Chinchillas are herbivores, but wild chinchillas may occasionally consume animal-based foods. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of fish meal (FM) and mealworm meal (MWM) included in complete pelleted diets on nutrient digestibility and gastrointestinal function in chinchillas. The experiment was performed on 24 male, divided into three groups, n=8. Control group (C) was fed a diet containing 10% soybean meal (SBM). In the experimental group FM, chinchillas received a diet containing 3% fish meal, and the diet administered to the experimental group MWM was supplemented with 4% dried mealworm larvae meal. The nutrient digestibility of diets was determined. At the end of the experiment animals were euthanized and their digestive tracts were removed to analyze gut activity. FM group animals were characterized by lower crude fat digestibility, whereas both alternative protein sources improved the digestibility of acid detergent fiber (ADF). A considerable increase in the activity of cecal intracellular and extracellular bacterial enzymes (in particular β-glucosidase, β-galactosidase and β-xylosidase) was noted in the FM group, which however did not increase the concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). The inclusion of MWM in chinchilla diets shifted the bacterial fermentation site from the cecum (lowest SCFA pool) to the colon (highest SCFA pool), thus enabling to derive additional energy from less digestible dietary components. In conclusion, chinchilla diets can be supplemented with small amounts of animal protein such as fish meal and dried mealworm larvae meal.
Chinchilla (Chinchilla laniger), degus (Octodon degus) and guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are South American rodents living in a semi-arid habitat with varying, species-specific adaptations to water deprivation. Nonetheless, several diseases have been linked to insufficient water intake when these species are kept as pets, such as urolithiasis or obstipation. This study evaluated preferences for drinking systems. Six animals of each species were given a choice between an open dish and a nipple drinker. Food intake and water intake were measured daily for 13 days. Chinchillas in this study had significantly lower water intakes than the other two species, indicating particular species-specific adaptations to aridity. All chinchillas favoured open dishes, whereas the degus and guinea pigs had variable individual preferences. Water intake of chinchillas was similar or higher in this study than in previous studies where nipple drinkers were used. The results indicate that degus and guinea pigs can meet their drinking water needs with nipple drinkers; for chinchillas, other drinking systems may be more adequate.
The development of a purified diet for chinchilla weanlings which apparently will support normal or nearly normal growth for 15 weeks is reported. The diet is similar to those used for other rodents except that it contains 20% roughage, lower levels resulting in constipation.
Based on the use of such a diet, evidence is presented indicating that vitamin C is not a dietary essential for the growing chinchilla.
The minimum daily thiamine requirement of weanling chinchillas for growth appears to be between 0.1 and 0.4 mg.
The activity of maltase, sucrase, and lactase in the alimentary tract of adult chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) was found to be maximal in the middle third of the small intestine and absent in the stomach and large intestine. Intestinal sucrase and maltase and pancreatic amylase were low at birth but increased to adult levels after 12 weeks. Lactase reached a peak activity at 2 weeks of age and dropped sharply at 3 weeks to the low levels found in the adult.Using chromic oxide as the marker, it was found that the rate at which pelleted feed passes through the digestive tract of the chinchilla was about 35 h. The extent of cellulose degradation and dry matter digestibility in chinchilla fed pellets was 47.5 and 68.4%, while in those fed hay and pellets it was 48.9 and 57.9% respectively. Cellulose was digested mostly in the large intestine with the production of volatile fatty acids at a concentration of 0.492–0.547 meq/g of dry contents. The molar percent composition of acetic, propionic, and butyric acids in the cecal contents was 72.2, 11.3, and 14.1% respectively.
Four synthetic diets, containing all the known vitamins except C and B12 but varying in roughage and salt content, have been used in chinchilla nutrition studies. The diets containing gum arabic or cellulose at a level of 20%, plus added amounts of potassium and magnesium, supported apparently normal growth of both young and mature chinchillas for periods of 15 weeks or longer. Reductions in the potassium and magnesium contents of these diets had no discernible effects during the shorter experimental periods employed.
The diets containing cellulose at a level of 20% were physiologically superior to diets containing the same level of gum arabic as roughage.
Although the chinchilla is closely related to the guinea pig, ascorbic acid does not appear to be a dietary essential for this species.
Riboflavin is not a dietary requirement for the chinchilla. A diet containing as little as 0.39 µg of riboflavin per gram produced normal growth in chinchillas. No symptoms of a vitamin deficiency were noted in animals fed the low-riboflavin diet for 5 months.
Metabolism studies with chinchillas fed the low riboflavin diet indicated a daily excretion of 27.9 µg corresponding to a daily intake of 6.6 µg of riboflavin per day.