Can Chinchillas Eat Bread?

If you’ve run out of hay and pellets, and you need something to feed your chinchilla, you may want to give it bread. You no doubt have some in your kitchen, and it’s not a million miles away from hay—since it’s made from wheat. But is it suitable or not?

New owner, don't know where to start? Or do you need a handy chinchilla reference guide? Check out our Chinchilla Care 101 eBook, or get what you need from our online store!

If you’ve run out of hay and pellets, and you need some snacks to feed your chinchilla, you may want to give it bread. You no doubt have some in your kitchen, and it’s not a million miles away from hay—since it’s made from wheat. But is it suitable or not?

Can chinchillas eat bread? They can, but it’s not a good snack choice. It contains too much sugar, not enough protein, and nowhere near enough fiber. If fed in large quantities it may cause bloating and nutritional deficiency. We recommend feeding your chinchilla appropriate snacks like rose hips and shredded wheat instead, as these don’t cause health issues.

The guide below first looks at whether chinchillas can eat common white bread like Wonder Bread. It will look at the precise nutrients in Wonder Bread to assess whether it would make a good snack for a chinchilla. Afterwards, it looks at different kinds of bread like wholemeal and wholemade, even toast (and none are suitable!)

Can Chinchillas Eat White Bread?

can chinchillas eat bread?Chinchillas can eat small amounts of bread, although we don’t recommend it as a kind of treat.

The first thing to note is that bread isn’t any more likely to make your chinchilla choke than any other kind of food. Chinchillas know how to tear food into smaller pieces, so your chin won’t randomly swallow big hunks of bread and choke itself to death.

The second thing to note is that bread isn’t poisonous to chinchillas. Chinchillas aren’t allergic to yeast, gluten, or anything else it’s possible you’ll find in bread. It also doesn’t cause symptoms of ill health like bloating as readily as other foods.

Despite that, though, bread isn’t a suitable food for a regular snack. It’s not nutritionally adequate for a chinchilla. Since there are other snacks which a) don’t cause symptoms of ill health, that b) chinchillas enjoy just as much, and which c) are nutritionally suitable, there’s no logical justification for feeding bread to your chinchilla instead.

Do Chinchillas Like Bread?

Your chinchilla probably would enjoy eating bread.

Chinchillas enjoy eating anything new, and anything that has an unfamiliar taste. While your pet doesn’t need a varied diet, it would nonetheless enjoy eating a range of different foods.

This is a hard-wired response to different foods that your chinchilla learned in the wild. Chinchillas eat most of the plant species in their natural habitat, plus most parts of the plant (root, stem and leaf). Wild chins will also eat any other foods they find like nuts, seeds and so on. It’s therefore little wonder that your chinchilla will eat almost anything you offer it.

But just because your chinchilla has a natural response to something, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or right. It’s the same as how we eat snacks and unhealthy foods that we probably shouldn’t (whether it’s because we enjoy them, or just because they’re available). You have to be in control of your chinchilla’s diet, so it’s your job to make the right choices for your pet.

Nutrients in Bread

It’s important to make informed decisions about your chinchilla’s diet. That’s why this section addresses the nutritional content of bread, as determined by the FDC. We’ve found the values of Wonder Bread, the most common U.S. brand, but most white breads have roughly the same nutritional content. The table below contains both this data, and reference to the chinchilla’s nutritional needs, for the sake of comparison.

Nutrients Amount per 100g Requirements
Carbohydrate 52g 35g
Sugar 6.5g 5g
Fat 3.3g 2-4g
Protein 8.7g 16-21g
Fiber 2.2g 30g
Water 35-40g 10-15g
Calories 261 200

100g is about 4 slices of bread.

Not all bread has the exact same nutritional content. Some breads are enriched with butter or milk, and some breads have minerals and vitamins added to the flour they’re made from. Some are white, and some are brown. The above table references the content of white bread, the most common, but these other kinds are addressed below too.

Carbohydrate, Protein & Fat in Bread

Bread isn’t the worst snack you could feed to your chinchilla. But it’s far from the best.

To start with the positive, bread is typically low in fat. Wonder Bread has 3.3g of fat, while chinchillas need between 2-4g. 3g is roughly what most chinchilla pellets contain, which means that bread definitely isn’t too fatty for your pet.

