January 23, 2023 by Umair Shahid
Chinchillas are by far the cutest social animals you can keep as pets. These furry animals possess the densest fur that can trap moisture very well.
Consequently, the skin of your chinchilla is predisposed to bacterial and fungal infections. Certain fungal infections such as ringworm can affect chinchillas’ skin and make their life quite uncomfortable.
Ringworm isn’t actually a worm, but a type of fungal infection known as dermatophytosis. Ringworm can grow and cause infection on the chinchilla’s face, ear, legs, and genitals leading to dry, crusty, and flaky skin lesions.
Following a ringworm infection, you may see a ring-shaped lumpy red rash containing fungus. Ringworm infection is treatable with topical medication and maintaining cleanliness.
Digging deep into what kind of specie these ringworms are, you may find Trichophyton and Microsporum, the main culprits.
The major route of infection is via contact between an already infected animal or hum and unclean soil. There is also a possibility that your chinchilla is carrying fungal spores in its or her fur, which can infect you by touching your pet.
Causes of Ringworm in Chinchillas
Whether it is the environmental conditions or the contact with an infected organism, ringworms can spread very easily.
If you are suffering from a ringworm infection, I recommend you stay away and don’t touch your chinchilla. Your infection can easily pass on to another person or chinchilla very easily through fungal spores.
Unsanitary conditions such as dirty cages and wet and contaminated bedding provide an ideal environment for fungus to grow.
Your chinchilla can get them easily if hygienic conditions are not properly looked after. The same goes for dust baths. If another infected chinchilla contaminates it then you must change the dirt quickly before it infects the healthy one.
Recent studies have shown that fungi grow at an exponential rate in the presence of moisture. Exotic animal veterinarians don’t recommend bathing your chinchilla at all in water due to the dense moisture-retaining fur.
A wet or recently water-bathed chinchilla is at a higher risk of getting a ringworm infection on the skin.
If your chinchilla is staying dirty all the time, then I have bad news for you. Dirty fur is the breeding ground for most parasites and fungi.
These parasites are opportunistic and proliferate tremendously in unsanitary conditions. The provision of a dust bath and regular cleaning is your go-to option to lower the risk of ringworm.
Signs & Symptoms of Ringworm in Chinchillas
If you look at the typical lesion produced by ringworm, you can clearly distinguish it from other infections.
Ringworm, as the name suggests, produces a concentric ring on the skin in which the fungus resides and grows.
It expands itself over time, feeding on the skin and causing crusting and flakiness over and around the infected area.
As a veterinarian, I often advise chinchilla owners to pay close attention to the skin of their pets. Any loose flakes either on the hair or in the cage are an indication of something going wrong with your chinchilla.
The dry skin starts from the origin of the infection and spread in a circle around the ringworm.
As the infection progresses, you’ll start noticing bald patches with no fur over them. The general hair loss combined with the severe infection will start damaging the skin creating a wound.
The hair follicles start getting inflamed which makes the hair brittle and easy to break. The irritation and itching caused by ringworm will produce discomfort for your chinchilla.
If you notice hair fall and more hair present in the cage of your chinchilla, you should look after his or her skin immediately.
Please keep in mind that these rodents shed their fur to allow new hair growth, so the presence of a small amount of hair is not a confirmation of the presence of ringworm.
The wounds caused by biting and scratching will eventually form scabs and you’ll see crusting on the skin.
Identification of Ringworm in Chinchillas
There are higher chances that you might diagnose the presence of ringworm by visual inspection of the possible signs and symptoms.
Exotic animal experts advise not to rely only on general skin lesions. The confirmation of the ringworm infection is only made by booking an appointment with your nearly small animal veterinarian.
Many chinchilla owners, after looking at the definitive signs, start looking for different treatment approaches. This shouldn’t be done in any case, as relying solely on incomplete data can be misleading.
Starting ringworm treatment after a false diagnosis at home will never treat the problem and the condition will be totally unresponsive to the given treatment.
With that being said, your veterinarian will take a swab sample from the skin lesion and do the culturing process. The culture growth on a particular medium will confirm whether it is the ringworm, another fungus, or another pathogen.
Your veterinarian may need to run a DNA test such as PCR to identify which specie of the fungus your chinchilla is dealing with.
Certain fungi produce luminescence in the presence of an ultraviolet light source. This test is known as the wood’s lamp test and it is used to confirm the fungal presence, as this parasite can glow in the dark.
Once identified and diagnosed, now it’s time to develop a strategic treatment plan after consulting your veterinarian.
Prevention & Cure of Ringworm in Chinchillas
In contrast to bacterial infections, fungal infections take a long time and vigorous treatment plan to get eliminated completely.
You have to maintain cleanliness and cure the existing infection at the same time. Moreover, there are some steps you must ensure to apply on a daily basis if you want your chinchilla to be ringworm-free.
Prepare Yourself & Your Chinchilla
The foremost suggestion I can give you is to take care of the possible infection origins. You must take immediate action on separating the infected chinchilla from the healthy one. At the same time, look for any signs of infections on your arm and skin.
There is no point in treating the ringworm if you caught it at the end of the treatments and then reinfect the chinchilla.
Maintain Hygienic Conditions
Deep cleaning of your chinchilla’s cage and getting rid of all the fallen hair and wood shavings is the first step towards treating ringworm.
You should clean the cage thoroughly and, in the meantime, carefully place your chinchilla in another safe place. Removal of the litter box, dust bath, and fleece bedding is your top priority.
Wash the cage under hot water and let it stay in soap solution for a while. Consider adding an anti-fungal solution to the water. Throw the fleece toys and accessories all together, as they are the biggest source of fungal spores that cannot be easily killed.
Ideally, you must spray everything in the cage and then dry it under sunlight before placing your chinchilla back inside.
Trim the Fur
Fungal infections, such as ringworm, grow very well under moisture conditions.
If your chinchilla is currently suffering from ringworm, consider clipping the fur of your chinchilla.
Allowing more airflow to the skin of your chinchilla will make the ringworm harder to sustain and grow. It is better to just trim the fur around the infected area and not the whole body.
Use Topical & Oral Antifungal Medications
Your vet will surely prescribe you some antifungal ointments or cream to apply on the infected part one to two times per day. You must take precautions in applying this topical anti-fungal so you don’t get infected with ringworm.
Wear high-quality gloves and completely dispose of them after the antifungal application.
In severe infections, there is a need to treat the chinchilla vigorously using a combination of both topical and oral medications.
You can use a dropper and administer the calculated dose to your chinchilla as per veterinarian instructions.
How severe can ringworm be in chinchillas?
Although not fatal, ringworm infections can cause serious hair loss and skin wounds. The continuous itching and scratching will lead to a depressed chinchilla and cause other secondary infections.
Can I get infected by my chinchilla’s ringworm?
You are likely to get infected if you touch or make contact with the skin of your chinchilla. You should adopt protective measures to ensure you don’t get infected while caring for your chinchilla.
How to quickly treat chinchilla’s ringworm?
Fungal infections take a considerable time to get treated, so you must be patient in the treatment journey of your chinchilla. Proper cleaning of the cage and premises of your chinchilla will make the process quicker and less overwhelming for you and your chinchilla.
Following the animal expert’s recommendations, you can easily treat ringworm in chinchillas and prevent its further spread.
Ringworm infections are pretty nasty and hectic to deal with and only be cured by following cleanliness and prescribed treatment measures.
As a veterinarian, I recommend you take care of the hygiene around your chinchilla and provide clean dust baths to prevent future ringworm infections.
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.