Overall, a pet chinchilla is incredibly clean, and they make excellent companions. But since they have such dense fur, it can trap oils quite quickly and requires bathing 2-3 times a week to keep fur clean - but a chinchilla “bath” may be far different than you think, so keep reading to find out exactly how to keep your little floof happy and healthy.
So when chinchilla owners ask, "Can I wash my chinchilla with soap and water?" The shortest answer is “No - absolutely not!”
Let’s take a look at why can't chinchillas get wet though, and what the recommended alternatives are. There are many reasons why they can't get wet or have water baths. Despite the fact that many small animals will appreciate traditional baths in the tub, your chinchilla cannot partake in such pampering.
If your chin's fur gets wet...
you’re opening up a breeding ground for mold and mildew to build up in their fur and that’s just the start of the problems that can unfold.
There is a simple explanation for why this occurs. A chinchilla's fur is so dense (around 60+ hairs per follicle!) that it prevents the water from actually escaping, so the water simply sits there and causes the fur to grow mold over a long period of time. As well as mold, fungal infections like ringworm are a serious and significant worry for your chinchilla.
With a moist chinchilla...
their body temperature is another big problem.
Despite the fact that chinchillas prefer cooler climates, water being lodged in their fur makes it extremely difficult for them to maintain a stable body temperature.
Now there may be vital emergencies where a dust bath won’t suffice. The most common being urine or liquidy poop - but even then, we suggest using a very damp cloth and only blotting the area, making sure to not get their fur too wet.
If you already own a chinchilla, you know they can often be sneaky and sometimes escape their cage before you have time to react. So you might be wondering if they get somewhere they aren’t supposed to be, can chinchillas swim?
Once again, the short answer is no.
Because wild chinchillas live in the Andes Mountains in South America, they have never had to cross bodies of water. Your little friend unfortunately does not possess any nautical skills whatsoever.
How Do You Groom Your Chinchilla?
So now that you know your chinchillas can’t get wet, let’s talk about proper chinchilla grooming. Chinchillas can, and often do groom themselves, but excess oils will often build up in their coat and need to be cleaned - just not with a water bath.
This is where dust bathing your chinchilla comes in.
So what are dust baths?
They’re pretty straightforward, all things considered. Once you have everything, as long as you get your chinchilla from an approved and reputable breeder or chinchilla rescue, they should know how to dust bathe themselves.
What you’ll need is a dust bath (we recommend all-metal dust baths,) your dust, and in some cases: an antifungal powder. Make sure your chinchilla is acclimated to have the dust bath in their cage, and then sprinkle in one cup, just enough to cover the base of your bath and let your chinchilla roll around and have some fun. They’ll know when they’re clean and ready to get out, so it’s simply a matter of keeping an eye on your chinchilla for signs of them being finished.
Now let’s talk about dust.
Chinchilla dust is often made up of either volcanic ash or pumice stone. (Which we recommend.) There are pros and cons to each type of chinchilla dust, but both are approved and suitable for your chin baby.
How To Prevent Your Chinchilla From Getting Wet
Now that you know your chinchilla can’t get wet and why preventing your chinchilla from getting wet is the most important next step. While chinchillas rarely are ever in a circumstance where they could get wet, it’s still important to take every precaution you can.
The first thing you should do...
in order to help prevent the possibility of your chinchilla getting wet is to establish the cage as far as possible from any body of water.
Even if your chinchilla is a natural Houdini and escapes, be sure they cannot easily find water themselves.
Another thing we recommend:
is to have a humidity sensor near your chinchilla’s cage.
This way you can make sure it’s never too humid in their space. While it’s not the same as their fur being wet, high humidity can present the same issues that their fur itself being wet causes.
If you live in a humid environment, you should consider getting a dehumidifier for the area you keep the cage in to control the humidity levels yourself. That way you can ensure for yourself that your chinchilla is being kept comfortable.
Water bottles are also often the cause of wet chinchillas.
This is because the ball bearing becomes loose and slips out of place, causing water to drip freely from the spout and soaking the fleece or exposed area below the bottle and potentially dripping on your chinchilla as well.
You can prevent this in two ways, first by getting a high-quality water bottle so the ball bearing is less likely to malfunction. The second way is to keep the bottle at an appropriate height so that if your chinchilla brushes against it, they are unlikely to get wet.
