Q & A: Scratching hamster

Q: Do hamsters get fleas?

A: A hamster is highly unlikely to get fleas. Hamsters do tend to spend a lot of time grooming. Sometimes the grooming may look excessive and be interpreted as itching or scratching.

If there is no physical evidence of skin disease, for example hair loss, rashes, flaky skin, swollen extremities and ulceration or bleeding, there may in fact be nothing wrong. If hamsters do have fleas, they are incidental hosts just like people can be. Hamsters can suffer from various skin disorders that can cause scratching, the symptoms of which are noted above.

These disorders are most notably allergies, dermatophytosis (fungal infection of the skin), mites, skin cancer and even stress. It is important that these conditions leading to clinical signs are not self-diagnosed. They are best treated by a veterinarian as some of the treatments may be dangerous to the hamster.

Dr Jurie Grobler, veterinarian

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