right dustbath container)
Also see: Care
Myth: Anti-Fungal Prevention, Reducing
the Allergic Impact of Hay and Dust
"Chinchilla dust serves the important purpose
of allowing your chinchilla to stay clean in a way similar to how
it would maintain its coat naturally. In its native cold, arid environment,
the chinchilla would roll in fine volcanic ash to stay clean. Chinchilla
dust, like volcanic ash, sticks to oils and dirt in the coat, and
then falls off, cleaning the chinchilla's fur as it does so."
Chinchillas secrete oil from their skin, as do many other animals
including man, and this can make their coat appear "greasy"
without regular dustbathing. It has sometimes been mistakenly assumed
that chinchillas secrete lanolin, but this is not the case because
chinchillas have fur, not wool, and lanolin
(also known as wool wax, wool grease or wool
is a greasy, waxy substance that wool-bearing animals secrete as
a waterproofing agent. It is used commercially in many products,
"ranging from rust-preventative coatings to cosmetics to lubricants."
dust serves primarily as a fur cleaning agent for chinchillas, for
the many other animals that roll in dust, like songbirds, degus,
elephants, rhinos, bison,
donkeys and chickens, it can also help
free shedding fur, control external parasites
and protect against sunburn and insect bites. (ref- 1,
In captivity, chinchillas cannot use just any sand or dust, they
need to use what is mined and packaged specifically for them. There
are several brands of dust available in the U.S. (Blue
Cloud, Blue Sparkle, Kaytee,
Sunseed, etc.) and
from what we've
been told, the dust used in the U.S. is of a much finer consistency
than that found overseas, where it is more granular and is sometimes
referred to as "sandbath." According to Azure
Chinchillas, located in the UK, "Use ONLY volcanic pumice
or sepiolite (both available in pet-shops) and not silver/play
or builders sand."
Dust in itself can aggravate allergies,
but the finer the dust, the more likely it is to be problematic.
If your cages are covered, as described on Routines,
then simply draw the sheet around the cage completely or put another
sheet across the front when administering dustbath to help contain
flying dust. It is always adviseable to put the dustbach container
on a bottom level, so that flying dust won't settle on the chin's
edibles and chew toys.
It is imperative that chinchillas be allowed
to dustbathe regularly, because besides
keeping their fur from becoming greasy, matted and heavy, which
significantly increases the risk of overheating,
they are very clean animals and not being
able to keep clean makes them
susceptible to stress-related
health and behavioral problems.
Allow your chinchilla access to at
least a measuring cup full of fresh
dustbath, placed in an appropriate container,
for 5-10 minutes every day or every other day during the warm weather
season, or when high humidity
is a factor. During the cold weather season, when humidity isn't
as much a factor because most home heating systems are also drying,
then 5-10 minutes of dusting every other day or at least twice a
week should keep your chin clean while stopping short of potentially
If your chinchilla is a bathing fanatic, and some really do relish
their bath quite a lot, then it's fine to give dustbath every day
all year round just as long as it doesn't result in dry skin. Dry
skin is uncommon but it can occur, especially if a chin's skin is
exposed from fur biting or if it hasn't completely grown back after
being shaved for an operation or clipped
to treat a wound. Sometimes a chin needs dustbath after prolonged
handling, and there are some chins that just seem to get more oily
or "greasy" faster than other chins, and in that case
more frequent bathing is necessary. After all, in the wild they'd
get to bathe all they want.
A tablespoon of Arm & Hammer Baking
Soda can be mixed into the dustbath to make it, and consequently
the chin, smell more "fresh," although if your chin is
he needs to be wiped down with a damp cloth and dried thoroughly
with a towel before being offered dustbath. "ARM & HAMMER®
Baking Soda is made from soda ash, also known as sodium carbonate."
Be aware that some chins will urinate in their dustbath, "marking"
it as theirs once they're finished using it, and a different scent
(such as scented dustbath) or change in type of dust may
prompt that behavior. It is acceptable to "reuse" dustbath
if the chin has only left some fecal droppings behind, in that case
simply remove the droppings and reuse the dust. However, if the
dust is soiled by urine then it is not reusable, the dust must be
disposed of, the container cleaned and filled with new dust.
If you smoke, please do it as
far away as possible (preferably outside) from your chins
because not only is secondhand smoke (see articles
in Healing: Ailments & Remedies) as
harmful to pets as it is to people, the tar coats their fur and
they sometimes clean their fur with their mouths, thereby ingesting
the tar. If you take in a chin with a tar-stained coat, he will
wet bath, dustbath alone can't clean up tar.
Some chins have a slight sensitivity to dust, and especially if
they've inhaled some small particles they may make the nose-clearing
sound, wipe their nose or get watery
eyes, but be observant because these symptoms can indicate the
onset of pneumonia
or other respiratory problems. If your chin seems particularly sensitive
to the dust you're using, try another brand, that often resolves
Rolling in dustbath
is learned by example from the parent.
If your chinchilla does
not roll in dustbath, then at some point there was neglect in his
early upbringing, either dustbath was not reliably provided for
the parent so they could demonstrate this necessary routine or the
kit was prematurely weaned before he had a chance to learn.
If your chinchilla is not dusting, administer Dustbath
Massage daily, as he gets accustomed to feeling clean by using
the dust then VERY gently try to roll his back in the dustbath to
help give him the idea and eventually he will catch on. If a chin
who has always dusted refuses to take a dustbath, this may indicate
an injury ( e.g., it hurts to roll) or an aversion to the
type of dustbath being used (some chins will not use a heavier,
more sandy dust).
Besides dusting, chinchillas clean their face and whiskers with
their forepaws, they also groom themselves and each other. Chins
like to be
"groomed" by their chinparent as well, per chin scratches,
Grooming combs aren't really
necessary unless you're planning to do competitive showing with
your chinchilla. However, sizes
5 and 7 (combs with wider tooth spacing) can be helpful
when a chin with a particularly thick coat is shedding and would
benefit from having the excess hair removed. Chinchillas normally
shed their fur in negligible amounts except during the warm weather
months when somewhat more pronounced shedding may take place.
