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Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths?

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Chinchillas take dust baths instead of water baths to distribute natural oils, remove dirt, and keep their fur soft and lush. This also prevents them from getting wet.

Chinchillas are adorable little rodents commonly kept as pets across the world. Their iconic thick, soft fur is known for its lushness and texture. 

Instead of one hair per hair follicle like humans, chinchillas have multiple hairs growing from a single follicle. They have, on average, 50-60 hairs per follicle[1] which gives their fur high density and richness.

While it makes them soft, it also has its challenges. They need dust baths to maintain their fur’s texture and appearance. 

This article discusses the need for dust baths for chinchillas and gives you tips on how to bathe your pet chinchilla.

Why Do Chinchillas Take Dust Baths?

Dust baths keep your chinchilla’s coat smooth and clean. Bathing in the dust is also soothing for chinchillas. It removes dirt and debris and distributes their natural skin oils.

Chinchilla owners have to keep their pets clean and healthy. These small rodents can contract serious diseases and coat problems in the absence of regular dust baths.

Chinchillas have dense coats that can easily trap bacteria and moisture. Dust baths help clean the fur and keep your chinchilla’s coat soft.

Some other benefits of dust baths are:

  • Removing dirt and debris from the coat
  • Distributing natural skin oils evenly throughout the body
  • Removing any grease from the body
Chinchillas Dust Baths
Image Source

What Are Dust Baths?

Dust baths involve bathing with sand instead of water. The process of dust bathing involves rolling in the dust to get rid of the excess moisture and oil. The dust helps clean the fur and keeps it smooth.

Birds and animals with dense fur require dust baths. Dense fur is difficult to dry completely, which can cause severe skin infections. 

How Do Chinchillas Bathe in Dust?

In the wild, chinchillas use volcanic ash as dust to bathe themselves. They gather a pile of dust and roll in it to clean their fur and remove any dirt.

Chinchillas love bathing in dust. It is one of their favorite activities. 

Chinchillas in the wild bathe themselves with volcanic ash or Andean clay. This ash is commonly found in the Andes mountains of Chile. 

A dust bath involves rolling in volcanic ash or chinchilla dust. They will cover the entire body with it. The dust removes moisture and helps kill bacteria. Chinchillas then shake off the excess dust and continue with their day.

How Do Chinchillas Bathe in Dust
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What Is Chinchilla Dust?

Chinchilla dust is a certain kind of dust readily available for chinchilla owners to buy in pet stores. It is made to provide domestic chinchillas with an experience of the wild. 

Chinchilla dust is made from ground volcanic pumice. Due to the fine structure of volcanic pumice, it can easily penetrate your chinchilla’s fur to reach its skin.

Similar dust or sand cannot and should not be used as an alternative to chinchilla dust as it can be harmful to your pet rodent.

Why Can’t Chinchillas Bathe in Water?

Chinchillas can’t bathe in water because of the denseness of their fur. Their fur regulates their body temperature. Wet fur can cause chinchillas to get cold and lose body temperature.

Chinchillas are not built for water baths. Their fur is extremely dense and thick. If your chinchilla’s fur gets wet, it can be challenging to remove all the water from its fur down to the skin.

Wet coats are a health hazard for chinchillas and can result in the following health issues:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Skin allergies
  • Loss of body temperature

Out of all these, the most dangerous is the loss of body temperature. Centuries of evolution made chinchillas develop a thick coat to protect them from the harsh climate of the Andes mountains. Their coat helps keep them warm in cold environments.

Chinchillas living in the wild are wary of water at all times. These small rodents flee during the rain to cover their bodies and avoid getting wet.

If your chinchilla has something stuck on its fur which can only be washed off with water, use a damp towel instead of running water. 

Always wipe their coat off with a dry towel to remove any traces of water.

Related: Why Can’t Chinchillas Get Wet?

