How Can I Tell When My Hamster Has Parasites?

Even if you take the best care of your hamster, he may still become an unhappy host to numerous parasites-internal, external, or both. If your pet is scratching frequently or persistently, he probably has a "bug" problem. By knowing what to look for, you can help eradicate most of these pests before they can harm your pet. If you do discover vermin, consult with your veterinarian for the best way solve the problem.

External Parasites

Routinely check your hamster's skin for these signs of external parasites:

  • Lice lay eggs by "gluing" them to your pet's hair; these are easy to spot with a quick examination of your hamster's coat.
  • Fleas can be tracked down by the "dirt" they leave behind, even if you can't spot the fleas themselves. If you see hard, shiny drops on your hamster's skin, scrape some off and place them on a damp paper towel or tissue. If the dirt "bleeds"-produces a red or pinkish spot, then your hamster has fleas.
  • Demodex mange mites are too small to see, but they leave behind scabs and crusts as they burrow into their host. These parasites are most commonly found on the rear legs, base of tail and genitalia, and they cause intense itching and irritation.
  • Ticks are easily discovered because they swell with blood and turn brownish white. If an engorged tick releases and drops to the floor, it can look almost like a rotting grape. To remove a tick, firmly pinch the skin around it and pull hard to extract the entire tick, including the head. Don't be afraid to take a bit of the hamster's skin and hair to make sure the tick's head is removed-if you leave it behind, it may cause infection. Put the extracted tick in vinegar to exterminate it. (Flushing a tick down the toilet will not kill it.)

Internal Parasites

Internal parasites can pose a health risk to you as well as your pet, and they are often difficult to detect except through blood tests and screenings performed by your veterinarian. There are some telltale signs in your hamster you can look for, however.

  • Persistent diarrhea or weight loss
  • Repetitive licking of the anal region
  • Maggots, larvae or eggs in the hair around the anus

If you see any of these symptoms, take your hamster to the veterinarian immediately for a checkup.