If you’ve got a hammy and he’s suddenly scratching too much, or keeps losing his fur, you might be wondering if he’s got a skin condition. Or if a parasite found its way onto your friend.
Well, it’s very probable, and we’re going to look at what the most common symptoms are for skin/fur conditions and parasite, both external and internal.
Hamster skin/fur conditions
So why is your hammy suddenly losing patches of fur ? Or having small red inflammations under its fur ?
Hamster fur becoming very sparse
Hammies will start losing their fur under certain conditions. One of those conditions is old age. Just like very old humans start to lose large amounts of hair, so do hamster seniors.
By this I means the hamster’s fur will become sparse, you might even see some skin peeking here and there. It might be especially severe around the hammy’s hind quarters.
A hamster is a senior once he gets close to his second birthday. Hamsters only live between 2 to 4 years, and will become very slow once they get old.
Their body starts to shut down, and there isn’t much you can do. Aside from make life easier for them with nice food and a warmer nest. Unfortunately hair loss is part of that process.
Another condition under which hamsters can start losing fur is stress. Hamsters react very, very poorly to stress.
A number of health issues can come up from having the hamster too stressed. From an upset stomach, lack of appetite, bar chewing, biting himself, even hair loss.
Only this type of hair loss is in patches, as opposed to thinning hair.
A stressed hamster can be due to:
- a bullying cage mate
- too much handling on your part (or whomever handles the hamster)
- not feeling safe – curious cat or barking dog always around the hamster’s cage
- too much traffic around the hamster’s habitat, especially during the day when it sleeps
- another illness, that isn’t immediately obvious
Most of the reasons I outlined above can be avoided. The hamster’s cage can be moved to a quieter, safe, calm room.
Fur loss can happen for other reasons, like a parasite, but we will cover that in the Parasite section of the article.
Hamster rashes – red, flaky patches the hamster scratches
Hamsters can get rashes, and the reasons are not clear. Just like in humans, a random rash can be just that – random, and not easy to figure out.
Usually a rash on the hammy can be a sign of a parasite or allergy on the skin, but in the cases it is not, your veterinarian will be able to help you.
Look for a vet labeled as ”exotic”, since these have the most experience with rodents, reptiles, and birds.
You’ll notice your hammy has a rash if he keeps scratching himself in one particular spot. It will usually be red, possibly a bit inflamed, the skin might get a bit dry and flaky and the fur will have fallen off in that are.
The fur usually does come back. Your veterinarian will most probably give you a cream treatment to help your hammy with the itching.
If it’s an allergy, it will usually clear up once the allergen is taken away. However figuring out which object form the cage is the cause can be difficult.
Watch your hamster closely, notice where the rash is, and what he interacts with in his cage. It could be a few hours until you notice something.
Syrian hamster has a black dot on each hip
I put this one here because I was completely stumped as to what was wrong with my Teddy. He is a Syrian male, and one day he came out of his hideout with both hips licked flat, and two large black dots on his hips.
I first thought this was some sort of tumor or huge scab I didn’t notice on him before.
As it turns out, not, the dots are not dangerous. They are in fact the scent glands. Hammies lick and nibble at their scent glands every now and then, and that’s when you are able to notice them. Usually they’re invisible under all that fur.
A Dwarf type hammy has hos scent gland on his belly, and it’s not colored black.
Odd growth on the hamster, especially on nose or ears
An odd growth on the hammy sometimes can be a tumor. It’s not a tumor every time, but it can be one sometimes.
You’ll notice it’s a tumor if it’s more of a lump of skin than anything. It might become very large and fleshy, and just look out of place.
If it is indeed a tumor, a vet will be able to remove it from the hamster. Not all vets are willing to perform surgery on such a small creature, but some can help.
If the growth is smaller, harder, possibly even longer than it’s wide, it could be a skin tag. Or wart, depending on the name your vet gives it.
These are usually harmless and do not hurt or otherwise inconvenience the hamster. But the hammy might not like them and will try to tear them off, which will make them bleed. They will come back with a vengeance and grow bigger and uglier.
You can find them anywhere, but they’re usually around the nose, ears, feet, tail, rarely the eyes or mouth. Treatment is available, but your need to see a vet for this.
Mites in hamsters
Mites are not uncommon in pets, nor are they in humans. With your friend, there are 2 possibilities.
Mites in the hamster’s fur
Fur mites are invisible to the naked eye. They burrow and live inside the hammy’s fur, and feed off dead skin cells. They can produce irritations and dry, flaky, itchy skin in your hammy.
They’re usually present on the hammy, but in a small amount. Only a large amount of them leads to the symptoms I just described.
