Alopecia in Hamsters
Much like in humans, hamsters suffer from alopecia, which causes the animal to have partial or complete hair loss. There are many causes for hair loss in hamsters, but it typically occurs on the face or around the tail and hindquarters.
Symptoms and Types
Alopecia is extremely noticeable and is characterized as a varied or symmetrical hair loss. Patches with little or no hair may be seen, especially in the face and other parts of the body, like the tail.
If the hair loss is due to ectoparasitic infestation (ticks, mites, etc.), the hamster may have severe itching and/or red skin. If it is due to nutritional reasons, the hamster may appear malnourished or have a dull coat. Difficulties urinating plus hair loss, meanwhile, may be a good indicator of kidney problems.
The are many things that can lead to hair loss in a hamster, including:
- Rubbing on metal cage feeders or excessive burrowing (hair loss around the face)
- Cage overcrowding, wounds from fighting, hair chewing by cage mates (hair loss around the tail and hindquarters)
- Vitamin, mineral, or protein deficiency (general hair loss)
- Ticks, mites, and other ectoparasites (hair loss due to excessive itching and rubbing)
- T-cell lymphoma
- Thyroid gland hormone imbalance and inflammation of kidneys (rare)
The pattern and severity of alopecia is essential for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your veterinarian may also recommend blood tests and a skin scraping examination to rule out other potential causes.
Alopecia is commonly treated with topical shampoos and antibiotic therapy. However, this will depend on the underlying cause of the hair loss. Vitamin and mineral supplements, for example, may be given to hamsters that are thought to have hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies.
Living and Management
It is essential that the topical shampoos, ointments, and antibiotics are administered as prescribed. Cases involving ectoparasitic infestations will require you to clean and disinfect the hamster's cage and toys thoroughly to prevent reinfestation. Other than that, check up on the hamster routinely to make sure it is recovering well, and call your veterinarian if its condition should worsen.
Avoid overcrowding a cage and separate hamsters that are known to fight. Providing your hamster a well-balanced diet and a clean area to move around in can also help prevent hair loss in many cases.