What to Feed Your Chinchilla

Chinchilla pellets are readily available in any good pet store. There are several types of commercial chinchilla pellets and they are mostly made up from the same ingredients, a combination of vitamins, minerals, soybean oil, alfalfa meal, wheat germ, molasses, oats and corn. This blend has proven to be of high nutritional value for chinchillas.

However, many brands cater to the chinchilla breeders and ranchers rather than to the pet owners. These brands are available only in 50-pound bags. After such bags are opened, they tend to lose a great deal of their nutritional value after a couple of months. Since a single chinchilla or a pair would never work their way through 50 pounds of pellets in that amount of time, buying a large bag would probably do more harm than good in the long run.

A careful search of your local pet stores will usually net a good source of chinchilla pellets for your pet or pets. If you have difficulty in obtaining an economical supply of specific chinchilla food, there are some viable alternatives.

Many pet owners have opted for rabbit pellets, which are cheaper and are sold in smaller packages as a general rule. These work well for a time. Many have discovered that, because rabbit pellets are fortified with hormones, rabbit pellet-fed chinchillas tend to become fat after a six-month diet. The animals become lazy and their general well-being is often not best served with rabbit pellets.

Some brands of guinea pig pellets contain similar ingredients and can be used in place of other varieties of pellets. This kind of feed is more widely acceptable than rabbit pellets specifically because of its higher nutritional content and the simple fact that it has a lower fat content. As a pet owner, one of these two choices is probably best.

Since your pet has been in the care of the pet shop owner for a time, it is important that you continue the same diet the animal has been on for the first few weeks that it is in your care. If your pet has clear eyes, is active and appears to be in good health, you should feel comfortable about continuing its pet store diet. If you have to change the diet for any reason, it must be done slowly. You can do this by adding small amounts of the new feed within the old supply, slightly increasing its content until it completely replaces the old brand. Being creatures of habit, your chinchilla might at first detect the new feed and ignore it. However, in a short time it will become used to seeing the new feed and accept it into its diet. Of course all pellets must be fresh. Manufactured pellets always have a freshness date stamped on their packaging.

Some professionals still feel that pellets are not adequate for a chinchilla’s full daily nutritional requirements and they mix their own feeds adding specifically measured quantities of such things as wheat, bran, barley, millet, linseed, dietary calcium, feed salt, skimmed milk powder, and herbs such as hip, peppermint, sage, mallow, etc. Up in the Andes, chinchillas ate varieties of grasses and seeds. Their artificial diets are the results of years of study and experimentation by experts. Unless you have consulted an expert in the field of raising chinchillas, you should avoid such experimentation and stay with the diet your pet store operator has established.

An essential guide to buying a chinchilla

Selection of your pet chinchilla is a very important task.

The best place to begin searching is your local telephone book. You can look for good pet stores, or there might be a chinchilla ranch in your area which sells some of their stock as pets. If no pet stock is available, it is a good bet that one or more of these contacts will be able to suggest somewhere else to search. As with any purchase, thorough pre-shopping will determine the best price. The prices will probably vary, but keep in mind that you are shopping for a pet, not a champion chinchilla. As long as it is a healthy, happy, gentle animal, you’ve probably chosen well.

Many people choose such a pet as a companion for a youngster. While surprising a child on a holiday or birthday is exciting and fun, a “surprise pet” (of any kind) is not a good suggestion. A child must be prepared to take care of a pet properly. This includes knowing how to feed, touch and otherwise oversee its well-being. In shopping for a pet, it is wise to bring the potential child owner along. Save other gifts for “surprises.”

Remember that along with the chinchilla a cage, food and other accessories must be considered in the initial purchase cost. For now, let’s assume that you have found a pet store that deals in chinchillas and you’ve come in for your first look.

Some stores do not display their chinchillas for various reasons. Since they are nocturnal animals, they are not very active during the day like a small puppy or kitten. Also, their natural fear of movement and noise makes it desirable for them not to be frequently displayed as a general rule. Calling for an appointment to view them is often required. This depends, of course, on the policy of your local pet store.

As with any small pet, it is a good practice to closely examine it before buying. One of the major factors to keep in mind is proper handling of the animal. The way you initially touch and hold a chinchilla will not determine if the one you have is the one you want, but it can help you decide if having a chinchilla in the first place is a good idea for you. Pet shop owners will allow handling of the animal under their supervision. They are the experts in caring for these animals and can answer your questions about the history and supervision of the animal. They will appreciate it if your examination of your potential pet is an educated one, enabling you to ask the right questions about maintaining its health.

