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Gerbils & Hamsters/Roborovski Undiagnosed Illness


QUESTION: Hello Sheila, me and my girl are very concerned about our male roborovski hamster. We got him from a pet store about a year and a half ago. I realize he is old, he was 2 months or younger when we got him, but i read in various places they live about 2 years in the wild and 3 with decent care. It may very well be old age. Just in case it isn't I've come to you. About 2 months ago he started to stop running on his wheel and eventually it came to a full halt, he no longer does. He started losing fur in small amounts since a month ago, beginning of May. Itching was also starting around that time. It all became more and more frequent and is now worse than ever. He still has an appetite, and eats lots daily, as well as drinking water, that part has barely changed.

Half way through the month his testicles seemed to get very large as well, as if just reaching adult-hood. He had no visible testicles prior, now they go passed his feet. He developed white scabby/scaly looking skin and lost even more hair.

Currently, he lost almost all underbelly fur, tonnes of fur from his head, and all over his body in small patches. Trace amounts of what looks like goo/ooze/pus in his fur, sticking it together. He bites himself a lot, and a lot in his sleep. He can still walk around the cage and get to his food/water without aid, does most things a hamster does normally, just far slower than normal, with struggle. He has more hair loss than the picture/pictures I am providing. He has been eating fresh washed fruits/veggies for a long time, and not often and not much of it when he does, so I have sort of ruled out change in diet. Thank you for any information or help you are capable of providing, thank you so much.


Thanks for your question.

I'm honestly not sure what is going on so I'm going to ask my vet to see if they have any idea.

The itching and irritated skin sounds like mites but this is difficult to treat in dwarf hamsters as most of the anti mite treatments are for Syrians.

You could try applying teatree cream - you can usually get this from pet shops - it is a natural antiseptic and might help prevent infection, you could also apply aloe Vera.

Fur loss can be hormone related - one of my Syrians is completely bald now and looks really weird. - I have known this to happen before. Her skin is also flakey - the only thing I apply is aloe Vera or teatree - not sure if it helps but there is little that can be done.

I'll be in touch if I can shed any light on what is happening.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi again, and thank you very much for your helpful response. The solutions you provided are much more reachable and immediate, I appreciate that a lot. He is still alive and still just as much not very mobile. Tomorrow I will be getting the medication you mention. But I am wondering if teatree oil would be the same as Teatree cream? Being as then I wouldn't need to travel out of town to grab the cream, I live in a small community. Also with the Aloe Vera I'm guessing the plant would be better than anything bottled? Thank you again!

Hi again

How are you getting on?

I've heard back from my vet friend - his view is that you should take your hamster to the vet. If he hasn't made any progress or has deteriorated then I suggest you do this.

According to him ... Palpating  of the abdomen might reveal a tumour. And the comment about the testicle isworrying: this could either be neoplasia in the testicles, testicular inflammation or fluid retention. But either way, testicular tissue is very sensitive and this is likely to be painful.

The skin isnít showing the usual diffuse dry hair loss of the skin cancer cases, it looks more like excess sebaceous secretion (oil) with secondary pyoderma (bacterial skin infection). So this is likely to be secondary to some underlying cause: likely tumour or hormonal.

I hope this helps you. If you do take him to a vet unfortunately it might be a one way trip as if they diagnose any of the above they might recommend euthanasia so you should prepare yourself.  However I hope he is ok and you are making some progress.



Teatree cream is most common and sold in pet shops - I tend to use that. I have got an aloe Vera spray which is safe for animals and easy to apply as it is a spray. I also have an aloe Vera plant that I break pieces off to use if necessary.

Have you sprayed his bedding with an anti mite treatment? If not it might be worth doing this just to make sure there's nothing in his bedding. Due to the size of a robo I would be inclined to spray it but leave the robo out of the cage in another cage for a short while rather than put him back in with the concentrated smell after spraying. Also avoid using fine woodchip as you don't want any of the tiny pieces getting into his wound - the larger woodchip is ok or just use paper bedding for a while.


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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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