While other common household pets that may spend time outdoors, such as cats and dogs, typically get preventative treatment for parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites, indoor pets like hamsters do not. In all fairness, a hamster is less likely to be exposed to any parasites, as they spend a majority of their time in their cages or an isolated, plastic hamster ball.
However, it is possible for your hamster to get parasites, and the likelihood of a hamster contracting mites is more likely than you may think. Keep reading to discover how hamsters get mites, as well as how to treat and prevent mites.
How Hamsters Get Mites
Mites often attempt to live on hamsters without it becoming an issue or a full-blown infection because their immune systems keep the mites in check. Hamsters that are very young, particularly those that have just been born, are more susceptible to mites than most due to their immune systems not being fully developed yet. Hamsters can become infected with mites due to stress, stomach problems, malnutrition, or anything else that might trigger a worsened immune system. Hamsters can also get mites from being around several other hamsters according to squeaksandnibbles.com, so you may bring them home from the pet store with mites.
Which Mites Infect Hamsters?
Hamsters will occasionally pick up a variety of mites, but Demodex mites are the most common. Hamsters can also contract rat mites, ear mites, nose mites, and tropical mites, but these are less likely. Most of these mites are so tiny that they cannot be seen without being magnified. Each type of mite looks somewhat unique, so your vet should be able to identify them easily. Generally, though, these parasites have eight legs and are either cylindrical or rotund.
If something appears to be crawling on your hamster, it is probably not a mite, although it may be a flea or a tick. Please note that while mites cannot be spread to people or your other types of pets, fleas and ticks can, and those parasites require different types of treatment.
Symptoms of Hamster Mites
Thankfully, although mites are nearly impossible to see, your hamster will exhibit some visible symptoms of a mite infestation. It is common for infected hamsters to lose hair, and your pet will probably be very itchy, which is obvious when they cannot stop scratching. This itchiness and irritation from mite bites can make your hamster’s skin red. Your pet may even develop another infection if they scratch at their skin too much. If your hamster’s skin is not red, it may be dry or flaking. In the worst scenario, your hamster’s skin could also bleed, become crusty, or secrete pus.
All of these symptoms can be caused by other issues, and in some cases, hamsters may simply lose hair due to coming into contact with various materials as they burrow. However, it is important to take your hamster to a skilled vet in order to eliminate other conditions and prescribe the proper treatment.
How to Treat Your Hamster for Mites
Similar to how you might treat a cat or dog for such parasites, mite infestations are treated with medicinal dusts and sprays. These forms of medicine must be applied to your hamster’s skin. According to petmd.com, shampoos with selenium sulfide or ointments that have amitraz in them are typically prescribed to treat mites. Since hamsters are so tiny, follow the instructions from your vet closely, as it is easy to over-apply these medicines and potentially make your pet sick. Your hamster will probably get the ointment on their bedding, so be sure to thoroughly clean their cage and change the bedding. Getting rid of the mites may take a few days, so using paper bedding that is easy to dispose of will make this part of the process simpler.
Ways to Prevent Hamster Mites
As mites typically only become an issue for hamsters with weak immune systems, the best way to prevent a mite infestation is to keep your hamster’s environment clean and warm. Hamsters become stressed when their cage is filthy, or if they are exposed to cooler temperatures. Caring for your hamster whenever they start to fall ill and providing them with a proper diet will also preserve their immune system and help to prevent mites. If you are concerned about purchasing a hamster that may already have mites due to being packed in with many others at the store, look for a hamster that is being kept alone or with no more than two others.
Can Hamsters Die from Mites?
Although it is possible for a hamster to die from mite-related complications, this scenario is unlikely. Unless you are neglecting your hamster, you are bound to notice when they begin to exhibit symptoms of a mite infestation, especially if you are cleaning their cage and playing with them frequently. In some cases, your vet may identify mites when you have brought in your hamster for a different issue. Essentially, it is very difficult for a mite infestation to go unnoticed. In addition to this, treating your hamster for mites is relatively simple, so you should not have to worry about your pet dying from mites.
A Summary of What You Should Know
Hamsters may not seem vulnerable to parasites such as mites in the same way that outdoor pets are, and they do not receive the same preventative treatments for such things, but your hamster can get mites if their immune system becomes weakened. There are a few mites that may infect your hamster, and none of them are visible with a visual aid. Hamsters with mites will probably itch and have irritated skin. The best way to prevent your pet from contracting mites is to keep their cage clean and feed them a proper diet. However, if your hamster does become infected with mites, your vet can usually prescribe an ointment or shampoo that will clear up the issue before it gets serious.