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*The Red Print
*Nutrition (articles; nutrition in captivity: malnutrition, nutritional requirements, p. berteroniana; provide a variety of hay: additional articles and guaranteed analysis charts; pellets, brand analysis)
*Treats vs. Health Hazards (healthiest treats, hazards)
*Filtered Water
*Handfeeding and Formulas (articles, formulas: complete diets, supplementary)
Continued on next page:
*Dental Health (dental health: articles and photos, dental formula and problem prevention, crossley articles; malocclusion and molar spurs: defining, articles and photos, environmental factor, symptom progression, sasha's miracle- reversing malocclusion; supplementing for dental health: vitamin c- articles, sources, calcium- articles, sources, miguel's story)

Health & Lifestyle Pages (site index lists page contents) Chinchilla Behavior: Relating to People and Other Animals
Chinchilla Introductions and Group Dynamics/ Chintelligence and Communication/ Grooming, Fur and Skin Health
Exercise Time/ Healing: Ailments & Remedies/ Nutrition and Dental Health/
Origins and Wild Chinchillas Today


Also See: Don't Kill Your Chin With "Kindness!"

Always introduce any dietary change slowly (see pellets) and discontinue treats until the change is complete. When adding something to their diet only add one new thing at a time; for instance, let your chin's digestive system adjust to a new type of hay or treat before introducing another.




NUTRITION
(articles; nutrition in captivity: malnutrition, nutritional requirements, p. berteroniana; provide a variety of hay: additional articles and guaranteed analysis charts; pellets, brand analysis)



ARTICLES

Articles that discuss the possible connection between calcium and salt
Coprophagy, when chins eat their own droppings: PetEducation.com, ChinchillAZ
Diet in their native habitat: Save the Wild Chinchillas, Inc, Vida Nueva Foundation (NL)
Dietary requirements: Azure Chinchillas, Chinchillas2Home, Darren's Chinchilla Haven, PCVH in www and .doc
Feeding Picxiechins
J-Type feeders can be lethal! ChinBin's warning
Micronutrients, Hay, Pellet Mix, Vitamin Mixture, Other Feeds (under "food"): CA Chins
Nutrition for the Captive Chinchilla Croft Chinchillas and Cavies
Seasonal Food Habits of the Endangered Long-Tailed Chinchilla (Chinchilla Lanigera), .pdf
Supplement feeding: Azure Chinchillas
Treats, fat and sugar content: Chinchilla Cymru
Vitamin A linked to "yellow fat" and mixed food warning Ebony Dragon Chinchillas





NUTRITION IN CAPTIVITY: APPROXIMATING THE NATIVE DIET
(malnutrition, nutritional requirements,
p. berteroniana: description and photos)


Malnutrition

This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon sight for those of us who do chinchilla rescue/ re-homing. We see it primarily in the chins who come to us that have low calcium levels, are underweight and fur-chewed. Sometimes the cause is that the chin was only offered feed packaged and intended for other small animals, not specifically for chins. Selective eating, however, is the chief cause of malnutrition. This occurs when a chin is offered treats (or has a pellet mix with treat bits in it, which can also detrimentally increase fat, sugar and protein intake) with enough frequency that he voluntarily decreases his intake of dietary staples (hay, pellets and filtered water) in preference of holding out for treats.


Chins should not be free-fed treats for any reason, it is detrimental to their health and will not achieve positive results with weight gain, see Treats vs. Health Hazards. Please read through the following information and realize how crucial it is that your chinchilla has these made available to him at all times: f
resh hay for sufficient roughage, appropriate pellets and filtered water, do not ration pellets! When treats are offered, they must be given in moderation so that your chinchilla does not overconsume "junk food" (chins will not overeat with pellets and hay, but they WILL eat treats until they make themselves sick) and fill up on more empty calories than the dietary staples he needs to stay strong and healthy.




Nutritional Requirements (photos of what chinchillas eat in the wild by Chinchillas2Home)

To date there have been no scientific and validated nutritional studies of chinchillas in captivity that would tell us what criteria constitutes a nutritionally complete and balanced chinchilla diet. What we do have to go on is a knowledge of what chinchillas eat in the wild (ref, .pdf, Seasonal Food Habits), and the insight of veterinarians. From these sources it has been deduced that the most nutritionally healthy diet in captivity consists of free-fed hay and pellets manufactured specifically for chinchillas.

Due to the potential for parasites, chemicals and contaminants, chinchillas should be given filtered, not tap water. Since hay, pellets and filtered water are the captive chinchilla's dietary staples and because they will not overeat of these, do no restrict or ration them, the dietary staples should always be fresh and available for consumption. Treats are not an essential dietary requirement for chinchillas and surplus fat, sugar and protein can be detrimental to their health.



