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Gerbils & Hamsters/redness and irritated skin


I have a male syrian hamster. He was at least a year old when I got him and I have had him almost a year now. He is the best. He eats and drinks fine. He poops and pees normally. He seems to have lost some muscle mass. He is very active, loves running in his wheel and exploring. So im guessing its old age setting in. But last week I noticed his neck under his chin and now some of his arm was red and bare like he had scratched too much. So I researched possibilities. I thought it could be mites so I changed his cage, threw away his toys and lysoled everything else. Well it didnt do anything. It just looked worse. So I put tea tree on it. He did not like that. But he does tolerate aloe vera. Which seems to temporarily help. Its been two weeks since it first appeared. His activity and personality have not changed. I really dont think its mites, it just looks raw and only in that area. I read that older hamsters can have eczema, is that true?What else should I do to make him comfortable and help? could it be something else? I realize he is showing signs of aging, his scent glands have lost most of their hair. But he hasnt lost his affect on the ladies. Please help I just want him to be happy and comfy

Hi Rebekah

Thanks for your question.

Although you don't think it is mights, I would still be tempted to treat for this initially.  All hamsters have mites and whilst most of the time they don't cause problems, when a hamster is unwell or elderly they can easily get overrun by them.  More often than not it is around the head area that is affected.

You can get medicine from pet shops or On-line - Beaphar make a small animal anti parasite drug that is used externally.  It is applied to the back of the neck, but make sure it isn't going on sore or broken skin.  If you can't get this one, any small animal anti parasite drugs are fine providing they say they are safe for hamsters, and they must contain a drug called Ivermectin.  The dose is repeated a few weeks later.

With regard to the sore area - you could try cleaning it with warm salt water as this will act as an antiseptic.  Don't make it too salty otherwise it really will sting.  Gently pat the area dry afterwards.  Teatree cream is good, but again, if the area is raw it will sting him, so aloe vera is fine as this is more soothing.

You might want to change his bedding for a week or two - just put in paper towels rather than any woodchip.  Woodchip could get into the wound, or cause irritation so if you replace this for a while it should give the area a chance to heal.

He definitely sounds as though he is showing signs of aging, and at this time they are prone to getting dry, flaky skin etc.  What you are doing is correct, and hopefully if you continue to do this and treat with Ivermec/Ivermectin he should show some improvement.


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Sheila Adby


Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is


I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website:

Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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