Welcome to our complete guide to chinchilla fleas. Looking at whether chinchillas can get fleas and what to do if you think your fluffy pet has managed to pick some up! Can chinchillas get fleas? Let’s find out!
Very few things are as unpleasant to think about as fleas or other pests infesting our beloved animals. Chinchillas, with their beautiful, thick fur, are no exception.
But can chinchillas get fleas?
You may have heard that Chinchillas can’t get fleas because their fur is so dense.
This is not entirely true.
Chinchilla fur is difficult for fleas to penetrate, making a flea infestation of your chinchilla very unlikely, but chinchillas can get fleas.
Luckily, fleas are rare in chinchillas.
That does not mean you should automatically rule out fleas as a cause for symptoms like itching and hair loss. In fact, it is a good idea to wait to rule out any symptom until you have spoken with your veterinarian.
Plus, if you suspect your home has a flea infestation, you will want to inspect your chinchilla and any other pets for signs of fleas to make sure they are not effected by these annoying bloodsuckers.
Signs of fleas in Chinchillas
So the answer to the question can chinchillas get fleas is yes. But how do we tell?
Fleas rarely bother chinchillas, but if it does happen, it is good to know what to look for.
This is often easier said than done.
Chinchilla fur is so dense that parting it to see the skin is difficult. Unless you actually see a flea on your chinchilla’s outer hairs, you probably won’t be able to find one crawling around within the fur itself.
Instead, look for signs of fleas, like flea dirt.
Flea dirt is flea excrement, which is essentially dried blood, and looks like tiny black flecks against your chinchilla’s fur.
You can also observe your chinchilla for signs of irritation, like scratching or biting, and hair loss.
Your best bet, however, is to take your chinchilla to the veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis.
Talking to your veterinarian is not just important for a diagnosis. You will also need your veterinarian’s assistance to treat fleas.
Treating chinchilla fleas
Can chinchillas get fleas? Yes, but not very often! So how do we treat them when they do?
Chinchillas, because they so rarely get fleas, are not prescribed flea preventatives like cats and dogs.
You should not attempt to treat the fleas yourself with leftover preventatives from your other pets. Nor should you place a flea collar on your chinchilla.
Regular strength preventatives and flea collars have not been tested on chinchillas the way they have been on cats and dogs. This means that the side effects of these medications are not known in detail. Any use of these flea products, even by veterinarians, is considered off-label by drug companies.
However, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe your chinchilla with an appropriate dosage of ivermectin or selamectin. They will make this decision based on their experience and on veterinary literature.
In some cases, your veterinarian may also suggest using a flea shampoo for kittens without any permethrins or pyrethrins on your chinchilla to help remove the fleas. But they need to make this decision, it’s important not to do it without them in case you pick the wrong product.
Talk to your veterinarian about any possible complications or side effects of using these drugs, and be sure to only use them as directed to avoid accidentally harming your pet.
Fleas are not just a problem for your chinchilla.
Chinchilla Fleas Spreading
If your chinchilla has fleas, you may also have to disinfect your home from these parasites and inspect any other pets that live there to see if they, too, have fleas.
If you have just purchased or adopted your chinchilla and you suspect it has fleas or another condition, talk to your veterinarian about your new pet’s health.
Avoid housing your new chinchilla with or near any other chinchillas. This will help you avoid spreading diseases amongst your furry friends.
Fleas might be rare in chinchillas, but they do love cats and dogs. Make sure any cats and dogs in your home are on effective preventatives. Talk to your veterinarian about the best preventatives for your area, in case your current preventatives are no longer effective.
If you suspect your home is infected, you may have to take further steps to decontaminate it, like regular vacuuming, cleaning, and even the use of insecticides. Your veterinarian can recommend the best protocol for flea eradication to make the process as straightforward as possible.
Can chinchillas get fleas or mites?
Ectoparasites like fleas, which are parasites that affect the skin of animals, are uncommon in chinchillas. Now that you know that chinchillas can get fleas, however, you may rightfully be wondering something. If there any other types of ectoparasites that could affect these furry critters.
Chinchillas, luckily, are not affected by as wide a range of ectoparasites as those that bother cats, dogs, and other rodents. But certain types of mites, including the zoonotic Cheyletiella, also known as walking dandruff, can affect chinchillas in rare cases.
Walking dandruff is zoonotic, which means it can pass between animals of different species and to humans. While not serious to humans, it can be irritating, and cheyletiella can lead to secondary skin infections in your pets that may require veterinary care to resolve.
If another animal in your home is infested with mites, like cats, dogs, or rabbits, keep them away from your chinchilla to avoid contagion. You should also inspect your chinchilla for signs of mites, like dandruff-like flakes, hair loss, scratching, and any signs of skin infection.
Mites are treated with a similar protocol to fleas, and your veterinarian may recommend treating other pets in the household as well.
Other causes of flea symptoms
If fleas and mites are so rare in chinchillas, are there other reasons why your chinchilla could be itchy or suffering from hair loss?
Sometimes, the frequency (or infrequency) of your chinchilla’s dust baths could be the cause of your chinchilla’s itchiness.
Veterinarians recommend offering chinchillas a commercial dust bath mixture every day for about ten minutes. However, you should not leave the dust bath in your chinchilla’s cage, as it will become soiled and will not provide your chinchilla with a clean bath.
Your chinchilla’s symptoms could also be the result of poor ventilation or a dirty cage. Make sure that you are using an appropriate bedding material, like kiln dried pine shavings or recycled paper, and avoid cedar and cherry wood products.
You can also check to make sure your chinchilla’s water is not leaking, which can cause mildew and dampness, and it is important to clean your chinchilla’s cage regularly.
Keeping chinchillas happy and healthy
Wire cages with multiple levels offer your chinchilla plenty of space to roam around, and they also promote healthy ventilation, unlike glass or solid plastic sided cages.
Housing aside, a nutritional deficiency like a low-fiber diet can lead to fur chewing. Wild chinchillas eat fiber rich diets, so you may need to supplement your chinchilla’s pellets with a high-quality hay for roughage.
Sometimes, the cause of a small animal’s health symptoms is handling, not illness.
Traumatic handling, which can happen easily in homes with small children or guests, sometimes leads to a type of fur loss called ‘fur slip.’
Talk to your children about the right way to handle chinchillas, and encourage them to educate any friends they may have about the best way to handle these pocket pets. Better yet, ensure they only handle your chinchillas with adult supervision!
Can chinchillas get fleas?
Chinchillas are long lived animals. It is normal for chinchillas to live for ten to fifteen years, and some live even longer.
Most chinchillas will not get fleas during their lifetime, thanks to their dense fur.
However, your chinchilla’s ‘flea’ symptoms could be a sign of another health problem.
Your best resource for diagnosing your chinchilla’s condition is your veterinarian. He or she can also recommend ways to improve your chinchilla’s living conditions and quality of life, and is the person best qualified to answer questions like “do chinchillas get fleas?”
If your chinchilla is one of the few chinchillas that does become affected by fleas or mites, your veterinarian can help you determine the best course of action to keep your pet healthy and comfortable.
Further Reading and Resources
- Donnelly, T. M. BVSc, DVP, DACLAM, DABVP(ECM). ‘Chinchillas.’ Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Quesenberry, K. E. DVM, MPH, DABVP. ‘Introduction to Chinchillas.’ Merck Veterinary Manual.
- Oglesbee, B. L. ‘Chinchillas.’ Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult. July 2011.