Chinchilla Care In Temporary Shelters
DIET: Feed commercial chinchilla, or rabbit or guinea pig, pellets daily.
Can use rodent pellets, seed, or Cheerios in emergencies if no other pellets are available. Dry or moistened dog or cat food is a last resort. Offer a constant supply of timothy hay and a teaspoon of vegetables or fruit daily. Do not feed seeds, nuts, or dried fruits unless no other food is available. Water must be available at all times in both bottle and bowl, watch for clogging of tube.
HOUSING: Minimum temperature 60 degrees, maximum 80 degrees. Move to indoor climate controlled facility if needed to prevent heat stroke in high humidity or over 80 degrees.
Use original cage if possible to decrease stress. Wire cages with maximum 1/2 bar spacing, aquariums with lids, or plastic totes if there are no holes they can reach to chew and escape. Clean out urine daily to avoid high humidity. Escape artists, need extra latches on all potential escape routes. Use bedding of paper towels, aspen or pine shavings, hay, or recycled or shredded paper. Do not use cedar shavings, corn cob, cat litter or straw as bedding. Provide a cardboard or commercial hiding box to decrease stress. House alone or with same sex cage mate if no fighting is observed.
RESTRAINT: May bite, use soft gloves, will panic if approached from above.
Scoop from underneath, then use one hand over shoulders and one under hindquarters, or grasp around the torso and hold the base of the tail. Rough handling may result in fur slip, with a patch of hair falling off. Wrap in a towel like a burrito or place inside a small container like a plastic tote. Never lift or restrain by the tail except at the base with other hand under body.
COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS: Overgrown teeth may cause drooling and loss of appetite.
Overgrown nails are common. Wet tail, or diarrhea with staining of the fur near the anus can indicate a life threatening illness. Can result from stress, overcrowding, shipping, diet change, or various diseases. Requires immediate attention from an experienced exotic mammal veterinarian. Never use antibiotics without consulting an experienced veterinarian to avoid toxicity. Chinchillas are very prone to respiratory issues, seek vet care if wheezing, sneezing, or coughing.
OTHER: Chewing on plastic is dangerous, provide cardboard paper towel tubes for chewing.
Fruit tree branches (not sprayed with pesticides) are safe chew toys. Do not disturb female with babies, and do not place male with them. Do not get them wet, their fur does not dry well and infections may result.
Compiled by Julie Burge, DVM, Burge Bird Services and Burge Bird Rescue, August 2016
Immediate Intake Care of Small, Unusual & Exotic Pets by Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary
Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook for Veterinarians by Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM, Diplomat ABVP-Avian