Research and studies of the wild chinchilla show that they REQUIRE a HIGH-FIBER diet:

"Overall, fibers made up most (greater than 66%) of the diet in both years and in all seasons. These fibrous items are extremely difficult to identify and may correspond to highly lignified plant parts such as bark and woody stems of shrubs and of the succulent agave-like bromeliad Puya berteroniana.

"Herbs and shrubs followed in importance in the chinchilla diet. Identified succulents made up only a small fraction of the chinchilla diet, and were eaten in a non-predictable way throughout the two years. The same was true for seeds, the least represented food category in the diet."
(ref, .pdf, Seasonal Food Habits)


"Free-ranging chinchillas survived on a diet of grasses, cactus fruit, leaves, and the bark of small shrubs and bushes. Captive chins need a diet high in fiber to prevent enteric problems. The basic chinchilla diet consists of a good quality grass hay (timothy) and a small amount of chinchilla pellets. Because the diet must be high in fiber, the sole feeding of pellets must be avoided."
(ref, "Clinical Approach to the Chinchilla" by Heidi L. Hoefer, DVM, DABVP)


"By studying chinchillas in their natural environment, we know that they eagerly seek out berries, herbs and cactus fruits as well as high-fiber foods such as grasses and the bark of small shrubs and bushes. In order for nutrients to be extracted, this diet requires a large volume of food intake and prolonged chewing, both of which are important factors in maintaining the chinchilla's gastrointestinal and dental health." (ref, "Feeding Your Pet Chinchilla" by Peter G. Fisher, DVM, Pet Care Veterinary Hospital, Virginia Beach, Virginia)



Proper nutrition, which includes hay, can help prevent dental problems in domestic chinchillas:

"The chinchilla has evolved in arid mountain conditions where vegetation is fibrous and coarse, low in energy, and high in abrasive silicates. Captive chinchillas are often fed a processed diet of pellets, raisins, alfalfa and treats that require minimal chewing and are low in abrasive phytoliths. This low-roughage diet dramatically reduces tooth wear and is thought to be a major contributing factor in most of the dental abnormalities seen in chinchillas. Offering a diet high in "chew factor" like grass hay may help slow down the development of dental disease in chinchillas." (ref, .pdf, AEMV Magazine, Volume 1.1, June 2003)


"The chinchilla originates from an area of the Andes mountains where vegetation is tough and fibrous and low in energy content. As a result, a large amount of food is eaten and alot of chewing takes place. This results in the normal wear of the cheek teeth which are open rooted and grow continously to compensate for this wear." (ref, "Clinical Approach to the Chinchilla" by Heidi L. Hoefer, DVM, DABVP)


"Chinchillas are herbivorous rodents with teeth that all grow continuously. In captivity, they are commonly affected by dental disease. As the range of dental disease occurring in wild chinchillas is unknown, the dentition of museum specimens originally obtained from the wild was assessed and compared with specimens prepared from captive-bred animals.

"Skulls from wild-caught chinchillas showed minimal evidence of dental disease and the teeth were all short, cheek-tooth lengths averaging 5.9 mm. Cheek-tooth lengths in zoo specimens (average 6.6 mm), clinically normal (average 7.4 mm) and captive-bred animals with dental disease (average 10 mm) were significantly elongated by comparison (P<0.0001).

"Captive-bred specimens showed a wide range of tooth-related lesions. These results suggest that some aspect of captivity is responsible for the development of dental disease in chinchillas. It is suggested that the diet (its physical form and composition) is the main aetiological factor, and that provision of a diet closely matching that of wild chinchillas should significantly reduce the incidence of dental disease in captive animals." (ref, abstract from "Skull size and cheek-tooth length in wild-caught and captive-bred chinchillas" by Crossley DA, Miguelez MM. Unit of Oral Pathology, University Dental Hospital of Manchester, Higher Cambridge Street, Manchester M15 6FH, UK)


"Improper diets are responsible for many digestive disorders. The chinchilla requires a diet that is high in fibre, with moderate amounts of protein." (ref, Diseases of Small Domestic Rodents, 1997, V.C.G. Richardson)





PROVIDE A VARIETY OF HAY! (additional articles and guaranteed analysis charts, see suppliers)

A chin's primary hay, for daily use, should be HIGH in fiber and LOW in protein (protein is fine in moderation) content, see guaranteed analysis links for additional information. A good guideline to observe is when a chin is fed a timothy-based pellet, feed more alfalfa hay (high fiber, higher protein content) and when a chin is fed an alfalfa-based pellet (most pellets are alfalfa-based, but check the guaranteed analysis), feed more timothy hay (high fiber, lower protein content).


Chins will not overconsume their dietary staples (pellets, hay and filtered water) and these should not be restricted or rationed, they should always be fresh and available for consumption. Good hay will look clean, light and dry, be free of thorns, dampness or mold and it will smell like it was just cut and dried in warm sunshine, ie, fresh and not musty. Always keep edibles on the top level of the cage, where they are most likely to stay clean and clear of droppings and urine.


