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Why Does My Hamster Have Dandruff? (Dry, Flaky Skin)

Last Updated on: 3rd January 2024, 02:52 pm

Hamsters groom and take sand baths to stay clean, so they don’t need to bathe in water. If the cage is clean, you’ll rarely need to intervene to maintain a hamster’s cleanliness and hygiene.

So, it can be surprising to find a hamster looking dirty and disheveled. No matter how much a hamster grooms, it may struggle due to skin flakiness.

Flaky skin is often caused by dandruff, which is beyond a hamster’s control. Dandruff can affect any body part and is often accompanied by hair loss.

Why Is My Hamster’s Skin Flaky?

Depending on the hamster, dandruff may be a regular part of its lifecycle. In other cases, dandruff is caused by a change in diet, environment, or grooming routine.

Here are the reasons why hamsters get dandruff:

Old Age

Old hamsters can begin losing their hair and moisture from their skin. The lack of hair can lead to skin drying out more easily from sun and air exposure.

However, even though they’re covered by fur, a hamster may get dry skin because its skin’s elasticity diminishes, resulting in flakiness and irritation.

Male hamsters are more likely to get flaky skin due to old age; it’s less common among females.

Dandruff caused by old age often begins at the hips, stomach, or around the hind legs. Note that this only happens in senior hamsters who are around 2 years of age.

Old age makes hamsters more susceptible to diseases, which can cause dandruff and flaky skin.

Low Protein Diet

Hamsters that don’t have enough protein in their diet can get dandruff. About 16% of a hamster’s diet should consist of protein.

High-quality hamster feed should provide this in the form of nuts and seeds. If a hamster isn’t on a pellet diet, you must offer raw, unsalted peanuts, cooked beans, and tofu.

Hamsters can digest fish and meat, which puts chicken, beef, pork, and turkey on the menu. Meat should be cooked and unseasoned, and consumption should be limited to once per week.

Allergic Reactions

The most common allergies are due to bedding. Pine, cedar, and aspen should be avoided, and you may need to change to a different brand if wood shavings aren’t the problem.

Sometimes, a hamster may be allergic to a new object or food in its cage. If the hamster develops flaky skin, remove any new toys and see how it reacts.

In the meantime, revert to its old bedding or food so you can tell when the flakiness ceases.

Mite Infestations

It’s common for a hamster to be exposed to some mites. Usually, there are too few of them to be a reason for concern. However, mites become an issue when they breed and multiply.

The longer a mite infestation lasts, the more difficult it is to resolve. The most common are those that belong to the Demodex species, especially Demodex criceti and Demodex aurati.

A mite infestation causes symptoms like:

  • Dry skin.
  • Skin that feels rough and scaly.
  • Hair loss, especially on the back and bottom.

If a hamster has a mite infestation, separate it from others. Also, remove any infected objects and clean the cage thoroughly, as mites spread quickly.

why is my hamster's skin flaky?


Mites can lead to a hamster developing mange, further exacerbating its skin condition and leading to flakiness and dandruff.

Mange can also be a symptom of more severe conditions, like kidney disease. That makes it wise to check for other symptoms of illness, such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irregular droppings

Here are ways to prevent a mite infestation:

  • Cage ventilation: Mites flourish in an environment that’s dark and damp. Introducing fresh air and sunlight can occasionally kill mites.
  • Cleaning: Cleanliness prevents mites from reproducing. The Journal of Economic Entomology noted that treating the bottom of the cage and maintaining cleanliness reduced mite infestations.
  • Reduce stressors: Reduced stress means a healthier immune system. To minimize stressors, provide a balanced diet, a quiet environment, enough space, and exercise opportunities.

How To Get Rid Of Hamster Dandruff?

Once a hamster has dandruff, the issue rarely clears up without treatment. It doesn’t always require a vet’s assistance, but you’ll need to treat the problem. Here are some options:

Olive Oil

Olive oil is antibacterial, moisturizing, and can soothe irritation. According to Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, olive oil can promote wound healing.

Olive oil is safe for hamsters to ingest, aiding fur growth and the treatment of constipation. However, most hamsters dislike the taste and are unlikely to lick it off themselves.

To use it, dip a cotton swab in olive oil and apply it to the affected skin. Wipe away excess oil and allow it to soak into the skin for 3-4 minutes.

Vitamin E Capsules

Dietary vitamin E can clear up dandruff and be applied directly to the skin.

Vitamin E can be used to treat skin conditions; ensure that the capsules are for dermatological use. Dilute the capsule with a carrier oil, apply it topically once a day, and wipe off the excess.

It can also help prevent skin problems from occurring in the future, as vitamin E works to keep the skin and fur healthy.

Other sources of vitamin E include spinach, broccoli, and sunflower seeds.

Sand bath

Hamsters clean themselves in a sand bath. Also, sand has a cooling effect that can soothe the skin.

This is an effective treatment for hamsters without parasites, as sand baths won’t kill mites. If a hamster has mites, use other antiparasitic remedies.

A sand bath can also prevent skin problems in the future.

Nutritious Diet

A balanced diet will help a hamster recover from skin conditions. Add more ingredients that provide vitamins A and D, like carrots and oily fish (salmon, herring, and mackerel).

Dietary supplements such as cod liver oil and crushed yeast tablets can be beneficial.


There are shampoos formulated to treat various hamster skin problems. Different shampoos treat conditions, so read the label or consult a vet.

Shampoo containing povidone-iodine works for ringworm infestations, while those designed to treat mites contain selenium sulfide.

Anti-mite Spray And Anti-mite Powder

Mite sprays and powders are an easy way to eliminate mites in hamsters.

To apply, shield the hamster’s eyes and head, but ensure that the spray comes in contact with the skin.

Do this once a week for 2-3 weeks.

Vet Treatment

Skin problems are common reasons for vet intervention. The treatments available include:

Therapeutic Dip

A therapeutic dip is a concentrated solution of ivermectin and lime-sulfur solution.

The dip is applied by coating a cotton ball or gauze and dabbing it onto the hamster every day for 6 weeks. It is safe for ingestion by hamsters.

For severe mite infestations, your hamster may require a full-body dip, where the solution is poured directly onto the coat.


Ivermectin is used to treat skin conditions caused by parasitic mites.

Treatment often consists of 2-3 doses, given 14 days apart. The dosage will depend on the hamster’s weight and the medication’s brand.

Determining dosage can be tricky since it’ll need to be diluted. So, consult a vet when treating a hamster instead of choosing the correct dosage.

Topical Creams

Topical creams are often used to treat fungal infections.

Your vet will recommend a cream containing miconazole, which should be applied directly to the affected skin once a day.

Oral Treatments

Anti-fungal medication can be given orally. Common fungal treatments include griseofulvin, terbinafine, and itraconazole. Oral treatments can also be used in conjunction with topical treatments.