This assertion emphasizes the importance of ensuring that there is still enough calcium in the diet (per alfalfa hay, which is high in calcium, and sources such as calcium chews) when dietary extras such as grains or fruit are added, because those extras raise phosphorus levels, and twice as much calcium would need to be consumed to maintain a 2:1 balance (.doc).


This section is not intended to raise alarm or to complicate the subjects of diet and nutrition for pet chinchilla owners. Calcium supplementing is only necessary under the two conditions stated at the head of this section, and as long as a chin is consuming pellets and hay to meet his phosphorus requirement, then calcium supplementing should only include additional calcium, which is discussed further in the next article. For the rest of chinchillas, the majority that are not calcium deficient, our advice on diet and nutrition, which comes as a result of considerable experience and research, is to keep things simple.






Moderate Ca:no P Calcium Supplementing

Since 2001 we, the ChinCare webmasters, have conducted vitamin C and moderate Ca:no P (calcium: no phosphorus) supplementing on literally hundreds of chins, via our chinfamily since 1997, rescue work since 2000 and saving ranchies since 2004. Sometimes the chins were just supplemented for days, but the vast majority received supplementing for weeks, months, and years because we do a lot of socializing and rehabilitation (both health and behavioral) work with rescue and ranch chinchillas. Our records as of March, 2008, show that there have been 69 chins that were supplemented for a year or more.


In all these (ongoing) years of supplementing hundreds of chins, we've never had a single problem result from supplementing calcium. No bladder stones, no issues whatsoever, just consistently positive results: tooth enamel always progressing toward dark orange, advancing malocclusion stopped or even reversed (see articles). With the exception of some cases mentioned in Sasha's Miracle, our supplementing has always been moderate, not intensive, and we define moderate calcium supplementing as the use of just one supplementary calcium source in moderate amounts. Our method of moderate calcium supplementing consists of dusting our chins' pellets with calcium powder.


Only so much calcium powder can cling to a pellet, it only boosts calcium levels slightly on a daily basis, supplying a little extra calcium to those who need it. Chinchillas excrete unused calcium, they are not like rabbits and guinea pigs whose atypical calcium metabolism predisposes them to urine sludge and bladder stones. It bears mentioning that we have also alternated between giving chewable vitamin C tablets and dusting our chins' pellets with vitamin C powder or rose hips powder (a source of vitamin C), so at those times there would be less calcium clinging to the pellet. We've also advised and received positive feedback from many others who have implemented moderate calcium supplementing by way of dusting pellets, some of their stories are on Positive Results from Vitamin C and Calcium Supplementing.


We first began our Ca:no P supplememting by pulverizing Bone Builder calcium blocks and dusting pellets with that. According to the product's analysis, it contains not less than 14% calcium and a very small amount (3%) of phosphorus, among other minerals, and it was by using that product that Sasha had her first malocclusion reversal. Since summer of 2006 we've used Fluker's Repta-Calcium, a powder which contains not less than 36% calcium, no phosphorus, and vitamin D (.doc) to aid calcium absorption.


When we refer to our use of these products as our Ca:no P supplementing, even though the Bone Builder blocks have a little phosphorus, it is to distiguish between calcium supplementing with none or negligible amounts of phosphorus and the type of product we used at one point where the phosphorus was present in very significant amounts, in a 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus ratio: T-Rex 2:1, guaranteed analysis- Calcium (max): 32.4% Calcium (min): 27.0% Phosphorus (min): 16.5%.


We learned the hard way what excess dietary phosphorus (see Calcium Metabolism) can do, especially to chins in recovery from malocclusion. For about five months between late 2005 and early 2006 we switched from the Bone Builder calcium blocks to T-Rex 2:1 powder, because we were mistakenly led to believe that the 1:1/ 2:1 concept was a proposed formula for calcium supplementing.