Hay is absolutely VITAL to chinchillas, it MUST be continually available for consumption because hay is the domestic chinchilla's substitute for the roughage they had in the wild, ie, the "bark and woody stems of shrubs," it is essential to maintaining good GI tract health. Grinding and chewing course hay will keeps your chinchilla's constantly-growing teeth filed down, preventing molar spurs and other dental problems.


Some chins have a slight sensitivity to hay, and especially if they've inhaled some small particles they may make the nose-clearing sound and wipe their nose but be observant because these symptoms can indicate the onset of pneumonia or other respiratory problems.


Hay blocks are chopped and compressed hay. If your chin is experiencing difficulty chewing due to dental problems, try crumbling hay from a hay block into a bowl for him to eat from.


When storing loose hay or hay blocks, push the air out of the bag or container and then leave it slightly vented for continued minimum air circulation. Hay has some inherent moisture and if kept in an air-tight or tightly sealed container it can mold. Place container in a dry, cool place with absolutely no exposure to direct heat, dampness or moisture.


chinchillas2shop in the UK has many types of hay and hay snacks (luciebix, meadowbix) and as long as you introduce new hays slowly, your chinchilla will be able to handle the variety offered by suppliers: brome, grain, alfalfa, orchard grass, blue grass, oat, wheat, barley, lucerne, meadow grass, readigrass, timothy...



ADDITIONAL ARTICLES AND GUARANTEED ANALYSIS CHARTS
About hay quality and understanding the feed value of hay Herbal Hay
Article on hay's nutritional composition and fiber content Azure Chinchillas
Description of types of hay Vida Nueva Foundation (NL)
Guaranteed analysis for hay cubes: drsfostersmith.com, Assurance Feed
Guaranteed analysis for loose hay: American Pet Diner, Oxbow .





PELLETS, THE PRIMARY FOOD OF DOMESTIC CHINCHILLAS (pellet brand analysis, see suppliers)

Chinchillas normally consume about 1-2 tablespoons of pellets a day but this does NOT mean that pellets should be rationed or limited! Chins will not overconsume their dietary staples (pellets, hay and filtered water), they should always be fresh and available for consumption.


Although there have been no nutritional studies conducted on chinchillas in captivity to date, what we do know from understanding the chinchilla's native diet is that chinchilla pellets need to be high in fiber to meet their nutritional and digestive needs (free-fed hay is the other diet necessity). Fiber should be the highest nutritional percentage, at least 16%, preferably 18% or higher (that number provided by two exotics specialist vets). Protein should be the second nutritional percentage and slightly less than the fiber content. Most pellets are alfalfa-based, but those that are timothy-based are usually higher in fiber. Vitamin and mineral content vary widely across brands.


Pellet brands with a nutritional percentage of less than 16% fiber are insufficient. Animal ingredients or by-products should never be present in the ingredients listing. Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents, and pellets made for them and other species are NOT nutritionally suitable for chinchillas, who are known to suffer liver disease and malnutrition when fed those diets. Feeding pellet mixes with "treat" bits in them as a daily diet is ill-advised, it encourages a poor diet and wastefulness because the chinchilla will either pick through or dig out the mix in pursuit of the more tasty (not necessarily the most nutritious) morsels. However, pellet mixes can be periodically offered in a separate bowl as a treat. (also see: CU thread)



Chinchillas both eat and gnaw by grasping and positioning the item with their front paws, using their paws much like people do hands. Always keep your chinchilla's food dish on the top level of the cage, where it is most likely to stay clean and clear of droppings and urine.



When changing pellet brands do so gradually, mixing in some of the previous feed (pellets) in decreasing amounts over the course of about a week. A slow change allows the chinchilla's sensitive digestive system time to adjust, gut upset is a chief cause of diarrhea. Always discontinue treats when introducing a dietary change, you can resume when the changeover is complete.


If you are transferring the chin from a bad diet to a good one the change is absolutely necessary and you must see to it that the changeover successfully takes place. A chin's initial reaction to change or the unfamiliar is typically one of reluctance or distrust, this is often mistakenly perceived as the chin rejecting the new in preference of the old but the initial reaction is not a gauge of the chin's likes and dislikes as much as it is a demonstration of the fact that chins simply need time to adjust to something different. So don't be surprised if the chin initially refuses to eat the new pellet or selectively eats only his previous pellets during the initial phase of the changeover, this is a common reaction.


Once the changeover is complete if the chin is still not eating the new pellets leave only the new pellets in his dish and once he realizes that you will not tempt him with treats or return the old pellets he WILL start eating the new pellets within a day or two, watch and allow him to do so in his own time. He will NOT "starve himself" or go into GI stasis in the meantime, a chin that is physically capable of eating will do so when he's ready and they can safely go up to forty-eight hours (this is historically and medically verifiable) without food barring other complications, but fresh hay and pellets should always be available for consumption. If he refuses to eat for more than a day, take him to your exotics specialist vet for a health examination.