You DON'T need to trim your
chinchilla's finger and toe nails. Chinchillas
do not have claws, they have residual nails that are thin and fragile
and protect their fingertips. Chinchilla nails are insubstantial
enough to keep in check on their own, they'll get enough routine
wear such as during out-of-cage exercise
time and by using a solid surface exercise wheel
and solid (wooden) cage shelves and perches. Chins don't
do much digging in the wild (except of course when scratching
and rolling in volcanic ash) because they
inhabit the abandoned burrows of other animals, hide in vegetation,
or find naturally formed holes and crevices to reside in.
Grooming Combs Kingdom Chinchillas (MSN)
and U.S. Dustbath, Photos Chinchilla-Lexicon
Quality: Overview, Clarity, Veiling, Density, Fur Length, Texture,
Finish, Priming Ebony Dragon Chinchillas
Ebony Dragon Chinchillas
to Show Azure Chinchillas
of Sand/ Dust to Use Chinchillaburg
Grooming, Photos of Combs S.A.S
Chinchillas, see Grooming
Videos of Grooming, Bathing
Farms, 7meg Windows Media Player clip
Grooming Accessories, Retail
option for removing shedding fur (photo example and
Grooming Instructional DVD,
Lint Roller, Brush ChinWorld
Metal Dusting Box Carolina
Chinchilla Connection, Paul
The Right Dustbath Container
used must be LARGE enough for a chin to have room to roll and to
allow for easy entry/ exit,
plastic is a chewing hazard and therefore NOT
Safe options include:
glass fish bowl, aquarium, metal dusting box (see Accessories),
metal dog dish, terra cotta planter, ceramic bowl, or Super Pet
Ceramic Chinchilla Bath (large size is necessary but
is often too small for adults) which is sold at: All
About Pets, Doctors
Foster and Smith, Pet
Care Central, Strictly
typical scaly, dry skin on ears: 1,
dry skin under fur on back
severely scaly, dry skin on ears: before
and after treatment
skin on the paw of a chin that had been receiving treatment
for Ringworm fungus. Same paw the very
day after applying unscented
Dry skin is not a common problem, but under certain conditions
dry environment that chinchillas require can contribute to it.
Dry skin can occur under the fur but it is much more likely to occur
when skin is exposed and vulnerable, such as from fur
biting, or where the fur has been shaved for an operation or
to treat a wound. When the skin is being treated topically for something,
it can become severely dry as in the photo example above.
For skin that is normally exposed, like
ears and foot pads, dry skin is more common, and when foot pads
are not cared for they can develop callouses
that crack open and lead to Bumblefoot.
Using a dehumidifier in summer in our
climate is appropriate, our location is surrounded by water and
is a constant during the warm weather season. The dehumidifier counteracts
the humidity and more or less strikes a balance so that there are
no dry skin problems in summer for our chins. Winter is another
story. The hot air from the furnace that heats our house over our
long winter creates a very, very dry atmosphere. Dry skin problems
are much more likely to occur when the environment becomes significantly
drier than usual.
These suggestions should only be taken into consideration if
your chinchilla is experiencing dry skin:
Increasing humidity with a humidifier is adviseable ONLY if the
humidifier has a hypo-allergenic or air-purifying feature (ref-
and is kept at the other end of the
chinchilla room on a LOW setting. Be VERY cautious of creating an
atmosphere for fungus,
maintain proper temperature and humidity control in the chins' environment:
conditions are 60°F to 70°F with a humidity level of 40% to 60%."
Keep the household temperature at a low setting, no higher than
70°F during wintertime so that
the furnace isn't blowing hot air throughout the house any more
often than absolutely necessary.
Dustbath not only helps dry and lighten fur when it gets soiled,
damp or greasy in the wild, it can also be drying to chinchilla
skin. Chinchillas need to keep their fur dusted regularly but when
a chinchilla has sensitive skin which has become dry due to climate
changes, give fewer dustbaths- once or twice a week at most.
If the dry skin is a result of the skin being exposed from fur biting,
that addresses that subject.
Typical dry skin show no redness, only some scaliness (ears
photo) or flaking that looks a lot like dandruff (under
fur photo, look closely for the flakes, they were a bit difficult
to photograph with clarity). In the case of skin that's exposed
as a result of fur
biting, etc., when the chin does a lot of scratching in that
area it can be an indication that the skin there is dry, irritated
Severely dry skin, such as the paw
photo, will appear red and scaly. The blood between two of the
toes occurred when the cracked skin bled as the chin ran about trying
to avoid being picked up and treated for her dry skin. Her skin
became severely dry as a result of treatment for Ringworm fungus.
When the skin is this severely dry, it can closely resemble Ringworm
fungus: both have thinned or missing fur and
the skin that is showing underneath is reddened with tiny lesions
and scaliness. Unless you're experienced in dealing with both it's
practically impossible to differentiate between the two, but one
thing is certain: fungus will spread and there will eventually be
more infected patches. If in doubt, don't take chances, seek the
expert help of an exotics specialist vet
There is no treatment for dry skin under the fur, only the preventative
measures named above can help alleviate that.
When not located under the fur, such as with exposed skin or paw
pads and ears, treatment for typical or severe dry skin cases is
the same. Have ready a hypoallergenic moisturizer (Jojoba, Vitamin
E oil, Aveeno, pure Aloe Vera, unscented
Hand Cream) and a cloth
for dabbing off any excess moisturizer and wiping your hands. Place
the chin on your lap, put a tiny dab of moisturizer between your
thumb and forefinger, and gently massage the moisturizer into the
dry area. When doing ears, DO NOT go into the ear canal with the
With exposed skin or paw pads, apply moisturizer until you're certain
the dry skin is well saturated. With dry skin scales on ears (see
they will begin to slough off as you rub in the moisturizer,
you'll see tiny flakes of gray on your fingertips. Just wipe off
the scales on the cloth and keep reapplying moisturizer until the
ears are well moisturized and the scales have all been rubbed off,
as depicted in this before/ after photo.