Where it does fall short is in its protein and carbohydrate content. Wonder Bread has 8.7g of protein compared to the 16-21g that chinchillas need, and which again, you’ll find in hay or pellets. This isn’t a major issue if you’re only planning on feeding it as a snack; what would be a major issue would be the carbohydrate content.

Bread has too much sugar in it for a chinchilla’s liking. Bread has sugar in it because yeast needs sugar to grow. While there are breads that don’t have yeast in them (that’s what unleavened breads are!) there is typically either some sugar left over from this process, or some extra added to give the bread a particular taste.

When foods contain too much pure sugar, they give chinchillas bloating. We’ll cover exactly what that is, and how serious it is, in a moment.

Fiber & Water in Bread

While the fat content of white bread is spot on, and the protein content isn’t far off, one thing that Wonder Bread and other similar breads lack is fiber.

We’re all familiar with the effects of a lack of fiber in a person’s diet. Most of us don’t get enough fiber, since we don’t eat enough rough, tough, fibrous foods and vegetables; if you eat a lot of meat, meat has no fiber in it, which is often the root of the problem. To put things in perspective, chinchillas need much more fiber even than we do. This need is met by hay, which is very fibrous.

Wonder Bread, though, contains only 2.2g of fiber per 100g. Chinchillas need between 20 and 30g of fiber, which means that white bread clearly has nowhere near enough.

This is a major problem for your chinchilla. Your chinchilla’s gut is set up perfectly to deal with fiber. It has a special pouch in its intestines called the cecum, which is a small sac at the beginning of the large intestine. The cecum contains most of the gut bacteria, and these bacteria are precisely those which are good at breaking down fiber into simple sugars. The cecum produces a special kind of poop called cecotropes which the chinchilla reingests, so that it can absorb all of these nutrients.

If you feed your chinchilla lots of low-fiber foods,

High water content in food makes this problem worse. That’s because the more water is in your chinchilla’s food, the more water will be in your chinchilla’s stool. This makes your pet’s stool softer, essentially doubling-down on the effect that a lack of fiber has.

Vitamins & Minerals in Bread

The vitamins and minerals you’ll find in bread are variable. That’s because a) there are lots of different kinds of bread, and b) some breads are fortified with things like iron to make them better for you. But Wonder Bread contains the following vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin/Mineral Amount per 100g
Vitamin B3 3.5mg
Calcium 43mg
Iron 3.1mg
Sodium 543mg

But whether Wonder Bread, or any other bread, contains lots of vitamins and minerals is irrelevant. Your chinchilla should get all the micronutrients it needs from its diet of hay and hay pellets. While chinchillas enjoy variety, they don’t strictly need it, and will both survive and thrive on hay alone.

The only common issue is calcium deficiency, which occurs because timothy hay (the hay that most owners give their chinchillas) doesn’t have quite enough. But this is better remedied either with fresh alfalfa hay, alfalfa pellets, or in the worst case a liquid supplement. Even if Wonder Bread had lots of calcium, which it doesn’t, there would be much better ways to get calcium or other micronutrients into your pet’s diet.

Is Bread Poisonous to Chinchillas?

Bread isn’t poisonous, and your chinchilla won’t be allergic to it. It’s safe in that sense.

However, what you might find is that if you offer lots of bread—or lots of any new food that your chinchilla isn’t used to—that it will give your pet an upset stomach. That’s simply because your chinchilla’s gut is so used to digesting hay that it can’t digest anything else as easily. This effect would go away if you continued to feed lots of bread. But as we’ve shown above, bread is not a perfect nutritional match for your chinchilla, so you shouldn’t be feeding it that much anyway.

But even though it’s not poisonous, that doesn’t mean it’s perfectly safe. It may also cause bloating due to its high sugar content.

Does Bread Swell in a Chinchilla’s Stomach?

Bread doesn’t swell in the stomach in the sense that some other foods do. It can and will absorb water, but that doesn’t mean it will swell to twice its size.

Rather, the problem is that foods with high sugar content cause bloating in chinchillas. That’s because the sugar ferments in the gut, and when fermentation happens, lots of gas is the result. Chinchillas struggle to pass gas, so it builds up. It can eventually rupture your chinchilla’s stomach or gut lining.

Can Chinchillas Eat Toast?

Toast is better than bread for two reasons. The first is that it’s a more pleasant texture for your chinchilla to eat. Chinchillas enjoy eating rough, crunchy foods. They’re good for your pet’s teeth, and may help prevent malocclusion.