Pellets and treats (dried fruits such as raisins, nuts, seeds, etc.) require refridgeration to preserve their optimum freshness and nutritional value, also to prevent potential decay and mold. Pellets can be stored in a sealed airtight container in a dry, cool place with absolutely no exposure to direct heat, sunlight, dampness or moisture, but bear in mind that without refridgeration pellets will lose their nutritional value more quickly and should be entirely consumed within a few weeks from date of purchase. When storing pellets in a dry, cool place instead of refridgerating, it would be wise to purchase fresh pellets in small amounts each time to ensure that they're consumed while their nutritional value is at its peak.




Pellet Brand Analysis

Because we're often asked, our opinion is that the top U.S. pellets are Oxbow Chinchilla Deluxe, and Kline Diet. Criteria for judging pellet value and the type of pellets to strictly avoid (pellet mixes, rabbit pellets, etc.) are discussed in the previous section. NOTE: Sometimes the manufacturer's online information is more up-to-date than what the sites below report.


CHINformation Organization: Kaytee Fiesta, Kaytee Timothy Complete


Chins & Quills: Mazuri, Kline Diet & Supplement, 8in1 Ultra Blend Select, Charlie Chinchilla, Sunseed, Oxbow, Rancher's Choice, Tradition Chinchilla Pellets, Kaytee Forti-Diet Chinchilla Pellets, American Pet Diner (APD) Timmy Pellet, L/M Animal Farms Vita Vittles Gold Total Diet for Chinchillas, Vitakraft Vita Special, American Pet Diner (APD) Alffy Pellets, Brisky’s Chinchilla Food, Exotic Nutrition Chinchilla Diet with Rosehips, L’Avian Plus Chinchilla Pellets


Greenwood Chinchillas: Charnwood, Duggins/Jordans, Harrisons, Pets At Home (Made By Henry Bell & Co (Grantham) Ltd.), Ridgeway Feeds






TREATS VS. HEALTH HAZARDS (healthiest treats, hazards)

See Chinchilla Cymru for vital information about the fat and sugar content in treats


Free-feeding sugary or fatty treats will NOT assist weight gain, see: "Don't Kill Your Chin With 'Kindness!" F
rom our years of rescue experience and observation, chinchillas do not gain weight with more fat and sugar in their diet; what works for people does not necessarily translate to animals. In fact, we've seen weight LOSS result from overindulging a chin in sugary or fatty treats; the chin eats less of his dietary staples (selective eating is a chief cause of malnutrition) in order to get more treats and ends up emaciated and fur-bitten (fur-biting can result from malnutrition). Surplus protein will cause weight gain, but at the expense of overworking the liver, which can lead to liver disease.


Remember that your chin's dietary staples, the only consumables he actually NEEDS, that are good and nutritious for him are: free-fed pellets, hay and filtered water, nothing more. Also keep in mind that chins have small stomachs, if constantly fed treats they will fill up on that and have no appetite for their dietary staples. Their main food intake should be limited to what they need most.


The chinchilla GI tract is made to handle the sparse, fibrous plant material found in the chinchilla's native habitat, it's not equipped for foods rich in fat, sugar or high in protein. Unless treat intake is strictly monitored and moderated it can cause diarrhea, severe digestive distress, seizures, bloat, malnutrition, liver damage, malocclusion (soft food does not keep tooth overgrowth in check like hay does) and the following:

"Diets high in sugars or protein or low in fiber may cause changes in the fermentation process in the cecum, leading to changes in pH and motility, which in turn lead to enteritis."
(ref, All Creatures Animal Hospital, Amelia, OH)

"Predisposing factors [for Lower Gastrointestinal Disease] include abrupt diet change, inappropriate antibiotic use, overcrowding and stress, and diets too low in fiber, and too high in fat and protein. (ref, "Clinical Approach to the Chinchilla" by Heidi L. Hoefer, DVM, DABVP)


Although amounts are given in the treat descriptions below, it must be understood that a chin should receive no more than JUST ONE TREAT PER DAY (not one of each type...). Chinchillas are notorious beggars and they will overeat treats to the point of making themselves sick or inducing the other health problems stated above, so it's up to the caring chinparent to show willpower and restraint in the best interests of their pet's health and longevity.


Chinchillas will also consume things that are clearly not good for them at all (potato chips, lead paint, etc.). Just because your chin is begging for or is interested in eating something (perhaps something that you're eating) doesn't mean that he should be allowed to have it; wild animals may know what to eat and what not to eat in their natural habitat but in captivity domesticated animals do NOT always instinctually know if something is safe or good for them.


Always keep edibles on the top level of the cage, where they are most likely to stay clean and clear of droppings and urine. Many treats (dried fruits such as raisins, nuts, seeds, etc.) require refridgeration to preserve their optimum freshness and nutritional value, and to prevent rapid decay or mold.





