Just like most rodents, chinchillas are herbivores. They have small stomachs and extremely sensitive digestive systems. Therefore, their diets should be fiber-rich, mainly based on grass and hay.
Chinchillas can’t digest food that has a low level of fiber, high in water content, and is high in fructose. As a result, eating fresh berries can have a detrimental effect on their health. If you give your chinchilla the necessary nutrients it needs, there may be no need to give them treats.
Can chinchillas eat fresh berries? The answer depends on the type of berry. Each type has different nutrients, so it’s important to know which berries are harmful and the symptoms that may occur.
Can Chinchillas Eat Fresh Berries?
Chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains, a relatively arid environment. This causes their bodies to retain the water they consume. Therefore, if chinchillas eat food that’s high in water content, their bodies won’t be able to absorb it, resulting in a loose or liquid stool.
Generally, chinchillas shouldn’t eat fresh fruit or water-based fruit. Fresh fruit contains natural sugars that chinchillas have difficulty processing, which disrupts their digestive systems.
Moreover, water-based fruits have an even higher sugar content as well as high acidity levels and high phosphorus. This can lead to adverse reactions that require an urgent visit to the vet.
Fresh berries can have over 80% water, and they’re some of the most acidic fruits. Taking this into consideration, it’s advisable that you don’t feed your chinchilla fresh berries.
Nevertheless, in case your chinchilla happens to eat fresh berries—or fruit in general—you should monitor it as a precaution.
What Sort of Nutrients Do Berries Have?
80 to 90% of a chinchilla’s daily nutrient intake is derived from hay and grass. This gives you about 10 to 20% left for occasional treats.
Fresh berries either have more or less of what a chinchilla needs, and this is what could cause digestion problems and stomach aches in your chinchilla.
For example, 100 grams of blueberries contain 10g of sugar, about 84g of water, and about 2g of fiber. These nutrients are too high in sugar and water, but have little to no fiber in comparison to what a chinchilla needs.
Most fresh berries will be high in fructose and water, and this can cause digestive problems in a chinchilla. In addition, they don’t contain enough fiber, fat, and protein to give a chinchilla the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy diet.
That’s why fresh berries can’t be a part of a chinchilla’s daily diet. Even as treats, they should be given in small quantities once or twice a week.
What Happens If Chinchillas Eat Fresh Berries?
Feeding a chinchilla the wrong quantities of fresh berries frequently can lead to serious digestion problems. In some extreme cases, they can be life-threatening.
There are some symptoms that’ll tell you if a chinchilla is having a bad reaction to the berries. Here’s what you should look out for:
- Sudden stillness
- Decreased appetite
- Lack of drinking water
These symptoms are not immediately fatal, but if your chinchilla exhibits any of these, you should go to a vet. Make sure that the vet specializes in treating chinchillas.
Why Chinchillas Shouldn’t Eat Fresh Berries
You should be selective about what you feed your chinchilla. Because even though fresh berries are a healthy food option for us, they could be quite harmful to chinchillas.
Therefore, you should be informed and cautious about what you give your chinchilla to eat. You should also know that giving any type of berries to your chinchilla should be a rare occasion.
There are common nutrients found in fruits that may be harmful to chinchillas:
- High sugar content
- High acidity level
- High Phosphorus content
- High calcium content
- High fat content
It’s preferable that fruits that contain any of these nutrients, or a combination of them, are avoided.
[Related Article: Do Chinchillas Eat Dandelions And Rat Food?]
Types of Berries and Their Effect on Chinchillas
Each type of berry has different nutrients, and therefore, can have different effects on a chinchilla. Make sure that you’re around during treats time, so you can keep an eye on your chinchilla.
Although chinchillas will definitely love having blueberries as a treat, these berries aren’t good for them.
Blueberries are water-based fruits that have extremely high sugar content and high acidity. If you give them to a chinchilla, they could potentially cause them a stomach ache, digestion issues, or diarrhea.
Moreover, blueberries have low fiber levels, so they won’t be adding much to your chinchilla’s diet.
Strawberries are quite high in acidity, water, and sugar content, and low in fiber, protein, and fat content. As treats given on rare occasions, a bite-sized piece of strawberry shouldn’t have any negative effects on a chinchilla’s digestive system.
However, the fructose in a strawberry can lead to bloating, which could cause a rupture in the stomach lining.
Not only are cranberries extremely high in fructose and fat, they’re also high in phosphorus and are quite acidic.
These nutrients can cause stomach pain and diarrhea. In addition, they won’t contribute much to a chinchilla’s health.
Nevertheless, a half an inch piece of dried cranberries can be given to a chinchilla once a week, but not any more than that.
Raspberries have high sugar, fat, and calcium content. They’re also quite acidic. Therefore, they shouldn’t be given to a chinchilla.
If a chinchilla eats a raspberry, its stomach may not be able to digest it well, possibly causing diarrhea.
Even though it’s advisable that chinchillas don’t eat most types of berries, the nutrients in a goji berry make them a safe option for treats.
Goji berries are high in vitamins and low in sugar content. Therefore, one to two berries, given once or twice weekly, should be sufficient for your chinchilla, and won’t cause any digestion problems.
[Related Article: Can Chinchillas Eat Raisins? How Much Can We Feed Them?]
Tips to Giving Treats to Chinchillas
A chinchilla’s diet typically consists of hay and grass, which are full of all the nutrients a chinchilla needs. So, they don’t really need treats. However, chinchillas truly love fresh berries that are full of sugar.
So, even though you’re not supposed to offer them too often, you can use those sugary delights to your advantage. Some chinchilla owners recommend that you use fruit treats whenever it’s difficult to get the chinchilla back in its cage.
You can treat your chinchilla a maximum of four times per week if you live in a hot or dry climate. If the weather is on the colder side, then a chinchilla can have treats from once to twice per week.
One thing to always remember is that chinchillas have very sensitive stomachs, so anything outside of their usual diet should be introduced very slowly. This can show you if the treats are safe or harmful to your chinchilla.
Moreover, a sudden change in a chinchilla’s diet can stress it out and even make it sick. Therefore, take your time with the new treats and stop providing them if you notice any unusual behavior or changes in its stool.
[Related Article: Can Chinchillas Eat Honey Nut Cheerios? Will They Die?]
Giving your chinchilla treats isn’t the only way you can show it how much you love and care for it.
You can provide it with a lot of hay to eat. However, because it can become mouldy, it should be replaced on a regular basis. You should also change your chinchilla’s drinking water on a daily basis.
What’s more, chinchillas tend to eat their own droppings. This is actually normal and good for their health, so don’t prevent yours from doing so.