How to Give Your Chinchilla a Dust Bath

By PetMD Editorial on May 24, 2016

By Vanessa Voltolina

If you’ve ever told someone — or been told yourself — to stop playing in the dirt, then the concept of giving your new pet chinchilla the green light to roll around in dust may throw you for a loop. Unlike other types of small and furries, chinchillas are self-motivated to get squeaky clean with the assistance of dust as opposed to water. While the practice may seem odd, it’s important to give your furry friend the type of grooming care it deserves to keep its skin healthy and its coat in beautiful condition. Here, learn more about dust baths, why your chin requires them, and how to provide it.

Why a Dust Bath?

According to Pet Care Veterinary Hospital in Virginia Beach, VA, dust baths are necessary for chinchillas to counterbalance their naturally oily skin and to maintain their soft fur. In their native home in South America, chinchillas might roll in volcanic ash to stay clean — hence, why they require a special process in areas not teeming with this ash.

Chinchillas also possess up to 60 hairs per follicle (note that humans have one hair per follicle), which allows them to retain body heat at high altitudes. This specialized fur means it’s prone to clumping, and skin may become irritated if a chin doesn’t receive an adequate number of dust baths.

If you’re a first-time chin owner, one of the first things you may notice is the cleanliness and low-odor associated with these pets. Giving your chinchilla the occasional dust bath will help keep it clean and pull the oil, dirt and excess moisture from its coat, said Laurie Hess, DVM, owner and medical director of Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, NY.

Getting Started

To begin the dust bath process, you’ll need a plastic dishpan or container (approximately 12” long by 6” deep and wide, or with enough room so that your chin doesn’t get dust all over the place!). You can also purchase a dedicated chinchilla bath house (a plastic container with a spherical bottom and a roof-shaped top) online or at your local animal supply store; these can be good options for containing both the dust and your pet and can often be hooked to the inside of your chinchilla’s cage.

The main component of the bath, chinchilla dust, can also be found online and in pet stores. Note that sand is not the same thing as chinchilla dust; using sand may cause serious irritations to both your pet’s skin and eyes, as well as damage its fur, according to Hess.

How to Give Your Chinchilla a Dust Bath

Generally, dust baths should be offered to your chin about two to three times per week, as excessive access may contribute to drying out its skin. Here’s how to give your chinchilla a dust bath:

  1. To begin, fill your container or bath house about 2-inches deep with dust.
  2. Once you’ve set up the “bath,” place your chinchilla in the container.

The good news is that this is where your job ends, and your chin takes over.  “They usually know what to do, and they just roll,” said Hess, who specializes in birds and exotic pet care. Let your pet enjoy the bath to keep its coat fresh and clean.

You’ll want to change the dust in your chinchilla dust bath at least once a week, Hess said, adding that the dust can get all over the place after a few baths. When you see the dust clumping or looking not-so-fresh, this is the indication that it’s time for a change.

Image: cynoclub via Shutterstock

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