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UPDATE FOR HAMSTER OWNERS
Allergies in Hamsters Dr Sing
Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Case written: Dec 23, 2001
Case update: Sep, 7, 2008
The dwarf hamster has itchy allergic rashes again.
It was a lively one-year-old dwarf hamster of excellent appetite as judged from its shiny
coat and cuddly body with a long black stripe on top of its fur coat.
I noticed especially its red swollen elbow joint area as it reminded me of my new born
nephew who had a similar condition which was diagnosed as "allergy to cow's
milk" and which meant that the infant's mother had to look for alternatives to the
This hamster was grown up. Not only were the elbow joints affected. All its
leg joints were swollen and shiny. The lower part of the body was inflamed with a reddish
bald tinge, as if the hamster had licked off all the hair. Could this be a food
allergy? Or a contact allergy to its wood litter bedding? Or both?
The swollen joints indicated a food or oral allergy. It could be one of those
auto-immune illness in which the hamster's own antibodies attacked its tissues causing the
Mr and Mrs Chan, newly married, were hamster lovers. "You can be a
dwarf hamster breeder and earn some money from your favourite hobby by selling good breeds
of dwarf hamsters ," I said to the young couple. Companies are retrenching or
cutting down salaries and this may be a good suggestion. Young couples have better
things to do, I guess.
"How to solve this hamster's problem without knowing the exact cause?" I asked
I put it under gas anaesthesia and injected an
anti-itch and antibiotic injection under the skin. The owner was asked
the owner to keep it
free from wood litter bedding and dry pelleted feed.
Nothing was heard from the owner till eight weeks later. The hamster had the same
"Did it recover after the injection?" I asked. I had not expected it to
recover as it was in bad condition.
Mrs Chan said, "It was back to normal several days after the injection. I fed it on
vegetables and kept it away from the wood shavings for around six weeks. After that
I fed it the dry hamster pelleted feed. The rashes develop in the past few days."
It was a chubby hamster with
as much feed as it can it. It has a
very thick coat. Sometimes, I wonder how it could stand the heat and humidity of
equatorial Singapore? I could imagine how uncomfortable it must be to wear a thick fur
coat in Singapore if there is no air conditioning.
Was it possible that it was allergic to its sweat and this allergy was manifested at its
joint area? As it bends its joints during movement, the sweat irritates the skin of
the joints, leading to inflammation and redness.
Will its problem be resolved if it
lives in an air conditioned area?
may be suffering from a disease affecting its immune system and will need
anti-inflammatory injections since creams will be licked off, if applied
to the itchy skin.
Giving anti-allergic injections will resolve
the problem of itchiness and inflammation for a short period of time.
As the hamster is middle-aged, it is more likely to suffer from
immune-related diseases, just like many older people and may have to rely
on steroid drugs to lead a "normal" life. The steroid
drugs stop the redness and inflammation but they cannot stop them
Some ingredients in dry hamster food cause
allergies in this skin hamster. Removal of dry
pelleted food had solved the problem earlier.
Sometimes, the solution in hamster or dog skin
itchiness and allery is as simple as not feeding