Like many chinparents, we served some grains to our chins, namely, an herb and grains mix on about a weekly basis with unsweetened Wheat 'N Bran mini Shredded Wheat biscuits given once or twice a week. With the Ca:no P of the Bone Builder blocks, our chins were still getting enough calcium to correct calcium deficiency, enough in fact to even reverse Sasha's malocclusion over time. But once the phosphorus in T-Rex 2:1 was compounded with the phosphorus from the grains we were serving, raising our chins' phosphorus levels considerably, it caused ALL our chins' tooth enamel to lighten simultaneously and dramatically, indicating calcium deficiency across our entire herd.


Normally, when calcium is added to the diet (per alfalfa hay, which is high in calcium, and sources such as calcium chews) to keep the body's calcium:phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio balanced in the presence of grains (barley, wheat germ, bran, oats, wheat, etc. in the form of grain hays, supplemental grain mixes, grain treats, cereal or uncooked pasta, etc.) or treats that are high in phosphorus, this is a good thing, it helps prevent calcium deficiency from excess phosphorus (ref). In fact, in our correspondence with the person who initiated the 1:1/ 2:1 concept, we learned that they supplement Ca:no P in their grain-based supplement.


However, if the additional calcium isn't great enough to counteract the raised phosphorus levels in the diet then the body will, as explained in Calcium Metabolism, remove calcium from the bones in order to keep blood Ca:P balanced. This is what happened to our chins when we introduced T-Rex 2:1. At the time we didn't realize what was going on, what was causing the calcium deficiency in our herd, and we only switched away from T-Rex 2:1 in early 2006 because our supplier stopped carrying it, thank goodness. We knew we had to find another calcium powder because our whole herd was calcium deficient, and we tried Kelp Powder Norwegian, but that was ultimately ineffective as a calcium source. It wasn't until summer of 2006 that we discovered Fluker's Repta-Calcium (Ca:no P), and finally our chins' teeth began darkening.


Our chins that weren't suffering from calcium deficiency or malocclusion prior to T-Rex 2:1 made a slow but untroubled comeback over the rest of 2006. Slow because we still didn't grasp what had happened, all the ramifications of the Ca:P ratio balance. So although we'd switched back to Ca:no P, we were still serving grains, which raises phosphorus levels and interferes with the effectiveness of calcium supplementing (see Calcium Metabolism). It wasn't until Sasha's malocclusion became active again in 2007 that we began eight months of intense research to understand the problem entirely, and this resulted in our entire Dental Health section undergoing massive updates and expanding fourfold.


The T-Rex 2:1 setback plus the slow recovery process was especially brutal to our resident maloccluders, in particular those who had been in remission from environmental malocclusion caused by calcium deficiency. One began manifesting symptoms again immediately in response to her calcium loss, her condition deterioriated rapidly and she was euthanized in May, 2006. Others, discussed in the March, 2008 entry of Sasha's Miracle, [were] receiving intensive calcium supplementing in hopes of turning around their cases, which had been in remission for years thanks to Ca:no P (and vitamin C) supplementing.


We have never, before or since T-Rex 2:1, had a chin in our care develop serious calcium deficiency or malocclusion, they've always come in to our rescue that way. But after administering T-Rex 2:1, one of our seniors began having problems in fall of 2006, was found to be suffering from low bone density and Osteomyelitis in January of 2007, and had to be euthanized in March. Another chin, who had spent his whole trouble-free life with us after being adopted from a ranch in 2000, developed a severe, lingering calcium deficiency (with some tooth overgrowth) that lasted until his death from a heart attack in July, 2007. In April 2008, another maloccluder, a senior, lost her fight and this brings the total of euthanizations as a direct result of using T-Rex 2:1 to three now. December, 2008, brought the final death toll to four.



Our advice to chinparents with chins who are calcium deficient or who are calcium deficient and in the treatable stages of malocclusion, is to start with (both vitamin C and) moderate calcium supplementing, i.e., to dust pellets with Ca:no P (calcium: no phosphorus, but which may have vitamin D (.doc) to aid calcium absorption). See Implementing Changes for complete and vital details.


The proof of successful calcium supplementing is all in the tooth enamel. There should be SOME evidence of progress, for either positive or negative, within a few weeks after beginning the Ca:no P supplementing. Teeth usually darken uniformly, but sometimes the darker enamel shows up in splotches, or one set of incisors may darken first.


