Chinchilla Death from Stress?

A visitor to Chinchilla Planet wrote:

Hi, my name is Chloe. About a year ago my chinchilla (Teddi) died. She was only 8. I took her to the vet once because I saw that she was gnawing at her sides and pulling out her fur. My vet said everything was okay but she was probably chewing because we just brought a new puppy home. However, Teddi had been molting about 2 years prior and she never grew the fur back. Did i do something wrong? Was she deathly ill and I didn't see it and neither did my vet? Was there something wrong with her health? Can stress kill chinchillas?

Sorry about the number of questions but I want to be sure I don't make the same mistake the second time around if I happen to get another chinchilla.

Our answer to Chloe:

Hi Chloe. We're sorry to hear about the death of your chinchilla. We're not vets, but it does sound like something was wrong with your chinchilla. As far as we know, chinchillas don't molt. They release patches of fur as an escape mechanism and they are also continuously shedding. Large patches of missing fur are not normal.

As for stress, chinchillas are certainly prone to it. However, a typical reaction to new noises and smells in the house would be hiding, not fur chewing.

It sounds to us like your vet may have missed something. Does your vet have experience with chinchillas? We've found that many vets don't know how to care for anything other than dogs and cats.

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13 Comments

  1. for all chinchilla owners, fyi, when taking your chinchilla to a vet that is familiar with exotics/chinchillas...just want to share my experience so you can learn from it and hope this never happens to you and your chin. most chinchillas have teeth problems and are seen by a vet (mine goes anywhere from once a year to twice a year). it seems once teeth problems are detected it never resolves fully, just temporarily. anyway, zoe is almost 12 1/2 year old. she has been seeing the vet for 7 + years. i think her vet is good. however, things happen unintentionally, zoe had gone to the vet many times before. everything was fine...came home a little mellow, coming out of her anesthesia by that evening or next morning. but one time, she did not become herslf by that evening or the next day and was not eating or drinking...just a curled up ball kept to herself. this lasted 2 days! finally, she returned to normal..eating/drinking and interacting with the other chins. recently, zoe had to get her teeth trimmed, etc..and i reminded them to watch the amount of anesthesia. they did, but this time zoe came home too spry. so perky, they apparently gave her too little and she must have struggled with them during the procedure. this is not good. too much stress on the chinny. by the evening, her personality changed. from being the perky, 'don't touch me! just let me sit on your leg or shoulder' to running into my arms to be held all night and very tired. well, this has been going on everyday since she got back from her visit 1 1/2 week ago. we noticed not only is she tired a lot but wants to be held in your arms a lot. then, 1 week after returning from the vet, she suddenly have lost strength in her hind legs. her feet can move some and her arms can move but she has difficulty in sitting up. the bottom half of her body seems not to function much at all. this appears to be a stroke. so sad to experience. she is in my arms right now sleeping/resting peacefully but i don't think she will last long. even though she can still eat some and i think she took some oj mixed with water (because she was not taking plain water ), i think i may have to have her put down this coming week. zoe is not able to move much and falls over easily. i think it is hard to live like this and for me to endure the pain of her in this condition. i love her very much and had her since june 2000 at 1 1/2 years old. now she is 12 1/2 years old. hope this helps you and your chinny.

  2. ben, the clumps need to be cut and combed out. call a chinchillla rescue near you that can refer you to someone to help comb / cut your chinchillas clumps out. the chirping, barking, grunting, etc. are communication. grunting is because something is not to his liking (disagrees with something). barking ....errr errr sound...can be calling for attention. mine did this when i slept in her room one night. also, listen to the intonation, from a high to low pitch, it can be something they are unhappy about. this happened one evening when we had guest in our home and brought the chinchilla into our bedroom. i think she felt maybe uncomfortable in our room. so i took her out into the hall. she also scolds me if i bother her during the day while they sleep...again listen to the intonation, you will hear that they are all different. peeping noises are also made, i can only guess that it can be a sign of discomfort as well as other meanings depending on the situation. example, they will peep when other chinchillas nibble on their faces/body. also peep when solo and trying to find comfort. ie: right now,my chinchilla just experienced a stroke this week and is trying to find comfort. the peeping noises will subside when the other chinchillas when surrounding her with warmth and comfort. because i put her on the bottom level of the cage so she will not fall down the ramps or levels the other chinchillas deserted her (because they like being at the very top of the cage) so she peeps. now in my arms ...warm and content, she is quiet..no peeps. hope this helps. just be observant and you'll be able too figure things out. you'll be amazed how 'human' they can be. mine are...too many stories to tell. good luck!

  3. Hi Chloe! I am also sorry for your loss.. I recently had a chinchilla that died and I had no clue. Im here on this site trying to find out how it died. I was thinking it was the dust bath because that is where I found him. I only had him for like a month. My boyfriend bought him as a gift for me. I brought him back to the store i bought him and asked them what could have happened.. They said that it could have been stress froma new environment.. but i didn't think it was that because he was soo nice and cuddly and didn't seemed stressed at all.. but then i noticed that his stools were smaller then usual which was a sign of constipation. Maybe it was something he ate? Cotton is really bad for animals? especially smaller animals. They can die from eating cotton? Well so i heard. Fumes from cleaners? maybe? I don't know,.. as i said Im still trying to figure out why mine died.. I have another one now and im soo paranoid that something will happen.. I am always checking on him. Goodluck with everything!

    • So sorry to read about your chinchilla Erica!!! Was wondering if you got it from a pet store or breeder?? Also was the cage free of all plastic? Even one small piece of plastic can kill a chinchilla by getting trapped in their digestive tract, which would explain smaller than normal poops. This does not happen 100% of the time, but I was told to never risk it! Yet I see it all the time because many people are unaware, unfortunately!! I hope this may help in the future.