Constipation in Chinchillas – Causes, Signs and Treatments

If you follow the prescribed diets for your pets, they should not experience any kind of seizures. Such fits, if they do occur, are usually the direct result of improper feeding. If you do find it happening, rush your pet to the veterinarian.

Contrary to what you might believe to be normally brought on by a dietary cause, most constipation in chinchillas is due to such actions which might cause the animal to experience stress. Any kind of long travel or the changing of its location might bring on this condition as well. For this reason, constipation is a condition you should look for in any animal you’ve just acquired. Just bringing it home from the pet shop might produce enough stress to initiate constipation.

Dietary concerns are, of course, the other common cause, especially a sudden diet change. Many breeders and ranchers suspect a green food diet as being behind constipation problems as well. The most foolproof way to diagnose chinchilla constipation is by having its abdomen felt by the experienced and trained hand of a chinchilla expert or your veterinarian.

One highly recognized home preventive measure for constipation is to give your pet a small amount of Karlsbad salt mixed with its drinking water. The water bottle should be about half full and you should be certain that the chinchilla drinks it all. As with most cases of this sort, checking the animal’s droppings the next day will aid you in determining if you need to give the animal a second dosage. This same solution is also very effective for a female chinchilla in a state of advanced pregnancy who suffers constipation just prior to giving, and following, birth. These chinchillas often tend to eat their afterbirth. This can cause some of the same digestive problems as mixed food in these animals. The Karlsbad salt solution also will aid in promoting the proper excretion for these animals as well. As you might expect, these measures are probably more of a concern to breeders and chinchilla ranchers, but, after checking with your own veterinarian, they will probably prove to be the safe and proper actions to take.

At times when you are trying to change a chinchilla’s diet and have two types of pellets in its feed dish, constipation might be caused by the eating of this mixed diet. If you suspect that this is the case, the same remedy can be used, but with a slightly stronger mixture of the Karlsbad salt and drinking water. Also, in this instance you should feed the solution directly into the animal’s mouth three times each day. Results should be evident in a day or two.

Although it has been used in the past (successfully in some cases), castor oil is not recommended for chinchillas suffering from constipation.

It is also important in the instance of chinchilla constipation that the chinchilla exercises. This can be done by letting it out of the confinement of its cage and allowing it the freedom to move around on the opened space of the floor. You can also increase the instances of dust baths and give the animal extra time for tossing and turning around in its dust.

How to Know If Your Chinchilla is Sick

There are a few ways to determine whether or not your chinchilla is running a fever. Just as a human, a chinchilla’s normal temperature is 98.6 degrees. Without any special thermometer, you can see if the animal has a fever by touching and examining its ears. If they are pink or red in color and feel abnormally warm to the touch, then there is a high probability of a fever. Prior to this method of determining temperature, observe the position in which your pet has been sleeping. Sometimes, if the ears are tucked under the sleeping animal, the ears, warmed by body heat, may produce appearances similar to those described above. Wait a while after the animal has awakened before trying to determine an elevated temperature.

If you do suspect a fever, the animal will probably also appear listless. If this is the case, you should also listen carefully to its breathing. If it experiences difficulty breathing, makes a wheezing sound or shows a nasal discharge it might indicate a case of pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses. In a case of pneumonia, this causes unusual stress to the animal’s circulatory system and heart. In fact, it is this kind of stress that is usually the direct cause of death in such instances. In most cases, you will require the services of a vet to treat pneumonia. Only a trained expert will know the exact type and needed dosage of antibiotics. If such is the case, you should also remember that you will most likely have to administer water to the stricken animal via a water dropper several times a day and make certain the animal is kept warm in a quiet place.

If the symptoms occur minus any difficult breathing, your chinchilla might be suffering from the common cold. In such a case, all you need do is keep the animal warm and be certain it drinks plenty of water. Also, don’t allow the animal to have a dust bath until the cold symptoms clear up. Continually examine the animal to make sure no pneumonia symptoms appear later on.

While pneumonia is not rare in chinchillas, it is more likely that watery eyes are a sign of a more common chinchilla difficulty such as dental problems. If you observe the animal pawing at its mouth or drooling when it eats, dental problems might be the cause. If such a condition has continued for a time, the animal might not have had the proper chewable foods and playthings to wear down its constantly growing teeth properly.