HEALTHIEST TREATS
The healthiest items to serve as treats include vitamin C chewable tablets and a variety of hays (both of which can be given every day, see links) and dried herbs, grains and minerals:


DRIED HERBS
Dried herbs can be offered in moderate amounts of about 1-2 teaspoons, 3-4 times a week.
Some suggested suppliers, search for more: Bunny Bunch Boutique, Chinchillas2Shop (UK, great selection),
Chinchilla City, Flower Town Chinchillas, Forever Feisty Chinchilla Rescue's Organic Herb & Grain Fusion,
Galen's Garden, Herbal Hay (UK), Ontario Chinchilla Association, Petmart (New Zealand),
R&J Chinchilla Rescue (UK), Ridgeway Pets (UK), Vitakraft Chinchilla Herb Stick by Pet Discounters.com




GRAINS
Grains or a "supplemental" grains mix can be offered in moderate amounts of about 1-2 teaspoons, 2-3 times a week.
We use the unsweetened Wheat 'N Bran mini Shredded Wheat biscuits instead of raisins and our chinkids go wild for them, they actually like them better! One a day of these is fine and the benefit to this is, the fiber in the shredded wheat biscuits is good for their GI tract without containing the concentrated sugar (see Hazards) found in dried fruits. Be cautious about "supplemental" grains mixes, some contain hazards as described below.



MINERALS
Our exotics specialist vet recommends only occassional access (1-2 times a week) to mineral wheels, stone or blocks (attach to cage with wire, not plastic) as a precaution against the possibility of bladder stones although those are rare in chinchillas, see Quick Links for vitamin and mineral suppliers. When supplementing a chin in need of extra vitamins/ minerals, always check pellet analysis to see what they're already getting, don't overdo it. Vitamin and mineral pellets such as Calf Manna, Animax and Total Enhancer should be limited to 1-2 pellets given 2-3 times a week at most on a temporary basis, do not overfeed, these are high in protein and excess protein can cause liver disease!





HEALTH HAZARDS
This list isn't all-inclusive. Chinchillas are curious and will attempt to explore their environment by taste, you MUST supervise what they come into contact with and could potentially gnaw or consume (also see: Chewing Hazards, Chinchilla Cymru for fat and sugar content in treats and AVMA Pet Owner's Guide to Poisons).


Never free-feed of these treats, not if the chin is begging like crazy, not to help them "gain weight," etc., because too many of these treats, especially over a long period of time, WILL lead to dire health consequences. If you think your chin needs to gain weight, first read "Don't Kill Your Chin With 'Kindness!" and then see the Handfeeding section.


ANY PRODUCT WITH ANIMAL INGREDIENTS/ BY-PRODUCTS
Except for the occasional insect in their native habitat, chinchillas are strictly vegetarian and they should not have ANY treat with animal ingredients/ by-products.



CEREALS OR UNCOOKED PASTA
We recommend unsweetened Wheat 'N Bran mini Shredded Wheat biscuits as a nutritious treat because they contributes some fiber rather than mostly sugar (as in dried fruit like raisins) to a chin's diet. However, DO NOT give your chin sugar or honey- coated cereals at all; honey can cause gas and that leads to bloat, which can be fatal, and any cereal coated with sugar probably also contains sugar and that adds up to WAY too much sugar. Sugary treats, when given too much or too often, can lead to a bloodsugar-related seizure. Uncooked pasta adds excess starch to the chin's diet but can be given in VERY small pieces a couple times a week. Human-grade cereals that are more processed than the Shredded Wheat biscuits should be limited to one small piece 2-3 times a week.



CHINCHILLA PELLET "MIXES"
Mixes that contain treat bits and dried fruit, vegetables, nuts or seeds should be avoided except as an occassional treat, a couple teaspoons 2-3 time a week offered in a separate dish. Pellet mixes as a daily diet can lead to malnutrition and waste because chinchillas will dig out the treat bits and ignore the pellets.



CHOCOLATE
Never feed, this is damaging to both the digestive and nervous systems (ref- 1, 2, 3)



CORN
Except as a binder in feed, corn is prone to mold and fungus in the manufacturing & storing process, not to mention being a contributor to bloat; corn should be altogether avoided and removed if present in any pellet mix given as an occassional treat.



FRUIT
Note that although the wood of some trees may be toxic, that warning doesn't necessarily transfer to the fruit of the tree.

Fresh (small piece of banana, apple, grape, strawberry, etc.) or dried (small piece of apricot, cranberry,
cherry, peach, plum, raisin, prune, fig, etc.) fruit can be given in small quantities, 2-3 times a week, at most.

Due to the high sugar content, (especially with dried fruit, the drying process condenses sugar content) fruit is not recommended for daily consumption. Too much sugar in a chin's diet can cause a bloodsugar imbalance during exercise time and lead to seizures, among other things. See Chinchilla Cymru article for details.

