Chinchillas are not at high risk for rabies, but measures you can take as a pet owner will reduce the possibility of your animal's exposure to the lethal disease. Rabies cannot be treated; if you suspect your chinchilla is rabid, your pet will have to be euthanized before testing can confirm the diagnosis.
Rabies and Chinchillas
The likelihood of a pet chinchilla contracting rabies is extremely low but still technically possible. All warm-blooded mammals, including chinchillas, can contract the rabies virus by receiving a bite from an infected animal. The Ohio Department of Health reports testing only five chinchillas between 1980 and 2011. None of the five tested positive for rabies. Most states place chinchillas into a rabies testing category where their results are counted in with other very low risk animals such as mice, squirrels and rabbits.
Vaccinating Your Chinchilla
It is not common practice to vaccinate chinchillas and no rabies vaccine exists for use specifically on chinchillas. You should never attempt to vaccinate your chinchilla with a vaccine that is not approved for use on chinchillas without the cooperation of your veterinarian. To do otherwise may constitute animal cruelty.
If you are concerned about your pet chinchilla's health, ask your veterinarian what protective measures you can take. Reducing your chinchilla's exposure to other animals will eliminate most of the risk of rabies infection. Pet chinchillas normally live indoors in cages or other enclosures. Keeping your pet indoors greatly reduces the risk of him being bitten by a rabid animal. If you keep your chinchilla outdoors, make sure his pen is secure and other animals cannot get into the pen with him. Make sure to vaccinate pets that go outdoors and are around your chinchilla. Quarantine new small animals you bring into your home for several weeks before exposing them to your chinchilla. Visit a vet if your animal appears ill, has been attacked, is acting unusually aggressive or exhibits odd behavior.
Symptoms of Rabies
Rabies usually incubates for a little over a week before an infected animal begins showing symptoms. If your chinchilla was attacked by another animal and begins behaving strangely within a week or two, you need to contact your veterinarian or local animal control agency immediately. Avoid handling the sick chinchilla if you suspect rabies. Symptoms of rabies vary but include lethargic behavior, unwillingness to eat, difficulty eating, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, paralysis and choking.
- State of Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management: Rabies
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Pet Risk Rabies
- Ohio Department of Health: Ohio Rabies Testing and Percent Positive
- American Humane Association: Rabies Facts & Prevention Tips
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Chinchillas - Owning
- Louisiana Dept of Health and Hospitals: Fact Sheet: Rabies in Louisiana
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.