After treatment, place the chin back in his cage and allow him to
clean up with dustbath. Counterintuitive as this may seem, it won't
cancel out the effect of a good moisturizer and chins have a psychological
need not to feel "greasy." Check the dry area daily, applying
treatment and giving dustbath afterward until the skin is healed.
of callouses on wild chinchilla foot pads
or overgrown callouses, "flippers"
Callouses on the feet of chins in captivity is pretty common. Because
chins need a cool,
dry environment that simulates their experience in the wild,
the skin on foot pads can simply dry out from time to time. When
this happens in the wild and callouses form, they're sloughed off
as the chin hops on rocks (including volcanic rock, think pumice,
like the Lava
Ledge) and runs across rough terrain. In captivity, NEITHER
wire nor smooth solid flooring substitutes for the sloughing action
that chins would get in the wild and so callouses go unchecked unless
they're filed by the owner. The recommendation to give chins something
in their cage that is flat or soft to rest their feet on is intended
to relieve feet from the constant pressure of wire mesh,
not as a prevention against callouses.
Feet should be checked for callouses at least
monthly. Older or heavier chins whose feet have naturally
spread with age or weight are more susceptible to advanced or overgrown
callouses that form "flippers"
on the sides of their feet. Advanced callouses can become problematic
and lead to Bumblefoot.
Two people should be present for this, seated
across from each other with one securely holding the chinchilla
bottoms-up on his lap so that the foot pads, the bottoms of his
feet, are easily exposed. The person holding the chin should support
both feet throughout the process so that the chin isn't dangling
or struggling while the other person, with nail file ready, gently
files at the callouses.
DO NOT attempt to "flake" or "tear" off the
callouses, although they are just dead skin they are attached to
live skin and attempting to tear off a callous can cause pain and
bleeding. Chinchilla feet are very sensitive and even the act of
gently filing the callouses will be frightening and upsetting, especially
at first, but don't let that dissuade you from treating the callouses
because otherwise they could become a case of Bumblefoot.
Just speak soothingly
to him while holding him securely and especially supporting his
feet well, then file as precisely as possible, being careful not
to slip with the file and scrape the sides of the feet where there
is only flesh, that would be VERY painful, like a bad rug burn.
If callouses are neglected, or if the chin is large or older and
his callouses have gone unchecked for a little while, then they
may spread outward and it can look like the chin is wearing flippers
#2). In this case, it is necessary to file some at the extended
edges where the calloused area has spread, again being VERY careful
not to hit flesh with the file. Since chinnie feet can spread a
little naturally with weight or age, be sure that you're only filing
at the callouses.
Another alternative to treating overgrown callouses is by using
vet prescribed Trypzyme (ref- 1
Ask your exotics specialist
if you think this might work best for you, according to our vet,
"Trypzyme is an enzyme based topical that is used to relieve
excessive callus formation and to treat wounds...I haven't used
in years and have not tried it on chins. I don't think it would
pose a problem to use it in chins but just to be safe, I would keep
them from ingesting it thru licking a pawpad, etc." (DVM
Glikis-Scott, was Fernandez, of the Birmingham
Veterinary Clinic in MI)
After treating the callouses, liberally
apply one of the following to the foot pads,
massage it in well and return the chin to his cage: Neosporin
First Aid Antibiotic Ointment or a hypoallergenic moisturizer- Jojoba,
Vitamin E oil, Aveeno, pure Aloe Vera, unscented Neutrogena
Hand Cream. We
personally recommend trying the Neutrogena, it has amazing moisturizing
properties and expedites healing dramatically.
While treating callouses, be sure to keep the cage
floor especially clean as a precaution against infection: wipe down
all cage levels, perches, etc. once daily with a damp rag that has
Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol on it, once wooden surfaces have dried
they'll be safe again for gnawing.
Additional Articles/ Photos: Chinchilla.uk,
City Chinchillas, Davidson
is a condition that results from neglected callouses, it is, essentially,
an infected callous. Chins that are housed on EITHER wire
OR smooth solid flooring can get callouses that develop into Bumblefoot,
read about the Cause
Other animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, can also develop
Pododermatitis but their causes and treatment can differ from that
of chinchillas due to their particular attributes. (ref-
Callouses that aren't kept in check and treated
can split or crack open, essentially creating an open wound on the
footpad that is highly susceptible to infection, especially since
chins walk where they've urinated and that bacteria can invade the
A case of Bumblefoot and how it was treated is described in this
While treating Bumblefoot, as
with callouses but even more important once infection is present,
be sure to keep the cage
floor VERY clean. Wipe down all cage levels, perches, etc. once
daily with a damp rag that has Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol on it,
once wooden surfaces have dried they'll be safe again for gnawing.
biting, chewing, barbering; fungus)
Also see: Estimating
Chinchilla Age for fur regrowth information and When
A Chinchilla Goes Bald by VetCentric
It is possible for a growth or abscess to be indicated by a hairless
patch. In this case, unlike with wear, it is usually completely
clear of fur, without the bits of fuzzy new growth common to a worn
spot. If you palpate the area and it feels like there is a spongy
or hard lump beneath (growth, tumor), or it feels like a
small sac containing liquid (abscess), consult the expertise
of your exotics specialist vet
immediately. The chin may not be in pain, but the area must
be professionally examined to determine exactly what it is and how
to treat it. Also see article on abscesses.
Malocclusion or Cold/ Pneumonia
can cause a chin to paw at his mouth, chin or nose and wear off
the fur in those spots as he tries to clean his face of drool and
mess. Pawing at those areas to remove nasal discharge could also
be a sign of cold or pneumonia.
If the chinchilla is experiencing internal pain, has sustained an
injury or had surgery recently (regardless of whether they're
on pain medication, some chins will pick at the operation site)
and for any of these possibilities has been obsessively pawing at
the affected area, it can cause fur to be shorn or worn away. Observe
your chinchilla closely to see if he is favoring a paw or limb,
if his fecal droppings are normal, etc. If you suspect the presence
of injury or pain, take your chinchilla to an exotics specialist
immediately to be x-rayed/ examined for breaks, sprains, etc.
appearance and treatment)
example of wear
under leg and armpit
wear in the mid-chest
It's not uncommon for a pet chinchilla who is large or heavy to
wear mostly-bald patches under their arms or legs. It results from
rubbing that occurs naturally as they play in a spacious cage
and get adequate exercise,
in itself it's not detrimental or cause for concern. Wear can also
occur if a chin rubs a spot on his body quite often, by something
he does. For instance, we have one chin who is always peering over
the lower shelf of his cage and rubbing his mid-chest area on it.
