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Chin Veterinarian Questions and Answers If you have a question for our consulting veterinarian, this is where it will be posted. THIS IS NOT FOR DIAGNOSING PURPOSES, JUST GENERAL INFORMATION.

 
 
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  #1  
Old 02-16-2009, 10:31 PM United States
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Default Chinchilla diet/nutrition

The question asked is:
Quote:
Regarding chinchilla nutrition: More and more lately vets are recommending "the new way" of feeding chinchillas by switching them off of pelleted feeds onto a fresh vegetable (greens) diet.

What is the proper diet for a chinchilla? Is there a place for fresh leafy greens in that diet? What could be some of the dentrimental effects of fresh leafy greens for a chinchilla?
And the answer:

This is a good one - here we go...

The proper diet for an adult, non-breeding chinchilla is grass hay (preferably Timothy, but Orchard grass, Oat hay, and Brome hay are all acceptable) as 90% - 95% of the diet. It should be free choice, so therefore available at all times. Pellets are recommended at 2 tablespoons twice a day. That is the best diet to maintain dental and GI tract health. I actually know a board certified exotics specialist who has a pet chin that she only feeds hay - no pellets, treats, or greens at all and she is doing great - for about 6 years now.

I think the vets that are recommending this "new way" of feeding are basing their reasons on rabbit and guinea pig nutrition facts. I could possibly see some benefit to feeding greens - it gets more water into the chin and maybe that would decrease chances of bladder stones and urinary problems, but, maybe they would just drink less because they are not as thirsty, so who knows?? Side effects are wet, sticky poops from unfamiliar fermantation processes and possibly too much water in the diet. The other thought would be : what if they are eating more greens than hay? Greens are not coarse enough to wear down chinchilla molars, so over long periods of time, dental disease may develop. This is all speculation, of course, because proper studies have not been conducted, however, if you find all of the specialists and ask them, greens are not part of a normal chinchilla diet.

In my opinion, I do not feel that it is necessary to feed greens to keep your chinchillas healthy. All they really need is hay and water!

Angela Keffer, VMD


If you have follow up questions regarding this, please direct them to myself (tunes) and I will foward them to Dr. Keffer. Thank you.
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  #2  
Old 02-19-2009, 11:04 AM United States
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A follow up question:

Quote:
If hay is to be the staple of a chin's diet, what would/do you recommend for chins who prefer pellets over hay? I've always read that both hay and pellets should be free-fed, but if an unlimited supply of pellets is causing decreased hay intake, should pellets be limited?
The difficult part about this situation is the breeding chins. I do believe that females in breeding should be allowed unlimited pellets, however, you will get those chins that pellet gorge and do not eat much hay. I worry about those ones developing dental disease the most. The only thing I have found to possibly help is trying all of the different types of grass hays to see if there is one particular type or mixture of 2-3 types that they like. I keep 4 different types of grass hay at my place and everybody gets a different mixture of what I have noticed they eat the most of. This is not always practical, but I really think it can work in many cases.

For the non-breeding/pet chinchillas, I limit the adults (10 months and older) to 2 tablespoons of pellets twice a day, then I offer fresh hay twice a day. This forces them to eat the hay when they are hungry and out of pellets. Never attempt this with an already sick chinchilla and with any chin who is used to gorging on pellets, you may have to slowly drop the amount down to 2 tablespoons over time, you don't want to shock their systems.

Angela Keffer, VMD

If you have follow up questions regarding this, please direct them to myself (tunes) and I will foward them to Dr. Keffer. Thank you.
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  #3  
Old 03-05-2009, 05:29 PM United States
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A follow up question:

Quote:
So we don't need to feed them pellets? (in regards to hay/water statement)

We could feed them greens if we want to, if we cared to experiment with their diet?

If the chins run out of food based on the 2tbsp 2x a day, don't fill the bowl back up?
Yes, technically, we don't need to feed them pellets. Would I experiment on my own chins? - probably not because they are already used to eating both hay and pellets. I do limit the pellets to 2 tablepsoons twice a day in my non-breeders. That is all they get, of course making sure that they have hay available 24/7. I have never tried greens, but let me know if anyone does and how it goes!!!

Angie Keffer, VMD

If you have follow up questions regarding this, please direct them to myself (tunes) and I will foward them to Dr. Keffer. Thank you.
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  #4  
Old 03-12-2009, 04:51 PM United States
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Another follow up:

Quote:
I know what my opinion is, but am interested to hear others (especially as I'm not currently seeing any of these species as patients at the moment)... Are greens an appropriate part of the rabbit and guinea pig diet, given the similarity of their GIT and dentition to that of the chinchilla? I would argue that introducing greens quickly to a naive GP or rabbit would cause just as much diarrhea as it would in a chin and conversely, that slow introduction of greens to a chin would not cause diarrhea.
Emi Ludemann, DVM
To me, greens are appropriate for rabbits and necessary for guinea pigs.

Rabbits can live without greens, but I always recommend 1 cup of dark greens twice a day. There are some rabbits that don't do well with greens in their diets (usually the geriatric ones), but most do very well as long as they are being given the right type (celery and iceburg lettuce are not considered "greens" in my book). If you look at the diet pyramid for rabbits it is 90% hay, 5% greens, 5% pellets.

Guniea pigs need dark leafy greens (not spinich) due to their inability to make their own vitamin C. Yes, they say certain pellets and liquid supplements have vitamin C in them, but it is a light sensitive vitamin. If that bag of feed or bottle of supplement sits on the pet store shelf for 6 months, all of the vitamin C will be gone. The only supplement I trust is the Oxbow GTN-C tablets. Once again, vegetables like broccoli are not considered greens.

As far as the chins go, yes, I think you could add greens to their diets slowly, but I myself just don't see them being a huge benefit to their long term health. Everyone has their own opinion and knows what works best for their pets.

Angie Keffer, VMD

If you have follow up questions regarding this, please direct them to myself (tunes) and I will foward them to Dr. Keffer. Thank you.
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