Your chinchilla's fur is truly his crowning glory. It's the reason chinchillas were hunted close to extinction in the wild, as people wanted to wear their beautiful pelts. If your pet's losing lots of hair, it's likely due to either a stress reaction or disease. Take him to the vet for an examination and diagnosis. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
It's important to learn to hold your chinchilla correctly. Chins usually aren't crazy about being held, at least initially, so take your time and be patient. Always support your pet's lower legs when he's held, and hold him close to your chest. If a chinchilla becomes alarmed when handled, fur slip could result. You'll be holding gobs of chin hair, while your pet heads for the hills. In the wild, fur slipping allowed chins to escape from predators. Instead of a tasty rodent, the predator received a mouthful of hair. If you keep two or more chins together, fur can slip during squabbles. It takes as long as six months for the fur to grow back in after slipping, so you'll have a pet with a large bald patch until then.
Also known as fur chewing, fur barbering occurs when your pet chews on his own fur, or that of a companion chin. If you don't witness your pet chewing, suspect it if his or cage mate's coat becomes patchy or looks like moths attacked it. This activity starts because of boredom or insufficient cleaning opportunities. Genetics also have a role, with some chins predisposed to fur chewing. Provide your chin with a special dust bath at least several times a week so he can clean himself. Don't leave the bowl in the cage all the time, as he'll poop in it or get dust all over the place. Provide plenty of wooden chew toys for gnawing pleasure. Chins also might barber in reaction to internal pain. If your pet barbers, take him to the vet for an examination and to get to the bottom of the issue.
Your chinchilla's teeth grow continuously, so he needs sufficient fiber in his diet and objects for gnawing to wear them down. If he suffers from a malocclusion, or uneven wear of his teeth resulting in pain and the inability to chew correctly, your chin could start slobbering down his chin. He could lose hair down the chin and chest from the excessive salivation. Other signs of slobbers include loss of appetite and weight loss. Your vet must trim down the teeth to allow your chin to eat comfortably. Once your chin begins slobbering, it's a veterinary emergency.
Various skin diseases can cause fur loss in the chinchilla. These include abscesses, or a collection of pus under the skin. As the abscess grows, you'll see bald patches in the fur. Take your chin to the vet to have the abscess lanced and cleaned. Fungal infections, such as ringworm, also can cause fur loss. Your vet can prescribe medication for treatment.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.