One note about fruit drying: "Vitamin C is one nutrient that is destroyed by heat. Pretreating food with citrus juice can help increase the vitamin C content of the dried food." (ref, cdc.gov)

Nutritional Analysis of Raisins (MG/100 G)
Vitamin A 0.085
Vitamin B1 0.087
Vitamin B2 0.10
Calcium 64
Potassium 820
Sodium 133
Iron 2
Phosphorus 132
Chlorine 82
Sulfurate 51
Sugar content from 60 to 70%


NUTS AND SEEDS
Note that although the wood of some trees may be toxic, that warning doesn't necessarily transfer to the nuts of the tree.

Nuts and seeds contain fat and oils that can accumulate and lead to liver damage, these treats should be given VERY sparingly, a small piece of nut or one seed once, maybe twice a week at very most . See Chinchilla Cymru article for details.



PROTEIN
Chinchillas need a high-fiber, low-protein diet overall. Vitamin and mineral pellets (Calf Manna, Total Enhancer, Animax) can be beneficial but should be limited to 1-2 pellets given 2-3 times a week at most on a temporary basis, do not overfeed, these are high in protein and excess protein can cause liver disease! Since alfalfa hay is a hay that is comparatively higher in protein, it is better used as a supplement to a more high-fiber, low-protein hay like timothy, which can be free-fed. Choosing a primary hay that is high-fiber, low-protein is especially important considering that most pellets are alfalfa-based.



VEGETABLES
With the exception of a small piece of fresh carrot that can be fed 2-3 times a week, NEVER feed a chin fresh produce because that can cause bloat and bloat can be fatal! To play it safe we also avoid dried produce, but peas, cabbage, corn, lettuce, broccoli and spinach are DEFINITELY bloat-inducing and should be avoided altogether.






WHY FILTERED WATER IS BEST (ref- 1, 2, 3, 4)

Always keep your chin's water bottle CLEAN (preferably by dishwasher), OUT OF DIRECT SUNLIGHTAND FULL OF COLD, FILTERED WATER (chins normally won't chew at their water bottle if it's kept full and they have chew toys). In fact, the chin's cage should be positioned out of direct sunlight, anyway. Position the bottle on the bottom level of the cage, so that any drips will go straight into the litter tray.


Any water bottle design (Water Buddy, Oasis, etc.) can potentially fail at the drinking end, curtailing your chin's access to water. Check water at least once daily and if the water level remains at full then check to see if the spout is working correctly. If not, run the bottle through the dishwasher and test to see if that cleared the problem, if it hasn't, you should have a backup bottle on hand to replace it. If a water bottle empties too quickly the spout may be leaking or the chin may have chewed at the bottle (in our experience this doesn't happen when water bottles are never allowed to run out and adequate chew toys are provided) and created a hole.


The business priorities on a pelting ranch (minimize cost and effort, maximize personal gain) may have led to this statement on the MCBA website, "DO NOT USE distilled water on your animals. The nutrients which have been removed are important in maintaining a healthy animal." But in reality, ordinary tap water is NOT enriched with "nutrients," it's only cheap and easy to provide.


If trace minerals are what was intended by the above quote, that does have some relevance, "the mineral content of water reflects the nature of the geologic formation with which the water has been in contact. The most abundant minerals dissolved in water are salts of calcium, magnesium, strontium, ferrous iron, and manganese."
(ref, madsci.org)


HOWEVER... any trace minerals in ordinary tap water are typically accompanied by one or more of these:
Chlorination
(ref- selene.com, lfsn.org, darwin.bio.uci.edu,)

Flouridation
Common to U.S. city water systems; well water may not have flouridation but it does have a greater risk of parasites
(ref- icmedicine.co.uk, 100-best-water-filters.com, npwa.freeserve.co.uk)

Routine presence of contaminants, also affects well water- cdc.gov
(ref- .pdf, nrdc.org, waterwarning.com, aquasana.com, aquamd.com) such as arsenic, lead, pesticides

Outbreaks (ref- chem.duke.edu, arar.essortment.com, waterquality.crc.org.au) of e. coli (Walkerton), Cryptosporidium (Milwaukee) and Giardia, .pdf


If you choose to supplement your chin's diet with additional minerals, you can do so without jeopardizing their health! Any impurities in tap water will have a magnified, more intense and detrimental effect on a chinchilla than they would with a person. Bottled water does not (ref- 1, 2) necessarily guarantee safety and purity any better than tap water, but filtered water does (ref- 1, 2). It's true that some filters do remove the tap water's trace minerals in the filtration process, but the bottom line is that it is essential to provide our pet chinchillas with the purest, safest water.


