OWNING A PET CHINCHILLA
Chinchillas can make fun, enjoyable pets. The chinchilla is a rodent related
to the guinea pig; they originate from South America where they live in the
Andes mountains. In addition to their popularity as pets, they are also raised
commercially for their soft, luxurious pelts. Chinchillas can exhibit "fur slip";
part of the fur can be shed if the pet is handled roughly or the fur grasped
too tightly. Their average life-span is about 10 years. They are nocturnal animals
and are often more active at night, preferring to sleep during the day. They
do not hibernate. As with any pet, they do occasionally get sick, and their
illnesses are often severe. All pet chinchillas should be examined by a qualified
veterinary surgeon within 48 hours of purchase, and at least annually thereafter.
This "new pet" exam is critical to detect signs of disease and help new pet
owners get off on the right foot. So many problems are caused by misinformation;
the first veterinary visit can help prevent well-intentioned owners from doing
the wrong thing and ultimately contributing to the pet's early death.
Like all rodents, the chinchilla's teeth grow continuously throughout life.
Chinchillas have a digestive tract (like other rodents and rabbits) that is
specialized for digesting large amounts of fiber.
The breeding season of chinchillas is mainly from winter through spring, November
through April or May.
Baby chinchillas, like their relatives baby guinea pigs, are born with eyes
open, fully furred, and active.
Selecting your pet
Chinchillas are usually purchased at pet shops or through breeders; they are
often also for sale at exotic pet shows. As with any pet purchase, avoid chinchillas
that appear ill. Chinchillas should be bright and alert, and move quickly when
startled. Avoid pets with closed eyes or discharge from the eyes or nose. Check
the ears for redness or excess wax which might indicate an infection. If possible,
examine the teeth and make sure the incisors (front teeth) are not overgrown.
The pet should neither feel fat nor thin; you should be able to feel the ribs
with just a small amount of fat over them. Check the anal area for diarrhea
or moistness which might indicate a gastrointestinal infection.
The first veterinary visit
Ideally your chinchilla should come with a health guarantee that requires
a checkup by a veterinary surgeon with a few days (usually 48 hours) after purchase.
All pets including chinchillas need regular veterinary examinations. Select
a veterinary surgeon knowledgeable about chinchillas
The first consultation with the veterinarian will include determining the
animal's weight, as well as checking for lumps or bumps. The animal is examined
for signs of dehydration and starvation. A fecal test is test is done to check
for internal parasites. The veterinary surgeon can also determine the sex of
your pet. If all turns out well, your pet will be given a clean bill of health.
Like all pets, pet chinchillas should be examined annually and have their feces
tested for parasites during the annual consultation.
Pet chinchillas do not require vaccinations.
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