Then he peers out of his house to watch TV (photo),
rubbing the same mid-chest area.
Detecting, Appearance, Treatment
Wear will NOT appear cropped, there will be NO scaliness, scabs,
scratches or blood. The skin may appear pink, from the rubbing,
where the bald patch is, but there is no need to treat it unless
it appears to be raw and painful to the chin. In that case, massage
a little hypoallergenic moisturizer (Jojoba, Vitamin E oil, Aveeno,
pure Aloe Vera, unscented
Hand Cream) into the areas.
Once the moisturizer has been absorbed allow a dustbath so the chin
won't feel messy, this will not counteract the benefits of the lotion
wound photos; detecting,
appearance and cause; treatment
Also see: Skin
Abscesses in Small Rodents and Basic
Wound Management by Davidson Chinchillas
Management/ Care by Ebony Dragon Chinchillas and Maintaining
Group Compatibility on ChinCare
mark on skin under fur
puncture wound: right
after fight, fur
clipped around wound and healing in progress
under fur, discovered after it had scabbed over and become infected
Detecting, Appearance and Cause
If you know or suspect that your chin has been nipped, bitten
or in a fight with another chin, examine him for bite wounds immediately.
Obvious signs of conflict
are scratches, gashes, gouges and blood or patches of missing fur
(or tufts lying about the cage) that may be more than just
fur slip, there can be a fight wound on the hairless spot.
Gently and securely, hold you chin up so that you can blow into
the fur on his body (not face) and examine the skin beneath
for wounds. ALWAYS blow on the chin's fur
under a good light to get a closer examination- scratches and bite
marks are easily hidden by their thick coat and what goes unseen
and untreated can become infected (by bacteria in the
saliva of other household pets,
and even lead to death.
The most commonly attacked areas, which also tell something about
the circumstances surrounding the fight, are: wounds to the top
of the head and ears (especially at the base where the ears meet
the body) signify that the victim was mounted
and in a submissive position when attacked; wounds to the nose or
lips reveal that they were face-to-face and could have been rearing
up and challenging each other over something shared
or scarce (hideaway, food, water, etc.); wounds to the
back demonstrate that the victim attempted resistance and was caught
despite trying to avoid conflict.
No wounds on the attacker mean that the victim did not fight back
but don't count on the victim continuing to be incapable of anti-social
behavior in the future. Chins can learn anti-social behavior by
example and may store that knowledge to be used next time in their
defense, or as a preemptive. Never put two
chins together again after physical
injury has been inflicted (wounds, missing digits, etc;
fur slip and urine-spraying are not injurious),
it presents an ultimatum and the victim may either die of acute
shock or kill his cagemate in advance, to prevent further attacks.
Treatment and Prevention
Depending on the number and severity of the wounds, and especially
if your chinchilla is in shock, when there has been a fight it is
strongly advised that you rush him to the nearest exotics specialist
for immediate examination and treatment!
If the fight wounds are on the skin hidden
beneath fur, then the fur on and surrounding the wound MUST be trimmed
so that the wound cannot become matted by the fur, this leads to
infection and abscesses.
Two people should be on hand, one to carefully hold the
chin still while the other uses a small pair of scissors, such as
nail scissors, to trim the fur on and around the wound before administering
treatment. Wounds that are exposed, such as those on the ear or
face, can be treated as is.
Disinfect the wounds by gently dabbing them with a soft cloth (no
Q-tip or cotton ball that can leave stray fibers in the wound) soaked
in Hydrogen Peroxide, then put a light dab of a hypoallergenic moisturizer
(Jojoba, Vitamin E oil, Aveeno, pure Aloe Vera, unscented
Hand Cream), Neosporin
First Aid Antibiotic Ointment or Silvadene (vet prescription)
on the wound. Treat fight wounds this way once daily until it's
obvious that healing is well underway, then observe regularly until
all fight wounds are completely healed. ALWAYS disinfect before
covering the wound with something to expedite healing,
a covered wound that has not been disinfected first can lead to
abscessing! Should the wound abscess, see this article.
If it's suspected that there are multiple fight wounds and the chin
is not in shock, it is adviseable to administer a wet
bath because this accomplishes two necessary things: 1) cleans
all wounds 2) reveals the location of all wounds during the blow-drying
process so that they can be treated.
While your chin is undergoing treatment it's important to perform
Massage, keeping clean keeps the chin's spirits up and a positive
attitude will expedite recovery. Supervised introductions
and an awareness of what can lead to cagemate conflicts (see
Group Compatibility) can prevent fighting.
Also see: General
Characteristics of Behavior
fur slip on chin
fur, the fur is released cleanly
Fur slip is not the same as shedding, which does occur with
chins the way it does with other animals but to an almost negligible
extent. In the case of fur slip the area will NOT appear cropped,
there will be NO redness, scaliness, scabs, scratches or blood-
only a bald patch and cleanly-released (the whole tuft, from
root to tip) fur. Fur slipping does not hurt the chin and the
If you startle or frighten your chin in the process of picking him
up or handling
him, he may release or "slip" fur at the point of contact.
Just as porcupines release quills in self-defense, a chinchilla
is able to voluntarily release its fur at the spot where it's touched,
so that a predator in the wild or another chinchilla will get only
a mouthful of fur while the chin himself escapes. Slipped fur is
detectable at the moment it happens: there are small tufts of fur
in your hand, on your clothing or on the floor, and the chin has
a bald spot/s where the fur is cleanly gone. If slipped in very
small quantities, as in whisps, the bald patch may not be immediately
noticeable due to the chin's fur density. A calm, gentle approach
and secure handling
of your chin can help prevent fur slip.
