4 Things Chinchilla Owners Need To Know About Heat Stress
Your pet chinchilla is very susceptible to heat stress, a life-threatening condition brought on by too-high temperatures. Here are four things chinchilla owners need to know about heat stress.
Why are chinchillas at risk of heat stress?
In the wild, chinchillas live in the Andes mountains. Even in the warmest parts of the Andes, the average temperature is only 71°F, but chinchillas still need to live in underground burrows to keep themselves cool. They only leave these burrows at night, when its cooler. All of this is relevant in understanding why your pet chinchilla is so sensitive to heat.
Chinchillas have thick fur coats, which keeps them comfortable during cold winter nights in the Andes, but can allow them to overheat in warmer climates or in centrally-heated homes. These animals also can't sweat, so if your pet gets too warm and can't get to a colder environment quickly, it will develop heat stress.
What are the signs of heat stress?
The first sign of heat stress is restlessness. Restlessness in chinchillas may manifest as fidgeting or pacing around the cage. If you notice this change in your pet's behavior, take them to a cooler area immediately. If they continue to overheat, their breathing will become rapid, they'll drool, and they'll become weak.
Life-threatening symptoms like a very high fever, congested lungs, and coma may also occur if the chinchilla isn't cooled down. Death will follow without treatment, so if your pet shows any of these signs, rush them to an emergency vet.
How is heat stress treated?
Heat stress is treated by cooling down your pet. To avoid causing further stress, they need to be cooled down slowly. This can be done with cool (not cold) water baths. Your vet can also offer supportive care to make your chinchilla more comfortable. These treatments include intravenous fluids to replace body fluids and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
How can you prevent heat stress?
To keep your pet safe, ensure that their environment remains at a stable, cool temperature. Their environment should always remain below 80°F, though lower is better (remember their natural habitat). If your pet's cage is near a window, close the blinds on sunny days to keep them from getting overheated.
Avoid placing space heaters near your chinchilla as this could cause them to overheat. If you're worried that your chinchilla will get cold, you can safely keep them warm by providing a fleece cuddle bag; your pet will use this bag as their burrow as necessary, and can easily leave it if they get too warm. To make it easy for your pet to cool down, place a chinchilla chiller in the cage; this is a cool granite stone tile that they can lie on to regulate their temperature.
If your chinchilla shows signs of heat stress, take them to a veterinary hospital like Clovis Veterinary Hospital P A immediately.