Hamster skin infection

a hamster with skin infection
Hamster with chronic dermatitis

Dermatitis is a term used to describe a skin infection. It is the name given to inflammatory lesions in the skin, irrespective of whether they involve the dermis or epidermis, in most cases both components of the skin are involved. It can cause severe itching leading to blisters, redness, swelling, and often scabbing. (The video opposite shows a hamster with chronic dermatitis.) Typical symptoms can include anything from a red itchy rash to blisters, open sores and crusting. Dermatitis can arise for several reasons in all species of domestic hamsters. There are a number of health conditions, including genetic factors and allergies that are responsible for causing this skin condition. There are several types of dermatitis which are distinguished based on the particular factor that triggers the reaction. Dermatitis is the skin's way of reacting to severe dryness. The most common skin problem seen in hamsters' is, as they age they may begin to lose fur, the skin may become sore, dry and begin to flake or start to scale. The folds in the skin may then start to crack leading to a self perpetuating scratch itch cycle. This in turn leads to a bacterial infection.

skin problems in hamsters
An ageing hamster with a chronic skin infection
a hamster with dermatitis
Dry flaking skin that has become infected with constant scratching

The most annoying problem with dermatitis is the itching that accompanies it. Unfortunately the constant scratching means it gets broken and therefore more prone to infections and this can aggravate the condition even further. Humans with chronic dermatitis can use hydrocortisone cream from the chemist or use cold compresses, or ice packs to suppress the itching.
In the case of a hamster with dermatitis, unless directed by your vet, it is better not to use any creams or compounds to rub on as this can be ingested by the animal. A long lasting steroid injection by a vet should relive the itching for many weeks to come, giving the infection a chance to heal. This may be followed by a course of baytril (antibiotics) given orally in the hamsters water supply. Keeping the hamster hydrated is also essential in treating dermatitis. The more hydrated the skin is the less dry it will become. The more moisture in the air (humidity) the more moisture the skin will absorb and help prevent it dehydrating.

As hamsters age some may lose fur. The underlying skin that is exposed may become dry and scaly. In some cases, particularly more so with males, this dryness may be so severe that the skin may become thickened, very scaly, and with a white hard eggshell like appearance. This is usually caused by a reduction in the production of the natural moisturizer called (sebum) this is a problem usually seen only in old age.
It results from lack of water in the top layer of skin, with increasing age the skin holds less and less water. Sebum is acidic oil. It forms an acidic layer over the skin. This layer is called the acid mantle. This acid mantle stops all the bacteria that want to invade the skin. This acid mantle also protects the top layer of skin which is made of dead cells and keeps the moisture inside. The main purpose of sebum is to make the skin and hair waterproof and to protect them from drying out keeping them from becoming dry and cracked. Sebum production normally decreases with age, males are more susceptible to this condition than the female are. The reason for this is the secretion of sebum is stimulated by hormones (androgens) Testosterone levels decline in the male hamster as he ages and therefore so does the secretion of sebum. The folds in the skin starts to crack, bacteria then enters the wounds leading to the more serious condition of dermatitis.

Allergies (contact) are another cause of some skin problems. Some allergic reactions in hamsters may be mild, but some can be more severe. An allergy is a disorder that can result in symptoms as benign as a runny nose to skin rashes. Theses allergic reactions can relate to either food sensitivities or other external environmental factors. Some hamsters may be sensitive to a particular type of bedding that can trigger an allergic reaction to them. This can result in fur loss or sore areas on the hamster leading to persistent scratching and a bacterial infection.

Chemicals found in common household products especially in detergents soaps and bleach may cause skin irritation and the mucus membranes such as the nose and eyes etc: Using household bleach detergents and disinfectants for cleaning hamster cages and our pet’s environment can be harmful to our pets. Ingredients and particulates from household detergents and bleach can disrupt an animal's biological process, this includes aerosols, perfumes, fly sprays etc: as well as cigarette smoke and may well cause some hamsters to react badly to them. Many of these products contain chemical additives that are dangerous and may cause problems for hamsters

Food allergens or food sensitivities. Food intolerance reactions can occur to naturally occurring chemicals in foods. Food sensitivities can also cause allergic reactions in hamsters as well as humans and may cause inflammation and poor nutrient absorption that can result in a variety of health problems. Food intolerance can present itself with symptoms affecting the skin, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. The most widely used naturally occurring food chemical capable of provoking such reactions is tartrazine and benzoic acid. Tartrazine is used extensively as a food colouring for most of our everyday food consumption. Benzoic acid and its salts are used as food preservatives for human foods. So feeding hamsters food that has been processed for human consumption is an absolute No! Bear in mind that all processed foods contain additives such as salt and sugars etc: Processing also reduces its nutritional value. Preservatives are added or created during the processing of the food and can have adverse health issues on your hamster.

Hamster skin infection

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