Hamsters often get parasites known as mites. These parasites burrow into the hamster’s skin and lay their eggs making the hamster uncomfortably itchy. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a hamster with mites will help you recognize this parasite problem. Once you know your hamster has mites, the next step is finding a safe and effective treatment that will get rid of the mites but won’t harm your hamster.
Signs and Symptoms that Your Hamster has Mites
One of the first things you may notice if your hamster has mites is that your pet will be itching a lot. This may be hard to tell at first because hamsters groom themselves regularly. If it seems like your hamster is grooming and scratching quite often or more than you think is normal, it is a good precaution to check for mites. A hamster that is very itchy may also rub it’s body all over things trying to find relief. This can be confusing with males though, because they also rub their bodies on things to mark their scent. Once again, if you are unsure, it’s better to check. When checking for mites, you want to look for black dots on the hamster’s skin. These dots are actually in the hamster’s skin and can’t be brushed off with your finger. Another sign of mites is hair loss on the body and/or face. You may also see short, new hair growth where the fur has fallen out. The fur that hasn’t fallen out will usually not look and feel so soft and silky any more but will appear sparse and “fuzzy”. On certain hamsters, you will notice the fur getting lighter, especially on darker colored breeds like the black bear.
Finding a Safe and Effective Treatment for Hamster Mites
A hamster with mites needs to be treated, but you need to make sure the treatment is safe and effective. If there is a small animal/exotic pet veterinarian in your area, you should be able to take your hamster there for treatment. Unfortunately, as I know from experience, there may not be one close to where you live. If there isn’t a small animal/exotic pet veterinarian around, you then need to treat the hamster yourself. It is VERY important that you use a treatment specifically meant for hamsters. Using a mite treatment intended for different animals can cause the death of your hamster. If you search on the internet, you will find sites that say you can use treatments meant for other animals like mite spray for birds, but these treatments are NOT safe nor are they effective. For more information on this, you can read Is Mite Spray for Birds Safe for Treating a Hamster with Mites. You can also find information for homemade mite treatments for hamsters, but I have found no professional evidence that says these treatments are effective or safe, therefore I don’t recommend using them. You can call your local pet stores to see if they carry mite treatment for hamsters, but you may find that they don’t. All of the pet stores where I live sell mite treatments for other animals, but not for hamsters. When I found myself in the frustrating situation of having no small animal/exotic pet veterinarians in my area nor any pet stores that carried mite treatment for hamsters, I researched and researched until I found an over-the-counter version of the exact medicine a veterinarian would use to treat a hamster with mites. It is called Beaphar Anti-Parasite Spot On for Hamsters (and Gerbils) and contains Ivermectin. I didn’t find it available in the United States, but was able to find it available online from the United Kingdom on Ebay, and various UK websites. Spot On for Hamsters comes as two tubes of accurately measured out doses specifically meant for small animals. There are instructions on whether to use one or two tubes per treatment, depending on the size of your hamster. The instructions do not say how many times to treat though, so I found the information on a veterinarian website. It said to treat a second time ten days after the first treatment. Since this medicine is meant for hamsters and is the exact medicine a vet would use, I highly recommend using Beaphar Spot On for Hamsters if you can’t find a small animal/exotic pet veterinarian or a pet store that sells hamster mite treatment in your area.
How to Treat Your Hamster for Mites
If you have to treat your hamster for mites yourself, then it’s important to know how to do it properly to make sure that you actually get rid of the mites. Start by taking the hamster out of the cage and putting it in a safe place, like a small pet carrier or cardboard box with air holes. Then throw away any cardboard tubes and boxes that are in your hamster’s cage. Next, take out any non-disposable items like the wheel, plastic tubes and hide-aways, food bowl, water bottle, etc. These will need to be thoroughly washed with hot water and a mild soap or disinfected with bleach water. Either way, make sure they are thoroughly rinsed before they are given back to the hamster. After taking all of the items out of the cage, remove ALL of the bedding and then clean and/or disinfect the cage. Make sure you also rinse and dry the cage thoroughly. Then put fresh bedding and the clean hamster items back in the cage. Now it’s time to treat your hamster with the Spot On or other mite treatment specifically for hamsters. If you use Spot On, try to spread the medicine onto as much of the hamster’s skin as possible. After putting the treatment on the hamster, return your pet to its cage. Your hamster will probably start grooming itself, this is normal. Make sure you clean the small pet carrier or throw away the box you had your hamster in while you were cleaning its cage and supplies. You will need to repeat this entire process in approximately ten days to kill any mites that have hatched since the last treatment. Your hamster should be mite free after the second treatment. If your pet does get these nasty parasites again or there is a need for another round of treatments, make sure you continue to use a mite treatment that is meant for hamsters.
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