If you're attracted to soft, cuddly animals, you're going to love the chinchilla. Most domesticated chinchillas who are exposed to and handled by humans early in life are very tame and enjoy being held. When you're introduced to a chinchilla for the first time, you'll probably be struck by its oversize-mouse appearance. Keep in mind your chinchilla's mousie ears will need attention and regular care.
Chinchillas are Mostly Self-Cleaning
Chinchillas typically groom themselves, including their little ears . The most you usually have to do is provide them with special chinchilla dust every other day so they can roll around in it to maintain their fur. It's how they bathe.
Your Assistance on Occasion
Once in awhile you may notice that dust and dry skin has built up in or around your chinchilla's ears. When this happens your chin will need a little help from you to clear away the dirt so his ears don't become infected. Do this easily by placing some mineral oil on a cotton ball and using it to gently wipe the inside and outside of the upright portion of your chinchilla's ears. Be very careful when handling your chinchilla's ears, as they are extremely delicate. Depending on how much ear wax and dirt have built up, you may need to use more than one cotton ball on each ear. Avoid putting the cotton ball -- or anything else -- into your chin's ear canal. Leave deep cleaning to the vet.
Your chinchilla's fragile little ears can easily be injured if he is exposed to extreme temperatures or if he gets in a tussle with another chin. You can tell if your chinchilla's ears are damaged from excessive temperatures because the skin on his ears will flake and shed; it may be discolored, even black. Injuries from a fight are noticeable because your chinchilla's ears will appear red or swollen and may bleed. You'll probably see bite marks. Have your vet attend to your chin if his ears are injured. He'll stitch deep open wounds closed and remove extremely damaged tissue if necessary, as well as treat your chinchilla with antibiotics to keep infection from developing.
Infections are a common problem with chinchilla ears, especially after a respiratory infection or if your chin has suffered from shock. Watch your chinchilla for symptoms of an ear infection like trouble balancing -- your chin may roll or walk in circles -- head tilting and rubbing the ears. Take your little guy to the vet right away if you notice these signs. The doctor will clean your chinchilla's ears and examine them. If his ear is closed off due to swelling or blockage from wax and dirt, surgery might be necessary to clear the problem. Your vet will likely treat your chinchilla with antibiotics to fight the infection and heal his ears.
- petMD: Ear Injuries in Chinchillas
- Chinchilla Care.org: Health and Illness
- "The Merck/Merial Manual of Pet Health"; edited by Cynthia M. Kahn, Scott Line
- Infolific: Chinchillas: Eyes, Ears, Nose and Mouth
- Chinchilla Park Place: Chinchilla Care - Chinchilla Health
- "The Complete Chinchilla Owners Guide"; Matthew Debanks
- "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats"; Liz Palika
- "Veterinary Assisting Fundamentals & Applications"; Beth Vanhorn and Robert W. Clark
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.