Any time one of your furry friends starts to lose hair, you're likely to worry. After all, much of what makes chinchillas distinct is their soft, fluffy. If your chinchilla is suddenly losing hair for no apparent reason, a visit to the vet might be in order to rule out serious problems, such as a skin fungus.
A common cause of hair loss in chinchillas is ringworm. This highly contagious fungus causes loss of hair -- usually in a circular pattern -- as well as itching and scaly skin. Chinchillas often get ringworm on the head, around the eyes, and on the feet. A vet can confirm the presence of ringworm through a skin test and then can prescribe a cream or pills to treat it.
What you worry might be a hair loss problem could actually just be normal shedding. Although chinchillas shed constantly, they shed more as the months get warmer. If it's summer and your chinchilla is suddenly shedding lots of hair, there might not be much reason to worry. But in winter, a sudden loss of a lot of hair probably isn't shedding.
In the wild, chinchillas are quite vulnerable and easy prey. Their best defense is to hide and to run -- and to use "fur slips" to get away from predators. Chinchillas' hair is loosely attached to their skin. When an animal -- or you -- grabs them by the neck or handles them roughly, the hair comes out easily and in chunks.
Stress can cause chinchillas to chew on themselves or on each other -- and large amounts of hair can fall off as a result. This is not a fighting behavior, but more of a grooming behavior. For example, mother chinchillas might chew on babies, and vice versa. The only way to stop this is to remove the source of stress. This could mean separating the chinchillas, giving them more space, or putting them in a more quiet room.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.