Fur Biting, Chewing, Barbering
and treatment; prevention)
Cushing's Syndrome in Fur-Chewing Chinchillas
fur biting photo with article Granite City Chinchillas
biting and extreme fur biting in a rescue
case: 1, 2
extreme fur biting
photo with article Chinchilla Chat Line
degrees of fur biting from mild to extreme: 1,
If your chin's fur DOES have a "chopped" look with
NO signs of redness, scaliness, scabs, scratches or blood, then
they are fur biting, which can also be called, "fur-chewing"
Fur biting is the result of a chin biting or chewing at his fur,
and it appears as a patch of fur cropped shorter than the rest.
It is impossible to tell by watching whether a chin is in the act
of fur biting or just intensively grooming, you only know by the
aftermath. The most common location for fur biting is on the flanks,
but it can occur anywhere the chinchilla can reach, including the
underside, around the legs, and the tail. In severe
cases the entire lower half of the body can be barbered right down
to the skin. Although fur biting does not hurt the chin, in severe
cases where most of the chin's fur is removed care should be taken
to ensure the chin doesn't get chilled, see Cause
and Treatment. It is possible for a chin to barber another chin
and this can happen when the fur biting chin grooms his cagemate
and just takes things a bit too far. But that is the rare exception,
almost always it is the affected chin who is barbering himself.
Cause and Treatment
Fur biting is simply a neurotic reaction
to stress which can come in many forms, including a medical
problem (internal pain, injury, recent surgery, amputation, etc.)
or an environmental
stress factor (boredom, malnutrition, cagemate incompatibility,
etc.). If a medical problem is the suspected cause, contact
your exotics specialist vet
immediately and ask if painkillers should be prescribed. However,
MOST of the time fur biting results from an environmental stress
factor, especially boredom, see article.
Much has been speculated on why some chins resort to barbering
under stress and others don't. It is certainly a neurotic reaction,
essentially self-mutilation, but in itself it does not harm the
chin. Hairballs in chinchillas are very rare
and the care myth
(extrapolated from rabbits) that chinchillas need regular
preventative treatment (papaya, Petromalt, etc.) is finally
becoming a thing of the past. Fur biting is probably only hereditary
in the sense that temperament can be hereditary, that is, when one
(should be regarded as NFB)
or oversensitive chinchilla gives birth to another of the same temperament
and both barber that makes fur biting APPEAR to be genetic when
in reality it's just the temperamental predisposition that was passed
Fur biting is predisposed by temperament, and the more high-strung
or oversensitive a chinchilla is, the more likely it is that an
environmental stress factor will trigger a fur biting reaction.
Just as some people can weather any crisis without displaying neurotic
tics, because their temperament makes them more adaptive and resilient,
some chins will never barber no matter what they endure while others
do resort to fur biting under stress.
Fur biting is not uncommon and even chins thought incapable of it
may begin fur biting when exposed to a particular environmental
stress factor. To stop the fur biting, find and resolve the environmental
stress factor (what is a stress factor for one chin may not be
for another, see article
for details) which may take time to discover and the chin may
continue to barber sporadically even after the problem has been
addressed, because once a chin has resorted to fur biting as a response
to stress, he may compulsively resort to it again in future. Usually,
though, the barbering will clear up relatively soon and remain resolved
in relation to the stress factor that was addressed.
Older chins or those who have barbered compulsively for years can
take longer to discontinue if they are able to at all, for them
fur biting has become a routine reaction and it's often their first
resort when confronted with any stress. There are chronic cases
(most fur biters aren't chronic) that can arise in especially
high-strung or oversensitive (or who may also be a victim of
neglect/ abuse/ abandonment) chins, for these we recommend trying
Bach's Rescue Remedy.
Fur biting that leaves skin exposed makes the chin vulnerable to
skin that may require treatment.
Fur will regrow at a rate that corresponds with the chin's
age and mild or moderate fur biting cases
will regrow more quickly than those where the barbering is right
down to the skin, as in severe
cases. When a chin is significantly
underweight or severely fur
bitten, he is more vulnerable to cold and drafts; getting
chilled lowers the body's resistance to sickness. Put a sheet around
his cage (as described on Routines)
and provide some cloth (a
baby blanket of fleece in his house, a hammock,
with strap cut off, Comf-E-Cube, Chilla
Pilla with The Day Bed) in
so that he can retain body heat, it's also a comforting convenience.
In cold weather climates it may also be adviseable to provide a
heated bed (such as Lectro Small Animal Heated
Pad), which can be placed inside a pillowcase for the chin
to sit on and stay warm. We've noted that chins with significant
weight loss or fur loss are attracted to heater vents during playtime,
this is due to loss of body heat. As long as the chin is able to
move off the heated bed at will, there is no danger of him overheating
If you are a pet breeder seeking optimum health
and temperament in offspring, fur biters are NFB
because passing on the temperament
qualities (high-strung, oversensitive) that predispose a
chin to fur biting won't make for offspring that are relaxed, happy,
sociable and capable of really enjoying life.
Chins that are high-strung or oversensitive are often exceptionally
intelligent, which makes it difficult for them to cope with an underactive
or mundane environment during their waking hours, thus for them
the environmental stress factor is often sheer boredom. As
with all chins and especially fur biters, they'll benefit from an
interesting variety of engaging distractions in their environment.
This includes having a LARGE
to accomodate running and playing, a variety of chew
toys, at least one hideaway
per chin and a cage wheel
to help decrease stress
and boredom inside the cage; TV
during waking hours will provide environmental stimulation when
they're not actively engaged in out-of-cage exercise
myth: anti-fungal prevention; detecting,
cause and prevention; treatment)
Also see: Fungal
Infection by Ebony Dragon Chinchillas, Ringworm
by Azure Chinchillas and Newman
Photos of Ringworm Fungus
perhaps an allergic reaction- swollen and scabbed patches on side/
same spot, healing
eye, nose and edge of ear
around the eye after a week of treatment
healing on nose and side of face, new outbreak in whiskers-
see redness and scabs
and lower lip
scroll down on Chins
In Canada's Health & Care page
Care Myth: Anti-Fungal Prevention
fungus by putting anti-fungal powder in the chin's dustbath"
myth is both dangerous and unnecessary!
