Last Modified

June 24, 2022 by Umair Shahid

It is somewhat true that there is a parasite for every living organism on earth. Chinchillas are no different when it comes to getting external or internal parasites. These furry animals also need to be checked for the presence of parasites such as lice. Although uncommon, chinchillas can get lice infestation when there is no routine check and care. 

Chinchillas are well-known for their docile nature and densest fur. The fur does help resist some of the parasites but your chinchilla is still a louse susceptible. The lice are a pretty resistant external parasite to deal with and the heavy infestation makes your chinchilla’s life full of scratching, irritation, and white flaky skin. Veterinary experts recommend monitoring and detecting the lice at an early stage to avoid severe skin problems. 

The thick fur combined with 80 to 90 hair per follicle is a heaven for these parasites to live in. Taking appropriate measures and timely handling of the situation is what every exotic animal expert will recommend to you. But it is highly unlikely that your chinchilla will get lice in his or her life as it happens very rarely through contact with another infected chinchilla.

Can Chinchillas Get Lice

Identification of Lice Infestation in Chinchillas

The foremost thing I can recommend after you see lice on your pet is don’t panic. Lice infestation in chinchillas isn’t a major issue and doesn’t usually result in serious problems. You can get rid of them easily, and this parasite doesn’t cause any considerable harm. However, proper monitoring and care are compulsory for early detection.

Let’s talk about some of the common signs you’ll encounter if your chinchilla has a lice problem. You can gently hold your chinchilla in your palm and perform a quick examination of the fur. If there are white flakes on the skin or a small white dot appearance on the fur, there is a possibility of lice infestation.

The material you see on the fur of chinchilla is indicative of different life forms of lice. For instance, the small white flakes give an indication of skin irritation, whereas the white dots represent lice and their eggs. On the other hand, if you see tiny black dots on the fur then that is the feces of the lice, feeding on the fur of your beloved pet.

You may find some of the lice crawling around on the superficial fur. However, if you don’t see any, you must pay closer attention by combing the fur and checking for the presence of lice. If there is no comb available, you can gently run your fingers through the fur and observe the signs such as redness of the skin.

Lice Infestation and Chinchilla’s Behavior

Apart from proper physical identification of the lice, you can simply observe how your chinchilla reacts to it. Exotic animal experts observe the behavior of these sensitive animals when under heavy parasitic load. The lice have a unique mechanism of feeding on the skin of animals that is quite fascinating in my opinion.

At the time of the bite, lice release a potent local anesthetic-like compound called sialome in the saliva. The compound will temporarily numb the site so your chinchilla won’t feel the bite and try to scratch the lice off. The lice will dislodge from the skin after feeding, leaving the bite site open under sialome’s effect.

Once the effect of this compound wears off, the body senses the cell injury and starts producing inflammatory mediators. There will be intense itching at the biting site and your chinchilla will try to bite and scratch the bitten area. In the meantime, you’ll notice the excessive fur barbering and scratching. 

Additionally, your furry friend will start getting lethargic and anorexic. The constant inflammation and scratching will put him or her under stress, leading to other potential health issues.

Chinchilla’s Lice Infestation & Your Role

Consult an Exotic Animal Veterinarian

Many chinchilla owners try to rely on certain antiparasitic sprays such as the frontline to kill these irritating parasites. As a veterinarian, the first and most important advice I can provide is don’t neglect the signs and immediately consult a veterinarian. Talking to an animal expert is always beneficial and gives you an additional edge on the infestation treatment.

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The vet will perform a real-time physical examination of the chinchilla and diagnose the possible condition using his precise diagnostic skills. Your vet may perform Trichogram, which is an essential parasitic identification test done under the microscope. In this way, even if the vet can’t find the lice on physical examination, he will at the microscopic level for early diagnosis.

After the possible identification, the vet will decide the proper therapeutic approach to get rid of lice safely. He may prescribe fur products to keep it fresh and parasite free and administer anti-allergy medication to counter the skin irritation. To sum this up, consulting an experienced veterinarian is your top-notch choice in case of lice infestation in chinchillas.

Some Precautions & Home Remedies for Lice in Chinchillas

When you search out the remedies for lice, you may observe advice on how to get rid of them. Unfortunately, most of the treatments that work on humans and other animals don’t work on chinchillas. Veterinary Experts don’t recommend any of these remedies as apart from being ineffective, they will ruin the quality of chinchilla’s fur.

Use Dust Baths

You are quite familiar with the dust bath and its importance in chinchillas. Frequent dust baths are a great solution to counter lice and irritation. The physical rolling will let the dust dislodge the lice and their eggs from the surface of the fur. However, I have some general advice if you’re planning to use dust baths. 

You must dispose of any previous bathing dust and don’t try to use it again. Similarly, don’t allow two chinchillas to bathe at the same time as it will infest both of them. Clean the cage thoroughly and don’t let your chinchilla do the dust baths near the cage.

Thoroughly Clean Chinchilla’s Cage

Thoroughly disinfecting the chinchilla’s cage with an antiparasitic solution is recommended to kill the lice. Make sure to cover every corner and crevices of the cage for zero chances of reinfestation in your healthy chinchilla. Apart from that special cleaning, you must maintain a routine of cleaning the cage per day with bleach and antibacterial agents.

Separation is Necessary

You can protect a healthy chinchilla by separating it from the infested one as soon as possible. Getting a pair is always a good choice if you don’t have enough time to give your chinchilla. But in case of recent lice infestations, you must immediately separate them and treat the infested one accordingly.

FAQs

Why does my pet chinchilla keep getting lice problems?

There are high chances that you are not removing the root cause of this problem. You must properly identify the source of the infestation, whether it is another host or the cage. Consult a veterinarian in case of any emergency or severe skin reaction to lice infestation.

Can I bathe my chinchilla in water to get rid of lice?

Bathing in water even with an antiparasitic solution is not ideal nor recommended. The fur of a chinchilla is the densest of any animal and it will trap the moisture quite easily. Using water instead of a dust bath will lead to additional skin problems, in addition to lice infestation. 

Can I or other people get infested with chinchilla lice?

Rodents do carry numerous parasites to your home. In the case of chinchillas, it is highly unlikely that the lice can be human head lice. You cannot get infested with them because lice and other parasites such as fleas and mites are host specific.

Conclusion

Seeing your chinchilla-infested and struggling with lice problem is quite cumbersome. It is something inevitable and can happen occasionally. Proper management and care are always the way to go in making your chinchilla feel comfortable and at peace. As a veterinarian, I suggest you keep monitoring the possible signs and behavior signifying lice infestation. 

Moreover, consulting a certified exotic animal expert is always better if your chinchilla is suffering from severe lice infestation.

Author

I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and have a keen interest in animal health care. Working as a veterinary content writer, I intend to stay with professional approach in producing quality content. I like research-based reading and currently seeking my veterinary profession. My hobbies are travelling to exotic places and observing nature to the fullest.

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