Hamsters routinely shed their fur, so a small amount of hair loss is normal.
However, your hamster’s fur should never appear completely bald in patches as this signifies that there could be a health or environmental issue.
Bald patches are almost always a side effect of a more serious issue. You mustn’t leave your hamster’s fur to grow back on its own.
Some conditions are serious and will kill your hamster if left untreated.
Why Is My Hamster Losing Its Fur?
It’s natural for hamsters to lose a little fur, especially in the warm summer months when they shed their winter coat.
Long-haired hamsters are more prone to hair loss because of the amount of fur they have to start with. However, sudden or inexplicable bald patches must be investigated in case there’s a health or environmental issue.
Fur loss and subsequent bald patches have several causes, such as:
Veterinary Practice News confirms that hamsters have scent glands on the side of the hips (flanks). Experts believe that hamsters mark their territory through scent gland secretions, which often appear greasy, waxy, and yellow.
Pet hamsters do this by rubbing their scent glands on items within their enclosure, such as their:
- Toys and boredom breakers
- Cage edges
- Separation bridges
Similarly, hamsters with access to sand in their enclosure also enjoy rubbing themselves against the rough particles to dislodge dirt and debris from their fur. However, over-rubbing causes bald patches because of the abrasive texture.
While this is relatively normal, keep an eye on your hamster to ensure that it’s not rubbing itself against objects as a way to deal with boredom.
If so, provide more things for your hamster to do and remove any sharp or harmful objects from the cage.
Metal Hamster Wheels
The overuse of hamster wheels causes them to rub on the same spots of the legs, creating bald spots. Painful sores can also occur. If you notice your hamster losing hair on hind legs, look at how often your hamster uses its running wheel.
Large wooden or plastic wheels aren’t as abrasive and are less likely to cause fur loss. If you have a metal wheel, you might want to swap it out for one that’s more suited to your hamster.
Hamsters can be allergic to certain types of bedding, especially if they’re dusty.
Cedar and pine bedding are considered some of the most unsuitable substrates because they produce too many dust participles. As well as causing respiratory issues, they can irritate your hamster’s skin.
Undyed and unbleached paper-based bedding is one of the most popular substrate options because it’s soft, gentle, and less likely to affect your hamster’s skin and fur.
Allergies are easy to treat when you know what’s causing your hamster’s fur loss. You can check by swapping your hamster’s bedding out with something else to see if your hamster’s fur grows back.
If you use multiple substrates in your hamster’s cage, remove one type at a time to determine which one your hamster’s allergic to. That way, you can avoid it in the future.
Food and materials on toys and hideouts are sometimes to blame. If you’ve demined that bedding isn’t the cause of your hamster’s bald patches, eliminate certain foods or materials to see if your hamster’s fur grows back.
You must also refrain from spraying anything in your hamster’s environment, such as perfumes or household fragrances. The chemicals can cause a reaction and make your hamster’s skin sore.
Dietary deficiencies caused by a low-grain, low-iron, or low-protein diet commonly result in fur loss.
Many owners are surprised to hear that hamsters are omnivores. They eat live insects in the wild and require 16% of their diet to consist of protein.
The best sources of protein come from:
When providing your hamster with cooked meats, ensure that they’ve been cooked without oils or seasonings.
Hamsters that are fed poor-quality seed mixes that lack the nutrients they need to be healthy. One of the earliest side effects of a poor diet is fur loss.
A nutritionally-balanced diet of pellets, high-quality seeds, protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables will keep your hamster’s fur in optimal condition.
Hamsters clean their fur with their feet and saliva to remove excess oils. Once they reach maturity, you’ll notice that your hamster grooms itself multiple times throughout the night.
This is normal, but excessive grooming can cause your hamster to give itself bald patches. In particular, it’ll experience hair loss behind the ears and around the hips where its nails can reach.
