tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS
      Date:   26 June, 2011  

Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs & rabbits

Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
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Itchy skin in a hamster
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Case first recorded: 22 September, 2000
26 June, 2011 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129
"Doc, don't worry, my dwarf hamster does not bite," said Mr Anderson. "He has this loss of hair for the past two months over both sides of his back. I applied the pet shop's flea spray. No use."

The hamster was only 12 months old but he looked like an old haggard creature with numerous reddish skin folds corrugating the right and left flank of his back half of the body. 

Hamster with left flank wart, abscess and joint swellingHe would be considered middle aged in human equivalent years as hamsters live for around 24 months but his protracted itchiness crumbled his coat and his dehydrated skin made him looked aged prematurely.     

Veterinarians are supposed to have magic powers and can handle all animals. But this little one squealed in pain probably when I touched him. He sprinted as fast as his legs could carry him to another area.  

Several circumscribed and elevated tumours had grown above the skin in the meantime and the hamster had lost more weight.  Was it a papilloma virus causing skin warts, a condition seen in some older Scottish beef cattle, older dogs and people? 

In affected people, there are 4 common types of skin warts - venereal, genital, plantar and seborrheic warts.  In dogs, there are 3 types of warts. They are viral warts (papilloma viral warts), sebaceous adenomas and meibomium gland adenomas (eyelid warts).

This hamster had warts outside the left ear and the body. It had swollen leg joints and pimples on the skin too.

Could the ear wart be the initial cause of the stress? It was around 0.8 cm in diameter and would be considered large if you compared it to the size of a hamster. 

The hamster must have been irritated by it as he could it get rid of it.  It kept trying to scratch it off and probably triggered an itchiness all over the body leading to bacterial infections and pustules formation.  More skin lumps formed as the hamster lost his natural immunity.    

Would it be kinder to put it to sleep?  Was there a possibility of success if the hamster was given an antibiotic and anti-itch injection and observed for the next 7 days?  The anti-itch injection would stop the continuous scratching and give some relief. Antibiotics could be given by mouth.  Would the skin warts and the abscesses increase in numbers? 

The hamster should be given a chance to live rather than recommending euthanasia as many vets would do. 

I anaesthesized by giving him anaesthetic gas to breathe. He slept and I gave him an injection. 

The redness of the skin subsided the next day.  The wood shavings were not used as they might have caused the intense irritation on the lower body and back.  The continual scratching was not seen for the time being.  It was not easy to give antibiotic medicine to this hamster.

He still had the warts on the inflamed skin and on the "knee" joint.  Should these warts be surgically removed later? Water melon was his favourite.  He had his hamster pellets and seeds. It would take a month to know whether his natural immunity would be strong enough so that there would be no more warts forming. 

Presently, tissue paper was used as its bedding. We would need at least 30 days to know whether the itch would return.

The itch did not recur at the 42nd day (pictures). The backside hairs grew back fast.  The hamster was not given wood shavings or dry feed.

The cause of the itch could be either the wood shavings, mites or the dry feed or both?  Nobody knows unless the hamster was exposed to one or the other to see whether it develops the allergy after he has recovered.

The skin warts continued to grow again. They did not bother him.  He did not appear as energetic as before but no more anaesthetic risks would be taken. Let him enjoy his remaining months of life as dwarf hamsters don't live more than 2.5 years generally.

What was the cause of his intense body itch?  Most likely, it could be the chemicals in the wood shavings which are commonly used as hamster bedding as removal of the allergens stopped his itchiness and permit his hair to grow back.

Follow Up  
Hamster with wart on back Hamster with intense itch given an injection Hamster under anaesthesia. Ear wart removed from outside the left ear
Surgery to remove the wart. Hamster was given gas anaesthesia.  A large wart on the lower part of the left ear.   An anti-inflammatory and antibiotic injection was given by injection. It was difficult for the owner to medicate the hamster orally.   The left ear 0.8 cm wart was removed. Another wart was seen on the left hind leg and elsewhere.   
7 days after injection  
Hamster on day 3 after injection: Less redness and itchiness of the skin.
Hamster: Day 3 after injection of anti-itch & antibiotic Hamster: Removal from wood shavings which may be irritating
The inflamed redness of the furrowed backside skin has reduced considerably. 
42 days after injection  
Singapore hamster with warts: 42 days after injections Singapore Dwarf hamster. No more itchy skin 42 days after injection.  
The bald flanks have new hair growth. There is no more redness at 42nd day after injection. The warts appear to grow bigger. Warts do recur in most cases.  Warts in left ear lobe and in right hind leg and body recur.  
Generalised Ringworm. Syrian Hamster. Coat clipped very short. Treated at Toa Ppayoh VetsIt is best to get pet warts removed and skin diseases treated early. It is also much cheaper to do it. Big warts may be irritating to the hamster and they do get infected. Skin diseases (like ringworm in the hamster on the left) spread with time and cause pain to the hamster.
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Be Kind To Pets
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