Be aware when starting calcium supplementing that tooth overgrowth at first is TYPICAL, and this is not a sign that the chin's condition is worsening.
The most probable explanation for this lies in the calcium metabolism process, where once the body's blood calcium levels have been met, it stores additional calcium in its reserves, the bones, and until the bones' calcium supply has been restored this may leave the teeth in the lurch. This explanation appears to bear out in the physical evidence, because once the teeth begin to darken, showing improved calcium levels in the body, the tooth overgrowth stops and the teeth just get darker. If tooth overgrowth occurs when you begin Ca:no P supplementing, simply take the chin in to his exotics specialist vet, get the incisors trimmed or molars spurs clipped as needed and soon, as the teeth become a healthy dark orange, the overgrowth will stop for good.


With Ca:no P supplementing, the tooth enamel should progress from clear/ white to yellow to dark yellow and finally to dark orange, indicating sufficient calcium levels in the body. It may take a matter of weeks or even a few months for a deficient chin to achieve dark orange tooth enamel, only be sure that in the first few weeks of Ca:no P supplementing that the tooth color is headed in the right direction, toward dark orange.


If the chin's tooth enamel color stays the same, at clear/ white after a few weeks of Ca:no P
supplementing, or if the teeth begin to darken but don't become dark orange after a few months of Ca:no P supplementing, then it is very likely that the chin has a serious calcium deficiency, such as that seen in cases of inherited calcium deficiency, malnutritioned chins and maloccluders. When there is a serious calcium deficiency that persists, the chin needs to be taken to his exotics specialist vet immediately for a head x-ray to determine whether he's in the earliest stage of malocclusion. If he is, continuing with vitamin C and moderate Ca:no P calcium supplementing (see Implementing Changes) may give him a second lease on life, as it has for others: Positive Results.






Calcium Articles
(ask questions of these article authors, some information may not be chinchilla-specific)

Alfalfa hay, forage quality terms and definitions (.pdf)
Calcium and Phosphorus informative articles by Elson M. Haas, MD
Calcium metabolism in mammals Postman, DVM (.doc), Pet Care Veterinary Hospital (.doc),
Brown, DVM (.doc), Atkins & Smith (.doc), whfoods.org (.doc)
Calcium supplementing under "food" CA Chins
Calcium/ mineral variability in grains, interesting historical report from the Journal of Nutrition, 1929 (.pdf)
Charts: Ca:P in fruits and vegetables (.doc)
Chart: Ca:P in grains (.doc)
Chart: Ca:P in nuts and seeds (.doc)
Charts: Ca:P in other animals and man, with links to further discussion of calcium metabolism in mammals (.doc)
Chart: calcium content, Ca:P in hay (.doc)
Charts: nutritional content, including calcium, in hay several articles (.doc), caf.wvu.edu
Consequences of excess phosphorus .doc and Journal of Nutrition, .pdf
Excellent information resource: nutritiondata.com
The Importance of Calcium, article by Pitter Patter Chinchillas
Vitamin C and calcium content of fruits and vegetables chimere.org (also in .doc)
Vitamin D, aid to calcium absorption (.doc)






Bladder Stones in Perspective

Also see: Supplementing Calcium and Malocclusion: The Environmental Factor


Bladder stones are "rock-like collections of minerals that form in the urinary bladder. They may occur as a large, single stone or as dozens of stones the size of large grains of sand or pea gravel." (ref- johnsoncountyanimalclinic.com) "Urolithiasis refers to the formation of stones (calculi or uroliths) in the urinary tract. Calculi can be found anywhere in the urinary tract, in the kidneys, the ureter or the bladder, but are most common in the bladder." (ref- veterinary article by petplace.com, www or .doc) A case of kidney stones is more specifically indicated as Nephrolithiasis.


Chinchillas, like other mammals, can get bladder stones and symptoms include: bloody urine (hematuria), straining painfully to urinate (dysuria), and inability to urinate. Difficult, painful urination can result in squeeks of pain and the chin dragging his bottom across the cage floor in an attempt to relieve the suffering. If a bladder stone is suspected, rush the chin to his exotics specialist vet immediately because this condition can be life-threatening. A surgical maneuver is usually required to remove the stones.


