Because of the variety of things that come with owning a chinchilla, many owners want to make sure they are as informed about the care of their pet as possible. Because of this, chinchilla owners want to know if fleas are something they will have to look out for.
The purpose of this blog is to explain everything you need to know about the symptoms of fleas, ticks, and lice on your chinchilla, as well as how to treat them and prevent them in the future.
Can Chinchillas Catch Fleas as other pets do?
Contrary to what many chinchilla owners have learned, chinchillas can actually catch fleas if they have been introduced to the household.
While chinchillas do have extremely thick fur that protects them, it’s not impenetrable to fleas like many people believe. They can gain access to the skin through thinner spots of fur such as spots near the ears.
Chinchillas having fleas are not as common as you think
As a matter of fact, the reason you won't hear very much about chinchillas getting fleas - and why they're so rare - is not that they cannot get them, but rather that their living conditions make it so difficult for chinchillas to get them in normal circumstances.
There is an important point here to remember: since chinchillas are caged creatures and have little to no interaction with other animals, it is very difficult for fleas to actually reach your chinchilla in the first place, which is why they are so rare.
Can Chinchillas Get Fleas From Cats and Dogs?
If your chinchilla has fleas, it’s likely caused by another animal in the house like your cat or dog. While you ideally should not be keeping your chinchillas anywhere that a dog or cat can get to them, fleas will often find themselves in your carpets and crevices and can get to your chinchilla during playtime when they’re out of the cage. That's why it's also important to look for signs of fleas on your furniture around the house.
If your cat or dog has sign of fleas, it’s imperative that you treat them quickly for every animal's health in the house and use preventive measures such as flea collars so as the fleas won't be a repeating cycle in your household eventually avoiding chinchilla fleas. Additionally, make sure the house is deeply cleaned and any fleas hiding in the carpet are taken care of.
Signs Of Fleas In Chinchillas
There is a possibility that due to the thick fur that your chinchilla has, you will not notice fleas in their fur as you would with cats or dogs. Thus, it's extremely important to what a flea infestation looks like in your chinchilla.
Signs of a chinchilla infestation include a dandruff-like substance in your chinchilla's fur that is known as flea dirt - a collection of your chinchilla's blood and flea dirt or feces. Other signs can be loose fleas in your chinchilla's dust bath, itchy and flaky skin, and fur slips.
How To Check Your Chinchillas For Fleas
There are some thin spots on a chinchilla fur where fleas may be more visible than the rest of the body - these thin spots are typically around the ears, tail, feet, and mouth. Additionally, any bald spots from fur slips.
To inspect your chinchilla, start by picking them up by the base of their tail and gently moving the fur around these thin spots of fur. You should be looking for small black flecks in these spots.
Fleas will typically be easier to spot in lighter-colored chinchillas, but for dark chinchilla fur, such as black velvets, looking towards their ears will likely be the best course of action as the ears are often a lighter color than the rest of their fur.
How To Treat Chinchilla’s Fleas
So, can chinchillas get fleas? YES!
And you should leave the treatment of your chinchilla to your veterinarian as many at-home flea treatments have not yet been researched deeply enough to know the effect they will have on the health of your pet and if efficiently would get rid of the flea infestation.
An item many sources suggest is safe enough to use is a flea comb. Despite the fact that many grooming tools cannot get through your chinchilla's fur, one of these combs has fine enough prongs to be able to get through the fur to remove fleas. However, we do still recommend consulting your vet about this option as well.
As you await treatment at the vet, we recommend you do a thorough and deep clean of their cage, including removing all toys and disinfecting them if possible, doing a deep clean and preferably replacing their fleece entirely if possible, and disinfecting their cage itself.
You should take your chinchilla out of the house before using a treatment like a flea fogger to treat each room and throw away any items that chemicals from the fogger may leach into, such as wood or fleece.
Additionally, we recommend moving your chinchilla’s cage away from where you are using the fogger as, even with a deep clean, you cannot guarantee that you have removed all traces of the chemicals.
Preventive Care Of Chinchilla Fleas
Ideally, your chinchilla should be prevented from getting fleas in the first place. An infestation can not only wreak havoc on your chinchilla but the entire home.
