Helping you care for your chinnie

Bath dust and eye irritations

The only way to be sure it is the bath dust is off course if the eye irritation only happens when they bath.
Over the years I tried many different bath dusts and we eventually settled on playpen sand that was very fine and silica free. It was not the best because it made the chinnies yellow and it didn’t absorb too well. It kept them clean but they had to bath often and a lot longer. We made it “softer” by adding baby powder and talc. I later found out that although this is common practice, it can cause eye irritations and respiratory problems. I never experienced any that was related to the dust.
We later found a source of sepiolite, which is all we now use. We changed it a bit from the first batch we tested. It is now 100% pure sepiolite but crushed in a specific way.
In the past I wrote about the difference between sepiolite and pumice. Sepiolite is natural clay and pumice is fine porous glass. They both have excellent absorbency and do not discolor the chinnies, it brings out the natural color. I prefer sepiolite because it is cheaper and we have a supplier. The main reason however is that I believe it is softer. This is personal opinion.
Have you ever watched a chinchilla closely when they take a dust bath? Look at the eyes and nostrils. You will notice they close their eyes when they roll in the dust. What many people probably don’t notice is how they close their nostrils as well. They only do this while they roll in the dust. When they sit in it the eyes are open and so are the nostrils. Their bodies are equipped to handle this, ours are too.
I leave the dust in the cages, i only sift out the poops and replace it about every 10 days. I’ve been doing this for a long time. The few cases of eye irritations I came across here were (that was trustworthy) were all hay related. I have no personal experience with eye irritations caused by bath dust. I used pumice very briefly many years ago but it was too difficult to get hold of.
I have however spoken to quite a few people all over the world and there are definite cases where the dust proved to be the source of irritation. In most cases changing the dust solved the problem. In most cases, changing to sepiolite fixed it but there are cases where changing from sepiolite to something else fixed it. I know of very few.
What tends to be a bigger problem is the texture, how fine or coarse it is. We use a mixture of extremely fine powder and sand, all sepiolite. The fine dust penetrates to the skin and the coarser sand acts as a brush on the fur. It is too soft to cause damage to the fur and it effectively removes loose fur. For me it means that it can’t be that it is too fine or too coarse. Since our dust is both it must be something else.
One thing I did pick up was that additives to dust caused problems. If it is perfumed or have another substance in it, it causes problems. There are no other answers. Nobody did any other research that I could find. Some problems occur when people use Blue Cloud, others stop when they switch to Blue Cloud.
Here, all the problems I hear of now are caused by sand that is not supposed to be used for chinchillas. People even use building sand. The only 2 I know that is widely used is pumice and sepiolite. If one gives problems, try the other.
It can off course be any dust. It can be that the dust blocks tear ducts. It can be that the eyes are over sensitive, there can be many causes. Since I don’t get it I don’t have experience with it. If changing the dust doesn’t work, it is something else.
What happens with eye irritations is that the lens of the eye can get scratched. A blocked tear duct will do it all the time, till it goes open. A scratch or little fleck of dust in the eye causes the eye to tear and it makes the eye release protein to fix the irritation. The yellow stuff you wash out of the corners of your eyes in the morning is protein.
People with contact lenses uses eye drops to remove protein from the eyes and contact lenses. It is not medicated, like antibiotic drops. It just removes protein and moisturizes the eyes. This is also what I used in the past for eye irritations and it cleared up in a few days. I just removed the source, which was wood shavings. In cases where it was hay, it also worked.
All I can say is to experiment with dust but stick to natural dust without any additives. The well known brands all have great support. I don’t know all of them. I can tell you more about it if I know what it is made of. I will just check for other causes too. Eyes that are sensitive from exposure to hay dust or anything else will act up when they bath but can also act up at any time.
I don’t have the answers, I doubt anyone does. I just systematically tested everything and was able to pinpoint wood shavings in my case. Other people were able to pinpoint hay and when they changed hay it went away. In most cases where nothing else was left, changing the dust worked.
Here, switching to sepiolite worked for many people but also switching to some of the imported brands worked. The best known imported brand here is also sepiolite, just a bit too coarse for me.
It can be a lengthy process of elimination. If sterile dust causes the problem it might be a small genetic thing, like over active tear ducts but I can’t be sure. I would just systematically eliminate everything till I find what causes it.
The eye drops for contact lenses works great to manage it because it doesn’t medicate, it just cleans. The brand names in South Africa are Renu-It and Natural Tears. There are probably more, I use Renu-It myself because I wear contact lenses.
Not boosting sepiolite but my eyes are very sensitive to dust and I work with the sepiolite every day without a problem. It just makes my skin very dry. I wish I had more but I couldn’t find more.

New arrival. She's been at it for an hour. When she doesn't bath she just lies in the dust. Leaving it in anyways.

New arrival. She’s been at it for an hour. When she doesn’t bath she just lies in the dust. Leaving it in anyways.