It is important to realize, however, that bladder stones in chinchillas are actually very uncommon but death from malocclusion, which can result from calcium deficiency, is NOT.


The occasional knee-jerk alarm expressed over the presumed cause-effect relationship between calcium supplementing (to correct calcium deficiency and prevent
environmental malocclusion) and bladder stones in chinchillas is actually just the assumption of a misinformed few, including some vets who should be more careful in their interspecies extrapolations, that the chinchilla's calcium metabolism is just like the rabbit's and guinea pig's. But those species represent the exception to other mammals, their particular calcium metabolism does indeed predispose them to urine sludge and bladder stones.


"Calculi form due to oversaturation of the urine with certain minerals. Several factors may contribute to this oversaturation including increased concentrations of specific minerals in the urine, alterations in the pH (acidity or alkalinity), highly concentrated urine, presence or absence of stimulators, and inhibitors of crystal formation."
(ref- veterinary article by petplace.com, www or .doc)


It bears mentioning that calcium is not the only mineral that can be present in stones: "A variety of minerals can develop into different stone types... The various stones, which are named based on their mineral components, include the following: struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, calcium phosphate, xanthine, and cystine."
(quote- pets.ca, ref- peteducation.com, www or .doc)


When mammals other than rabbits and guinea pigs consume calcium, not all of it is absorbed by their body. Once their bones (that act as a reserve, or storage for calcium once blood Ca:P requirements have been met- ref) have sufficient calcium, then what is unused or in "excess" of their needs is simply excreted. By contrast, rabbits and guinea pigs absorb ALL consumed calcium in "excess" of what they need to the point where, when it is finally excreted through their urinary tract (other mammals also excrete calcium "through bile and intestinal secretion" (ref, .doc), it predisposes them to urine sludge and bladder stones, which are common ailments in those species.


It is the atypical way in which rabbits and guinea pigs metabolize calcium that gives them their particular sensitivity to "excess calcium" and which mandates close and careful monitoring of THEIR consumption of dietary calcium.


See Calcium Articles for information about mammal calcium metabolism and this .doc for information concerning the relationship between rabbit and guinea pig calcium metabolism and bladder stones. There is no historical, anecdotal or scientifically confirmed basis for assuming that chinchillas have the same sensitivity to dietary calcium that rabbits and guinea pigs do, instead, the empirical evidence fully supports the contrary, that chinchillas have a typical, not atypical or exceptional, calcium metabolism.


For example, providing chins with additional calcium has long been a commonly accepted, widespread practice with both ranchers and the pet chinchilla community. Pet breeders regularly supply their breeding chins with additional calcium, often in the form of Tums, chinparents frequently offer additional calcium to their non-breeding chins through sources such as calcium chews and cuttlebone, which are commonly marketed by chinchilla suppliers, and ranchers often feed only alfalfa hay cubes to their stock because it is especially good for pregnant/ nursing chins who need the extra protein, additional nutrients, and of course, calcium.


We, the ChinCare webmasters, have conducted moderate calcium supplementing on literally hundreds of chinchillas since 2001 with never a single bladder stone (or any other problem) arising from that or the intensive calcium supplementing we administered to a half dozen chins over several months between 2007-8. Additionally, while doing calcium supplementing we have always served alfalfa (high in calcium) at our rescue, often it has been our chins' primary hay.


If chinchillas had the same calcium metabolism as rabbits and guinea pigs, making them sensitive to dietary calcium and predisposed toward bladder stones, then EVERYONE WOULD KNOW IT BY NOW. The problem would be common knowledge,
duly noted in books and recognized by veterinarians, ranchers and the pet community. But this is not the case. After a thorough examination of our large chinchilla reference library that includes dozens of veterinary and rancher-authored books (.doc), we found NOT ONE mention of bladder stones. Our exotics specialist vet, who is active in the AEMV (Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians) and whose practice has regularly treated chinchillas for years, confirmed from her professional standpoint that bladder stones are very uncommon in chins.


