Small animals die fast.
When a small animal gets sick, things can deteriorate quickly.
Before you know it, your pet can die.
That is why it is important to avoid feeding your chinchilla anything that could be harmful.
What should you avoid feeding? What foods are poisonous to chinchillas?
Keep reading to learn exactly which food you should always avoid, because they could seriously harm, and even kill, your chinchilla.
What Foods Are Poisonous To Chinchillas?
There are a lot of foods that can harm chinchillas. Most will not kill them immediately, but they can cause serious digestive issues, or other problems, that can quickly lead to death. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things you should avoid feeding your chinchilla.
Rabbit food is not safe for chinchillas. In excess, can cause stomach issues in your pet. While rabbits and chinchillas may seem to be similar and often eat similar foods, the two animals have different digestive systems.
Rabbits, have cecum and large intestines which help them easily break down the enzymes in fruits and vegetables. Chinchillas lack cecum and cannot digest fruits and vegetables in excess.
While commercial rabbit food may not always be toxic to chinchillas, it could contain certain ingredients that chins may find hard to digest. These ingredients can result in severe stomach pain or bloating in your small pet.
Furthermore, most commercial rabbit pellets can contain ACS coccidiostat or medicines like clopidol, robenidine, or salinomycin. These are added to rabbit food to prevent coccidiosis infection in rabbits. However, coccidiostat medicines are downright toxic to chinchillas and degus.
It is also important to note that rabbit food is specially formulated for rabbits and hares and may not provide your chinchilla with all the nourishment it needs. Therefore, it is best to avoid feeding rabbit food to chinchillas.
Hamster And Gerbil Food
Just like rabbit food, hamster and gerbil foods are not formulated to meet the nutritional needs of chinchillas. Chins need high-fiber, low-sugar, and low-fat diets, whereas most hamster and gerbil foods are high in proteins and fats.
These can be harmful to your chinchilla, especially when fed in excess. Many hamster and gerbil foods contain nuts. Nuts are high in fats and can cause obesity in chinchillas. Can chinchillas eat nuts at all? Yes, but only in very small amounts.
Also, many manufacturers of hamster and gerbil foods are known to add sugar, molasses, dried fruits, and more to enhance the taste. These sugary foods can result in dental issues in chinchillas. They can also cause type-2 diabetes in chinchillas, if eaten in excess.
A steady supply of hamster or gerbil food can also result in nutritional deficiencies in chinchillas which, in turn, could invite a host of diseases in your delicate pet. So, please avoid feeding hamster or gerbil food to your pet chinchilla.
Chinchillas are hind-gut fermenting animals. This means that their digestive tracts are not equipped to handle sugary foods, including molasses and even certain fruits. Unfortunately, many commercial pellets for chinchillas and small rodents contain cane molasses.
Manufacturers add these to enhance their taste and make the food more palatable. In small quantities, these foods may not be toxic to your chinchilla. But in excess, they could cause digestive issues in your chin.
Furthermore, excess consumption of sugary foods can result in dental issues as well as obesity in chinchillas. That is why it is best to avoid commercial chinchilla foods containing sugar and molasses.
Thankfully, there are a number of nutritionally balanced commercial pelleted foods available for chinchillas. Chinchilla food manufacturers also have experts on board to answer any questions you may have about your chin’s diet.
You can also consult an exotic vet or a knowledgeable chinchilla breeder to learn the exact feeding guidelines and to get advice on specific products.
While chinchillas are primarily herbivores and need plant-based, high-fiber diets, many vegetables are forbidden for this species. Here is a list of vegetables that you should never feed your chin:
- Cabbage: Cabbage contains glucosinolates which further break down into isothiocyanates that are toxic to chinchillas. In excess, they can result in severe diarrhea, bloating, and other digestive issues in chins.
- Asparagus: This vegetable isn’t toxic to chins but it does contain a large quantity of sugar (that chinchillas don’t need) and very little fiber (which they do need). Too much asparagus can result in bloating and diarrhea in chinchillas.
- Spinach: Spinach contains oxalates which, over time, can result in kidney or bladder stones in chinchillas.
- Rhubarb and rhubarb leaves: The stalks and leaves of rhubarb contain oxalic acid, a toxic compound that binds with calcium in your pet’s body. Over time, this can cause calcium oxalate stones that can harm your pet’s kidneys and bladder.
Learn more about which vegetables are safe and which are not in this article. And note that some of the vegetables on the list above are fine, even good, in tiny amounts. But it is usually just better to avoid them altogether. See our article titled “Can chinchillas eat spinach?” for more.
Just like vegetables, certain fruits can be harmful to chinchillas due to their high sugar content. Many chinchillas have even died from seizures after eating sugary fruits like bananas. Here are the main fruits to avoid feeding your chinchilla.
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons, could be too acidic for chinchillas and could harm their sensitive digestive tracts.
- Avocado: Fruits like avocado are also best avoided. They contain a compound called persin which can be toxic to your chin and could result in diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and even liver failure in your pet. The large pit in avocados can be a choking hazard and may even result in intestinal blockage if swallowed accidentally.
- Grapes and raisins: These are harmful to dogs and cats, and some owner like to avoid them for chinchillas as well. Grapes and raisins contain compounds that have been linked to kidney failure in animals. That said, chinchillas can eat small amounts of raisins and grapes.
- Stone fruits: Cherries and other stone fruits, like plums, contain pits that can pose a choking hazard to chinchillas.
The best fruits are ones that contain less sugar and water, like coconuts or rose hips. But even then, you need to limit it to tiny amounts and once or twice a week (3 times at most). Learn more about safe and unsafe fruits in this article.
Processed Human Foods
Human foods containing artificial ingredients, preservatives, sugar, salt, oil, an more can also be toxic to chinchillas. Feeding processed human foods in excess can result in dental issues, obesity, and digestive problems in chinchillas.
Many processed human foods are high in fat, sugar, salt, etc. Not only do these ingredients not provide any health benefits to your chinchilla, but they can also cause severe harm to their sensitive digestive system.
Some processed human foods also contain alcohol or caffeine which can cause seizures in your pet. This article covers safe human foods to feed your chinchilla.
Chocolates is toxic to almost all animals including our chinchillas. They could suffer from severe toxicity symptoms caused by a compound called theobromine present in chocolate.
Chinchillas cannot metabolize theobromine and it could cause neurological symptoms like seizures, tremors, and even death in these animals. Can chinchillas eat chocolate in any amount? No, you definitely want to keep all chocolate-based foods out of your pet’s reach.
What Can Chinchillas Not Eat: Final Thoughts
Chinchillas have sensitive stomachs and digestive systems. They are unable to properly digest many compounds. As a result, there are a lot of foods that can be toxic to chinchillas.
If you avoid the foods above, you go a long way toward ensuring your chinchilla stays happy and healthy. But ideally, you should only feed your pet food pellets and Timothy hay. That combination gives them all the nutrients they need.
If you want to feed additional treats, stick to things that are known to be safe. This article lists safe treats. As always, give treats in moderation and if you are ever in doubt, ask your vet. Do not feed your chin anything unless you know for sure it is safe.