One of the most fascinating and amusing things about chinchillas is their fondness for dust baths. In the wild, these furry creatures are known to roll around in fine sand and volcanic ash either to groom themselves or simply while at play. This natural activity is how they keep their famous fur clean, plush and healthy. Thick by comparison to their rodent cousins and mammal relatives, the chinchilla’s hair follicle holds up to approximately 60 hairs. For other animals, each follicle holds only 1 to 2 hairs. During grooming, the only material able to penetrate right through the chinchilla’s dense coat is the finest dust.
Due to their arid natural environment, chinchillas have evolved to adapt with their harsh surroundings. Their thick fur helps in insulating their bodies because they aren’t really able to sweat. Instead, blood rushes to their ears to help them from overheating. Their coats play a big help in protecting them from extreme temperatures. More so, the thickness also keeps parasites out and other irritants away from their sensitive skin.
Unlike other pets where washing them with soap, shampoo, and water is needed, water is prohibited for chinchilla care. This is so because their skin is prone to fungal infections. Moisture is a good breeding ground for bacteria, so chinchilla dust baths are necessary to avoid such a circumstance. And here is where specific chinchilla dust bath comes in. Available in pet stores, they imitate the fine ash found in their natural habitat. Though some other material like powder may feel and seem like it, it may not be as effective and can only harm your pet. Varieties in the market even come with scents (some offering a whiff of vanilla) to make your pet smell nice and fresh. A home-made remedy to absorb odors is to mix the chinchilla dust bath with a tiny amount of baking soda.
Chinchilla dust takes in excess moisture, oil, and dirt without stripping the natural oil in their coats. Called “lanolin”, this natural oil is produced by the sebaceous glands in the chinchilla’s skin. The substance is a water-repellent, and acts as the first line of defense by collecting bacteria that may settle on its fur. Lanolin is also responsible for giving chinchilla fur that healthy shine. Chinchilla dust bath is a great absorber because it doesn’t entirely strip your pet’s coat off all its oil.
Keep in mind though that even if it’s ideal to bathe your pet at least twice a week for about 20 minutes, too much dust bathing will eventually dry out their skin. When it begins to flake and itch, shorten the duration and increase intervals of their bathing time. However, if humidity is high, your chinchilla pet’s fur tends to dirty quickly, becoming oily and matted. This calls for more dust baths within the week. Also, too much bathing can irritate the eyes, nostrils, and even the lungs of your pet. Keep a close watch because if this persists, they may also be allergic to the kind of chinchilla dust you are using. Try switching brands for better results; or to be sure, consult your vet.
Dust baths are essential to chinchilla care. They will not only benefit your chinchilla’s skin and coat. It is also essential to their well-being. By keeping them clean, you keep your pet away from health problems which can greatly affect their behavior. Also, they are playful creatures by nature and dust bathing is something they really enjoy. Owners can be sure that bathing will be one of the times they look forward to.