After a rigorous online research investigation in late 2007, we found that no vet with an online fact sheet about chinchillas even mentioned bladder stones among chinchilla ailments. And after using the Google internet search engine, reading through online veterinary care sheets and combing the top two most populated chinchilla forums (Chinchillas Unlimited and Chins-n-Quills, the latter now defunct), we found among the few (literally, three) cases of confirmed calcium stones in chinchillas that NONE involved calcium supplementing (correcting calcium deficiency to prevent malocclusion). We did, however, find plenty of evidence of malocclusion and some incidents of seizures, both of which can be caused by calcium deficiency. So, if anything, it seems that our calcium deficient chins need attention NOW, to prevent real, commonplace tragedies that should not be left untreated out of ignorance and fear of bladder stones.


There are other routes to Urolithiasis besides a facilitating calcium metabolism, and when chins do get bladder stones it's for the same reasons that other mammals, with whom they share a common calcium metabolism, get them. Some of the precipitating conditions, which are far more likely to occur in combination rather than existing as a single cause, include: a physiological defect that may be hereditary (chins that do get bladder stones should be considered NFB), bacterial infection in the urinary tract, bladder disease, urine that is too alkaline rather than acidic, the consumption of water with high mineral content, dehydration which increases mineral concentration in the urine, lack of proper exercise that makes the animal out of shape and their bladder slow to contract, etc.


For example, in all our years of calcium supplementing with chins we have never seen a urine crystal or any white sediment in our chins' urine (see pictures of this in rabbit urine, .doc). This may be a possibility but it's worth giving a word of caution against overanalyzing urine stains, very often people read something into a normal situation without meaning to and overreact to nothing. Still, if this occurred it would undoubtably serve to alert the chinparent to the potential for Urolithiasis, say, as a result of too much access to salt and mineral wheels (wheels with salt only should be avoided but according to our exotics specialist vet, occasional access to mineral stones, about 1-2 times a week, is fine), or if the chin regularly drinks mineral/ hard water (as opposed to distilled or filtered water); the latter being the cause implicated in the forum bladder stone cases previously mentioned.


When a lot of additional minerals, more than the body can use, are consumed, they would naturally be excreted, and normally that's not problematic. BUT... if the chin was ALSO experiencing dehydration, bladder disease, a lack of proper exercise, etc., then that combination of factors would indeed predispose him to bladder stones, just as it would for other mammals with a
typical (not atypical, as with rabbits and guinea pigs) calcium metabolism. The bottom line is, it's vital to bear in mind that bladder stones in chinchillas are very uncommon, but death from malocclusion is not, and when a chin is calcium deficient his body needs and will use the additional calcium that can literally save his life.






Calcium Sources
(calcium powder, other sources)


Read Implementing Changes prior to supplementing calcium, it contains points of vital importance. While only calcium deficient or pregnant/ nursing chins need calcium supplementing, EVERY chin should receive vitamin C supplementing because it strengthens the connective tissue around their open-rooted teeth.
Whatever calcium source is chosen, it should not contain ingredients of animal origin, such as bone meal, because chinchillas are vegetarian. Refined or natural calcium carbonate (oyster shell, coral, limestone, dolomite, etc.) sources are fine. To our knowledge, the calcium sources listed below are Ca:no P (calcium: no phosphorus, but which may have vitamin D (.doc) to aid calcium absorption), as discussed in calcium supplementing. Always read product ingredients before purchasing.




Calcium powder, for dusting pellets

Dusting pellets with calcium powder, in itself, is moderate calcium supplementing because only so much calcium powder can cling to a pellet, it boosts calcium levels slightly on a daily basis. Pellets can be dusted with both rose hips powder (for vitamin C) and calcium powder, just realize that this will decrease the amount of calcium consumed and some calcium powder brands (indicated below) already contain additional vitamin C. With this in mind, rose hips powder should be combined with calcium powder so that it is half or less the amount of calcium powder being used: for example, 4 oz of calcium powder with 2 oz or less of rose hips powder. Thoroughly mix both powders in a Ziploc freezer bag, store in the refridgerator and use when it's time to dust pellets.


