Hamsters can be prone to external parasites, like mites and fleas. Hamsters can also experience intestinal parasites, like roundworms, pinworms, or tapeworms.
External parasites in hamsters are identifiable by excessive itching and scratching, patches of dry and scabby skin, and mange – clumps of fur falling out of the hamster’s body. You may also spot fleas during handling, although mites are too small to see with the naked eye.
Internal parasites are harder to detect visually. A hamster may not show any ill effects until the parasitic infestation has grown substantially. At this stage, the hamster may lose weight, grow lethargic, and experience diarrhea or struggle to pass feces.
Parasites can be treated, usually with an over-the-counter remedy for small animals from a pet store. Don’t give hamsters parasite treatments intended for mammals, as they’ll be too strong.
Can Parasites Get Parasites?
All animals can be subject to parasitic infestations, and hamsters are no exception.
Small animals can get mites, fleas, and intestinal worms. If a hamster has parasites, they must be addressed without delay for your pet’s comfort and safety.
Can Hamsters Pass Parasites to Humans?
If a hamster has mites, these can be passed onto humans while handling or cleaning a cage. The Biochemist confirms that Demodex mites can cause issues with human health.
Wear gloves while handling an infested hamster and cleaning out its habitat to minimize the risk of zoonotic infection through shared parasites.
What Parasites Attach to Hamsters?
Parasites that attach to hamsters come in two forms, external and internal. External parasites attach themselves to the fur and skin of a hamster, while internal parasites infest the gut.
Demodex mites are the most common external parasite to infest hamsters but are too small to identify with the naked eye. Once they multiply, Demodex mites will cause itching and mange in hamsters.
Ear mites from the Notoedres family are another common foe of hamsters. The mites start around the ear but quickly spread, leading to crusty skin and skin lesions.
Fleas are bigger than mites, so you’ll likely notice them while grooming and petting a hamster.
You can apply remedies like spot-on flea treatment to kill fleas. Also, you can use a flea comb to find and remove fleas and their eggs.
Hamsters can get intestinal worms, including tapeworms, pinworms, and roundworms. Roundworms live within the large intestine and lay eggs in the hamster’s anus, which are shed in the feces.
Tapeworms and pinworms are usually a result of poor hygiene in a hamster habitat, although they can be caused by ingesting insects or contaminated water.
As with roundworms, they lay eggs in the hamster’s anus that hatch upon passing waste.
How Do Hamsters Get Parasites?
The most common reasons for parasite infestations are as follows:
- Mites and fleas jump from human hosts to a hamster during handling. Clinics in Dermatology stated that Demodex mites are frequently found in human hair follicles.
- Unsanitary living conditions attract insects and parasites to a hamster’s cage.
- Drinking contaminated water containing intestinal parasites.
- Lack of grooming, which allows a small number of parasites to multiply.
If you keep a hamster’s cage clean and provide a sand bath, the chances of developing a parasitic infection are much-reduced.
Signs That A Hamster Has Parasites
Hamster parasite symptoms vary based on whether the infestation is internal or external.
If you check the hamster daily and are vigilant about cleaning, you’ll notice the warning signs of parasites, allowing you to resolve the concern early.
Once you’ve earned the trust of a hamster, make daily handling and petting part of its routine.
This way, you can check the hamster’s fur for any signs of mites or fleas. The former may be too small to spot, but the latter will be visible.
If you can’t detect external parasites with the naked eye, you’ll likely notice an infestation through the hamster’s behavior. Look out for these signs that a hamster has parasites in its skin and fur:
While hamsters are fastidious groomers, excessive scratching and biting of the fur and skin is usually a warning sign of mites or fleas.
If a hamster appears visibly distressed and constantly scratches, investigate these warning signs.
Dry, Scaly Skin
A hamster’s skin should be smooth to the touch. Something is amiss if a hamster’s skin feels dry, crusty, or covered in scabs.
This isn’t always due to parasites, as the hamster’s environment may be too dry and stuffy. If so, you may need to increase the humidity level, potentially with a humidifier.
Loss of Fur
Eventually, the presence of parasites will lead to mange in hamsters.
This will manifest as patches of missing fur across your hamster’s body. At this point, you must treat the hamster for parasites before they multiply further.
Worms in a hamster’s gut can be more difficult to detect, as some will appear asymptomatic for quite some time. If the infestation becomes severe, a hamster will display the following symptoms:
While some worm infestations lead to a ‘pot-bellied’ appearance in hamsters, it’s likelier that it’ll start to lose weight. If the hamster eats normally but loses weight, it likely has tapeworms.
Worm infestations make hamsters lethargic. It won’t eat as much as usual if it isn’t moving as much. A resting state should balance out a lack of calories, so if a hamster is anorexic, something is amiss.
If a hamster has suddenly lost interest in running on its exercise wheel or exploring its cage, and it isn’t approaching the end of its natural lifespan, check if it has worms.
Diarrhea has many causes, including dietary changes, bacterial or viral infections, food intolerance, dehydration, or parasites. If a hamster is passing loose, watery stools, seek veterinary advice.
This condition can lead to flystrike, or it could be a warning sign of wet tail (proliferative ileitis).
Hamsters empty their bowels at least once an hour, often more frequently.
While hamster feces is small, it’s easily detected. If you have potty trained a hamster, it’ll be easier to tell if it’s constipated and stopped going to the toilet.
A worm infestation may be causing an intestinal blockage, making it impossible to pass waste.
How to Treat Parasites on a Hamster
If you notice mites or fleas in a hamster’s cage, move them to a spare tank. Don’t allow the hamster to free roam because this will spread parasites throughout your home.
Empty the tank, including decorations and toys, and clean it thoroughly with white vinegar. Use Johnson’s cage ‘n’ hutch insect spray to kill any stubborn parasites in the cage.
Before returning a hamster to its parasite-free cage, remove any mites from the animal. Never use flea treatments designed for larger animals, like cats or dogs, as these are toxic to hamsters.
A vet should always be consulted if a hamster has internal parasites. A worm infestation can easily be treated with anthelminthic drugs, usually a powder mixed with water.
Can Parasites Kill a Hamster?
Managing parasites is part of pet ownership, and if you get them prompt treatment, the hamster will soon recover. Left untreated, parasite numbers will multiply with life-threatening consequences.
According to the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, mites left to breed and multiply can lead to demodicosis, especially when the immune system isn’t as robust as usual.