These can be treated at the veterinarian’s office, but never get a medication online. Or in pet shops.
The problems with these medications is that the dosage is hard to get right, and you risk hurting your hamster More than helping him.
Some medications even require the hamster to be fully bathed in them, which is never a good idea for a hamster. So stick to whatever your vet recommends.
Mites in the hamster’s ears
Ear mites are different, and these you might notice. They’re darker in color, and can be seen moving if you look closely at the hamster’s ear.
They will produce red, crusty lesions on the hammy’s ears, and they might extend to the eyes, mouth, even tail.
Mites are contagious, both the ear mites and the fur mites. So if you’ve got a pair of hamsters living together, separate the infected one while he gets his treatment.
Worm parasites in hamsters
Hamsters can get worm parasites as well, however they are not immediately noticeable. The hammy might have an itchy rear-end, or you might notice part of the worm in a few droppings.
Deworming treatments are available, however they should be administered by your veterinarian.
Symptoms can be dehydration, loss of appetite, weight loss, intestinal blockage, or possibly diarrhea. These are the extreme cases. Usually they’re not immediately obvious.
Some worms can transfer from hamsters to humans, for example the worm’s eggs on the hamster’s food or droppings.
For this reason a hamster with a worm parasite should be handled with gloves, and the hands thoroughly washed afterwards, as a secondary precaution.
The worm eggs can spring up when the cage is in a bug-infested area, since some worms can live inside insects as well. Another possibility is an unkempt cage, which should be cleaned once per week.
And finally, the eggs can also be present on hamster food, or the bedding itself. For this reason freezing the hamster’s food and bedding for a minimum of 48 hours should be done. The extreme cold will kill off the eggs and larvae.
Do keep in mind that if you live in warmer, more humid climates, the eggs can hatch much faster.
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Fungal parasites in hamsters
There are 2 main types of fungus that can affect your hamster friend. Both can be treated, however they are different in how they manifest themselves. Both are very dangerous, and are contagious.
The first is the Aspergillus fungus
It will grow primarily in the hamster’s pee corner. I’m not sure if a litter box will save you form one of these infections, but it’s worth a shot. You can find out more about litter boxes and potty trained hamsters here.
So the way the Aspergillus fungus works is that it grows on the wet/moist bedding in the hamster’s cage. That can either be the pee corner, or the are directly under the water bottle if there is leakage.
First it will grow white, and in time it will turn black. It will end up spreading its spores all around the hamster’s cage, and you need to act quick. This can be deadly for the hamster.
The hamster must be taken to the vet as soon as you see the white formation in his cage. The vet will give him the proper treatment.
As for the cage itself, it will need a complete clean and disinfection from top to bottom. With the help of a disinfectant from the vet, soap, and hot water.
The other fungus that can affect hamsters is the Ringworm
Not a worm, per-se, but that’s the name. It’s actually a fungus. It can come about from other infected hamsters, humans, even infected bedding, and is highly contagious.
You’ll notice the hammy has a Ringworm infection if there are round patches on his skin, with no fur on them. There will be a red ring (many tiny red dots) towards the edge of the ring, and the skin will be dry.
Patchy, dry, possibly itchy, and the hamster will be very annoyed by it.
Treatment is possible, but it take a few weeks. In this time the hamster should only be handled with gloved hands, and definitely kept away from other hamsters.
As with the Aspergillus fungus, the cage must be deep-cleaned too. This means a disinfectant, hot water, soap, and possibly throwing out some objects that can’t be cleaned.
Those might be the wood objects. Do talk to your vet, see if he has a way to disinfect wood safely.
Keeping the hamster parasite-free
The first thing you can do to keep you hamster friend parasite free is to keep the cage clean. This is not always the problem, but is the most common culprit.
The cage should be cleaned once per week, possibly every two weeks if it does not develop a strong odor. This means new bedding, nesting material, and running the plastic objects under hot water.
Another thing is to deep-freeze and then properly dry the hamster’s food and bedding. Often the eggs for various worms, or the spores for certain fungi are present on the food or bedding. Extreme heat or cold will kill them off.
Be careful with your hamster’s water supply. Tap water is safe for hamsters, as long as it is clean. However a bottled option would be safer. Look for a bottle that says it can also be used to prepare baby food as well.
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your hamster. Many diseases are contagious, and can easily be passed from hamster to human, or vice versa.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for here. We hamsters are a hardy bunch, but we do get sick from time to time, and we rely on you to help us out.
If you want to know more about us hamsters you can check the related articles below for more info on how to care for us properly.