Of the products listed below, only Fluker's, Rep-Cal and T-Rex should be used for dusting pellets, Nutrobal needs to be administered in smaller amounts. In 2008 we checked online ingredients and analysis against the actual information on the product containers.



Vitamin D aids calcium absorption, see: .doc.
Note that the D-Activated Animal Sterol (a source of Vitamin D3) found in some calcium supplements is acceptable for chinchillas, it's also found in some chinchilla pellets and treats. This description of D-Activated Animal Sterol was reiterated on several other sites in our research:
"Cholecalciferol (D-Activated Animal Sterol) - is obtained by activation of a sterol fraction of animal origin with ultra-violet light or other means. For label identification it may be followed with the paranthetical phrase (Source of Vitamin D3). Note: The definition of Sterols is- "(Part) Solid cyclic alcohols which are the major constituents of the unsaponfiable portion of animal and vegetable fats and oils." Since alcohols are not proteins, these are not prohibited as ruminant feeds by 21 CFR 2000.589 regardless of species of origin."
(ref- agr.wa.gov, .pdf)

Before dusting pellets with calcium powder, wash and dry your hands well. Then, with your hands, mix the powder and pellets together thoroughly in a mixing bowl until the powder sticks to the pellets. Calcium powder should be added until the pellets are coated, then saran wrap the bowl and store appropriately, we refridgerate ours.


Expect some calcium powder to settle to the bottom of the mixing bowl, just add more pellets later and mix to use up the settled calcium. Be sure that the dusted pellets in the chin's dish are well stirred once daily so that the settled calcium will re-coat the pellets. In our experience with feeding hundreds of chins over the years, calcium powder has never affected pellet taste or consumption.


Fluker's Repta-Calcium
(This is Ca:no P)
Available at: petguys.com, herpsupplies.com
Ingredients: Limestone flour, flavor, D-activated animal sterol (source of vitamin D3) Calcium not less than 36%



Rep-Cal Ultrafine Calcium With Vitamin D3
(This is Ca:no P)
Available at: reptilesupply.com, petblvd.com
Ingredients: 100% natural Oyster Shell phosphorous-free calcium carbonate with
added Vitamin D3.
Guaranteed Analysis: Calcium minimum 35%; Calcium maximum 40%;
vitamin D3 minimum 400,000 IU/Kg



T-Rex 2:0
(This is Ca:no P and it also has vitamin C)
Available at: reptilesupply.com, petdiscounters.com
Ingredients: Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Menadione, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine,
Vitamin B12, Ascorbic Acid, Niacin, Pantothenic AC, Folic Acid, Biotin, Choline, Dextrose
Guaranteed Analysis per 100G: Calcium (max) 38.5%; Calcium (min) 34.5%; Vitamin A 36,000IU; Vitamin D3 33,600IU; Vitamin C 235mg



Nutrobal by Vetark, a high-calcium balancer and multivitamin/mineral supplement
Calcium:phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio of 46:1 is good and this product also has vitamin C. Nutrobal is a high potency supplement with many additional vitamins and minerals, do NOT dust pellets, instead administer in smaller amounts.
Only available in the UK:
northern parrots, petsparade.co.uk
Contents per gram: 200mg calcium & 150IU vitamin D3, plus vitamins A C E K B1 B2 B6 B12 folic , nicotinic & pantothenic acids, biotin choline niacin and minerals P Na Fe Co I Mn Zn Se Cu




These items can be found at other suppliers in addition to those hyperlinked:
Bone-Builder Blocks/ Calcium Shapes- Brisky/ Cuttle Bites- Chillin' Chinchillas
PetDiscounters: Chilly Chews, Critter Cone, and for cuttlebone, sand dollars, etc., search: calcium




Liquid calcium, absorbed fastest, for syringe-feeding
Cal-Quick Liquid
Coral Calcium Complex Liquid
Calcium gluconate (from your
exotics specialist vet)




Tums antacid tablets
Calcium enriched, just be sure that there are no other (antacid or chemical) added ingredients besides the calcium carbonate, coloring and flavoring.