Why Do Chinchillas Need Dust Baths?

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chinchilla dust bath

If you are considering adopting pet chinchillas you will need to give them dust baths!

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that correctly. Since chinchillas can’t get wet due to their thick fur, they needed to figure out a different way to stay clean. That is where dust baths come into play.

In the wild, chinchillas use volcanic dust to clean themselves. So we need to provide our chinchillas with specially made dust to satisfy this need. 

If you are confused, don’t worry. We are taking a deep dive into all things dust baths in this post.

So What Are Dust Baths?

Yes, dust baths are exactly what they sound like. Animals (like chinchillas) that participate in dust baths literally roll around in dust to get clean. The fine dust helps remove trapped oil from their fur.

In the wild, chinchillas use volcanic rock dust for their baths. By rolling around in this fine powder, they are able to clean themselves without using any water.

How do Pet Chinchillas Get Clean?

Although they don’t have access to volcanic dust, pet chinchillas still need dust baths to get clean.

So, to help your chinchilla stay clean, make sure you give them access to dust and a bathing container.

When your chinchilla is ready for a bath, they will roll around in the thin layer of dust. As they roll around, they are using the fine powder to remove any unwanted dirt or oil from their fur.

Chinchillas love dust baths. One of my chinchillas is a trouble maker and escapes his exercise room. When he does this, one of the only things that can get him back is his dust bath. He runs right for it, and then I just put my hand over the opening and carry him back!

In this video, you can see how a chinchilla takes a dust bath. Chinchillas simply roll and flip around in the dust to clean all of their fur.

Dust Baths: The How to Guide

So we know why chinchillas need dust baths. Now, let’s take a closer look at how to create the perfect dust bath for your chinchilla.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Before creating a dust bath, you need to make sure you have the right supplies. The two key ingredients for a dust bath are the:

  • Dust- The dust is the key ingredient for a dust bath. Make sure to select a dust that is safe and nontoxic. Most chinchillas prefer fine dust over grainy dust. You may have to try a few different varieties before you find your chinchilla’s preferred dust.
  • Bathing Container- In addition to the dust, make sure you have a bathing container. This needs to be large enough for your chinchilla to roll around in. There are a few different varieties available. You just need to decide if you want an open or closed top container. I prefer the ones that look like little houses, because they keep the dust contained. If you put it in an open bowl overtime you will start to notice it accumulating on surfaces throughout the room. It also gets in your air conditioner and clogs it up – unfortunately I didn’t know this until it was too late. 

Step 2: Prepare the Bath

When you are ready to give your chinchilla a dust bath, set the bathing container in their cage. Fill the container with around 1-2 tsp of dust. Then, allow your chinchilla to roll around in the dust.

Step 3: Finish the Bath

The dust bath should only last about 10-15 minutes. If your chinchilla takes a longer bath, their skin might start to dry out.

You can reuse the dust for multiple baths. Simply pour the remaining dust back into the storage container. Once the dust starts to clump or look discolored, you know it is time to discard it.

Step 4: Repeat

Your chinchilla can take a bath about two to three times a week. It can be hard to resist giving them daily baths because they are very cute to watch. But, if your chinchilla takes frequent baths, their skin will start to dry out and flake off, and it could develop other problems as well

How Often Should Chinchillas Take a Dust Bath?

Your chinchilla only needs to take a few dust baths every week. Make sure your chinchilla doesn’t have constant access to the dust bath. It will dry out their skin and strip away its natural oils. One of the chinchillas I used to work with had chronic eye issues from being given too many baths. We had to give him eye drops, which is exactly as hard as you are thinking!

Sometimes chinchillas who have their dust bath in their cage for long periods of time will start going to the bathroom in it as well. The dust then dries and they roll in it again! Some will also sleep in their dust bath, which can leads to respiratory issues.

A good rule of thumb is to give a bath two or three days a week. Just place the dust bath in their cage and let them do their thing! Chinchillas instinctively know what to do with the dust, and its pretty darn adorable. 

Also, each bath should only last 10-15 minutes. Be sure to remove the bath after the allotted time.

What do I Need?

Pet chinchillas don’t have access to volcanic rock dust. So what do they need for their dust baths?

As we mentioned earlier, dust baths are relatively simple. You really only need two items for a successful dust bath: dust and a bathing container.

Most commercial chinchilla dust is made from a material called blue cloud or beauty blue. This material is made from pumice stone, which is very similar to the volcanic dust used by wild chinchillas.

In addition to the dust, your chinchilla also needs a bathing container. There are many different varieties available. You can choose an open or closed top container. Some baths are shaped like small pools while others look like miniature houses.

You need to decide what type of bathing container your chinchilla will like best. Keep in mind that a closed top container will help keep more of the dust inside the container (instead of creating a mess outside the bathing container).

So Why Dust Baths?

Even though chinchillas can’t get wet, they still need to keep themselves clean. To do so they will roll around in volcanic dust, which is made of really small particles. It penetrates their thick fur and helps remove oil and other grime from their skin. 

Chinchillas are actually not the only animals that participate in dust baths. But, other animals use dust baths for different purposes. Some animals roll around in dust to help remove parasites from their fur. Others coat themselves in dust as a form of sunscreen.

Other animals that participate in dust baths include:

  • Gerbils
  • Bison
  • Domestic dogs and cats
  • Pigs
  • Horses
  • Llamas
  • Hamsters
  • Prairie Dogs

Why Can’t Chinchillas Get Wet?

So  why exactly can’t chinchillas get wet?

If you’ve ever held a chinchilla, you probably noticed that they have very dense fur. This fur is fluffy and cute. But it is also very hard to dry since it is so thick. So if chinchillas get wet, their fur will stay wet for a long time. And this wet fur can cause them to develop infections.

Additionally, chinchillas with wet fur have a difficult time regulating their body temperature. They can get cold and this can lead to devastating health problems for your chinchilla.

So, to avoid these potential health issues – never let your chinchilla get wet. If for some reason your chinchilla gets wet, call a vet and ask for guidance.

Quick FAQ

What happens if a chinchilla doesn’t get a dust bath?

A chinchilla’s fur will get oily and start to stick together. The oils build up until a chinchilla ends up looking very ragged and delapetated. This will eventually result in health issues, and severely affects the chinchilla’s quality of life.

What is chinchilla dust made of?

It is usually made out of very finely ground pumice. This dust is the most similar to the volcanic ash that chinchillas would use in the wild.

Sand vs dust?

Both are commercially availible, but you should use dust if you can. The dust is fine enough to get down through their thick fur to their skin. If you use sand, it won’t penetrate the fur all the way to the folicle, and your chinchilla won’t get as clean. The larger particles in the sand can also really irritate their eyes.

Is chinchilla dust harmful to humans?

Nope, it isn’t harmful to pets either. Would I stick my head in a jar and snort some up? No probably not, but it isn’t a toxic substance.

If my chinchilla gets wet, should I just give it a bunch of dust baths?

No! If your chinchilla gets wet you need to call a vet right away. It can cause serious health issues, and extra dust baths won’t be enough.

Final Thoughts

We hope you feel more confident about giving your pet chinchilla a dust bath.

Overall, dust baths are fairly simple. Your chinchilla just needs access to dust and a bathing container. They instinctively know to roll around in the dust. During this process, any unwanted oils or grime are being removed.

Just remember, chinchillas only need dust baths two or three times a week. And these baths should really only last 10-15 minutes.

Do you have experience giving your chinchilla dust baths? I would love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments below!

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