What To Do If Your Chinchilla Gets Wet
As mentioned, one of the biggest causes of a wet chinchilla is often their water bottle leaking or malfunctioning in some other matter - which is why it’s incredibly important to frequently check everything in your chinchilla’s enclosure, especially water bottles to make sure everything is in working order.
You may be wondering what to do if your chinchilla gets wet:
First step: Don’t panic!
Accidents happen and your chinchilla will likely be fine. The most important thing to do here is to make sure you have as much control as possible over your chinchilla's body heat. One way you can do this is to make sure that your house is at a suitable temperature (between 65º and 70º is preferable for this circumstance.)
Once you get your chinchilla in a stable temperature environment, you can begin to remedy the situation.
Take a very dry cloth and towel dry your chinchilla down to get out as much of the water as you can by hand.
Make sure to remain calm during this process so you don’t stress the chinchilla out.
Some websites and chinchilla owners might recommend that you use a blow dryer to dry off the chinchilla’s fur when it gets wet - we cannot, however, in good faith recommend this. Even if you set your blow dryer on cool mode, you can never ensure that this method won’t overheat your chinchilla and cause worse health problems than you began with.
After you have made sure that your chin is as dry as they can be by hand, you should dust bathe your chinchilla and let the dust sift through any remaining moisture, and remove it as much as possible. Adding Desenex (or any anti-fungal) powder to the dust is recommended to prevent any ringworm from developing.
Preventing Chinchilla Ringworm
Even when your sweet chinchilla is completely dry, you're still not out of the woods. You will need to keep a close eye on your chinchilla to see if ringworm has developed because of both the residual moisture and the stress of the experience.
So how do those factors cause ringworm in chinchillas? What happens if a chinchilla gets wet and remains wet is that it becomes a perfect environment for fungal infections and other skin issues, and the thick fur exacerbates the issue.
Stress is also another huge issue...
lowering the chinchilla's immune system makes them more susceptible to ringworm.
Semi-frequent dust baths will ensure that any moisture is wicked away from fur. As mentioned, adding Desenex or any equivalent anti-fungal powder to your dust bath will also ensure that any fungus that grows is quickly dealt with.
It’s important not to give your chinchilla a dust bath too frequently, as you can often have the opposite effect and the dust will dry out your chinchilla's skin - creating ringworm-like symptoms and a host of other health issues.
When To Visit The Vet
Visiting the vet is a drastic step that is unlikely to be necessary in most cases, especially if it's a single drop. However, there are certain cases when you should take your chinchilla to the veterinarian so that the best course of treatment can be provided to keep your chinchilla healthy.
Our course of treatment for chinchilla fur after getting moist is only appropriate for when your chinchilla has very localized wetness or if there is only a small amount of water. We recommend going to an exotic vet if you have a soaking chinchilla. As they will certainly have more in-depth knowledge on chinchilla care and how to treat the issue.
One of the biggest reasons to head to the vet with your chinchilla:
is if you're living in any sort of cold conditions.
While chinchillas love a cool setting, the cold can make a moist chinchilla's body temperature much colder and in some cases, your chinchilla quickly could get cold enough for it to be fatal.
So when you need to take your pet chinchilla to the vet...
where do you start?
It's vital that you know the locations of both exotic vets and exotic emergency vets as well. That way if anything happens to your chinchilla, you know exactly where to go.
One great tip is contacting whoever you got your chinchilla from to see which vets they recommend. Breeders especially will have great references to some incredible exotic pet veterinarians.
So, while your chinchilla cannot join in on bath time, they have their own special way of cleaning themselves without water in their dust bath. And if an accident happens and some water splashes onto them, just stay calm and soothe your chinchilla while you get them dry and monitor them in the days and weeks after.
What you can do as an owner is keep your chin in a dry, cool place and regularly check all items in your cage for residual moisture - especially making sure to frequently monitor their water bottle to make sure it’s working properly and the ball bearing has not popped out.
Following these simple tips will add many quality days to your chin’s life and reduce any stress on your part related to their care and happiness.
Have questions about dust bathing or Chinchillas?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonus Motivational Chinchilla!