Have you wondered how chinchillas clean themselves in the wild? Bought all the essential equipment for dust bath but not sure how to do it perfectly? Then this is the perfect guide for you – to equip you with the complete knowledge on the what, why, when and how of providing your chinchilla a comfortable dust bath!
The Complete Guide to Dust Bath Best Practices
- How often do chinchillas need dust baths?
- How do chinchillas clean themselves?
- How much dust to use?
- How often should I replace the dust?
- How long should chinchillas dust for?
- Where should I dust my chinchillas?
- What time of the day to give a dust bath?
- How to store chinchilla dust after the bath session?
- Why can’t chinchillas get wet?
- Can I use chinchilla sand baths instead of dust?
Why do chinchillas take dust bath?
Chinchilla’s fur density
Chinchillas are very unique animals in that their fur is incredibly dense and thick. In fact, while humans can only grow one hair per follicle, chinchillas can grow more than 50. This means that in just one single square centimetre, a chinchilla can have over 20,000 hairs.
What is a dust bath for chinchillas
A dust bath is whereby a chinchilla rolls and flips in a pool of dust to clean themselves. In the wild, chinchillas do it conveniently using volcanic ash along the Andes range. However, when they are living as pets at home, they will need to be provided with a kind of specially formulated dust to mimic its natural habitat.
How does a dust bath work
A dust bath works by having a chinchilla rolls and flips in a pan of dust provided by you. This not only helps them to clean their fur, but the dust will also get rid of oil, dirt and moisture that was stuck on their fur.
Chinchillas are fairly self-sufficient creatures. They rely on their instincts, like most animals. They have a natural instinct to take these dust baths so you won’t have to do much beyond placing the container with dust in their presence. They simply love to dust bath!
Watching a chinchilla take a dust bath is arguably one of the cutest phenomenon on earth. Once they find the bath container, they will jump in and roll around in the dust to their heart’s content. After their finished they will appear extra poofy and adorable, as if that’s possible.
Choosing the Best Chinchilla Dust
What is chinchilla dust made of?
All good chinchilla dust brands will be made up of ground volcanic pumice or ash. This is what chinchillas would use in the wild, so mimicking their natural behavior as closely as possible is very important.
When selecting your chinchilla dust, look for only one ingredient. There shouldn’t be any additives or extra ingredients in the dust beyond volcanic pumice or ash.
Good dusts will allow all of the dust to leave the chinchillas’ fur, eliminating any dust residue. Chinchilla dusts with additives can cause skin and eye irritations. This is why it’s crucial to select a dust that is pure pumice or ash. Most dusts available in pet stores are collected at the Blue Cloud Mine in Southern California. This is typically the closest product to their native Andes Mountain ash that you will be able to find.
Pay attention to how your chinchillas react to certain dusts. You may find that they show preference to one brand over another. As long as you are only using pure pumice or ash dusts, you can allow your chinchilla to ‘choose’ their dust.
Not all chinchilla dust is created equal. Here are some of the best products on the market. These brands are what breeders and pet stores recommend most often.
Chinchilla Dust Recommendation
Quality Chinchilla Dust by Quality Cage Crafters
If you have been in the chinchilla world for some time, then you won’t need any introduction to this prestigious brand: the Quality Cage Crafters.
As usual, the product made by this maker spells nothing but quality.
This dust is extremely soft, making your chinchillas fur even softer than usual. The all natural content in this dust makes this suitable for all chinchillas and owners. No more allergies!
The best thing of all: This dust is much less expensive than most dust in other stores!
Oxbow POOF! Blue Cloud Chinchilla Dust
Oxbow is a renowned brand in the small pet care industry. They offer a wide range of products ranging from food, toys, wheels, chinchilla dust and various accessories. Their chinchilla dust is highly rated and is made of 100 percent blue cloud pumice, with no additives. Oxbow is also committed to sustainable collection of the blue cloud pumice. Their collection methods are free from strip mining, explosives and tunneling.
Kaytee Chinchilla Dust Bath
Kaytee is another well-known brand in the small pet care industry. Kaytee also offers a wide range of products, similar to Oxbow. Their chinchilla dust is advertised as 100 percent natural pumice. This dust is incredibly fine so it’s important to make sure the dust bath environment is enclosed or it can create a bit of a mess. The fine power does make cleaning very efficient and many users reported that their chinchillas favor this dust over several other brands.
Lixit Blue Beauty Dust
Lixit’s chinchilla dust comes highly rated and is 100 percent natural. The dust is sustainably collected from the Blue Cloud Mine in Southern California. It is composed of aluminium silicate and is free from limestone, glass and sand. This allows it to be completely shaken off of the animal’s fur when done bathing. The jar comes with a convenient scoop as well to make transferring the dust from jar to bath house a breeze.
Choosing the best chinchilla dust bath house
Unless you have a large chinchilla cage, you will need some sort of container for your chinchillas to perform their dust baths in. Many pet stores sell specific ‘bath houses’. These are typically small, enclosed plastic containers with a small opening on the front.
Lixit Chinchilla Dry Bath Container
Using this type of container is helpful in keeping the rest of the environment as clean as possible. The dust remains contained in the house and tends to stay cleaner than dust put in bowls, etc. You can also use a simple ceramic chinchilla playpen that’s big enough for the pet to roll around in. Make sure the container is heavy enough that it won’t tip over. If the container tips over, the chinchilla could be injured and the dust will create a large mess.
Dust Bath Best Practices
How often you make the dust bath available to your chinchillas depends greatly on where you live. If you live in a warmer, more humid climate, then your chinchillas may need to bathe every day or every other day. If you live in a cooler, dry climate than they will only need to bathe a couple times a week.
