What are Mites in Hamsters?
Mites are tiny, usually microscopic arthropods (the same family as spiders and lobsters) that live on or in the skin of animals. Mites are a common issue for hamsters. The two most common types of mites in hamsters are Demodex criceti and Demodex aurati, which cause demodicosis (mange), but they can also have other types like ear and nose mites.
Symptoms of Mites in Hamsters
Common signs of mites in hamsters include:
Hair loss in the absence of itching OR hair loss with itching (depending on mite type)
Lesions along the back, hindlimbs, or belly
Hair loss and scratching around the ears
Causes of Mites in Hamsters
Demodex are a family of mite that already lives in the hair follicles of mammals and helps produce healthy hair shafts. In older hamsters (especially males), or hamsters that are immunocompromised (particularly by stress), their levels of demodex can overgrow and damage hair follicles, leading to patches of hair loss with sometimes scaly looking skin. Other types of hamster mites come from other rodents or soiled bedding.
How Veterinarians Diagnose Mites in Hamsters
Diagnosis usually starts when your veterinarian identifies suspicious lesions on your hamster consistent with a mite infestation. To confirm if mites are present, they will perform a test called a skin scrape. This consists of gently scraping along the surface of the skin and then transferring those collected skin cells to a slide to be looked at under a microscope.
Treatment of Mites in Hamsters
The most common way to treat mites is by giving a medication called ivermectin by mouth for about 1-2 weeks. In cases like ear mites, the ears may need to be cleaned first and ivermectin may be administered topically rather than orally. In particularly bad cases or mite species that live deeper in the skin, your vet may have also recommend giving medicated baths to your hamster.
Recovery and Management of Mites in Hamsters
During the course of treatment, it is important to keep your hamster's cage clean. Remove and disinfect all objects inside the cage and replace the bedding to lower mite counts in the environment. Use diluted bleach or white vinegar to disinfect their cage.
While it isn’t common for many hamsters to live together, if your hamster does have a cage mate and has a contagious type of mite such as ear mites, all infected hamsters will need to be quarantined from the others until they complete treatment. Be sure to follow the medication schedule given by your veterinarian and complete treatment for as many days as advised. Check with your veterinarian to confirm the treatment was successful before stopping treatment.
To prevent future mite infestations, proper care is essential. Make sure to keep your hamster’s cage and bedding clean and avoid stressful events. Keep an extra close eye on senior hamsters as they are more susceptible to mites. Do not allow your hamster to interact with other rodents as they can be a source of spread of mites.
Mites in Hamsters FAQs
How do you get rid of mites on a hamster?
Seek veterinary care to get rid of mites on a hamster. After confirming diagnosis, your vet will provide you with medication such as ivermectin for treatment.
Can humans get mites from hamsters?
Hamsters with significant infestations may have enough mites for humans that handle them to notice some small bites, but hamster mites cannot live on or infest humans.
What happens if my hamster has mites?
Hamsters that have mites will have hair loss, especially on their back or hip area, with some possible scaling of the skin. They may or may not be itchy.
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