"Water is, of course, a fundamental necessity for the domestic chinchilla. Although city drinking water is adequate for chinchillas, excessive chlorine can be very dangerous. If tap water has a strong disinfectant smell... filtered water should be offered. Water from natural sources is preferable to chlorinated drinking water." (ref, "Feeding Your Pet Chinchilla" by Peter G. Fisher, DVM, Pet Care Veterinary Hospital, Virginia Beach, Virginia)


"Fresh water should always be available. Tap water in most large cities should probably be boiled because of the chlorine content." (ref, "The Charming Little Chincha," New Hope Animal Hospital)


If mineral supplementation is desired in addition to what chinchilla pellets already provide, it can be obtained from suppliers who offer clean, safe mineral sources; see Supplier Sites for a variety of vitamin and mineral suggestions.


Note: If you start adding liquid vitamins (see Supplier Sites) to your chin's filtered water, or when you initially switch to filtered water, it may take him a bit of time to adjust because he can tell there's "something different" and it's typical for chins to be initially suspicious of change or the unfamiliar.. Chins CAN safely go a day without water, this is historically and medically verifiable, but if at the end of that time he is still reluctant to drink, entice him by adding some cranberry juice or flavored pedialyte to the water, up to about 20% of the water bottle's contents. He should start drinking within 24 hours of the change but if he doesn't, give him a bottle of what he's used to and see if he uses that. If not, then there's something else wrong and he should be taken to your exotics specialist vet as soon as possible.






HANDFEEDING AND FORMULAS (articles, formulas: complete diets, supplementary)
For handfeeding KITS, see Responsible Breeding

A chin may stop eating for a variety of reasons: dental problems, medication, illness, environmental stress, an injury or an operation like neutering (see stress-reducing measures in the "Recovery Period" section of that article). Sometimes recuperation causes a chin to eat less because he is not as active as usual or is temporarily not feeling up to par. Handfeeding should be an attempt to supply nourishment, not to get a chin to "eat anything," see Treats vs. Health Hazards.


Handfeeding introduces an abrupt dietary change, which is a system shock for a chin that may already be ill or stressed, DON'T undertake this as a result of notoriously erroneous forum advice or without first consulting your exotics specialist veterinarian, it could induce potentially lethal digestive distress into an otherwise manageable problem! See "Don't Kill Your Chin With 'Kindness!" for guidelines about when to begin handfeeding. See Supplier Sites for retail links.


Prolonged handfeeding can lead to or worsen a case of malocclusion (in the sense of tooth overgrowth), because the consumption of high-fiber hay is necessary to prevent molar overgrowth.


When a chinchilla is underweight he is more susceptible to cold or drafts. Put a sheet around his cage (as detailed in Routines) and provide some cloth (hammock, Cuddl-E-Cup with strap cut off, Comf-E-Cube, a pillowcase under his house) in his cage so that he can retain body heat, it's also a comforting convenience.


In cold weather climates if the chin is emaciated then a heated bed (such as Lectro Small Animal Heated Pad) is also adviseable, it can be placed inside or under a pillowcase and the chin can sit on it to stay warm. We've noted that emaciated and severely fur-bitten chins are attracted to heater vents during playtime, this is because significant weight loss or fur loss causes serious loss of body heat. As long as the chin is able to move off the heated bed at will, there is no danger of him overheating himself.


Some of the suggested formulas (not intended as a complete or promoted list of formulas or suppliers) below allow the chin to consume on his own while others are intended for syringe or spoon feeding, in which case feedings should be done at least twice daily and the chin should be allowed to eat his fill. If the chin becomes messy in the course of feeding, take a warm, damp cloth and wipe him down in the affected areas, then dry thoroughly with a dry cloth and give dustbath (or Dustbath Massage) afterward.





ADDITIONAL ARTICLES
Nutritional First Aid, Symptoms and causes of not eating, Probiotics and Prebiotics Azure Chinchillas
Alternative treatment for chinchillas who go "off their food," to prevent bloat Davidson Chinchillas
Don't Let the 'Cure' Kill Your Chinchilla Luv 'N Chins II
Hand-rearing and Supplementation of Small Mammals Chris Strike VN,CGLI





SUGGESTED FORMULAS (complete diets, supplementary items)


Complete Diets
Complete diets are used in the event that the chin is unable to subsist entirely on their dietary staples, however, always keep fresh pellets, hay (in some circumstances it may be helpful to crumble hay from a hay block into a dish for easier consumption) and filtered water available for consumption in case the chin's condition begins to improve or if they are able to nibble at their pellets and hay. If a chin begins to lose weight on one complete diet formula, gradually switch to another over the course of a few days
and discontinue treats until the change is complete.


Complete Food for Poorly Chins by CFPNP in the UK



Critical Care by Oxbow, suppliers: Vetark Professional (UK), Bunny Bunch Boutique, Paradise Chins



Critter Be Better by American Pet Diner



Ground pellets mixed with filtered water or Pedialyte (available at the grocery store), for syringe-feeding along with some syringe-fed organic baby food (available at the grocery store, choose from flavors such as: banana, squash, sweet potato, carrot. Do not offer corn or green vegetable baby food, they can cause bloat and bloat can be fatal!).



