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Gerbils & Hamsters/Syrian Hamster itching


Hi Sheila,

I have adopted a hamster last week. I am slightly concerned as he has a small patch on his skin where he seems to be loosing fur. The skin underneath seems slightly dry. I have seen him itching quite a few times. What do you suggest is best for him?


Hi Rachel

Thanks for your question.

Whereabouts on your hamster is this patch of skin?  Is it on his hips?  Syrian hamsters have scent glands on each hip and sometimes the fur is very thin there.  You can often see a brown mark on the skin where the gland is.  Some hamsters lick these areas a lot or scratch it which is fairly normal.  They rub themselves up against things to put their scent on it and especially seem to do this once their cage has been cleaned out.

If the area in question is somewhere else, then it might be worth giving him an anti mite treatment.  For Syrians this is relatively easy.  You would need to buy a drug called Ivermec.  You can find this drug contained in Beaphar's small animal anti parasite treatment (make sure it is the one for Syrian hamsters).  You put a drop on the back of the hamster's neck, then repeat the dose a couple of weeks later (check the instruction leaflet for full details).  This usually works.

If this is some sort of allergy related problem it would be worth looking at the woodchip/bedding you are using.  Some of the woodchips contain volatile oils that can cause skin irritation.  In which case you could experiment and just put in paper bedding for a week or two to see if there is any improvement - if not, then you know it isn't the woodchip.

I hope this helps you.


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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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