Over-grooming is a sign of stress and anxiety. Things in your hamster’s environment can cause this, such as:
- Other pets
- Loud noises
- Bright lights
- A cage that’s too small
- Living with another hamster
- Shallow bedding
However, grooming isn’t always a bad sign. It’s possible for your hamster to appear to have bald patches immediately after it has groomed itself.
The fur’s still there, but it’s wet and flattened, creating the illusion of bald patches. Once the hair dries, your hamster’s coat should return to its normal appearance.
Like most living creatures, hamsters are susceptible to mites. These tiny pests make themselves at home amongst a hamster’s skin and fur, living off its blood and oils.
Because mites cause an itchy sensation when they feed, your hamster will scratch at the affected area, causing extreme fur loss in the worst cases. Mites also commonly result in mange, which is an extreme form of fur loss.
Your hamster will also develop:
- Inflammation of the skin
- Dry or red patches
- Redness around the tail and facial area
- Intense itching and rubbing against surfaces
- Hair loss (alopecia) on the back and rump
Unfortunately, mites are common, particularly if you bring in contaminated food, bedding, or toys to your hamster’s environment. They can also be transmitted by contaminated pets that have access to your hamster’s room.
According to Hautarzt, hamster-safe sprays containing pyrethrin are effective at eradicating mites from your hamster’s fur and environment.
However, you’ll also need to carry out a deep clean of your hamster’s enclosure and items to remove them for good. This can take a lot of time and effort, but it should improve the condition of your hamster’s fur.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that appears as a ring of hair loss. The skin commonly appears yellow and flaky.
A humid environment causes ringworm, but it can also be transferred from humans to pets. Similarly, ringworm is highly contagious to humans, so you must wear gloves whenever handling your hamster.
Many hamsters don’t exhibit signs of ringworm, but the primary symptom is bald patches. Your hamster will also vigorously itch itself, causing worse fur loss and painful sores.
Cushing’s disease is one of the more serious causes of fur loss and bald patches. It’s not very common, but it’s an incurable, fatal condition that many hamsters sadly develop, especially as they get older.
Cushing’s affects the brain’s pituitary gland, causing the body’s hormone production to become irregular.
The main symptoms of the disease include:
- Bald patches or thinning fur
- Dry, flaky skin
- Weight loss
- Loose skin
- Increased thirst and urination
- Dark pigmentation on the skin
- Skeletal muscle waste
- Cuts and scabs that commonly become infected
One of the first symptoms of Cushing’s disease is fur loss. It most commonly affects male Syrian hamsters, but all species are susceptible. However, it often goes undetected because it’s not a well-known disease.
Do Hamsters Lose Hair When They Get Old?
Fur loss and bald patches are both common side effects of aging.
Hamsters live for 2-3 years on average. Once they reach this point, their appearance will change. When they age, they deteriorate quickly and almost without warning, which comes as a shock to many owners.
As hamsters grow older, their fur becomes sparse and patchy, so you’ll notice bald patches through the thinning coat. While this is normal, monitor your hamster’s behavior and overall wellbeing.
Why Is My Hamster Losing Hair on Its Nose?
Hamsters lose fur around their nose due to bar biting. The minimum recommended cage size is 80 x 50cm. However, many hamsters need more than this, particularly energetic female Syrians who are larger than males.
Hamsters who are stressed within their environment chew their enclosure bars for relief. The friction will cause a bald patch in one particular spot.
Alongside fur loss around the nose, your hamster will develop painful sores from prolonged chewing. It will also undergo behavioral changes.
Excessive burrowing is another cause of hair loss around the nose. Hamsters burrow when there are at least 6 inches of bedding in their enclosure.
They use their noses to move bedding out of the way and make holes they can move through. This is normal, but it’s something to watch in case it’s stress-related.
Bald patches aren’t always a sign of a health condition. Fur loss is relatively normal, but it’s always advisable to investigate your hamster’s bald patches in case there’s a problem you need to treat.