Why Is My Chinchilla Itching And Scratching?

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Have you started to notice your chinchilla itching and scratching themselves? Maybe you have a chinchilla that you feel is already itching more than usual?

There are a few possible reasons your chinchilla is itching and scratching. They may have dry skin, a fungal infection, pests, or even be displaying a symptom of stress.

Luckily there are ways to help identify which of these possibilities is afflicting your pal and ways to treat them properly. Read on to learn more!  


Reason 1: Dry skin

Just as humans can suffer from dry skin, so can chinchillas. Luckily this is relatively simple to spot and treat, but knowing what to do also relies on knowing what led to the condition in the first place.

Causes of dry skin

Chinchillas are relatively sensitive to air temperature and humidity. Particularly in the summer and winter, when we tend to crank the AC or heat in our homes, the circulating air can become incredibly dry. 

This can cause your chinchilla’s skin to dry out, even beneath their thick coats.

Alternatively, some chinchillas spend too long in their dust baths. While these baths are necessary for the overall cleanliness of your chinchilla, too much time spent rolling around in the dust may dry out their skin. 

How to check

With such thick fur, it can be challenging to identify whether dry skin is what is bothering your chinchilla. 

Because of this, it’s essential to pay attention to their hands, feet, and ears – areas on their body that have little-to-no fur.

While checking these areas, look for flaky, rough skin. The skin may even appear a little off-color. 

Pay special attention to any cracks in the skin, especially on the hands and feet, as these can become infected.

Home remedy and treatment

How to treat this condition will depend on what is causing the problem.

If the air in your house is too dry, you can use a humidifier to reintroduce moisture to the atmosphere. 

Exercise caution when you do this, as air that is too humid can also lead to discomfort and skin conditions in your chinchilla. 

If your chinchilla spends too long in their dust baths, start limiting their use. Do not leave the dust bath in the chinchilla’s enclosure with them at all times – strictly only as they need to clean themselves.

While you make adjustments, consider using a safe product to moisturize their exposed skin, such as Bag Balm. 

This non-toxic moisturizer is safe for your chinchilla to lick and can ease their discomfort greatly.


Reason 2: Fungal infections

Fungal infections

Dry skin can itself be a symptom of fungal infection. Many chinchillas deal with a condition called ringworm. Despite its name, no worms are involved; it’s a fungal skin infection that is particularly itchy.

Causes of fungal infection

A common cause of fungal infections in chinchillas is actual physical contact with another person or pet that has them. Ringworm, in particular, is very contagious.

Dirty enclosures left to sit for extended periods can be breeding grounds for molds and fungi. Not having regular access to dust baths can also increase the likelihood of infection. 

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Chinchillas use dust baths to clean themselves and distribute the natural oils in their fur. If your chinchilla’s fur is wet, mold growth can easily occur.

Always ensure your chinchilla’s coat is as safely dry and clean as possible.

An additional but infrequent cause of fungal infections can be infected pellets or hay that the chinchilla comes into contact with.

How to check

Itching and scratching more than usual can indicate a fungal infection, but how can you be sure you’re dealing with a fungal infection and not just dry skin?

Look for fur loss, bald spots, and skin with a rough, scaly appearance.

Contact your veterinarian if you have any doubts about whether or not your chinchilla is dealing with a fungal infection. There are tests they can perform to reach a more definitive answer.

Home remedy and treatment

A necessary part of treating a fungal infection is removing possible contaminants – including all things wooden inside your chinchilla’s enclosure. 

Wood is porous, meaning cleaning it won’t guarantee the fungus spores are gone, and it can lead to reinfection. 

Isolation is an essential next step. If you have multiple chinchillas, separate the infected chinchilla from its cage mates. 

This step is also crucial if you have any other pets or children who typically interact with the chinchilla, as ringworm, in particular, is contagious.

Seasoned chinchilla owners and caretakers recommend a veterinary fungicide called Blu-Kote, applied on top of the affected areas. 

Take care not to touch eyes, mouth, nose, or genitalia. Treatment continues every other day until hair regrowth is seen in the area, which may take up to four weeks.

