Chinchillas are rodents.
And rodents famously carry numerous diseases.
Including many that can infect us.
It is the primary reason many people are afraid of rats.
But chinchillas are not like rats, right?
Or do chinchillas carry diseases, too? Diseases that can make us seriously ill, or even kill us.
The answer is not a simple yes or no. Keep reading to learn if chinchillas can carry diseases, what kind of diseases, and what kind of risk there is of a chinchilla infecting you.
- 1 Do Chinchillas Carry Diseases?
- 1.1 Chinchilla Diseases To Humans
- 1.2 Do Chinchillas Carry Rabies?
- 1.3 Is it Safe To Keep A Chinchilla As A Pet?
- 1.4 Does Chinchilla Poop Carry Bacteria?
- 1.5 Can You Get Giardia From Chinchillas?
- 1.6 Can I Cuddle My Chinchilla?
- 2 Chinchilla Zoonotic Diseases: Final Thoughts
Do Chinchillas Carry Diseases?
Yes, there is a chance that chinchillas can transmit certain diseases to humans. Some of the diseases we could catch from chinchillas include giardia, ringworm, salmonella, and a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV).
However, this is not something you need to worry about too much. The transmission of these diseases from chinchilla to human is extremely rare. And with proper hygiene and regular veterinary care, you can greatly reduce the risks.
Nevertheless, it pays to know which diseases you could get from your pet and how to minimize the risks of doing do.
Chinchilla Diseases To Humans
Next we will take a closer look at the most common zoonotic transmissions from chinchillas to humans.
Humans can get giardia after coming into contact with infected chinchilla droppings. In many cases, chinchillas are carriers of giardia but they may not show any symptoms.
If an immunocompromised person comes into contact with the droppings of an infected chinchillas, they could develop symptoms of giardia: high fever, severe diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy. Treatment for giardia includes antibiotics like metronidazole.
Ringworm is a contagious fungal skin disease. It is not a worm as the name indicates. Rather, the condition causes lesions on the skin that appear as if a worm is crawling underneath the skin.
An infected chinchilla could transmit ringworm infection to its cage mates as well as to humans. In addition to skin lesions, ringworm causes an intense itch. The lesions also spread all over the body, including the scalp. This can result in dandruff, hair loss, and an itchy scalp.
Treatment for ringworm includes medicated baths; the use of anti-fungal dips, shampoos, or soaps; topical antifungal creams; and oral medicines.
In rare cases, infected chinchillas could pass on salmonella, which is a bacterial infection, to humans. The disease causes short but intense bouts of diarrhea, high fever, and vomiting in humans.
It is worse for pregnant women, because salmonella could also impact the unborn baby. Salmonella is treated with antibiotics.
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus or LCMV, is a viral infection, as the name indicates. An infected chinchilla could pass this disease on to humans through its droppings, urine, and saliva.
Symptoms of LCM virus include flu-like symptoms: fever, runny nose, body ache, lethargy, high fever, etc. In some cases, an infected patient may develop meningitis or encephalitis. Therefore, prompt treatment is a must.
Do Chinchillas Carry Rabies?
Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a deadly virus. It results in inflammation of the brain and, ultimately, death.
Usually, animals like unvaccinated (stray) dogs, cats, raccoons, bats, skunks, coyotes, and foxes carry rabies strains.
Small animals like our chinchillas, guinea pigs, and hamsters do not carry rabies. Having said that, it is still important to take all proper precautions and follow hygiene guidelines when handling these small pets.
Is it Safe To Keep A Chinchilla As A Pet?
Yes, it is generally safe to keep a chinchilla as a pet, as long as you follow all the basic precautions and care guidelines. In fact, chinchillas are highly popular as pets these days due to their cute looks, soft fur (they have the softest fur among all land mammals!), and quirky habits.
If you plan to keep a chinchilla as a pet, read up on everything you can about its care. You also have to invest in a spacious cage for your fur buddy: two chinchillas need a cage of at least 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet.
Always buy your chinchillas from a reputable breeder. This will guarantee that the animals are healthy and do not carry the aforementioned zoonotic diseases.
Aim to feed your pet a balanced diet comprising high-quality hay and specially formulated pellets for chinchillas to keep it healthy.
Regularly clean your chinchilla’s cage to reduce the risk of disease. This includes a deep-cleaning session at least once every 15 days. Avoid touching chinchilla droppings directly. Use gloves instead.
Remove all the soiled bedding and replace it with fresh, dry bedding. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after cleaning.
Does Chinchilla Poop Carry Bacteria?
Chinchillas poop a lot–almost 250 times a day! This is enough to make you wonder whether their poop carries germs and pathogens.
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Chinchilla poop does contain bacteria, which could be harmful to humans.
If you happen to handle chinchilla poop or accidentally touch it directly, these germs could enter your body through tiny cuts. Also, if you touch your face, eyes, mouth, or nose with contaminated hands, you risk getting sick.
Mainly, chinchilla poop droppings can contain Salmonella or Giardia bacteria. These pathogens can result in infections with symptoms like fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is why it is best to avoid direct contact with chinchilla poop. Always wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning your pet’s cage.
Can You Get Giardia From Chinchillas?
Yes, as mentioned above, there is a possibility of chinchilla-to-human transmission of giardia. Giardia is a tiny parasite found in chinchillas’ poop and saliva. It could infect humans through direct contact with contaminated bedding, water bowls, and feces, or if the animal bites the human skin.
In many cases, a chinchilla could be a carrier of giardia without having any symptoms. Similarly, you could catch giardia from your chinchilla and remain asymptomatic.
However, in the sick, elderly, or young kids, the parasite could cause a host of symptoms like severe diarrhea, high fever, weight loss, dehydration, and dizziness.
To prevent getting giardia from chinchillas, you must practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, especially after cleaning your pet’s cage.
You must also regularly clean the chinchilla enclosure using vinegar and warm water to kill the giardia germs present on the surfaces. If you suspect your chinchilla is infected with giardia, please see your vet right away.
Can I Cuddle My Chinchilla?
Yes, you can cuddle your chinchilla without having to worry about catching any diseases from it. That said, some chinchillas will not want you to cuddle them.
Chinchillas are usually friendly and affectionate animals. However, they aren’t too fond of being held and cuddled by humans. They are naturally skittish and nervous animals and tend to get stressed if handled too much. A stressed chinchilla may also lose its fur, resulting in bald patches on its body.
If you want to cuddle your chinchilla, please be gentle. Respect its personal space. If it appears stressed (tries to escape, hides, or squeaks loudly), please put it back in its cage.
Always wash your hands thoroughly, before and after handling your chinchilla. This is important for both your and your pet’s health.
Remember that every chinchilla is different. Some like being handled while others may not. Always respect your chinchilla’s boundaries to ensure its safety.
Chinchilla Zoonotic Diseases: Final Thoughts
Hopefully you now have a better idea if chinchillas carry diseases and whether they can transmit them to humans. Luckily, the chance of catching something from your chinchilla is far lower than with most other rodents, assuming you take the proper precautions and keep your pet in hygienic conditions.
If you do suspect that your chinchilla has come down with a disease and possibly transmitted it to you or a family member, seek out professional help immediately. That means a doctor for you and a veterinarian for your chinchilla.