The best preventive measure you can take is to make sure animals such as cats remain indoors, and animals like dogs are kept from other animals outdoors that may have fleas and are given the proper preventative measures like flea collars or prevention medications.
Other ways to prevent fleas or prevent an infestation from growing is to ensure that you do semi-regular deep cleans of your home - including vacuuming any fabric surfaces like carpets, upholstery, and blankets, and scrubbing down crevices and corners as these are places where fleas hide.
Can Chinchillas Get Lice?
Despite being just as rare as fleas, chinchillas are indeed capable of getting lice at any time. Symptoms are similar to fleas including raised and irritated or itchy skin, bald patches, and biting at their fur.
Like with fleas, the way of checking is best done by picking them up and inspecting their fur - in this scenario, you’re looking for white flakes or anything that can resemble lice eggs.
We would again suggest that you leave the treatment of lice to your veterinarian in order to avoid any chance of mistreatments or incorrect doses being given to your chinchilla. Additionally, similar cleaning measures should be taken.
Can Chinchillas Get Ticks?
The chances of your chinchilla catching ticks are extremely low unless they go outside (which is something we DO NOT recommend or endorse).
This is primarily because of how ticks find a host and feed. They typically hide in spots outside where they can latch onto hosts close to the ground, such as animal legs or human ankles
Ticks then feed on one host for around 3-7 days and then hide in a safe spot not on any host while they digest the blood from the previous host. Because of this cycle, it’s unlikely that your chinchilla will ever get ticks as they will not jump from one host to a new one.
Reasons Your Chinchilla May Be Itchy
If any animal is itchy, owners often suspect it is fleas that are causing the problem. There are, however, many other factors that can cause chinchillas to itch besides fleas and ticks.
There is nothing more important than determining the cause of a chinchilla's symptoms so you don't use the wrong treatment for your chinchilla.
Ringworm is a contagious fungal skin infection that can cause many similar symptoms to fleas. Chinchillas with ringworm often suffer from dry, flaky skin and itching that causes fur loss.
Treatment for ringworm primarily lies in the consistent application of a fast-drying antiseptic such as blu-kote, and regular dust baths. Many owners recommend adding an anti-fungal powder such as Desenex powder to help clear up ringworm.
Poor hygiene of both your chinchilla and its cage can be a contributing factor to your chinchilla being itchy and having irritated skin.
When chinchillas are adopted from neglected circumstances, many new owners will find out their chinchillas have itchy spots and bald spots that may mimic the symptoms of many other health issues that have been mentioned.
Itchiness due to poor hygiene can be prevented by giving your chinchilla frequent dust baths and regular cage cleanings. We recommend dust baths at least 4 times a week and have a cage-cleaning guide here.
Because chinchilla fur is thick and dense, we do not recommend bathing them with water but rather, a dust bath is the most ideal way to clean your chinchilla. Regular dust bath sessions for your chinchilla will not only keep them clean but it can help these flea infestations at bay. Your chinchilla can dust bath itself but always make sure you're using the right types of dusts.
There are a few different bacterial infections that can cause similar symptoms of itchiness in chinchillas as the parasites mentioned above.
The important thing to keep in mind is that bacterial infections in chinchillas cause more than just external symptoms. Diarrhea, weight loss, and ulcers in the mouth are just a few of the more serious symptoms of a bacterial infection.
The most common bacterial infection that causes these symptoms is pseudomonas aeruginosa - typically caused by unclean drinking water or contaminated fecal droppings. Although any chinchilla can get this infection, it’s more common in chinchillas with a weak immune system or young chinchillas.
To treat any bacterial infection, your vet will typically prescribe antibiotics for you to give your chinchilla. Just like a situation where a human is taking them, it is imperative to treat your chinchilla with antibiotics until instructed otherwise by your vet.
Contrary to popular belief, chinchillas can contract certain parasites if they’re introduced to the home. When caught early enough, treatment can be quite swift and painless for everyone involved.
The best thing you can do in any case of parasites or infections is to listen to your vet's advice and guidance on how to move forwards with treatment and care during and after an infestation.
Have Questions About Chinchilla Fleas or Chinchillas?
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