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Overheating and Heatstroke

Chinchillas evolved in an area that is cool and dry. The average temperature for the area is 65° Fahrenheit and little to no rainfall. Because of this, chinchillas do not tolerate heat and humidity very well and can overheat quite easily. When overheating, a chinchilla can suffer from heat stroke and die. Chinchilla owners should learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of overheating and heat stroke, how to treat either one, and how to prevent it.

Signs and Symptoms of Overheating
Chinchilla showing signs of overheating
Red Ears are a sign that the chinchilla is to hot.

Treatment for Overheating
If symptoms of overheating are present, the chinchilla should be taken to a cooler area immediately or provided with a means of cooling itself down. Some methods include, but are not limited to the following:
Multiple methods can be used to help the chinchilla cool down. An example might be to move the animal to an air conditioned room and provide it with cool tiles or frozen water bottles.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke (in addition to those listed above)
Treatment of Heat Stroke
Not all of the symptoms listed need to be present for the chinchilla to be suffering from heat stroke. If the chinchilla exhibits some of the symptoms of heat stroke and signs of overheating, immediately take action to cool the animal.

  1. Find a bowl or basin that is large enough to hold the chinchilla and cool water.
  2. Fill the basin with cool water. Do not add ice or use water that has been in the refrigerator or freezer. Water that is too cold could cause more harm than good by shocking the chinchilla.
  3. Submerge the chinchilla in the water keeping its head out of the water so it can breathe.
  4. Keep the chinchilla submerged for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes. This is necessary to get the chinchilla’s temperature down to normal levels.
  5. Once the chinchilla has cooled down, dry the fur thoroughly with a towel. Do not use a blow dryer. The heat from a blow dryer can actually overheat the chinchilla again.
  6. If the chinchilla will take it, give it some cool water to drink.
  7. Take the chinchilla to an exotics veterinarian to be checked as soon as possible. This is an emergency and should be treated as such. If it is not possible to get to a veterinarian, place the chinchilla is a cool, draft free area. The temperature should be between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep a close eye on it for the next several hours or until a veterinarian is available. Try not to disturb the chinchilla too much so it can rest.
Note: If a large enough bowl or basin cannot be found, the sink can be used in its place or the chinchilla can be held under the faucet, keeping its head out of the water, with cool water running over its body for 15 to 20 minutes

This overheated chinchilla is trying
 to cool off by stretching out on
a tiled surface. Note the red
 in the lighter parts of its ears
indicating that the chinchilla is too hot.

Overheating and heat stroke are both very dangerous for a chinchilla and can happen quite quickly at temperatures that feel normal for humans. Additionally, chinchillas can overheat in temperatures that are considered safe if they are running, jumping, running on a wheel, in an exercise ball, or if the humidity is higher than normal. This can happen regardless of whether the chinchilla is out of the cage or running loose for playtime.

It is quite easy to prevent overheating and heat stroke in chinchillas. Following is a list of preventative measures that can be taken to keep chinchillas from overheating.
And last, but most importantly, find an exotics veterinarian that has experience with chinchillas prior to any emergency. When a chinchilla is suffering from heat stroke is not a good time to start looking for a veterinarian who is capable of treating it. Heat stroke is an emergency and should be treated as such.