Like most humans, chinchillas appreciate some variety in their diet. Chinchillas are primarily herbivores, which leads many people to wonder which types of fresh fruits and vegetables they can consume safely.
Since I am often asked if chinchillas can eat apples, I decided to cover the subject in this article.
Can chinchillas eat apples? Although chinchillas are able to eat apples, they should only have them in small amounts and on rare occasions. Apples are considered a treat and your chinchilla is better off eating them sparingly.
Summary of today’s article:
- Why should chinchillas eat apples sparingly?
- Are there any health benefits for chinchillas who eat apples?
- How can I safely prepare apples for my chinchilla?
- Are apple wood sticks safe for chinchillas?
- What are some recommended healthy chinchilla treats?
- Everything in moderation
There are several reasons why apples should be an infrequent snack for your chinchilla.
Reason #1. Chinchillas Have Sensitive Digestive Systems
In their natural habitat, chinchillas feast mainly on high fiber grass, roots, and leaves. Wild chinchillas have minimal access to fructose in nature and are not able to process it well.
Apples contain high amounts of sugar, a nutrient that chinchillas do not need to consume. Chinchillas have sensitive digestive systems and the introduction of sugar can lead to problems such as bloating and diarrhea.
Additionally, apples are very acidic due to high levels of malic acid and vitamin C. Acidic foods can lead to discomfort by irritating your chinchilla’s stomach lining or causing acid reflux.
Red apples are less acidic than green apples, making them a better choice for chinchilla treats.
Reason #2. Health Issues Related To Obesity
We are all familiar with the pitfalls of consuming excess calories and too much sugar. Although sugar generates an instant carbohydrate rush, there is always the threat of looming health issues from prolonged exposure.
Similar to humans, chinchillas can fall prey to health problems if they overindulge on sweet treats. A chinchilla who consumes a surplus of calories and sugar will become overweight or even obese.
Although somewhat unusual for chinchillas, one of the most severe side effects of an improper diet is type 2 diabetes. Chinchillas can become overweight and develop type 2 diabetes if fed a diet high in sugars.
Increased sugar intake leads to the body’s level of blood glucose becoming elevated. These distorted glucose levels may cause the pancreas to cease insulin production, leading to diabetes.
A diabetic chinchilla will become lethargic, irritable, drink increased amounts of water, and eventually suffer from extreme weight loss due to the refusal of food. A veterinarian is the only one who can properly diagnose a diabetic chinchilla.
If diabetes is caught early, there is a chance of reversing the disease with proper treatment. Thankfully, diabetes in chinchillas is rare since it is a direct result of improper diet.
By feeding your pet the proper nutrition you can ensure that they remain at a healthy weight and do not suffer illness related to obesity.
Reason #3. Risk Of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is a condition that can be deadly for chinchillas. Foods that are high in sugars can cause teeth to rot and eventually die.
A chinchilla suffering from tooth decay will find eating to be painful and will eventually succumb to starvation. A chinchilla’s teeth constantly grow throughout their lives and chinchillas need to eat foods that are rough as they help wear their teeth down.
If a chinchilla eats too many soft foods, their teeth will continue to grow until the animal is no longer able to chew at all. Chinchillas with poor teeth will exhibit warning signs such as drooling, pawing at the mouth, watery eyes, and abstaining from food and chew toys.
If you suspect that your chinchilla is experiencing issues with their teeth, be sure to have them visit a vet immediately.
Reason #4. Too Many Treats Can Lead To Malnutrition
A chinchilla who is given an excessive amount of treats will develop an aversion to staple foods in their diet. If a chinchilla is consuming too many treats, they will no longer be drawn to their pellets and fresh hay.
Once a chinchilla cuts back on eating their principal diet, malnutrition will result. This type of behavior is also seen when chinchillas are given pellet mixes that contain sweets.
The chinchilla will pick out all of the sweets and neglect the nutrient-dense pellets. Besides limiting treats to only 10% of your chinchilla’s diet, be sure to offer treats separately in tiny portions and only if your pet is regularly eating a balanced diet.
Chinchillas require a high fiber diet and apples contain a decent amount of dietary fiber. Apples are also rich in calcium which is essential for your pet to maintain strong teeth.
Although apples contain important nutrients, the amount of calories and sugar negate the nutritional benefits. You chinchilla can easily obtain all of their nutrients from chinchilla pellets and timothy hay, which is why these items should be prioritized over other foods such as apples.
When preparing apples for your chinchilla, the most important thing to do is avoid feeding them the seeds. Apple seeds contain a compound called amygdalin which produces hydrogen cyanide when the seed is chewed or broken apart.
It would take around 200 apple seeds to poison a human, however, since chinchillas are very small in comparison, their threshold is much lower. Due to the risk of accidental poisoning when feeding apples to your chinchilla, it is best to avoid feeding your pet any portion of the core.
As previously discussed, apples are treats that should be consumed by your chinchilla infrequently and in very small quantities. A good rule of thumb with sugary treats is to make sure that they are presented in very small portions.
You may give your chinchilla an apple slice the size of a raisin, one to two times per week. Since treats should comprise no more than 10% of your chinchilla’s diet, be sure to count apple consumption toward your pet’s treat allowance for the week.
The apple peel has the most fiber and is safe for your chinchilla to eat.
As with all new foods given to your chinchilla, you will want to monitor them closely after consumption. Look for signs of intestinal distress such as bloating or diarrhea.
Should you see any signs of illness, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Chinchillas love having fun ways to file their teeth down! Apple wood is derived from apple bark and is a fantastic chew treat for chinchillas.
There are many types of wood that are toxic to chinchillas and apple wood is not only on the safe list but also very accessible.
When browsing a pet store or online shop, you will find a variety of treats made from apple wood. Verify that any chew toys you purchase are free of paint, glue, or treatments that may be harmful to your chinchilla.
Apple wood chew toys can be found in styles ranging from basic sticks to hanging mobiles, discs, or even woven balls.
If you have access to an apple orchard, you may also give your chinchillas fresh apple bark cut from tree limbs or even pieces that have fallen on the ground. Confirm that any wood you collect has not been exposed to pesticides which may be harmful to your pet.
Before presenting the wood to your chinchilla, you will need to clean any dirt off of it with hot water, then bake it at 300° Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. This heating process is necessary to kill any micro-organisms that may be hitchhiking on the bark.
Once you have taken the apple wood out of the oven, allow it to cool. Once cooled, cut the wood into small enough pieces for your chinchilla to hold, 4″-5″ long is typically sufficient.
You can even get crafty and make some DIY chew toys for your chinchilla!
Fortunately, there are quite a few treats chinchillas love that are actually very healthy for them! Ideal treats for chinchillas are low in sugar, high in nutrition, and some even have the added value of helping to wear down teeth.
Giving your chinchilla dried rose hips instead of apple will allow them a small indulgence that requires them to chew. Dried rose hips are easy for chinchillas to hold and are an excellent way to grind down teeth.
Other suggested options are rolled oats, rosemary, and dried dandelions.
While apples are safe for chinchillas to eat, the caveat is that they should only be consumed infrequently and in very small portions. Your chinchilla will develop bad eating habits if fed too many treats so they should only constitute 10% of your pet’s diet.
There are plenty of healthy treats on the market, and while apples are an option, they should be towards the bottom of the list. By feeding your chinchilla a balanced diet, they will stay healthy and learn to appreciate the small luxuries!