  4. no one is sure what causes fur biting but the most popular theoriesinvolve a genetic factor a protein poor dietand stress due to improperhousing and handling. presently there is no universal cure. although fur chewing might not be life threatening it sertenly is unsightly. if damaged fur has wet matted or raggedly cut fur the chinchilla has probably been chewing on it, check the diet and try to alleviateany stressfull anviroment conditions. give your chinchilla extra love and care, make sure he is getting enough exercise and keep him away from stressful conditions.

    • I would like to add a little extra when it comes to stressful conditions. We have to keep in mind the environment you keep your chinchilla in. You must know that chinchillas startle easy!! Placing a cage along a major pathway in the house is another stressful condition that is easily avoided. One important thing that is commonly overlooked is that your chinchilla will bond with you! Your chinchilla needs the quiet times, out of cage times and the trust from you to know that his cage will be clean every other day and your room in which, your play tunnels and hidey spots are, will be empty of your little brown presents that you leave for us everywhere! Never mind that nice layer of super fine dust you have coated your room with! Chins need to know that you will never ever allow them to get wet, eat/taste on painted/finished woods or chew on the wires! They test their environment with their teeth and will redecorate your room with the roll of t.p. you forgot to move when preparing for chins' out of cage time! You need to do your research before going and taking in ANY animal. We have had our little chinchilla for less than 2 months and he's already crawling on our arms and in our laps. It's not rocket science but not a cake walk either! Please read up before owning one of those little dust balls of curiosity!

  5. Hey Chloe... i'm also sorry to hear about your loss. I have a Chinchilla calles Busta. I have had him now for about 6 months and he was six months old when i got him. When i went into the store to buy him i asked if someone could tell me about Chinchilla's as i had no knowledge. They told me that they can get stressed from a number of things which lead to hair falling out. Maybe Teddi didn't have enough time in small doses to get used to a new dog which could have stressed it. Or maybe he was ust ill. Its hard to keep track of a Chunchilla's health sometimes. I think what Stacie said is a good point. If your going to take a more exotic animal to the vets you should check that your vet knows enough about that particular animal. If not sure then go to a specialist. Well i may not have been much help but i hope i have helped a bit. Danny

  6. "Fur chewing" is a common behavior in highly-stressed chinchillas. The stress could be caused by the dog or other animals, or it could be caused by sudden loud noises or a noisy environment, temperture or humidity that is too far out of a comfortable range for chin, too small cage size, boredom, sickness or a combination of these things. Make sure that you have a sizeable pen with plenty of ledges and a solid chinchilla wheel or saucer (not a mesh or barred wheel) for exercise, a good temperture, a lot of safe wood chewing objects and a home to hide in where the chinchilla can feel secure. Sickness can be caused by a wide variety of unsafe substances, especially anything plastic. There is a lot to know about chinchillas. I would sugguest extensive research to anyone considering a chinchilla for a pet, and not to trust that a pet store to provide you with the proper information, my experiences have shown that many pet store lack knowledge of chinchillas and misinform buyers. And MOST DEFINITELY your vet should have informed your that your animal was VERY stressed out (and extreme stress can kill a chinchilla) and should not be treating animals that he or she is not familiar enough with to even recognize a very common warning sign of high stress levels. I am very sorry for your loss (and very angry at your vet).

    • It sounds like my chinchilla is stressed - but I do not know why or what to do about it - I'm really worried...There are no vets in my area that are familiar with chinchillas so what do I do? what would you recommend...He is pulling out all of his belly hair and hair around his from legs....Skin underneath is very healthy looking as is his eyes, ears and nose...No diarrhea, eating and energetic...Help? I have only had him since summer time - he is 2 1/2 years old...No new pets or changes (in facthe is the last new one...He has been fine until the last few weeks or so...

      • Stress may have been building for awhile, and is usually due to the environment. Some chinchillas are more prone to dealing with stress by fur chewing. A responsible breeder removes animals that do this from their breeding lines immediately, as it tends to be an inherited trait, but many people breed without sufficient knowledge of how to judge a quality breeding animal. Please feel free to email me at burgess_chinchillas@hotmail.com to explain your chinchilla's condition. Maybe with some discussion, we might be able to find out the source of the stress and how to deal with it. You can also review some information on my website. It is not complete yet, but there is a fair bit available which you may find helpful.

  7. Hi Chloe, First, I am so sorry for your loss. I do not want to think about anything happening to Liam. As for vets, I do not know where you are from but PLEASE research and find a vet that specializes in exotics. I live on Long Island NY but maybe my vet could refer you to a vet in your state. http://WWW.VMCLI.com. Also you may want to look into local chinchilla rescues for your next little angel. They have much more knowledge about chinchillas and unlike pet stores actually care. Stacie

    • Hi my name is Ben, ive had my Chin for about a year now, he seems happy and great, but ive noticed he makes unusual sounds sometimes like barking and grunting can anyone tell me what he is trying to tell me when he makes these different sounds?, also, he has a clump of built up fur on him, im not sure what this means i dont want to try and and cut or hurt him or anything, what should I do?

      • Ben, It is normal for your chinchilla to bark or make unusal sounds most of the time. It could be he is lonely, frightened, or needs to be able to play outside the cage more often. You said that your chinchilla has a hair clump. If the hair clump is near his penis area, it could mean that the hair is wrapped around his penis, cutting off blood circulation. This can happen to male chinchillas, expeciallly if they are mating often. If the hair clump is somewhere else on his body, make sure he has enough dust bath to clean the oil out of his fur. they have to have this dust bath. Also, make sure he isnt getting wet by maybe overturning his water bowl or leaks from his water bottle...

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