Hamsters can develop allergic reactions, commonly due to certain foods or environmental factors, such as dusty types of bedding, airborne chemicals, and certain materials (plastic or metal).
The most common symptoms of allergies in hamsters involve wheezing, struggling for breath, sneezing, streaming from the nose and eyes, dry skin, scratching to excess, and swollen feet.
While allergies aren’t life-threatening, you must address the concern as they cause physical distress.
It can be difficult to determine the cause of an allergy, so a process of elimination is essential. The only way to prevent allergy flare-ups in hamsters is by removing exposure to the allergen.
Are Hamsters Allergic to Anything?
The Journal of Epidemiology explains that humans can suffer from allergies to their pets, usually due to the release of dander and fur. However, like us, hamsters can also experience allergies.
Not all hamsters get allergies, but if your pet is unfortunate enough to have a sensitivity, it could be triggered by anything. Bedding, food, and airborne chemicals are common causes.
Signs of Allergies in Hamsters
The warning signs that a hamster has an allergy include the following:
- Wheezing and heavy breathing.
- Sneezing and streaming from the eyes and nose.
- Constant itching.
- Loss of appetite.
- Noticeable skin dryness, especially around the ears, nose, and eyes.
- Swelling and redness around the feet.
- Gastric upset, especially diarrhea.
If the hamster has an allergy, you must identify the trigger and remove it entirely.
What Are Hamsters Allergic To?
Having established that the answer to “do hamsters get allergies” is yes, and further explained the symptoms of the reaction, we must determine the underlying cause.
A hamster’s allergic reaction will likely be due to something in its diet or living environment.
If the allergic reaction has arisen suddenly, consider what may have changed. A significant element of its lifestyle must be adjusted if the hamster has always struggled with allergy symptoms.
There will always be a trigger, so undertake the following process of elimination:
Hamsters can experience adverse reactions to their meals, but what foods are hamsters allergic to?
If you feed mixed muesli to the hamster, this may cause a reaction. Sunflower seeds and peanuts play a prominent role in its feed, and many hamsters are allergic to these ingredients.
You could try picking these items out of hamster muesli or switch to an alternative feeding source. You could also offer hamster pellets, although some pets consider them too plain for their palate.
Make hamster food at home, combining protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These nutrients can be provided by mixing nuts, seeds, and dried vegetables. Also, offer the hamster some fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you make hamster feed, get dried foods intended for small animals.
Human foods may have added artificial preservatives and colorings – another common allergen in hamsters – or contain excess salt (risk of strokes) or sugar (risk of obesity).
If you have assessed the hamster’s diet and confirmed that this isn’t to blame for the hamster’s allergies, you must consider the different environmental triggers.
Hamsters like to keep their feet on the ground and frequently burrow in their bedding. Prolonged exposure to dusty and unsuitable substrates can harm hamsters.
Consider the items in the hamster’s cage because it could be allergic to plastic or metal, making food and water dishes or exercise wheels the culprit.
The products used to clean a hamster’s cage could trigger an allergy. Airborne chemicals may also be responsible, so a hamster should be kept in a neutral location free from artificial scents.
Wood-based material, such as pine or cedar, is the likeliest bedding to cause an allergic reaction.
These beddings will be coated with oil, which can trigger allergy symptoms. Any bedding treated with artificial coloring or scents can be problematic.
Consider paper-based bedding, but this won’t be very absorbent. You’ll need to clean more often because the hamster may start displaying allergy symptoms due to its urine or waste.
The best bedding for hamsters with allergies is Aspen shavings. Unlike other woods, this bedding won’t be treated with anything artificial and will mask any pungent scents emanating from the cage.
Plastics and Metal
Most hamster cages contain plastic and metal objects. As the hamster interacts with these items, most notably water bottles, food bowls, or exercise wheels, it may experience adverse symptoms.
Metal is easiest to eliminate, although you may need to switch to a glass hamster’s cage if it’s prone to climbing or monkey barring across the cage roof. Plastic drinking bottles are readily available from pet stores, and a solid plastic running wheel is preferable.
If a hamster is allergic to plastic, switch a food bowl for a ceramic alternative and use a metal water bottle. Get wooden toys (not plastic) and a metal exercise wheel.
While hamster cages must be deep cleaned, be careful about which products you use. Scents and remnants of the cleaning products can linger and cause negative reactions.
Use a combination of white vinegar, baking soda, and water rather than store-bought products.
Another common allergen is airborne chemicals in the hamster’s territory. If a hamster inhales these particles, they’ll cause an allergic reaction akin to a respiratory illness. Examples include:
- Cigarette smoke.
- Air fresheners.
- Furniture polish.
- Scented candles.
- Essential oils.
Avoiding these products altogether because hamsters cope poorly with artificial aromas.
Human Soaps and Scents
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology stated that contact with humans could lead to dermatitis in hamsters. This is a form of allergy inflicted by interaction with an owner.
The oils in your skin may be to blame, but it’s likelier to be an external source to blame.
Consider your choice of hand soap or lotions. Never use soap or handwash that contains alcohol, as this can irritate a hamster’s skin. Switch to a bar of plain soap.
Human perfumes and colognes can also trigger allergies. A hamster will likely crawl over you, potentially inhaling or even ingesting these chemicals.
What To Do If A Hamster Has Allergies
If a hamster has allergies, you must identify the cause through an elimination process. Start by removing the hamster from its living environment and cleaning the cage thoroughly, using safe products.
Replace the bedding with a different material and monitor the hamster for signs of an allergic reaction before returning the other items to the cage.
If a hamster’s allergies flare, you’ll know that bedding was to blame. If not, you’ll need to check every other possible issue, one step at a time. Avoid exposure to potential airborne toxins.
The hamster will need food, water, and things to keep it occupied before long. Purchase new items made from a different material, exchanging plastic for metal or vice versa.
If you still don’t see any signs of an allergy, the hamster’s food may be the problem. Any change to a hamster’s diet should be gradual because a sudden modification can upset its stomach.
If a hamster remains healthy after these changes, change the soap you use and avoid colognes.
If there’s no reaction, the concern must be connected to airborne toxins. Move the hamster’s cage to a different room in the home, and consider getting an air purifier.
Allergies in hamsters are more common than we realize and shouldn’t be ignored. Remove the triggers because this will help the hamster recover and live a happier life.