Instant food for chinchillas: Pellets, extrudates, compound food

1. What is "ready-made food"?

The term "ready-to-eat food" includes all commercial types of food that are pre-packaged and sold as complete feeds. For rodents, ready-made food is always dry food. For carnivores, wet food can also be purchased as ready-to-eat food.

"Finished food" for chinchillas can be:

  •     Pellets
  •     Extrudates
  •     Mixed food made of extrudates, pellets, flakes, popped cereals, cereal grains, etc.

Ready-made food is always a food, which has been strongly processed and at least partially changed in its form, by

  •     Heat action (pressing process, extrusion process, baking, cooking, etc.)
  •     Gluing
  •     Popping

"In my opinion, many of those responsible for the feed industry belong in prison. 5 years at least and without parole."
Source: Prof. O. Wassermann, Toxicology Kiel, 1998

2. Why many buy ready-made food? - Advantages

Instant feed: compound feed with many colorful extrudates and pellets
Instant feed: compound feed with many colorful extrudates and pellets
  • It has a long shelf life (due to lack of moisture and partly preservatives)
  • Feeding is less problematic, clean and very time-saving
  • Practical storage of the food
  • External attraction due to special shape (mainly achieved by baking) and color (due to dyes), especially important for ignorant people and children
  • Low price (in case of breeding food/pellets) and high price in case of commercial food (mixed food, extrudates for "family favorites" = good food costs a lot and is good; known appearance stimulates to buy e.g. rodent Biscuits = positive stimulus; here the food producer makes high profit, because the ingredients of this food are just as inferior and cheap as in case of pellets/breeding food)
  • At first sight and for a certain time the animals are supplied with all essential nutrients, so there is "nothing to worry about" (that this is a fallacy is shown below)

"No industrial feed is so optimal that it can not trigger diseases in the long run due to one-sidedness [...] Industrial feed makes sick in the long run."
Source: Dr. med. vet. Vera Biber

3. Problems and disadvantages

Through the processing process, on the one hand the structure of the processed plants is lost and, on the other hand, valuable nutrients and ingredients (vitamins, amino acids, trace elements) are lost through the effect of heat, which therefore have to be artificially added so that the feed is made "valuable" again and can then be sold as complete feed. Without the additives, the feed would be more or less half-dead feed mass, which would not be enough for the animals to survive. So what exactly about ready-made food is unhealthy?

I. Instant foods often contain problematic ingredients such as vegetable by-products, where you don't know exactly what you're feeding your pets in the end


The term "vegetable by-products" refers to low-quality residues from food production such as:

  •     Waste products from the brewery such as malt culms, spent grains or brewer's yeast
  •     Waste from the distillery such as stillage
  •     Waste from sugar beet processing such as molasses or sugar beet pulp
  •     Waste from milk processing such as whey or skim milk powder
  •     Press residues from oil production of e.g. soy and corn
  •     Vegetable waste from food production e.g. peels
  •     Grain residues from food production
  •     Others: corn gluten, cellulose (peanut shells, straw), brown rice, rice starch, awns, etc.

We believe that you should give your animals the best of the best to eat and you should know exactly what you are feeding. Thus, any feed that contains by-products should be rejected.

II. Many ingredients in instant food are too rich in content / energy e.g. cereals, seeds, honey/ sugar/ molasses, oils/ fats, protein-rich plants (clover, alfalfa), root vegetables, fruits


Cereals are poorly tolerated by chinchillas because they have a high starch content and are rich in easily digestible carbohydrates, which in turn has a bad effect on the intestinal flora. However, most ready-made food consists of a very high proportion of cereals and their by-products. The same applies to seeds, dried fruits, etc. if given too frequently.

Clover plants
such as alfalfa are high-quality feed plants that provide the chins with protein in particular, but also other important nutrients such as minerals. The problem is, however, that pellets and extrudates consist almost exclusively of alfalfa and cereals (+ other energy-heavy components such as molasses) and are therefore too rich for chins: At least as a staple food.

The main feed of these animals naturally consists of many different leafy components and grasses and not of a concentrate feed as pellets and extrudates are. Only green and roughage ensures that chinchillas have to eat and chew long enough and thus the teeth are sufficiently worn - instant food, on the other hand, saturates the animals quickly!

"Food from the supermarket is there to keep animals alive for a certain amount of time. Nothing more."
Source: Elina Sistonen, Pet Nutritionist

III. Instant food has defective structure, ground too small, and highly processed vegetable fiber

Chinchillas are herbivorous-folivorous small animals, which are adapted to ingest a lot of coarse fibrous plant (parts) (mainly herbs, leaves, grasses) and to utilize them. Their entire physiology or digestion is adapted to chew up the plants, to absorb necessary nutrients from them and to produce them themselves.

If one feeds now too small fibers, as one finds them in pellets & Co., which veterinarians even call "pre-digested", since they are already chopped up, one takes away a part of the digestion task from the rodents, which has as a consequence an insufficient tooth abrasion as well as a bad settlement of the intestinal flora. Here yeasts, bacteria and parasites can multiply undisturbed pathologically, which is accompanied by various digestive disorders.

