A hamster’s nose should always be moist, which means a dry nose can signify illness.
Wild hamsters use their noses to forage, locate water, and detect predators. So, they have an excellent sense of smell, and it’s believed they can smell up to 30 meters away.
Their sense of smell is so acute that they can determine who their owners are by smell alone. However, this can be problematic when hamsters smell a troublesome odor.
Hamsters use smell to communicate. They use pheromones (chemicals from the scent glands) to instruct other hamsters they want to play with them, stay away, or mate.
A hamster’s sense of smell depends on the health of its nose. So, a dry nose can hinder a hamster’s ability to smell. Since hamsters use this sense in their everyday lives, losing it can impact their quality of life.
Why Is My Hamster’s Nose Dry?
Here are the main reasons why a hamster’s nose becomes dry:
When the body ages, the skin loses its ability to retain moisture, leading to dry, flaky skin. It’ll be apparent across the hamster’s body, especially around the nose.
The nose will struggle to maintain its normal, healthy wetness, which may irritate an older hamster.
Old age also puts hamsters at greater risk of developing diseases. These diseases, in turn, can cause flaky skin, which may dry out the nose even further.
Age-related diseases that cause dry skin include the following:
- Hair loss or alopecia.
- T-cell lymphoma.
- Adrenal gland tumors.
Some diseases are more likely to affect senior hamsters and cause dry skin, including:
- Skin and fur mites.
- Fungal skin infections, like ringworm.
- Skin abscesses.
If a senior hamster has a dry nose, check for other symptoms.
If there’s no underlying cause, you can still make a senior hamster comfortable. Accomplish this by applying a hamster-safe oil to the dry areas, such as:
- Coconut oil.
- Olive oil.
Visually, a hamster’s nose may appear dry due to dried mucous, even if it’s not dry.
According to Exotic Animal Practice, hamsters don’t develop colds in the same way that humans do. However, they can get respiratory tract infections, which have similar symptoms.
They often lead to nasal discharge. Once this dries around the hamster’s nose, it won’t be dangerous, but it’ll be uncomfortable and lead to a dried-out appearance.
You’ll know the hamster has a respiratory tract infection when it displays the following:
- Heavy nasal discharge.
- Eye discharge.
- Loss of appetite.
A vet will treat a respiratory tract infection by bolstering the hamster’s immune system, including giving it supplements and addressing environmental factors.
For example, a vet may recommend warming the room to 75-80 degrees. You can also improve a hamster’s immune system at home by:
- Feeding the hamster nutritious and balanced meals.
- Keeping the cage clean (deep cleaning and spot cleaning).
- Ensuring the hamster gets more exercise.
Allergies can irritate the skin, causing it to become dry and flaky.
As mentioned, this can affect the nose since it needs additional moisture to remain healthy. Minimizing its wetness even a little can be unsettling to a hamster.
If you think a hamster has allergies, check its bedding. A common allergen among hamsters is wood shavings, like pine, cedar, and aspen.
Pine and cedar should be avoided because they release phenols that can irritate a hamster’s skin and respiratory system. Aspen is non-toxic, but a hamster can be allergic to it, too.
Other common allergens include:
- Cleaning agents.
- Food and treats.
Bar rubbing behavior involves a hamster rubbing its face against the bars of its cage.
Bar biting can be accompanied by bar rubbing and vice versa. However, bar rubbing often happens when the cage bars are too close together, and the hamster can’t chew them.
This condition is caused by stress, resulting in the nose drying out due to constant friction.
You can tell bar rubbing is the culprit when only the sides of the nose are dry. If left untreated, the nose can turn red. Eventually, the hamster will develop wounds in the area.
Treatment for bar rubbing is similar to bar biting, which includes:
- Moving the hamster to a larger cage.
- Giving the hamster more toys, hiding dens, platforms, and ladders.
- Removing other pets from the room.
- Socializing with the hamster more.
- Giving the hamster out-of-cage time.
- Removing loud noises in the room.
Bar rubbing should be addressed immediately as it can escalate into harmful behaviors, like cage rage.
They’re common and, in small numbers, cause no problems. However, when there are many of them, they impact a hamster’s health. Mites can multiply when the environment is dirty, or the hamster has a poor immune system.
When left unresolved, they can be fatal. They can also be a symptom of more serious ailments, like kidney disease. According to Parasitology, two types of mites infest hamsters:
- Demodex aurati.
- Demodex criceti.
Mange causes hair loss and leaves the skin dry and scaly. It’s most obvious around the ears, feet, and tail. It may also concentrate on the hamster’s back and around the ears. However, you can also see it on the face, especially around the nose. Signs of mange include:
- Dry, scaly skin.
- Fur loss.
- Red skin.
Mange is contagious, so separate the affected hamsters from unaffected hamsters (if applicable). They shouldn’t be allowed to share objects like toys, bedding, or food bowls.
Hamsters with mange should have their cages disinfected and their bedding changed regularly.
There are many home remedies for treating mite infestations. The most common are anti-mite dusts and sprays, but they’re only recommended for mild infestations.
If a hamster has a severe mite problem, take it to your vet. Vet treatments for mange include:
- Medicated shampoos.
- Medicated ointments.
Why Is My Hamster’s Nose Crusty?
Crustiness may result from dried mucus or be caused by a scab on an existing wound. Scabs often form due to bar rubbing but may also develop from:
- Fights with other hamsters.
- Excessive cleaning.
If you find scabs or open wounds on a hamster, you must determine what caused this issue. Also, care for the existing wounds and check for symptoms of infection, including:
- Discharge (white, green, or yellow liquid).
The underlying reason for flaky skin is that a certain area has lost its moisture, which can be due to irritation, infections, infestations (mites), and disease.
A flaky nose irritates a hamster, so it may scratch and rub its nose to alleviate the discomfort, which only worsens the condition. So, you must determine the cause and treat the condition.