The second reason is that toasting the bread dries it out. This lowers the water content of the toast, which is a good thing. But since the water acts almost like a bulking agent, getting rid of the water means that the concentration of sugars in the toast is higher than in the bread. That’s a bad thing. As such, the same issues above still apply to toast as they do to bread.

Can Chinchillas Eat Croutons?

Croutons are heavily toasted or fried bread. They aren’t suitable for chinchillas, and there are two main reasons why:

  1. Any crouton that’s fried will contain too much fat for your pet to digest. This could both cause tummy trouble and weight gain.
  2. Croutons are almost always heavily seasoned. While your chinchilla won’t mind the herbs, the high amounts of salt won’t be good for it.

The texture of the crouton isn’t a problem. Your chinchilla can crunch its way through rough, tough foods like croutons easily. But they’re not nutritionally suitable.

Can Chinchillas Eat Wholemeal Bread?

Wholemeal bread is better than white bread. It’s more suitable for your pet.

That’s because it’s made from a different kind of flour. It’s made from flour that’s ground from whole grains, obviously, which gives the overall mix more fiber. Since your chinchilla needs lots of fiber, that’s a good thing. But it still doesn’t contain as much as your chinchilla needs, and will still have a fair amount of simple sugars.

Can Chinchillas Eat Homemade Bread?

Homemade bread is more variable than store-bought bread. That’s because bakeries get their ratios of flour, sugar, salt and water perfect to create a consistent product. Home baking is much more likely to result in there being too much sugar or too much salt in the bread, neither result being good. But even if you do get your recipe right, homemade bread is still bread, so isn’t the ideal snack for your pet.

Can Chinchillas Eat Burnt Toast?

While bread can cause digestive issues, burnt toast is actually something that owners use to help settle diarrhea when it occurs.

This is actually well-documented. It’s not just an urban legend. The burnt part of the toast absorbs toxins in the gut that have a hand in diarrhea. Apparently, the burnt toast acts like activated charcoal, which is also know to do the same thing.

So, if your chinchilla has diarrhea, this is one way you can help. You have to toast the toast until it’s completely black, though, not just lightly browned. It has to be fully burned. You can then feed just a few crumbs to your pet, and this should help prevent its diarrhea.

There’s no need to do this unless your chinchilla is currently experiencing diarrhea, though.

How Much Bread Can Chinchillas Eat?

We would recommend against feeding any amount of bread to your chinchilla for the reasons described above.

If you are going to feed your chinchilla bread anyway, there are several things to bear in mind. The first is to feed a limited portion size. A small chunk of bread the size of your pinky fingernail is enough of a snack for your pet. The more you give it, the more likely it is that your chinchilla’s digestive system will be affected.

The second thing to bear in mind is that the more you let the bread dry out, the more suitable it will be. Bread contains an average of 35-40g of water per 100g of weight, which is too much for your pet. Your chinchilla is used to eating far less than that in its food, as its hay is so dry. But if you leave the bread out overnight, much of the water in it evaporates, making it more suitable.

How Often Can Chinchillas Eat Bread?

Again, we would recommend against feeding your chinchilla bread at any frequency. That means that ideally, your chinchilla should never bread.

If you are planning on feeding your chinchilla bread despite the issues, you should at least feed it infrequently. Doing so will minimize any harm it may cause to your pet. Once per week should be enough. But that’s not a problem as if you want to feed your chinchilla snacks in the meantime, you can pick something else.

Should Chinchillas Eat Bread?

Chinchillas shouldn’t eat bread, not only because it’s nutritionally unsuitable, but also because there are many better snack choices available. There are lots of different snacks you can find in pet stores or online which don’t cause negative health effects, are nutritionally suitable, and aren’t much more expensive than bread. These include:

  • Shredded wheat. Yes, the cereal. These are fine for a chinchilla so long as you pick the kind that has no added sugar dusted on the top of it—they have to be plain.
  • Rose hips. Rose hips are the fruits of the rose plant. They can be dried like raisins, and make a suitable snack for chinchillas.
  • Botanical hay. Botanical hay is regular hay with herbs added. The herbs make it taste interesting, and the hay provides the nutritional content.

There’s no logical reason to feed bread when these alternatives are available from pet stores, online, and even from grocery stores.

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New owner, don't know where to start? Or do you need a handy chinchilla reference guide? Check out our Chinchilla Care 101 eBook, or get what you need from our online store!