CHINCHILLAS (Chinchilla lanigera) are small hystricomorph rodents, originally native to South America, and are kept widely for laboratory research, fur production or as charming pets. Once reasonably numerous and widespread, their numbers in the wild have dropped to the point that C lanigera is now on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix I list of seriously endangered species. Captive populations were established in the mid-1950s for fur production, and this became a major industry, particularly in Canada and the USA. Pet chinchillas are frequently encountered in practice in the UK and have a number of unique attributes that make them both endearing pets and a veterinary challenge. This article describes the captive husbandry and veterinary care of chinchillas. Future articles will review the approach to treatment and management of dental disease and also anaesthesia and surgical techniques in this species.
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