Fungus is not a constant threat where adequate cleanliness, among
other normal preventatives,
is present. When dust flies about the chin's cage
environment it is inhaled and settles on everything from chew toys
to hay and pellets, but when anti-fungal powder is added to dustbath
as some misguided "prevention," that changes everything.
Anti-fungal powder warning labels make it clear that the product
is for external use only and should ingestion occur, it is advised
to contact a "poison control center." Anti-fungal
powder (Desenex, Tinactin, Gold Bond- be sure it is medicated,
it must have an anti-fungal agent like Miconazole) should be
used ONLY to treat a diagnosed case of Ringworm, and then there
Chinchillas confirms the problem with this myth, "The common
“breeders home-treatment” consists of adding about a tablespoon
of athletes foot powder to the chinchilla’s sandbaths, so they self-medicate.
It is also routinely used as a “preventative” by many breeders,
but I have my reservations about the wisdom of using this, as my
chinchillas have displayed breathing abnormalities when the powder
has been added to their sandbaths, so I no longer add it as a prophylactic.
Even with anti-fungal powder added to sandbaths, a cure is not guaranteed
if the infection is virulent... Thought must also be given to the
fact that the chinchillas are liable to groom off anything that
is applied to their bodies, and these types of human medication
can be harmful to them if ingested."
adds, "A common practice of many breeders is to try to completely
prevent fungus by routinely administering anti-fungal agents in
the dust. This can be an ineffective, if not dangerous practice.
The constant exposure to certain anti-fungal agents does not insure
that all strains of fungus will be prevented, and when a strain
does appear in a herd that uses a constant preventative, it is often
a particularly difficult strain to erradicate."
When people talk about chinchillas and
fungus, they're referring to Ringworm fungus. Ringworm fungus
is not a worm but a fungus that affects the skin and also causes
fur loss. Note that there are strong similarities in appearance
between fungus and severely
dry skin (photo of uncommonly sensitive skin that became
dry in response to treatment for Ringworm), which is much less
common than fungus. According to Pet Care Veterinary Hospital, "Changes
in your chinchilla's fur warrant a visit to your veterianarian,
mites, or ringworm can also cause hair loss." (ref-
Pet Care Veterinary Hospital)
If a chin DOES have small patches, especially around the eyes, nose,
whiskers and chin (where fungus usually begins), where the
fur is thinned out or missing and the skin that is showing underneath
is inflamed and red with tiny lesions, flaking scabs, scaliness
or broken whiskers (from pawing, Ringworm is VERY itchy),
then you need to take your chinchilla to an exotics specialist vet
IMMEDIATELY for testing! Fungus can spread quickly on an affected
chin because as he scratches or cleans (also examine the chin's
urethral cone or penis) himself it will travel, typically beginning
on the face, then the paws, and then spreading across the body.
At the vet's, insist on a culture analysis because "only 50%
of a certain species of Ringworm fluoresces under the glow of the
Woods lamp, a culture
is used to verify the diagnosis." While waiting for the culture
analysis, perform the cagemate precaution in step 2 of the Treatment
Contagion, Cause and Prevention
Ringworm is a fairly commonplace fungus that's cross-species
contagious and is transmittable to and from people as well as animals.
According to Wikipedia: "Ringworm is very common, especially
among children, and may be spread by skin-to-skin contact, as well
as via contact with contaminated items such as hairbrushes. Ringworm
spreads readily, as those infected are contagious even before they
show symptoms of the disease."(ref-
Thus, Ringworm spreads by contact with
the fungus itself, a carrier of the fungus or something used by
the carrier. We've read that some types of Ringworm can spread by
airborne spores but in our
and other's experience, as long as the affected chin/s were being
properly treated and contact/ cleanliness precautions observed,
there were no new outbreaks.
Chinchillas contract Ringworm chiefly by exposure
to conducive environmental conditions: unclean husbandry
practices, not being thoroughly dried after getting wet,
access to places that harbor mold and fungus, such as a bathroom,
and especially exposure to dampness or high heat/
humidity. A weakened immune system or environmental stress
can make a chinchilla more vulnerable to the Ringworm fungus.
Prevention includes: maintaining a clean cage
and surrounding environment, controlled temperature
and low humidity, properly-stored hay
some quiet solitude for daytime rest,
exercise time and awareness of the Environmental
Stress Factors. If you believe your chins may be especially
vulnerable, take a cloth sprayed with Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
and wipe down cage levels daily, then allow to dry. Cages should
always be scrubbed
clean at least once weekly.
If you find yourself constantly battling fungus then you need to
consider the SOURCE of the problem and address that rather than
just focusing on controlling the symptoms after an outbreak has
occurred: change soiled bedding more frequently in cages
where the chin has direct contact with it, check the air conditioner
to see if it needs cleaned out so that it's not blowing mold spores
into the air, consider purchasing a dehumidifier,
perhaps a recent change or even extreme boredom has increased the
level among your chinfamily, etc.
By using the above regimen and by cleaning
the affected chin's cage environment as often as possible (but
at least once weekly), a small patch of fungus, discovered immediately,
should be cleared up in about five to seven days. Several patches
with some in an aggravated,
advanced state should begin healing after a couple weeks of treatment.
You can tell that healing
has begun when the redness diminishes, then the scabbing/ scaliness
disappears and finally the fur will regrow.
Perform the four steps above until the redness, scabbing/ scaliness
are GONE. The chin can be returned to his usual living arrangement
after all his fur is in a state of regrowth and there is absolutely
no sign of fungus. Be aware that
he may need to be re-introduced
to his cagemates since they will have regrouped in his absence
soon as the fungus is discovered the affected chin MUST be quarantined.
He needs his own cage in a separate room away from other chinchillas
and household pets.
You will need to wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap after
handling the chin or any of his accessories.
the affected cage with a disinfectant cleaner such as bleach,
Apple Cider Vinegar or Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, warnings and
details found here.
Cagemates that appear unaffected may still be contagious. As
a precaution, sit with a towel on your lap and massage anti-fungal
powder (Desenex, Tinactin, Gold Bond- be
sure it is medicated, it must have an anti-fungal agent like
Miconazole) into the
fur over their whole body- being careful not to get any in the
eyes or mouth- before returning them to the clean cage. Treat
cagemates like this once daily for a few days and continue to
observe them for at least a week to see if they manifest Ringworm.
the quarantined chin's room, cover his cage with a sheet as
described on Routines.
