Mange in hamsters is a common infection caused by Demodex mites living in the hair follicles and skin. Most hamsters have mites but mange only comes about when there are too many mites, which overwhelms them causing health issues.
There are two species of Demodex mites found on the skin of hamsters. D. aurati have elongated bodies and inhabit the hair follicles while D. criceti have short bodies and are found in the keratin of the thin outer layer of the hamster’s skin.
D. aurati is the species responsible for most of the skin issues, which occur secondarily to an underlying problem as a result of a weakened immune system.
As mentioned, most hamsters have mites, even those without any noticeable skin disease. Considering the fact that mange is one of the common illnesses in hamsters, you need to understand the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options to keep your little pet healthy.
This article will focus on the following:
- Causes of mange in hamsters
- Risk factors associated with mange in hamsters
- Symptoms of mange in hamsters
- Diagnosis of mange in hamsters
- Treatment for mange in hamsters
- Prevention of mange in hamsters
Causes of mange in hamsters
We already know that mange in hamsters is caused by the Demodex mites, tiny mites that inhabit the skin and hair follicles. However, it’s important to understand what can cause mite infestation in hamsters in order to reduce the chances of your pet getting mange.
Hamsters may become infested with mites from mite-infested bedding, poor hygiene, exposure to animals with mites such as rats, and handling many mites without cleaning your hands. Newborn hamsters can also get mites from the mother during suckling.
Risk factors associated with mange in hamsters
Since most hamsters have mites, their immune system plays a significant role in keeping the mites population in check. A weakened immune system means the hamster becomes susceptible to mite infestation, which in turn causes health problems such as mange.
Risk factors associated with mange in hamsters with mites include:
- Chronic renal disease
- Inadequate nutrition
- Immune system decline due to old age
- Concurrent neoplasia such as cancer & tumors
- Systemic disease and infection
Symptoms of mange in hamsters
Although it’s almost impossible to tell if a hamster has mites, there are notable signs that indicate your pet could be suffering from mange. They include:
- Patchy alopecia (hair loss)
- Dry, peeling, and crusty skin
- Skin lesions
Skin lesions can occur anywhere on the body but oftentimes begin on the neck and back before spreading to other parts.
During the initial stages, hair loss becomes noticeable on the hamster’s back and hindquarters and the flank scents glands may become visible.
Please note that hamsters with mange are prone to secondary infections, which can be fatal if there is an underlying systemic problem.
Diagnosis of mange in hamsters
The veterinarian has different options to diagnose if your hamster has mange. The most used mange diagnosis procedures include:
a). Clinical history and physical examination
The vet will analyze your hamster’s clinical history and whether it is prone to or at risk of getting mange. Physical examination will help confirm as the vet will look for physical symptoms such as patchy alopecia, skin lesions, and dry, crusty skin.
This is a non-invasive, painless procedure that involves dermoscopic imaging of the scalp and hair. It uses a dermatoscope and polarized light to capture a magnified image of the area of interest. The captured image helps veterinarians to diagnose common hair and scalp disorders.
c). Skin scrapings
The procedure involves the use of a scalpel blade to abrade the skin and collect skin cells from the epidermal surface which are then analyzed.
d). Tape preparations
It involves the use of an adhesive tape to collect samples of the hamster’s hair and superficial skin cells. The samples will be examined under a microscope.
Biopsy involves collecting a deep tissue sample while the hamster is under local or general anesthesia. Most pet owners do not authorize the use of biopsy for several reasons, one being the high cost involved.
Treatments for mange in hamsters
There is yet to be a definitive treatment for mange in hamsters. As a result, different veterinarians may recommend the use of different medications and treatment options.
The most common treatment options for hamsters with mange include:
- Oral Ivermectin
- Topical Amitraz
- Topical selamectin
- Selenium sulfide shampoos
- Benzoyl peroxide
Some veterinarians may also recommend adding cod liver oil to your hamster’s food to restore fur growth, soothing itchy skin with aloe vera gel, or using neem oil due to its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Prevention of mange in hamsters
There are a few preventive measures you can take to reduce the probability of your hamster suffering from mange. You can do the following:
- Ensure your hamster’s cage is well-ventilated
- Multiple hamsters should not share bedding
- Maintain high levels of hamster cage hygiene
- Prevent exposure to animals with mites such as rats
- Limit exposure to outdoor pets such as dogs and cats
- Clean your hands before handling your hamster
FAQs about mange in hamsters
Let’s now have a look at a few common questions regarding mange in hamsters and what you need to know.
a). How do you treat mange in hamsters?
The most common treatment for mange in hamsters is oral ivermectin. Treatment should be administered by mouth for about 2 weeks. If your hamster has ear mites, the vet will clean them before applying topical ivermectin.
b). Is hamster mange contagious?
Yes, hamster mange is a contagious skin infection that can spread from one hamster to another. Factors such as poor hygiene, exposure to rodents such as rats, and newborn hamsters suckling an infested mother are notable ways through which mange can spread.
c). Can hamster mites spread to humans?
Hamster mites can bite humans and cause welts but cannot live in human skin. This means mites from hamsters cannot cause infections such as scabies in humans. However, humans can get sarcoptic mange from Sarcoptes scabiei mite.
Mange is a common problem in hamsters. Luckily, it is rarely fatal and can be treated and managed. To prevent your hamster from getting sick with mange, you should ensure the hamster’s cage is always clean, prevent exposure to outdoor pets and rodents such as rats, and make sure to clean your hands before handling your pets.