Why Can’t Chinchillas Bathe in Water

How to Give Your Chinchilla a Dust Bath

Get the appropriate chinchilla dust from the market and give your chinchilla time to play in it. Excessive use of dust baths can make your chinchilla’s fur dry.

Caring for your pet chinchilla requires keeping its fur clean from any dirt. Regular dust baths help achieve this.

Chinchillas instinctively know what to do with the dust and how to bathe themselves. This makes the process very simple and straightforward.

Here’s how to give a chinchilla a dust bath:

  1. Get a container or a large bowl that is stable and does not topple over.
  2. Fill one to two inches of the container with specialized chinchilla dust.
  3. Place your pet chinchilla in the container.
  4. Let it bathe in the dust.

Here are a few things to remember when it comes to dust baths:

  • Only place dust in the container when it’s time for a dust bath. Permanent access to chinchilla dust can lead to behavior issues.
  • Give your chinchilla a dust bath during the evening when they are active.
  • A dust bath of 10 to 15 minutes is more than enough for your chinchilla. Extra time spent in the dust bath can lead to dried skin.
  • Repeat the process multiple times a week to ensure your chinchilla’s coat remains healthy and clean all the time.
How to Give Your Chinchilla a Dust Bath
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How Often Should Chinchillas Take Dust Baths?

A few dust baths every week is more than enough for chinchillas. While two to three dust baths per week can help chinchillas maintain their soft fur, excess baths can lead to complications. 

Frequent dust baths remove the natural oils from a chinchilla’s body, making it dry out.[3]

Dry skin is dangerous for chinchillas as it can lead to skin infections and allergies. Some chinchillas also develop eye issues from long dust baths.

Continuous access to dust baths also conditions chinchillas to use the dust as a litter box. To avoid this, place your chinchilla in the dust bath a few times per week and let them do their thing.

It is important to remove the dust bath after 10 to 15 minutes, or earlier if your chinchilla is done.

How Often Should You Replace the Dust in Your Chinchilla’s Bathtub?

Chinchilla dust turns rough quickly. Change the dust in your chinchilla’s dust bath once a week to keep it soft. Multiple dust baths can make chinchilla dust absorb a lot of the natural body oils making it clumpy.

The dust soon loses its freshness and becomes damp over time. If it looks soiled or oily, it is time to replace the dust in your chinchilla’s bathtub.

Conclusion

These small rodents require regular dust baths to remove the excess oils and dirt from their bodies.

Water is not suitable for rodents with dense fur such as chinchillas. Do not use water to clean your chinchilla’s fur, as it can lead to several complications. Multiple dust baths with proper chinchilla dust are needed to keep your chinchilla’s coat healthy and free from impurities.

FAQs

What Is Chinchilla Dust Made Of?

Chinchilla dust is made of ground volcanic pumice and is a special variety of dust made to resemble volcanic ash. In the wild, chinchillas rely on volcanic ash and Andean clay to bathe their bodies. Pet chinchillas require similar dust to clean themselves. Chinchilla dust serves as an alternative to natural volcanic ash and helps keep pet chinchillas free from dirt and debris.

Why Do Chinchillas Roll in Dust?

Chinchillas roll in dust occasionally to bathe themselves. This process is called dust bathing. Dust baths are used by animals and birds to remove dirt from their bodies. This type of bathing is commonly reserved for animals with dense and thick fur, which is difficult to dry. Rolling in the dust helps chinchillas bathe themselves and remove any debris from their coat.

How to Get Rid of Dust on a Chinchilla?

Dust baths make your chinchilla accumulate layers of dust on its fur. Chinchillas shake and groom themselves right after a dust bath to remove excess dust. A good duster can help remove the dust from your chinchilla’s fur.

What is a Chinchilla’s Bathhouse?

Pet chinchillas usually have a bathhouse made of plastic that contains chinchilla dust. These bathhouses are sturdy and must be stable to avoid topple-overs. Chinchillas roll in the dust aggressively, which can make the bathhouse sway front and back if proper stability is not provided. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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