 As already written above, the "predigested" plant fibers are brought into shape under the influence of heat, so that pellets or extrudates are subsequently obtained. The chinchilla cracks each pellet and extrudate instead of grinding it thoroughly with its molars as is nutritionally intended. After cracking, the artificial structure of the food disintegrates in combination with the saliva and the animal only has to swallow the already pre-chewed food mush. The unnatural crunching is problematic for the jaw due to the pressure and can promote inflammation and retrograde tooth growth. The lack of thorough chewing reduces the abrasion of the constantly regrowing molars. Both lead to tooth and jaw disease in the long term.

"If vitamins from the factory were better than their siblings that mature in the plant cell, nature would grow tablets on trees and bushes."
Source: Prof. Dr. Dr. Linus Pauling

IV. Instant food is produced with additives, flavorings, preservatives, pressing aids and binders, which have nothing in common with natural and healthy feeding


The fact that artificial additives are not really healthy is known from human nutrition at the latest. It is not much different with our pets, which are stuffed with ready-made food and often hardly get natural vitamins and amino acids to eat, but only those from the laboratory. However, it has been proven that these additives lead to health consequences: on the one hand, these can occur in the short term, e.g. when too much has been added (consequences of this occurred several times with at least 2 well-known chinchilla pellet brands, many animals died or became seriously ill from symptoms of poisoning), or when too few additives have been added and the animals suffered from deficiency symptoms on the other hand. And secondly, the consequences can be long-term, including organ damage: liver damage, kidney failure and gastrointestinal disorders, all often accompanied by emaciation.

In this context, it is also interesting to know that ready-to-eat food manufacturers advertise that their food provides the chins with all the essential nutrients. But the fact is that no one knows the needs of an average chin AND such an average value would not make much sense, because every animal is different and has an individual nutrient requirement. In addition, vegetable secondary substances are of great importance in the diet and are there to keep our animals healthy, to prevent diseases and to alleviate or heal small aches and pains. Unfortunately, this fact is completely concealed by ready-to-eat food manufacturers and the animal is regarded as an - arbitrary - quantity and number object.

And: All primary and secondary substances in a plant act as a whole, they are subject to interactions, cancel each other out, strengthen each other, everything interlocks etc. (to name an example). (to name an example: certain minerals (phosphate) and vitamins (VitD) are needed in certain quantities so that calcium can be utilized by the organism at all) and no ready-made food in the world can reproduce and supply this natural process! Therefore, by the way, vitamin preparations are also not recommended, because most of them cannot be metabolized by the body at all. A deficiency is best remedied by a varied, natural-healthy diet.

"Nowadays, complete feeds are offered for many animals. According to the classical definition, complete feeds are bound by the following specification: "Complete feeds are compound feeds intended to meet the nutritional requirements of animals alone." To date, we do not know all the components that a living creature needs to live. We know all the substances that an animal needs to survive, but not all the components and certainly not their quantity to ensure metabolic quality of life (health or protection against disease). For this reason, complete feeds have had to be constantly adapted to the latest scientific findings since their invention. This means that complete feed of 20 years ago does not meet today's requirements, and today's will certainly not meet the requirements in 2027. This fact already leads the term complete feed ad absurdum. However, this does not seem to bother the feed industry [...] Since, according to the German Society for Nutrition, which has the authority to issue guidelines, the requirements for all vitamins and minerals are not known even in the human sector, it is grotesque to pretend to know these requirements in the case of animal feeds with complete feed claims."

Quelle: Lüttwitz M. v.; Schulz H.: „LÜGEN, LÜGEN, LÜGEN. Alleinfutterlüge, Vitaminlüge, Darmlüge“, Geflügel-Börse 5/2007

V. Animals fed with instant food do not absorb enough liquid


The body consists primarily of liquid and the organism loses water daily, e.g. through defecation and urination. This means that the depot must always be replenished. The dryness of extruded pellets is about 85%. However, studies show that rodents cannot compensate for the lack of liquid caused by pure or main dry food feeding by drinking alone. Indeed, rodents and rabbits are naturally adapted to cover most of their fluid needs through food. If fresh food is given in addition, the problem is reduced. However, chinchillas fed with ready-made food tolerate fresh food worse than animals fed with a varied and natural diet.

First signs of fluid deficiency can be constipation. In the long term, there is a risk of inflammation and stone formation in draining organs as well as kidney damage. Too little fluid intake also means that toxins can only be flushed out of the body insufficiently, a possible consequence can be liver problems.


4. No-go overview

An overview of what is unhealthy for chinchillas and should be avoided as/ in food:

  •     Cereal grains especially wheat, popped cereals
  •     Hot air pressed pellets and cobs
  •     Milk pellets, yogurt drops
  •     Baked ingredients such as extrudates (e.g. oat pellets, alfalfa rings, etc.)
  •     Colorants
  •     Chemical additives (amino acids, vitamins, etc.)
  •     Unnatural forming and pressing agents
  •     Flavor enhancers, aromas
  •     Preservatives

"According to the official opinion of the ready-made food industry and most veterinarians, the needs of our pets are limited to certain percentages of protein, fats, crude fiber and sounso much "international units" of artificial vitamins and minerals. Chemically in the laboratory together mixed results thus in an artificial product of the industry. And so that our poor four-legged friends eat this dead pan, flavor enhancers are added and sealed with preservatives, so that the whole thing does not spoil. For each age, for each race, for each disposition there are special variants - however these are only minimally different in their composition, from the principle all are the same."
Source: Dr. med. vet. Jutta Ziegler, veterinarian and book author