There is no doubt that hamsters are one of the cutest pets out there. With chubby cheeks, itty bitty tails, and fuzzy fur, it is hard to resist their charm. But, like any other pet, there are times where your hamster’s beauty routine may need some adjustments, especially if you are noticing some hair loss.
In this article we’ll cover the best products for pampering your hamster, as well as:
- Common hamster skin conditions
- Uncommon conditions
- Bathing your hamster
Common Hamster Skin Conditions
If you’ve noticed pieces of fur in your hamster’s enclosure or small bald patches on their body, there is no need to panic. There are some common reasons why your fluffy friend may be losing their hair.
The first common reason for hair loss in hamsters is shedding. Like other mammals, it is not unusual for hamsters to shed their fur. They typically shed during the Spring and Fall, losing small clumps at a time. This may make their coat appear thinner than normal, but it is perfectly healthy.
The next most common cause of hair loss in hamsters is friction. This sort of alopecia can occur for several reasons. One may be that your hamster is stressed. When an enclosure is too small or a hamster feels uncomfortable, they tend to begin gnawing on and rubbing at the walls of their home, especially if they have a wire cage. This constant rubbing causes fur to fall out. Something similar can happen when hamsters are given a wire running wheel. Their legs will often slip through the bars, rubbing off their fur and potentially causing an injury. That’s why it’s best to ditch the wire cage and wheel and opt for something large with plenty of room for burrowing and playing and solid plastic or glass siding.
Finally, hamsters may lose fur on their face or develop sores due to a leaky water bottle. When the water leaks from the dispenser, it runs down the hamster’s face as they drink. The hamster then repeatedly rubs their face to the point where the skin becomes raw and hairless. If you notice facial sores or hair loss on your hamster, inspect their water bottle and consider repairing or replacing it.
Outside of the more well known reasons for hair loss, there are several rarer causes for skin irritation in hamsters.
Ticks, fleas, and mites are not often found on hamsters, as they tend to make their home on pets that roam outdoors. However, if you do take your hamster outside or if another pet in your home spends time outdoors, there is a chance your hamster could pick up some of these pesky insects. Symptoms of ticks, fleas, and mites include:
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
If you notice any of these symptoms in your hamster, contact your vet to have them take a dermal sample. This will confirm the presence of any parasites. The vet will then be able to prescribe any powders and medicines necessary to fend them off. You will also want to give their enclosure a thorough cleaning to prevent any repeat incidents.
Another rare, but not unheard of, reason for a hamster to lose hair is through fungal infections like hot spots or ringworm. The infections are contracted when animals come into direct contact with spores. They can cause open sores, scabs, dry skin, and circular areas of redness and hair loss as well as frequent itching. While uncommon, fungal infections are very painful. Your vet can give you ointments and antibiotics to curb the infection, but another option is to use Fauna Care’s Anti-Fungal Spray, available for $24.99. Using Ketoconazole and Zinc, this solution helps treat and prevent fungal infections all with a handy no-touch spray nozzle.
To Bathe or Not to Bathe
Unlike many other pets, hamsters rarely need to be bathed. These little rodents are self-cleaning machines and can often be spotted combing their fur in the most adorable way. In fact, it can actually be detrimental to bathe your hamster using soap and water as it can strip healthy oils from their fur and irritate their skin. But, many owners complain that their hamster or their enclosure is stinky. What’s that all about?
Well, hamsters have scent glands! Different breeds have their glands located on different spots, but the hips and tummy are both common. From these areas, hamsters secrete a yellow, waxy substance that has a strong, musky smell. They use these scents to mark their territory and convey certain emotions. Some hamsters have such active scent glands that owners may even find bits of smelly wax in their fur.
While it may be a little gross and can smell strange, this is all part of a healthy, natural body function. As long as the discharge remains consistent in color, smell, and frequency, there’s no need to worry or clean your hamster. But, if you notice any unusual scents, blood, impaction, or strange coloring, contact a small animal specialty veterinarian to confirm everything is working as it should. Another reason a hamster may seem stinky is because their enclosure is dirty. Their bedding can quickly become bogged down by urine and feces, creating a pungent odor. Wet litter can also cause infections and deadly conditions, so it is important to change their bedding everyday.
Vets suggest owners never place their hamster in water. Instead, if the hamster has any unclean areas, such as caked feces on their bum or feet, owners should use waterless shampoo and a soft cloth to gently wipe the hamster clean. Owners should be careful to avoid the eyes, nose, and ears when wiping. A recommended product is Marshall Foaming Waterless Shampoo for Small Pets. A 5 oz bottle goes for $7.99 on Chewy.
An alternative option is to provide your hamster with a sand bath. Like Chinchillas, hamsters are known to enjoy rolling in sand to remove dirt and excess oil. This is a safe, water-free way of providing your hamster enrichment and maintaining their hygiene.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Fur
There are hundreds of different “small pet” foods on the market today, all claiming that they contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep your pet healthy. But the reality is that not all pet food is created equal and there is no one pet food that can fulfill the specific dietary needs of every species. Hamsters require a specialized and balanced diet to stay healthy, especially their eyes, fur, and skin. However, many pet food brands don’t meet the dietary requirements of hamsters, lacking sufficient vitamin B and protein. These nutritional deficiencies can often result in sporadic hair loss.
You can combat this by switching your food brand to a hamster specific product, supplementing their regular diet with fruits, veggies, small samplings of cheese, as well as cooked eggs and pastas. But hamsters can also be picky eaters and it can be difficult to know how much of these foods they are actually ingested. That’s why vitamin drops are a handy option! By just placing a few drops in your hamster’s water dispenser a few times a week, you can rest easy knowing they are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Oasis Vita-Drops High Potency Multi-Vitamins for Hamsters, Rats, Mice, and Gerbils is available in 2 oz bottles for $5.29 on Petco.
Any rodent owner will tell you that buying bedding is one of the most difficult parts of their pet care. While there are plenty of brands lining the shelves promising odor suppression, high absorbency, and affordable prices, few live up to the hype. In fact, many small pet litter brands have ingredients that are actively harmful to animals. Common examples include dyed paper beddings as many dyes are toxic to animals, cedar shavings which contain irritating oils, or high dust varieties that can suffocate your pet.
The right substrate is particularly important for hamsters as they spend most of their days burrowing and sleeping in their bedding. Any sensitives can lead to full body rashes, hair loss, or even death.
The safest choices for bedding are non-dyed, all natural materials made with hamsters in mind. This includes plain paper shavings and pellets, aspen wood shavings, and Timothy Hay which doubles as a snack. Carefresh Small Animal Bedding is a low-dust paper bedding available on Chewy for $28.99.
Now that you know some causes behind potential hamster hair loss and the products that can help, why not bring out your little buddy for some playtime and a health check? There’s no doubt they will be grateful for all the love and attention you can give.