In general, chinchillas should be fed pulp only when absolutely necessary and only for a short period, not over an extended period of time. When chinchillas eat pulp, their continuously growing teeth do not wear down sufficiently and may need to be trimmed to the proper gum line by a veterinarian. Long teeth can develop quite quickly if there is not enough abrasive food being ground down. Chinchilla teeth grow at a rate of approximately 2mm per week. Additionally, feeding pulp can lead to a reduction in the chewing muscles, and the animals may become reluctant to chew, even if they could eat on their own.
The motto here is: As much as necessary, but as little as possible!
A temporary pulp diet is often necessary in cases of illnesses accompanied by reduced appetite, such as heart conditions or general pain. In these cases, the main issue needs to be resolved so that the animals can start eating independently again promptly.
A common reason for hand or syringe feeding is dental issues, which can prevent chinchillas from eating or cause them to refuse food due to pain. In such cases, the chinchilla must be properly treated, and it may eventually begin eating on its own at least partially.
Furthermore, chinchillas often need syringe feeding for a short time after surgical procedures (dental treatments, abscesses, castration, bone fractures, etc.) until they regain their strength, recover, and experience less pain.
In many cases, specific conditions (dental issues, uterine infections, bone fractures, castration, etc.) may require not only a thorough examination and appropriate treatment but also the administration of pain relief medication (Metacam, Novalgin) to help the chinchillas eat more comfortably.
A chinchilla requires approximately 480 kJ/kg BW/day to maintain its weight (WOLF et al. 2001).
According to the manufacturer, Critical Care has an energy content of 2.69 kcal/g (11.26 kJ/g).
This means that a 500g chinchilla has an energy requirement of 240 kJ/day, which could be met with 21.32g of Critical Care.
The recommended preparation of Critical Care is to mix 1 part powder with 1.5 parts warm water (Albrecht - Product Information).
However, one volumetric part of powder (one milliliter) does not correspond to one gram. The weight-to-volume ratio is approximately 1:1.5 (g/ml).
Therefore, the 21.32g of Critical Care is roughly equivalent to 31.98ml. This amount provides a porridge with an energy content of 240kJ at a mixing ratio of 1:1.5.
For animals with different weights, corresponding calculations must be made.
Additionally, it should be noted that sick and convalescent animals have an increased energy requirement. Some authors estimate it with a factor of 2-2.5. This would correspond to a pulp volume of over 160ml for a 500g animal. Whether this quantity is unproblematic for the animal is questionable.
It is a misconception to believe that the energy content of Critical Care significantly differs from our food pellets. As various feed analyses in the context of dissertations show, food pellets can even have a higher energy content (SCHRÖDER 2000, WENGER 1997).
Therefore, the differences in the required pulp volume at an equivalent pellet powder-to-water mixing ratio are expected to be within +/- 5ml range and not differ by a factor of '2'
Chinchillas typically consume food mainly during the dark hours or between 7:00 PM and 7:00 AM, with a peak feeding time between 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM (SCHRÖDER 2000, WENGER 1997).
Food consumed outside of this timeframe remains in the gastrointestinal tract for approximately twice as long (BREM 1982), which can lead to fermentation issues or increased gas accumulation, disrupting the normal gut flora (EWRINGMANN & GLÖCKNER 2005).
Considering these factors, pulp or syringe feeding should occur during the evening, night, and early morning hours when healthy chinchillas would also be eating. This recommendation is also supported by EWRINGMANN & GLÖCKNER.
Regarding the amount to feed, the latest literature (EWRINGMANN & GLÖCKNER) provides the following guidelines: a minimum of 50-80ml/kg/day, divided into 6-8 portions. This roughly corresponds to 6-13ml/kg/day per feeding.
There is limited information available about the stomach volume of chinchillas. BREM cites BICKEL with 60cm³. FEHR also provides this information (not yet verified from the source).
This value appears to be high and lacks a relationship to body weight. Additionally, the measurement method is not mentioned (BREM). X-ray images of chinchilla stomachs suggest a volume similar to that of guinea pigs. According to ROSENGARTEN, this volume is 6.7 ± 1.27 ml/100 g BW for guinea pigs.
ROSENGARTEN recommends not exceeding 20ml per application (tube feeding) in guinea pigs to avoid the risk of stomach overload or rupture.
Furthermore, the administration of larger volumes carries the risk of exerting pressure on the diaphragm, affecting cardiovascular and respiratory functions. It is debatable whether this is desirable for a forcibly-fed animal.
Each session should involve a quantity well below 20ml, for example, 8ml +/- 2ml.
If a chinchilla completely stops eating, more frequent syringe feeding is necessary compared to a chinchilla that only requires supplementation while still consuming other food. Initially, it does not matter which specific foods are offered; the primary goal is to get the chinchilla to eat (therefore, offer all known foods, including less healthy ones initially). Overfeeding can lead to chinchillas barely or not eating any solid food independently, creating a vicious cycle where some chinchillas even refuse to chew and become dependent on syringe feeding.
Unfortunately, some misconceptions still persist regarding syringe feeding. For instance, the belief that chinchillas have a "gizzard" and "craw" and must eat continuously to move consumed food along and prevent fermentation. This is not entirely accurate. More information can be found here.
Additionally, it is not uncommon for sick animals (and humans) to eat less or even temporarily stop eating. However, chinchillas should at least consume small amounts within a day, or else syringe feeding becomes necessary. It is also normal for nocturnal animals like chinchillas to eat very little during the daytime.
If a chinchilla refuses to eat pulp, you have the option to try different pulp types, soften pellets, or prepare your own pulp. The crucial factor is that the pulp contains sufficient crude fiber and is not purely composed of vegetable or fruit purees. Please refer to our Pulp Feeding List for more information.
The ideally prepared pulp should have a thick consistency, requiring patients to chew it a bit and not allowing them to easily swallow it. The consistency of pulp should resemble that of Nutella in summer. Additionally, a well-mixed pulp should not pass through the nozzle of a standard syringe, and you may need to cut the tip with scissors or use special hand-feeding syringes.
However, it's not uncommon for chinchillas, especially those with dental problems and pain, to have the porridge initially mixed to be thinner.
It's important that the pulp contains as much roughage as possible. Offering pure fruit or vegetable purees is not suitable for this purpose. However, they can be used for medication administration if needed, and you can mix them with fibrous pulp for better acceptance.
Instead of water, you can use tea based on the symptoms, such as fennel-cumin-anise tea for digestive issues or sage or chamomile tea for mouth inflammations.
Some chinchillas may willingly take the pulp from a bowl, spoon, or syringe without resistance. Others may need to be gently captured from their cage and held on your lap. For more stubborn chinchillas, adding sugar-free applesauce to the pulp can make it more appealing, or you can wrap them in a towel to prevent them from squirming and escaping.
Unfortunately, one frequently hears about chinchillas that refuse to eat solid food again after a prolonged or incorrectly executed nursing or pulp phase. The causes for this can be diverse:
Here are some tips to help chinchillas that are reluctant to return to eating solid, whole foods:
Through this approach, the underdeveloped jaw muscles can gradually rebuild.
Important: Pulp feeding can prevent the rapid-growing teeth of chinchillas from wearing down adequately. Overgrown teeth can quickly become the reason why a chinchilla will only eat pulp and nothing solid! Therefore, before discontinuing porridge completely, it may be advisable to have the chinchilla's teeth checked and filed by a veterinarian; otherwise, the animal may not be able to eat, even if it wants to.