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Sick Hamster - Signs and Treatment of Allergies in Hamsters

Updated on February 16, 2010

Allergies in Hamsters

Hamsters are usually pretty hardy animals, but they can have allergies to food, bedding, and other agents. The most common allergy for hamsters is going to be the bedding or another household agent, typically something that has been sprayed in the air.

Allergies are easy to treat as all you need to do is remove the agent that the hamster is allergic to, but if you don't notice the signs of an allergy, then the allergy may develop into something more serious and severe. It's not uncommon for untreated allergies to turn into wet-tail or an infection due to a lowered immune system and stress on the body.

Hamsters can recovery the symptoms of an allergy pretty quickly, but you have to keep an eye on your hamster, as they generally do not show signs of weakness and illness until it's later on. So, if you change anything in or around your hamster's cage, you'll want to keep a close eye on him.

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Cause of an Allergy

There are different causes of an allergy. The most common causes of an allergy include food, bedding, or another household item (smoke, perfume, furniture polish, etc.)

Hamster Food Allergy- Hamsters can be sensitive to changes in diet, which is why if you're going to change your hamster's food, you want to do so slowly. Introduce the new food into the old food little by little, until you're able to completely ween the hamster onto the new food without any major health complications.

If your hamster isn't able to slowly get used to the new food, he may have trouble digesting the new food, which can cause a reaction. If you're just adding one or two new things to your hamsters diet, and he starts to show any signs of reaction, remove them from the diet.

It's best to just keep your hamster on a regular hamster diet. You can try feeding fresh fruits and vegetables as treats, but only do one at a time so that if your hamster does have an allergic reaction, you know what food caused it.

Hamster Allergy to Bedding- There are many different types of bedding available for small animals. Typically, you want to avoid cedar and pine because of the strong oils that can cause respiratory illnesses. You should try to stick with aspen. eco-straw pellets, recycled newspaper bedding (such as CareFresh), and other dust-free bedding choices.

If you think that the bedding is causing your hamster to be ill, remove the bedding and try using paper towels or toilet paper for some time to see if the symptoms go away or if they persist.

Other Household Allergens: If you feel like nothing has changed in the diet or bedding, and your hamster is not showing signs that he may have an allergy, then you should try to figure out if anything else in the room that the hamster's cage is in has changed.

Sometimes hamsters may develop an allergy to aerosols, spray furniture polish, cigarette smoke, perfumes, air fresheners, and just about anything that is airborne. Hamsters have sensitive respiratory systems, so you want to be careful what you're putting in the air where your hamster spends most of his time.

Signs of an Allergy in a Hamster

You may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Irritated stomach
  • Persistent and frequent itching or dry skin
  • Red feet
  • Runny nose
  • Scratching
  • Skin irritation
  • Sneezing
  • Swollen feet
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • White flakes around the eyes and ears

You will notice the signs of an allergy shortly after introducing the allergen.

Treatment of an Allergy

To treat the allergy, it's pretty simple. You want to remove whatever is irritating your hamster. Change the food if it's a food allergy, or change the bedding if it's an allergy to the bedding.

If the symptoms do not go away within a few days, you may want to try removing something else. Don't change too many things at the same time, though, because you won't know for sure what the allergy was for and what you want to avoid.

If you just can figure out what the allergy is and the symptoms keep persisting, you may need to seek veterinary assistance, as the symptoms may be caused by an infection instead of an allergy.

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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