Keep his dishes sanitized in the dishwasher and clean cage accessories
and chew toys by soaking them in undiluted Apple
Cider Vinegar, then rinse well and allow to dry completely
before returning them to him.
treat the affected chin, sit with a towel on your lap and have
on hand a few Q-tips, Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol and the anti-fungal
powder as described in #2. Soak the Q-tip in Isopropyl Rubbing
Alcohol and gently, carefully rub the first affected area and
while it's still damp, rub the anti-fungal powder in gently
with your fingertips. If an anti-fungal cream was prescribed
by your exotics specialist vet,
use that instead of the Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol. Be VERY careful
NOT to get any cream/ alcohol/ powder in the chin's eyes, ears,
nose or mouth! Repeat this process on all the affected areas.
Finish by rubbing the anti-fungal powder over the affected chin's
entire body. Do all of step 4 twice daily.
CARE MYTH: THE WET BATH
There are a number of ludicrous myths
surrounding the "chinchillas should never get wet" admonishment,
dire consequences of which include the chin having his organs crushed
by the weight of the water on his fur and the complete loss of fur,
which then refuses to ever regrow...EVER. The stuff of urban
legends, to be sure.
The alarm and myths surrounding wet baths originate
from the concern that the chin won't be thoroughly dried if
he does get wet, and this is a valid point. Chinchilla fur is extremely
which means that it easily traps and retains moisture. If a
chin is housed in damp conditions or stays wet (leaky water
bottle, drooling from dental
disease), then he is particularly vulnerable to fungus
the latter of which can cause death. Also, foresight and precaution
must be taken to ensure that when a chinchilla gets wet or is given
a wet bath, that he is not allowed to get chilled. He needs to be
kept free from drafts until he can be dried THOROUGHLY, and when he
is returned to his cage
fresh dustbath should be waiting for him.
Wet bath can be beneficial and safe for chinchillas but it is ONLY
recommended for situations where a dustbath will not clean adequately,
for example: if a chin has come from a filthy cage environment, is
excessively stained from urine-spraying,
is matted, incontinent, grease-slicked, has fallen in the toilet
is tar-stained (smoking indoors not only damages their health but
also causes coat discoloration, stickiness and stench), etc.
Dustbathing is rather like vacuuming, it's works fine for ordinary
cleaning jobs like the ones that wild chinchillas would encounter
in their natural habitat, but for chinchillas living in captivity
there are sometimes extraordinary circumstances that require a more
thorough cleansing. Wet baths are definitely the exception, not the
An alternative to a wet bath can be to wipe down the chin with
a warm, damp cloth in a draft-free room and then gently blow dry or
towel dry completely before giving dustbath. On tough jobs this
doesn't work as well as a wet bath but it's better than trying to
clean up serious grime with dustbath alone.
It's not unusual for a chin that is rescued from a neglect situation
to need a wet bath, and it doesn't have to be a big deal for the chinparent
to give one, especially since the real
of coping with a matted, filthy coat is ALWAYS greater than the PERCEIVED
stress of getting clean via a wet bath. We've
bathed many a rescue chin and it is just not that awful or traumatizing,
for either chinparent or chin. Once the chins realizes they're getting
clean at long last and nothing bad is happening, that you won't let
them drown, then they're often quite pleased with the process. It's
not all that uncommon for a chin to actually enjoy the water and want
to put their face closer to the blow drier (set on low) to
appreciate the feel of it on their face.
Sometimes chins will get mats, most often along their lower backside.
Mats can result from poor hygiene habits, consummation following mounting,
and drooling cagemate huddling against them for warmth, or in the
case of a chin with a particularly dense coat whose fur during shedding
time is released but becomes tangled rather than eventually shed.
Matted fur on a chin somewhat resembles dreadlocks (ref),
except not quite so cool, literally. A chin with matted fur is an
uncomfortable chin, not only because chins are very clean animals
but because matted fur makes a chin feel
hot and weighted down.
A wet bath will cleanse some mats and loose fur from a chin's coat
chin with mats after bath, the mats are indicated by swirls in
the coat with raised bunches of fur), but fur that remains tightly
matted will need to be cut out VERY CAREFULLY with a small pair of
scissors such as nail scissors (large scissors can poke and they're
more difficult to maneuver with precision). It's best to cut out
mats right after a chin has had their wet bath, just before blow-drying.
This requires two people, one person to hold the chin securely while
the other does the cutting, precisely and quickly, so the chin doesn't
get jabbed or cut with the scissors or become chilled while still
wet. DON'T attempt to cut the mat right down to the skin, they often
start there but it's better to get only as close as safety allows,
without risking jabbing the chin's thin skin. Scroll down on this
page for a video about clipping mats.
Administering a Wet Bath
It's best to have two people on hand when administering a wet bath.
The bathroom air should be warmer than the chin is used to, at least
70°F so the chin won't get chilled while he is soaking wet. Running
hot water or turning a hair dryer on high for a minute or two can
help raise room temperature but it should not be allowed to get too
hot in the room. Doors and windows MUST be kept SHUT to prevent drafts!
Have two large towels, a hairdryer and a dustbath ready and set aside
in the bathroom. You need a mat or something non-slippery (even
another towel) set in the tub bottom so that when you're soaping
the chin he's not sliding about. In case your little guy might get
away from you, put the toilet lid down in advance. We found dog and
cat shampoos to be drying on chinchilla skin, an herbal shampoo that
doesn't contain extra moisturizers or strong scents is best.
Bring the chin into the bathroom and close the door. One person should
hold the chin while the other adjusts the water temperature on the
bathtub tap. The water should feel WARM, not hot, not cool, but just
above lukewarm. Don't turn on the water full blast, about medium pressure
is fine. Hold the chin securely with both hands
and pass him under the water flow from tail to nose, keep his head
pointed DOWN by nudging it with your thumb if needed. Remember-
chins BREATHE through their nose, it is VERY important that he is
passed under the faucet BRIEFLY, just enough to get him wet, and that
he does not raise his head while going through- KEEP THAT NOSE DOWN!!
