Hamster Mites: Demodex, Sarcoptic Mange & Acariasis Skin
Mites are tiny parasites (.3 to .4 mm in length) that live their lives in and around the hair follicles of mammals, including hamsters. A scaly body of the mite allows it to attach itself securely into the skin of its host hamster. demodex mites will attach themselves to the skin of any healthy hamster given the opportunity. A prolonged infestation can lead to certain hamster illnesses such as skin disorders.
Signs and Symptoms
The few visible signs can include redness around the ears, eyes, and nose as well as observing the hamster constantly trying to rub itself against the wire bars or objects in its cage. There may be little to no other signs of an infestation of your hamsters but an outbreak of mites can lead to certain skin conditions such as, acariasis skin disorder or Mange. Mange is caused by both demodex and sarcoptic mites. To see if your hamster’s skin condition is caused by mites, you can comb the hair and inspect the comb using a magnifying glass. You can also brush the infested hamster while holding it over a piece of white paper and use a magnifying glass to inspect the paper. If there are no mites visible, the skin condition could be a hamster fungal infection.
Causes of This
If your hamsters get exposed to people or other pets that are infested with demodex mites, they could become infested themselves.
Mites can also be introduced into a hamster’s cage by adding bedding that contains these parasites. That’s why it is a good idea to inspect bedding before you add it and to avoid using bedding not packaged properly or that you obtain from outdoors.
Older male hamsters and baby hamsters are most at risk of getting mites, or hamsters that are highly stressed or malnourished.
After diagnosing your hamster with a mite infestation, you should immediately isolate the infected hamster(s) from any healthy hamsters. Next, clean the hamsters’ cage thoroughly. Replace all the bedding and wash all the surfaces in the cage. Ideally replace anything in the cage that might be a home for mites. After the cage is cleaned, spray it with an anti mites spray. These sprays should be available at your local pet store.
Next you can take the infected pets to the vet to get treatment or try to treat them yourself by purchasing an anti-mite spray. Medications that treat mites include Ivermectin drops and Amitraz. Amitraz is a bath based medication which is a less ideal solution than Ivermectin since hamsters are not used to getting bathed and will likely become stressed quickly. A hamster sand bath is about as close as they get to an actual bath.
Using a Spray
Make sure to read the instructions on the back of the medication package first but essentially an anti-mite spray needs to be applied once a week until all signs of mites are eliminated. When spraying the hamster, it is important to shield the eyes of the hamster and make sure the spray reaches the skin. Simply spraying the outer coat will not effectively treat your ailing hamster.
Note: Most hamster mites can not live on humans with the exception of the sarcoptic variety. Regardless, take precautions by washing your hands and consider using medical gloves when handling any infected pet with mites.
Hamster Sarcoptic Mange
Mange is a skin condition that is caused by parasitic mites; Sarcoptic mange, also called canine scabies is a very contagious skin disease cause by the Sarcoptic scabeii mite. These mites will burrow ad embed themselves into the skin of your pet hamsters, any of your other pets and even you if you are not careful (scabies in humans). Diagnosing this hamster illness is difficult if you are looking to find the mites on the skin of an infected hamster. You will need to take a scrapping and look for these tiny parasites under a microscope.
Signs and Symptoms
This burrowing type of mite will get into the skin of a hamster causing it to become very itchy (pruritic). It then becomes crusty or scabby and infected rather quickly. Visible signs of hair loss mainly on the face but also the body will begin to appear. Another related skin condition by another type of mite that displays milder symptoms is the Acarasis skin disorder caused by the Demodex mite. Demodex mites are not contagious however.
How do you care for a hamster with sarcoptic mange if it’s so contagious? First you must isolate the infected sick hamsters from any or you other healthy pets and family members. Then use Ivermectin drops orally every 7 to 10 days. Ivermectin comes in the form of injections too but this method should only be used by professionals. While you are treating your sick hamster you should thoroughly clean the cage and replace all the bedding since these mites can live for a few days in the bedding.
Hamster Acariasis Skin Disorder
It’s a skin disorder that occurs as a result of mites. You can brush the coat of the sick hamsters over a piece of white paper and use a magnifying glass to look for these tiny parasites. A veterinarian can also help you diagnose the accurate hamster illnesses it might have.
Signs and Symptoms
The coat of your hamster can appear unkempt, patchy, or falling out. The skin around the head and neck can become particularly dry, scaly, and or spotty.
Causes of It
It is caused by demodex mites which are hard to see with the naked eye. They get into the skin and hair roots and sometimes cause an allergic reaction. This reaction leads to the loss of hair in patches. Often allergic reactions occur in hamsters with weakened immune systems, old or pregnant hamsters.
There are a few treatments that can treat this skin disorder, the first is Ivermectin drops which is a treatment for sarcoptic Mange. Another option involves a weekly bathing in a treatment called, Amritraz. However, hamsters get stressed out when they are bathed. Good hamster care would suggest that it shouldn’t be used as a first option.