Claire D

Quaranting Chinchillas

Quarantine & Chinchillas

Whenever a new chinchilla is purchased there is great excitement and a huge temptation to "cut corners" in quarantine and introduction regimens.

Lack of proper quarantining can lead to problems which can range from relatively minor to potentially fatal. It is essential that the proper precautions be observed whenever a new animal is brought into the herd.


All new chinchillas should be quarantined away from other chinchillas or pets in a completely separate room for 12-16 weeks (16 weeks is the optimum quarantine period). 8 weeks is the absolute minimum a chinchilla should be quarantined. This process is essentail for both the new chin and the existing chinchillas/pet (and the owner) - lack of quarantining can have potentially fatal results and some disease processes or infections do not present themselves until after 4 weeks.

New chinchillas should be attended to last and owners should thoroughly wash their hands as soon as they have dealt with the chin(s). Good hygiene is essential during the quarantine period. Cages, equipment, dustbaths, hands etc should be washed with a suitable disinfectant such as Virkon, Genie, or Disifrin (to name but a few).

Quarantining serves several purposes -

The chinchilla will have a chance to become settled into their new environment. Moving from one environment to another is very stressful - even if the chinchilla does not appear to be stressed and looks very relaxed. (For example, Giardia can be triggered to multiply causing disease during stress - it is a protozoa which is present in low numbers in healthy chinchillas and can cause a variety of problems from mild diarrhoea through to death of several animals in a herd at it's most extreme.)

During the minimum 10-12 week period the owner can establish a base-line of the new chinchilla's temperament, eating habits, and character. This is vital for good animal husbandry. The only way to recognise changes in behaviour and signs of (impending) illness/problems is to observe the chin carefully at the onset when building a rapport with him/her. This is also part of the reson why 16 weeks is the optimum quarantine period.

Observe the chinchilla for eating habits - amount of food consumed, patterns of eating (ie. do they eat for long periods of time or do they pick occasionally), any food wastage and reasons for this (crumbling pellets, pawing at the mouth while eating etc), favourite foods etc.

Observe the chinchilla for general health issues - are they alert, lethargic, are their droppings "normal", do they scratch excessively, do they show any sings of skin irritation/bald patches, eye problems, do they sleep for long periods of time or just "cat-nap" etc etc.

Observe patterns of behaviour - are they frightened, do they appear stressed, are they friendly, shy, cheeky, do they like being touched or tickled under the chin etc. Are they used to being handled or do they prefer to come to you on their own terms. Are they used to exercise outside of the cage (see my article on exercise).

All of these things will help a new owner to develop a bond with their chinchilla and vice versa but more importantly the owner will be able to see potential and/or actual problems quickly and then deal with them.

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