Chinchillas have the softest fur in the world. Literally. That’s just one of the things that make these little guys so awesome. We always want our animal’s coat looking healthy and beautiful. But what if you wake up one day and your chin’s once healthy, beautiful coat looks like a patchy hot mess? What if it looks like your chinchilla is, well, going kinda bald? (No offense to the baldies out there - bald is a good look, too, just not on chins.) If you’re noticing patches of fur missing on your chin, there could be lots of reasons why. So what causes chinchilla hair loss?
Chinchillas require cool environments with generally low humidity. If their environment doesn’t meet these standards, it’s possible the hair will become matted and begin to fall out, and so chinchilla hair loss begins. Also, because chin fur is so fine, moisture will stick between hairs (50-60 hairs in each hair follicle) and encourage bacteria and fungus to grow… which can lead to a fungal issue.
…And this brings us to infections. Ringworm: it’s actually not a worm; it’s not a parasite. It’s a fungal infection. If your chinchilla is infected, you’ll likely see small patches of dry or scaly skin (much like on a human) if they’re infected. The nose, ears and legs are the most common places you’ll start to see symptoms. If you suspect your chin’s infected, head to your exotic veterinarian for a diagnosis. They’ll likely culture the skin or have their lab run tests on the hair for confirmation that ringworm fungus is present.
If results are positive, a serious clean up of all areas your chinchilla has been is in order. We have to make sure that no infectious hair is present in the household. Ringworm is super contagious and transmittable to both humans and other small animals. If your chin has a minor case, ringworm can be treated with a topical prescription that you’ll apply to infected areas. However, if it’s severe, they may require long term treatment and oral prescription medication, too.
If you’re a chinchilla parent and your chinchilla is showing signs of fur slip, there are a few things you can do. Make sure you’re always supporting your chinchilla’s body from underneath their chest, tummy and behind. Make sure to alert your chinchilla that you’re approaching. And obviously refrain from grabbing directly by the fur or skin. Always be gentle with your chin.
Also, cats and dogs (and other predatory pets) shouldn’t be allowed to free roam with chinchillas. Although they may have good intentions to just play, fur slip (or other, more serious injuries) is possible if your chinchilla feels threatened.
While chinchilla fur slip doesn’t physically hurt your chinchilla (larger patches may have some sensitivity) and fur will eventually grow back, a traumatic event always precedes it.
Fur chewing is actually a common behavioral problem in chinchillas. The definition of fur chewing? It's literally when chinchillas chew on their own (or their bond mate’s) fur, leaving the coat looking patchy and uneven. So what causes it? There are lots of theories: stressful living conditions (small cage, aggressive chin pals, or other predatory pets you may have in the household) and too much handling are the most common. Other theories: hormone imbalances, dietary deficiencies, dental problems, parasitic or fungal skin infections. Even a genetic predisposition.
If you suspect fur chewing (or see it actually happening), take your chin to your exotic vet where they’ll be diagnosed via physical exam, oral exam, and skin tests (eliminating the possibility of infection). Treatment may simply be elimination of stressors (larger cage, less handling, separating from cage mate if having aggression issues). Talk to your vet… they’re going to have the best advice; they know your animal better than we do.
One to three times per week is recommended. But, you and your vet know your chinchilla the best and their specific needs best, too. So adjust as necessary. Too much time dusting can dry out your chin’s skin, and they’re more likely to scratch, potentially causing hair loss. You may also begin to see dry patches, and we want to avoid those. Not bathing enough, though, is super stressful and can leave your chinchilla more vulnerable to illness… clumping fur will sap body heat and yucky dirt and oil in the coat will create ground for infection.
A poor diet has SO many consequences, one of which, unfortunately, is hair loss. At all times, chinchillas need constant access to clean, fresh water and good quality hay. Their digestive systems NEED hay to function properly.
If you suspect their diet may be playing a role in hair loss, please… go see your vet and come up with a plan of action to get back on track. They’ll feel better and you will, too.
Need high-quality hay? Check out our new 2nd cut Timothy and alfalfa hay combo box. ➡️➡️➡️ Or Check out different cuts below! ⬇️⬇️⬇️
This is gonna happen every three-ish months. This kind of chinchilla hair loss is okay. Don’t be alarmed; it’s totally normal and natural. Your chin will lose multiple strands of hair in each follicle, and you may see pretty dramatic lines between the new and old fur. Their coat may appear patchy. Uneven. A mess, maybe. But that’s okay… shedding is harmless. However, excess hair can cause health issues if ingested, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on their cage during shedding (lasts about two weeks) and remove all excess hair. We know that’s a big ask, but do your best. Your chin will love you for it.
If you’re noticing chinchilla hair loss of any kind and you’re concerned, our best advice is to make an appointment with your best friend. (AKA your exotic vet.) There are lots of totally natural, harmless reasons why your chin may have lost some hair. But because there are so many causes, being overly cautious is best. I’ve said it once (okay, maybe like seven hundred and fifty times) and I’ll say it again. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry, especially when it comes to our chins, whom we so, so absolutely, positively adore.