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So Your Hamster Has Hamster Mites...

a hamster sitting on the blossoming branch of a tree

Hamsters can be greatly affected by many different skin conditions. They’re particularly susceptible to getting mites. Some of which cause quite a bit of irritation and itchiness for your pocket-sized pet. Because the mites are practically impossible to see with the naked eye, it’s important that you know how to spot when your hamster has them and be able to treat it appropriately. If your hamster is behaving strangely or exhibiting any concerning skin abnormalities, hamster mites could be the culprit. 

  • What are hamster mites?
  • What Causes Them?
  • How to Identify Hamster Mites 
  • How to Treat It

What Are Hamster Mites?

Could they be what’s irritating your hamster’s skin?

Demodex hamster mites are tiny parasites that live on the surface of a mammal’s skin. The mites are around .3 to .4 millimeters in length They congregate around hair follicles mostly and are prevalent in hamsters. These mites use the scales on their body to attach to their hamster host’s skin. Because Demodex mites target mammals, they can be spread by contact with other pets such as other hamsters, rats, dogs, or cats. Prolonged exposure to Demodex mites can cause a myriad of serious health issues for your hamster so it’s very important that you treat the illness as soon as you see symptoms.

A girl holds her pet hamster in her hands.
Hamsters are increasingly susceptible to Demodex mites. One of the most difficult aspects of addressing hamster mites is knowing whether or not the number of mites on your hamster can be harmful. That’s why it’s important to know how to spot symptoms. 

What Causes Them?

And how did my hamster contract them? 

While it’s common for your hamster to have a number of mites, the problem arises when those small numbers start to multiply. Hamster mites begin to increase in numbers when your hamster’s immune system is weakened, or if they’re receiving improper grooming. Additionally, because Demodex mites target mammals, they can be spread by contact with other pets such as other hamsters, rats, dogs, or cats. Mites are more likely to affect male hamsters, as well as older hamsters as a byproduct of a weak immune system and stress. 

How To Identify Hamster Mites

Symptoms to be on the lookout for

Hamster mites are very small and difficult to see. So, rather than trying to find them on the skin of your hamster it would be a good idea to look out for signs of the infestation. Demodex hamster mites present a number of issues with your hamster’s skin. Signs of infestation include reddened, irritated or inflamed patches of skin particularly around the tail, face, ears, or feet. If you notice your hamster rubbing itself against the bars of its cage, that is also a fairly good indication that there may be a mite infestation present. 

Mite infestation can also appear in the form of dry, rough, or scaly patches of skin that may last for an extended period of time, as well as hair loss on their rump. Another way you could identify whether your not your hamster has mites is by combing through your hamster's fur over a paper towel and using a magnifying glass to see if any mites have been combed out. If your hamster is showing the symptoms above or you find the mites yourself, it’s very important that you take them to the vet to get a definitive diagnosis, and recommended treatment regimen.

A hamster sits in their cage.
Just like any other disease, it’s important to try to act fast to ensure that the infestation doesn’t get any worse. If left untreated, hamster mites can lead to your hamster having extreme hair loss and/or contracting a serious skin disorder like mange. 

How To Treat Them

Steps to get rid of the infestation

After receiving a hamster mite diagnosis from a veterinary professional, it’s important to isolate the affected hamster from any healthy hamster it may be living with. This is to prevent the spread of the infestation and to ensure the safety of all of your pets. There are various medications that the vet may recommend you to use on your hamster to treat their mites, most of which are topical medicines. These treatments range from shampoos, and dust, to Ivermectin which is a medicine that specifically treats nose, or ear mite infections. The active ingredient needed in these specialized shampoos to get rid of hamster mites is selenium sulfide. 

You should also make sure to give your hamster’s cage a thorough cleaning, replace their bedding, etc. Make sure to wash every surface of the cage to get rid of any mites that might be living in your hamster’s home. If you can, it’s best to replace any items in your hamster’s cage that could be housing mites and replace them. 

Some people opt for freezing their hamster’s bedding in a sealed bag for 48 hours to kill any mites as well as their eggs before placing it into their hamster’s cage. If you decide to do this it is very important that you thoroughly defrost the items before putting them back into your hamster’s cage to prevent your hamster from nibbling on it and experiencing complications from mold that has grown on them. After cleaning out the cage it’s best to spray it down with an anti-mites spray as a precaution. It should be safe for you to house your hamsters together once you’ve killed all of the mites and gotten rid of the ones living on your hamster.

Pay Close Attention

Your hamster is depending on you!

It’s important to remember that small pets, like hamsters, need just as much attention and care as larger ones do. Because of their size, we can sometimes find ourselves overlooking signs that something is wrong without even knowing it. Small changes in your pet’s behavior, or appearance can make all of the difference in the world when it comes to the detection of diseases, infestations, or any general problems your little one may face. So when presented with signs like these, please don’t hesitate to consult a veterinary doctor, sooner rather than later.

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