Q: My two-year-old Chinchilla Violet has been losing a lot of fur recently. In the past week, I even discovered a bald patch on her. What should I do?

A: Chinchillas are natural shedders, shedding their fur every few months. Excess fur loss can cause health problems if your chin ingests the hairs she sheds—it can lead to intestinal blockages. It is recommended that you keep her cage clean during the shedding period. A healthy chinchilla should have soft and silky fur, so when there are bald patches or broken fur, it could indicate a problem.

Losing fur, also known as alopecia, can be attributed to a variety or even a combination of factors. These include bacteria, fungal and parasitic infestation, or excessive licking when self-grooming. There are various reasons why your chin may lick itself excessively. It could be due to itch, boredom, trauma, hormonal changes, diet and even airborne allergens in the case of allergic reactions.

I suggest bringing your little critter to the vet to rule out any serious problems. Your vet may ask you a series of questions pertaining to its environment, the onset of balding, progression and diet. It is advisable to make a mental note of the answers to these possible questions before making an appointment. You can also take photos of her cage and food. Providing background on your chinchilla’s nutrition and living conditions will help your vet to provide a more accurate diagnosis, and in turn prescribe the most appropriate treatment.

Before a presumptive diagnosis can be made, skin samples need to be collected for testing, fur for testing of fungal culture and ultraviolet light testing. Sometimes, a definitive verdict may not be found. The type of treatment depends on what your vet diagnoses to be the cause of the balding. Treatment methods vary from oral medications to topical lotions, creams, washes and sprays.

You should bring your balding chinchilla to a vet as soon as possible. If her fur follicles are permanently damaged, no amount of treatment can help restore her coat.

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