It’s important to take your climate into consideration when determining how often to make the dust bath accessible to your chinchillas. For example, if you live in the aforementioned cooler, dry climate and you give your chinchillas baths every single day, their skin can become very dry and their fur brittle and weak.
The same goes for the warmer, more humid climate. If the chinchillas are only offered dust baths twice a week then the excess moisture and oil will build up in their fur and can cause mold and fungal infections.
Chinchillas will hop into the pan of dust that you have prepared, and start to toss and turn inside. The dust will help them get rid of excess oil on its fur, achieve the cleaning effect. Once in a while, you may also see them do do “spot cleaning” by rubbing their paws on their face and nose.
Only a small amount of dust is required for each bath. Pour the dust into the container until it reaches a depth of between one to two inches. Thankfully, you can reuse the dust for several bath sessions until the dust is visually dirty or oily. That should help you save some cost!
Depending on how often you need to bathe your chinchillas, you should replace the dust once a week, or as soon as the dust looks dirty. As it absorbs oil, moisture and dirt from the chinchillas’ fur it will stop performing correctly.
It’s important to keep in mind that chinchillas may not have control over their urine and fecal elimination so dust can get dirty fairly quickly. This is why it’s so important to replace the dust often.
Otherwise, chinchillas can roll around in their own waste which leaves them at risk for various health conditions and diseases. Anytime you notice the dust becoming clumpy or full of waste, you need to replace it immediately.
It’s important to not let your chinchillas spend too much time in their dust baths. Somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes will suffice. If your chinchillas spend too much time in the dust baths, they will likely soil the dust and it can also cause their skin to dry out.
Spending too much time in dust may also cause irritation to the eyes giving rise to eye infections.
Sometimes chinchillas like to go in and out of the bathing container so leaving it in for 10 to 15 minutes allows them the freedom to go in and out a couple times. If you have several chinchillas you may need to leave it in their enclosure for longer to ensure that they all have equal opportunity to bathe.
Before we give a recommendation, do be aware that it is normal for some dust to be scattered around the bath house after the session. There are typically 2 places you can do it:
In-Cage Dust Bath
While your chinchilla can have the luxury of doing it in its own cage, you’ll have to clean up the cage after the bath. Therefore, it is advisable to plan your cage cleaning schedule around your chinchillas’ dust bath sessions if you choose to let them do it in the cage.
Out-of-Cage Dust Bath
This is my personal favourite choice as it gives me more flexibility. Simply prepare the bath house with dust and place it outside of the cage during playtime. Once your chinchilla is done, use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the area around the bath house. Clean and easy.
Chinchillas are nocturnal and crepuscular animals. This means they are most active at dawn/dusk and sleep during the day. So, when giving your chinchillas their dust baths, it’s best to be mindful of their circadian rhythm.
Ideal times would be at dawn or dusk. Depending on whether or not you’re typically awake at dawn, dusk tends to be the best option. Avoid offering the bath during the day so as not to disturb your chinchillas. Even if they appear active and awake it’s best to observe their natural behavior patterns as closely as possible.
You may keep any unused dust in its original Ziploc packaging and store them in a cool and dry space. Any remaining dust that you intend to reuse can be stored separately in an airtight container.
Due to the density of chinchilla’s fur, moisture has a hard time escaping it. This means that chinchillas cannot get wet so you cannot bathe them like you would a cat or dog.
If your chinchilla’s fur gets wet, there is a high chance that the fur will never dry fully and your chinchilla will be at risk for mold and/or fungal infections. Chinchilla fur is so dense that even parasites like fleas cannot survive in it.
Although some owners have used sand products for bathing a chinchilla, we do not recommend using sand in place of dust. This is because sand are much more coarse and harsh compared to dust.
Sand also does not have the ability to penetrate into chinchilla’s fur to thoroughly cleanse it off any oil and dirt.
Since you have to buy something anyway, buy dust instead of sand.
Health conditions from improper dust bath and lack of hygiene
Owners should always refresh themselves on how to care for a chinchilla. If chinchillas are not given access to proper dust baths or are given baths too often, several health concerns can arise.
This is typically caused by using dust that isn’t replaced often enough, among other conditions. Dust that is recycled too many times, meaning it is simply sifted through for waste, etc., and not actually replaced, can lead to actual fur disorders. Sometimes these disorders cause significant bald patches to appear and the fur may not grow back.
Excessive dust bathing often leads to dry skin. This is why it’s important to watch your chinchillas closely for the first signs of this skin disorder. You may notice small flakes, similar to dandruff on human scalps. If this happens, simply decrease the frequency that you provide dust baths until their skin goes back to normal.
If dust baths aren’t given frequently enough, your chinchillas can develop serious fungal infections. When too much moisture and oil is present in the fur, it can create a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. Fungal infections typically take one of two forms.
Sometimes they will cause the chinchilla’s fur to fall out, leaving irritated, pink skin underneath. This is usually most noticeable in the face, eye and genital regions. T
he other most common fungal infection will affect the hair rather than the skin. This type will cause the hair to become incredibly weak and actually break. The whiskers can start to break off too if the infection gets too bad.
For these infections, take your chinchilla to a vet that specializes in exotic animals. They will typically prescribe an anti-fungal powder.
When chinchillas use their dust baths, they shed excess hair in addition to eliminating the moisture and oil from their fur. If proper dust baths aren’t offered, then the excess hair can be consumed during the grooming process.
If too much hair is consumed, hairballs can form. Chinchillas are unable to vomit or regurgitate so hairballs can cause extreme pain, lethargy, depression and a lack of appetite. It’s best to take your chinchillas to the vet if they begin to exhibit these signs.