Why is your dwarf hamster losing its hair and should you be concerned? Is hair loss indicative of a disease or just a natural occurrence? Knowing the basic causes of hamster hair loss as well as some preliminary treatment to try at home may save you a visit to the veterinarian.
Why is Your Dwarf Hamster Losing Its Hair?
First of all, understand that hair loss in dwarf hamsters over the age of 10 months doesn't necessarily indicate disease. Hamsters may lose hair at the hindquarters and progressively lose hair upward on their body as they age, and particularly late in life.
Veterinarian Susan Brown states that hair loss can occur for a number of reasons, including: excessive rubbing on feeders or cages, protein deficiency, overeating of grain/cereals, fur-chewing by other hamsters; demodectic mites; adrenal tumors; thyroid deficiency; and chronic renal disease.
General Treatment for Alopecia
Dry or scaly skin in the rump area in addition to general hair loss could be a sign of a parasite infestation. This condition could be accompanied by other diseases or conditions, so remember that hair loss is symptomatic. Before continuing with treatment, have your hamster examined by a veterinarian to rule out any critical diseases that might require stronger medication.
If you suspect general "alopecia" with the absence of disease, try altering the hamster's diet. Veterinarian Taylor Douglas suggests increasing the rodent's intake of fruits and vegetables, cutting down slightly on grain and seed mixes. The doctor further recommends putting a few drops of cod-liver oil in the hamster's food or water, or crushing a yeast tablet and sprinkling it on the food. (Make sure the supplement doesn't contain garlic.) Vitamin-enriched foods (or water-soluble droplets) may help to address a vitamin deficiency, which could stop further hair loss. Certain medications for hair loss are only available through a veterinarian's prescription.
Cedar Oil and Gnawing
Writer, 'net vet and Russian dwarf hamster aficionado Jean McGuire considers this species particularly "hardy." However, she further substantiates the belief that cedar oil (from cedar chips) can cause significant hair loss as well as skin cracks. Before continuing on to more drastic treatment, get rid of the cedar chips and thoroughly wash and dry the hamster to remove any leftover taint.
Finally, make sure that your dwarf hamster isn't merely gnawing on the bars of his cage out of boredom or claustrophobia. (Excessive gnawing has been known to cause facial hair loss.) Add more distractions to the cage, like a wheel, toys or replacement items that can be chewed vigorously without affecting the little guy's face. If necessary, change the hamster's type of cage from steel barred to plastic aquarium.
Dwarf hamsters are diminutive in size, so avoid giving them strong medical treatment without first weighing a vet's opinion on the matter. Try these basic treatment suggestions first and move on from there.