Water up the nose for a chinchilla is just like drowning. If you have
a hose attachment on your bathtub, this actually works better, in
which case just train it over the chin with one hand and offer him
your other hand for balance as he sits on the mat in the tub.
After wetting the chin, place him on the mat or non-skid surface that
you set on the tub bottom. Hold him securely while reaching for the
shampoo. Gently suds him all over, tweaking any fur that is a trouble
spot, that'll help loosen or untangle any overlooked mats. Massage
the shampoo over him thoroughly but quickly, the wet bath process
should be kept as brief as possible to avoid possible drafts or chills.
Cover everything with shampoo EXCEPT the eyes, ears, nose and mouth,
keep soap away from those areas completely. Rinse the chin in the
same manner described previously- warm water, medium water pressure,
passed under the water flow from tail to nose with the nose kept down-
but this time it will take more than a single pass under the faucet
to cleanse the shampoo from his fur.
When the chin has been thoroughly rinsed, have the other person ready
with the first large towel. We always wrap our bathing beauty securely
in the towel with just his little nose and mouth showing and hold
him for about five minutes, talking softly and soothingly to him,
before blow drying. This helps absorb excess water and expedites the
drying process. Chins tend to act exhausted after being bathed, don't
be suprised if he seems a little limp, that's typical.
When the holding time is up, have the other large towel ready- unfolded
and placed on the floor, preferably in a corner, and place the chin
on it. Chins often do a "doggie shake" to try and fluff
out their wet fur. One person should wave the hair dryer around the
chin on LOW speed at the LOWEST warm setting (not cool or cold
air) while the other sits nearby, ensuring the chin doesn't take
off and helping the blow drying process by fluffing out the fur as
it's being dried. If the chin is trembling, he's chilled and the hair
dryer heat setting can be temporarily increased. It is VERY important
to keep the hair dryer moving and to keep it at a reasonable distance,
don't concentrate it on any area for more than a few seconds because
a chinchilla's skin is very thin and sensitive.
Once you're comfortable with giving wet baths, one person can finish
the drying process by holding the chin on their lap as pictured in
photo 1 and
photo 2. IMPORTANT:
When the chin's ears start to get very red, stop the hair dryer and
do a little towel drying for a minute or to in order to allow the
chin to cool off before resuming.
When the chin feels and looks completely dry (check right behind
the ears and the especially thick fur on his haunches), allow
him to use the dustbath you had set aside in the bathroom. Make sure
that he gets a few good turns in his bath while still in the warmer
air of the bathroom before wrapping him up in your shirt to take him
back to his cage, this will help him acclimate to the cooler cage
There should be no fans going, open windows or drafts near the cage,
and if you don't usually keep a sheet around the cages (as described
it would be wise to do so for at least the first 24 hours after his
NOTE: It is VITAL to watch the bathed
chin's reception when he is returned to his cage, sometimes the change
or the wish of the bathed chin to be left alone for awhile afterward
can antagonize even a close cagemate and cause a conflict.
Observe the bathed chin's welcome for at least a half hour or until
it seems there will be no problems. If your chins have been trained
by your tone of voice to understand "No" as a deep, serious,
negative tone and "Good boy/ girl" as a more high-pitched,
light and positive tone, use commentary to encourage good behavior
and discourage bad.
CARE MYTH: WITHHOLDING DUSTBATH
No matter what condition a chin is in
at the time, whether pregnant, after birthing, ill, injured, etc.,
they need dustbath because keeping clean is not only a physical
requirement, it's also a vital psychological pacifier.
that is deprived of dustbath is more susceptible
health and behavioral problems.
In the wild, they would not refrain from rolling in their native volcanic
ash for any reason, for better or worse. When chins are kept domestically,
though, it is good sense for the chinparent to take some extra precautions
when administering dustbath to a chin that has a condition (pregnant,
after birthing, ill, injured, etc.) that makes them prone to complications
(re-injury from rolling, mastitis, infection or vaginal irritation)
if they were to roll in dustbath as usual.
The Dustbath Massage
When your chin can't take their usual dustbath, they can STILL
get clean by you APPLYING the dustbath for them. Simply
place the chin on a table or on your lap with a towel to catch excess
dust as you apply it, and have a dish of dustbath ready beside you.
Dip your fingers into the dustbath and carefully, gently rub
it into the chin's coat, avoiding any affected areas such as
an injured limb, the vaginal area of a pregnant or recently littered
chin, and the entire underbelly of a nursing chin- to keep the dust
from irritating the nursing kit's eyes.
Cornstarch Powder (no Baby Powder, nothing containing
can be substituted for dust when massaging a nursing chin, just to
ensure that no granular particles (dustbath is sometimes more coarse
than cornstarch powder) get into the kit's eyes.
A dustbath massage expedites recovery by calming the distress that
a chin feels when he's messy but can't roll in dustbath on his own.
A chin that feels clean and comfortable after getting a dustbath massage
is more relaxed and better able to cope with his present condition.
Dana Krempels, Ph.D. University of Miami, Biology Department, House
Rabbit Society of Miami
Note by ChinCare: Although written for dry-bathing a messy
rabbit rear, this will work just as well on a chinchilla.
a container of Baby
Cornstarch Powder (no Baby Powder, nothing containing
from the grocery store baby section. You can use either unscented
or scented cornstarch powder. DO NOT use commercial flea powders
or other pesticides on your bunny. Use only baby-safe cornstarch
powder for best, safest results.
bunny is a comfortable position so that the soiled parts are
easily accessible. This may involve placing him in your lap
on a bunched towel so that he feels secure, or simply laying
him on the floor in a comfortable position, if he's calm and
won't try to run off.
Liberally apply the cornstarch to the soiled areas, and gently
work the powder down into the fur, around messy poops, and down
to the skin.
the powder around any stubborn clumps of debris gently. As the
cornstarch coats the mess, it will slide away easily.
Once the largest bits of mess have been removed, use a soft-tipped
brush to gently loosen any remaining dirt and debris.
Pat the powdered areas well to remove loose powder.