Chinchilla pulling out fur

yeti316

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Jun 19, 2021
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I got a chinchilla 1 week ago. He is 9 years old, and came from a home with other chinchillas (although he lived alone because his cage mate died last year) and rabbits.


I haven’t done a health check on him yet because I wanted to let him settle in a bit first. So far he’ll sniff my hand a bit but doesn’t want me to touch him.

Today I noticed he was pulling out the fur along the inside of one of his arms. The inside of one arm is pretty much bald.

Is this fur chewing or possibly mites? Something else? I’m a bit freaked out because although I did quarantine him for one week, I have now moved him to the room with my other small animals, and I really don’t want an outbreak of mites. Other than this instance of him pulling out his fur, I haven’t seen any scratching or other behaviour to indicate he’s itchy.

his coat is a bit scruffy looking, I’ve been offering him a dust bath and will try to groom him when there’s some trust. He also has patches on his butt that looks like a dog blowing his coat, like patches of fur that are coming loose. Doesn’t look like a fur slip to my eyes because the area is not bald, just like maybe new fur is pushing out old fur and the chunk of old fur is still caught in the coat.

advice? I can get someone to help me to hold and inspect him later, but how do I tell what’s going on? It is normal that he’d be stressed right now, with the change of homes. He has some wood and lava chew toys, hay, and a new wheel, I have more chew toys on order for him, and I’m working on chin-proofing a space so he’ll be able to exercise outside of his cage starting in a few days.
 
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Amethyst

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It's unlikely the chin has mites, even if the rabbits were infested with mites chins don't normally get bugs like mites and fleas because their fur is too thick for them to live in. My first thought is a tooth problem, chins will often wipe the drool from their mouth with their front legs, causing the hair to fall out. Does it look like his mouth is wet at all? Also when he eats do you notice him wiping or pawing at his mouth at all? If he really is actually pulling the fur out and you are seeing him pulling the fur out it could also be due to pain, they will chew on an area to try to get rid of the pain.

The scruffy look could be just normal shedding and maybe a bit more shedding then normal due to stress, which can cause it to get matted in the fur. You can try to gently tug the fur tuffs, which should cause the fur to release. He may squeak about it, but it doesn't really actually hurt him, more like someone tugging on your clothes, you are likely going to say "STOP IT!" You can also try a metal comb, to see if you can help work the fur out.

It's normal that he is stressed, it takes most chins at least a week to settle in to a new home, but up to a month or more is not uncommon. It's normally advised to quarantine the new chin for 30 days, that allows the chin time to settle in as well as for any health issues to show up before exposing your other animals, and ideally enough time to get a vet appointment for a wellness check. Another thing, depending on what other animals you have, I know rabbits for example can carry pasturella bacteria (even without showing symptoms), which can cause fatal URIs in chinchillas, so they should not be kept in the same room unless you know they don't carry it.
 

yeti316

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Jun 19, 2021
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Thank you for your reply, it's really helpful.

Okay well I am relieved to hear it's likely not mites.

I've only seen him do it once, but it definitely looked like he was pulling out the fur.

His mouth does not look wet or drooly. He doesnt often eat in front of me, but I did see him eat some hay and he didnt seem to be pawing at his mouth, but he only ate a small quantity. He has been eating pellets, stripping bark from branches and chewing lava stones. I havent seen him do any of these things though.

I will groom him at some point, but it doesnt seem worth sacrificing the small amount of trust I'm gaining to do it right now.

My other animals are gerbils and hamsters, who the chinchilla now shares a room with. I also have a dog, but hes not allowed in the small animal room.

It might be worth taking this guy to a vet just for a check up, but i know it'll be really stressful for him so I only want to do it if it's really in his best interests.
 

Amethyst

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I think it's a good idea to at least do a check up when you first get them, that way you have a baseline and also have the chin in as a patient just in case you have an emergency. I know a lot of restrictions have eased but people were having a real issue during lockdowns trying to get their chins seen if they weren't already in the system and not all vets will even see chinchillas. I wouldn't bother waiting for him to settle before taking him in, everything is so new that you might as well just get it done and over with so you can hopefully know the chin is healthy and you can just focus on building a bond.

Hay should make up most of the diet, about a handful worth a day, and a couple tablespoons worth of plain pellet only food. All of a chins teeth grow their whole life, not just the front teeth, so they need to eat plenty of hay to wear down the molars. A good quality pellet have all the nutrients they need to survive but it takes a lot more chewing to eat a pile of hay then it does a pile of pellets. So just seeing him eating his pellets and chewing on toys does not really rule out a problem with the molars since they don't chew on toys with their molars. Also the roots of the teeth are also open ended, so they can also grow up into the skull and down into the jaw if the teeth become overgrown.
 
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