Supreme Science Recovery by Supreme Petfoods in the UK



Soft feed for a chin that's still capable of eating on their own: Lightly crumble a few unsweetened Wheat 'N Bran mini Shredded Wheat biscuits (available at the grocery store), add an herb or grains mix such as Forever Feisty Chinchilla Rescue's Organic Herb & Grain Fusion, then flake off about a tablespoon of small pieces of hay from a hay block (search supplier sites), which is just chopped and compressed hay. Mix and serve in regular food dish. Expect some digging if the chin is having some difficulty chewing and must select the softer food first.



By Lori E., her story of handfeeding her chin, Cody
"I was trying to find Cody something he could eat, when he was in one of his anorexic phases. He liked powdered hay and water, mixed together - I added the Spirutein shake mix to make it a bit more "slippery" (so it would go down his throat more easily). Since then, I've had a few dental chins that couldn't stand the ground up pellet/ yogurt mix I'd try to feed them after surgery (something about the grit, even if the pellets were well ground).


"So I give those guys a mix that has equal amounts of powdered hay and powdered oats: I take 2 teaspoons of this mixture and add 1/4 teaspoon of shake mix, then stir in enough water to make a syringe-worthy consistency. After a couple of days, I start trying to incorporate the ground pellets back into the mix. The powdered hay/oat mixture has helped me tremendously with any sick or under-the-weather chin I've fed it to. It's the first thing I give now when someone isn't well, and it also helps a chin get over the runs.


"A note of caution, though: I feed my chins alfalfa hay, which is probobaly somewhat controversial. This is what they've always had, and they ignore timothy. The hay we get is from New Mexico and it is a good mix of straw and leaf. What I grind up is the leaf that falls to the bottom of the container I keep a slice of hay in. My grinder won't grind up the straw part. The leaf grinds up nicely, if you're a bit patient. The problem here is that if someone feeds their chin only timothy hay, then gives them powdered alfalfa, it could be too rich for their system and could perhaps cause bloat. Though I've never tried it, it seems like timothy wouldn't grind up well in a grinder."



By Nippon Chinchilla Rescue
Ingredients
Powdered chin pellets about 1/2 cup
Live cultured plain yogurt 2-3 tbsps
Accidolphilus powder (available at health food storein capsule form that you can open up) 2-3 capsules
Cranberry juice; use appropriate amount for thinning mixture so that it will go through syringe and lesser if chin will eat from the small saucer.
Vegetarian-based nutritional shake (make sure it has both vitamins and minerals in it) 1-2 tsps
2-3 capsules of Vit E (pierce and squirt in the liquid)
About 1 tbsp of oatmeal
1-2 tbsps honey can be added if chin refuses to eat mix but use sparingly because of the sugar
2 crushed aspirins (if chin is post surgical or if your are fighting fever, infection etc......otherwise omit)
Optional:- powdered Calf manna/Animax or tums to add extra calcium


Method
Use a 50cc feeding syringe if chin won't/can't eat from saucer, you may have to 'ream out' the end of the syringe with a small drill bit (slightly bigger than opening) so that the mixture will go through easier. Mix dry ingredients together. Add yogurt and thin with cranberry juice. Keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Dosage

Feed as close to a full syringe worth as the animal will take, 3x a day





Supplementary Items
Supplementary items are intended for use in combination with the chin's dietary staples, which should always be available for consumption in fresh quantities: pellets, hay (in some circumstances it may be helpful to crumble hay from a hay block into a dish for easier consumption) and filtered water.


"Apple/ Cider vinegar can often be used to help a chinchilla regain it's appetite after illness or childbirth. Half a teaspoon added to it's drinking water (or 10 drops per 250ml of water) for a couple of days will help."
-AND- "A teaspoon of oats and wheat germ every other day should help the chinchilla regain it's weight if it has lost weight due to illness. A small blob of enervite each day should also help."
-suggestions by Ebony Dragon Chinchillas, also see: Supplement Feed Recipes



Chinchilla Booster Supplement by Exotic Nutrition Pet Company



Dyne High Calorie Supplement, search supplier sites



Nutri-Cal, Nutri-Stat or Felovite in small amounts, search supplier sites. Put a tiny bit of Nutri-Cal on their lip at first to get them past the smell and used to the taste.



Organic Baby Food (available at the grocery store), such as: banana, squash, sweet potato, carrot. Do not offer corn or green vegetable baby food, they can cause bloat and bloat can be fatal!



Pedialyte (available at the grocery store), mixed half and half into their filtered water can help a chin that isn't drinking much. Comes in fruit flavors, contains electrolytes, can be purchased from the grocery store.



Vanilla or Strawberry-flavored Boost (available at the grocery store), suggested by Raisin' Chins. Do NOT use one with chocolate flavoring, as that is a hazard to chins.