Guarantee that the chinchilla has access to dust baths during this period, and dispose of the dust after each use to ensure no contaminants are left inside to reinfect your pet. 


Reason 3: Pests 

Pests

If fungal infections don’t seem right and you aren’t noticing dry skin, your chinchilla may be scratching itself due to pests. While their dense fur means it is rare, it is still certainly possible. 

Causes of fleas or lice

If a chinchilla does end up with fleas or lice, it is typically due to the usual ways seen in other household pets. 

Fleas and lice can travel into your home on your body, clothing, or other pets. From there, it’s just a jump, skip, and hop away for them to get to your chinchilla! 

How to check

Because of how dense chinchilla fur is, it can seem challenging to confirm the presence of pests. Luckily, there are some signs to look for in addition to the increased itching and scratching.

With fleas, you’re most likely to see signs of flea dirt. Flea dirt will appear as small black specks on and throughout your chinchilla’s fur. 

On the other hand, lice typically appear as small white dots throughout the fur, though you may see some black dots mixed in as well. 

A fine-tuned comb can help you search through your chinchilla’s fur for a closer look. If you still have any doubts, contact a veterinarian who may be able to catch more with their experienced eyes.

Home remedy and treatment

When it comes to treating pests in chinchillas, there is a lot of speculation, misinformation, and uncertainty amongst owners. 

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Most pest treatments on the market are for companions such as dogs or cats. They can be dangerous for use in smaller animals like chinchillas.

With that said, it is very important to consult a veterinary professional before using any medications or treatments you may see or hear recommended. 

There are things you can do at home to help. These include:

  • separating the infected chinchilla from cage mates, 
  • throwing out any old bathing dust the pests may still be hiding in, 
  • ensuring you use fresh dust for each bath until the infestation has been fully treated. 

Keeping the cage clean is also a crucial step. Particularly with fleas, you will need to take special care to remove and deep clean any bedding. 


Reason 4: Stress

Stress

Chinchillas are sensitive animals, and their reactions to stress can vary greatly – including excessive itching and scratching.

Causes of stress

Many factors may be stressing out your chinchilla. Any changes to their environment can lead to stress, like new people, pets, food, enclosure, etc. 

Consider others in the space, too. Is anyone (human or pet) agitating or frightening your chinchilla, perhaps even accidentally? It could be a sound, scent, or movement that puts them on edge.

Evaluate your chinchilla’s area. Are they somewhere they don’t feel isolated but are still out of the way of most loud foot traffic? 

Do they have an adequate amount of space with plenty of enrichment? If not, consider that this may add to your pet’s stress.

How to check

Itching and scratching may indicate stress, but your chinchilla will likely show other symptoms if they’re truly feeling out of sorts.

You may notice your chinchilla seeming withdrawn, lethargic, or even hiding in its cage. 

An increase in barking and grunting can be seen too, as can pacing, grinding of the teeth, and aggression.

Home remedy and treatment

The first step is to find the root cause of your chinchilla’s stress. For example, if their cage is too small, you can naturally try moving them into a more spacious enclosure. 

If you fear they’re in too stressful a location, try moving them to a quieter area of the home to see if this alleviates any symptoms.

Spending more time playing with your chinchilla can help if their stress stems from loneliness or boredom. 

Suppose you are still unsure or unable to solve your chinchilla’s stress issues. In that case, contacting your veterinarian is the next best course of action to rule out any underlying conditions.


Final thoughts

If your chinchilla is itching and scratching itself, it’s perfectly natural to be concerned. There are a few things to consider when trying to find the root cause. 

Stress, fleas, lice, fungal infections, and dry skin are all potential reasons for this behavior. 

While it may take some time to work out what the cause is behind your chinchilla’s itching and scratching, the good news is that it’s all treatable! 

Just be prepared to reach out to veterinary professionals if you have any uncertainty about the next steps.

Chinchillas are amazing, unique pets with sensitive needs. Given the proper response, patience, and care, your chinchilla should be on the path to feeling better again in no time!