Dust baths are an essential component to a chinchilla’s longevity and health. Without proper hygiene, chinchillas are susceptible to many serious health conditions. In this article we will go through everything you need for chinchilla dust baths to ensure your pets thrive for as long as possible. We will discuss why chinchillas need dust baths, how to give them dust baths, health conditions from lack of proper hygiene as well as several recommended and well trusted products.
1. Why do chinchillas need dust baths?
1.1 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.
Because their fur is so dense, moisture has a hard time escaping it. This means that chinchillas can not 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.
1.3 How chinchilla dust works
By providing dust baths for your chinchillas, you will give them the opportunity to rid themselves of all of the excess moisture and oil from their fur. The dust will absorb the unwanted moisture and oil and your chinchillas will be kept healthy. eClean dust should be made regularly available to your chinchillas to ensure that they remain as healthy as possible. Healthy chinchillas will live longer and happier lives.
2. How do I give my chinchilla a dust bath?
2.1 Equipment needed
Dust baths are a fairly straightforward concept and they require minimal equipment. 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.
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.
Besides the container, you will also need the dust. Most pet stores sell chinchilla dust. The dust is usually made from volcanic ash or pumice collected in the Blue Cloud Mine in Southern California. It’s important to buy dust specifically made for chinchillas to ensure that it works properly in absorbing all excess moisture and oil. Other than the container and dust you don’t need any other equipment.
2.1.1 Selecting the dust
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.
2.2 Giving the dust baths
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 enclosure. Simply place the container in their enclosure and sit back while they get to work.
Watching a chinchilla take a dust bath is arguably one of the cutest phenomenons 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.
2.3 How much dust to use
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. If you put too much into the bath house or container at a time, it will just go to waste as it needs to be replaced fairly often. Depending on how many chinchillas you have, you may need to add more after each chinchilla uses the bath.
2.4 How often to bathe your chinchillas
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.
2.5 When to bathe your chinchillas
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.
2.5 Duration of the dust baths
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. 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.
2.5 Replacing the dust
Depending on how often you need to bathe your chinchillas, you should replace the dust once or twice a week. 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 do 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.
3. Health conditions from lack of hygiene
If chinchillas are not given access to proper dust baths or are given baths too often, several health concerns can arise.
3.1 Hair loss
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.
3.2 Dry skin
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.
3.3 Fungal infections
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. The 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.
4. Recommended products
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.
4.1 Oxbow POOF! 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.
4.2 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.
4.3 Lixit Blue Cloud 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 aluminum 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.