Sick Hamster - Signs and Treatment of Fungal Infection

Hamsters and Fungus

Hamsters are generally pretty clean animals, but they can only do so much when they're not being taken care of. Although, they can kick out all their old bedding, that doesn't mean that they can put in new bedding and disinfect their cage, nor does it necessarily mean that they can replace leaking water bottles with new ones.

Taking care of a hamster is the human's responsibility, and that responsibility cannot be left solely on a child.

So, as for fungal infection and fungus growing in the hamster's cage... Clean the cage!

Generally, the fungus will grow where there is moisture that just won't dry up. If the moisture is there long enough, it will grow in your hamster's cage, and that's just not your hamster's fault. It's yours for not cleaning the cage. Weekly cleanings will prevent fungus growth- remove the bedding, disinfect the cage, and replace new bedding.

The most common fungal problem with hamsters is going to be ringworm, which is very common among children and other animals as well. Aspergillis fungus is another fungus that my hinder your hamster's health.

Fungus can be very deadly, so you want to be careful.

Guinea Pig with Ring Worm
Guinea Pig with Ringworm

Ringworm in Hamsters

Ringworm is probably the more common type of fungal infection for hamsters. Most people do clean out their hamster cage, so Aspergillis fungus just isn't as big of a deal in terms of frequency, not necessarily severity.

Ringworm is very contagious, and can be passed to other animals and people.

Causes:

When moisture gets trapped in the bedding, fungus can grow. With the increased usage of plastic cages that are partial to fully enclosed, the risk of moisture buildup is greater.

Signs:

  • Circular hairless patches of dry scaly skin

Treatment:

Generally, the hair around the ringworm will be clipped and the infected area will need to be bathed with a povidone-iodine shampoo as directed by a veterinarian. Some veterinarians may just prescribe an antifungal cream that would need to be applied to the area.

The cage needs to be fully sterilized and ventilation should be improved upon, which may call of a new cage altogether.

Wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands when handling a hamster with ringworm, as you can contract it.

Prevention:

Ensure that the hamster cage is well ventilated. Keep the enclosure clean. Replace leaking water bottles.

Aspergillis fungus

Fungus Appearance:

Once it starts to grow, the fungus will start off white and then turn black. When it's black, the fungus starts to send off airborne spores, which can damage your hamster's health, and you'll start to see signs of illness if not death from breathing in the deadly spores.

Cause:

For lack of better description, a dirty cage will cause fungus to grow. The Aspergillis fungus grows in the bedding in the area where the hamster potties most

Corn cob bedding is prone to growing Aspergillis fungus, as it seems to let the fungus grow faster than any other bedding.

Fungus will also grow on fruits and food that have been left in the cage for way too long.

Signs of Fungal Infection:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathing problems
  • Wheezing
  • Blood in urine
  • Inflamed skin
  • Chronic diarrhea

If you see fungus in your hamster's cage and start seeing signs of health problems in your hamster, you'll want to clean out the tank as soon as possible and see a vet to diagnose and treat your hamster.

Treatment:

A vet will treat the hamster with an antibiotic and an antifungal medication.

Prevent Fungal Growth:

The best way to prevent fungus from growing in your hamster's home is to clean the enclosure. Clean the bedding once a week with a safe, non-toxic disinfectant. Also make sure that you remove any fresh food daily.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized reptile veterinarian.

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Comments 2 comments

Stacey 5 years ago

My hamster is 2 and a half years old. He's always been in good health until a number of months ago when I noticed his eyes were crusty/sleepy for three days on the trot. I bathed them each day so he could open them and booked him in for an appointment with the vet. The crustiness around the eyes stopped, but his skin on his face, mainly around his whiskers got flakey and he has some hair loss around the region. He was treated for mites, my first suspicion which the vet agreed with, but after two courses of treatment and complete change of cage materials there was not really any improvement. I requested lab testing and after a loooong wait they concluded that it was fungal, but they've offered no treatment. It's not ringworm. His cage is cleaned thoroughly weekly. Fresh food and water and treats (including the occasional fresh fruit/veg and roast chicken) so I just don't know what to do. He's a wonderful little man and I want him to be comfortable in his old age. He's never been able to clean himself as well as other hamsters because he was born without back feet and can't really balance very well sitting. Can you recommend or suggest safe treatments to try to make my little guy happier and healthier?


Annoymous 5 years ago

Does the fungus spread to humans?

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