Whilst watching a family members pet dog scratch away whilst sat on my carpet floor, it got me wondering if hamsters could get fleas? Afterall dogs and cats can carry them in their fur, so surely small rodents such as hamsters can get them too? And more to the point, could Oscar catch them from “said” dog shaking them off on my newly laid floor?
Although it is very uncommon, hamsters do get fleas, especially if they are round other pets. The good news is that hamster fleas are visible to the naked eye and easy to eradicate with flea sprays and other treatments when caught early enough.
You only have to mention the word fleas, mites or lice and I start to itch, but how would I know if Oscar had fleas? I decided to investigate the signs, symptoms and treatments for hamster fleas and below is what I learnt.
How do hamsters get fleas?
Fleas feed, thrive and breed off warm-blooded animals so your hamster makes the perfect host. Normally bought in via other animals (and on occasion humans) they jump from victim to victim in order to feast.
If your hamster has the run of the house, then they may come in to contact with flea eggs or larvae meant for other pets.
It is also possible for fleas to fester in your hamster’s bedding, laying eggs and generally chilling out until spotted. But quite often your hamster can unwittingly be sleeping with these unwanted guests as pet owners are oblivious to the notion that hamsters get fleas.
What does it mean when your hamster scratches a lot?
The tell-tale sign that your hamster has fleas is the relentless scratching that occurs. This may be followed by gnawing on their skin or rubbing ruthlessly against the sides of the cage. These are all indicators that your hamster is irritated by something sinister.
As your hamster is so small, fleas are generally easy to spot – as are their little black dirt-like droppings. Mites, however, which are also found on hamsters, are tiny, black parasites that are harder to see and can cause much discomfort for your pets. Mites live in the hair follicles of your hamster’s fur and if left untreated, can lead to mange. Passed on from hamster to hamster, you should check your new furry friend thoroughly once you have purchased it from the pet store.
So, if you notice your hamster scratching and washing more than usual, it is best to do some investigating of your own, as if left untreated fleas can cause your hamster to suffer anaemia or inflammation of the skin. In more severe cases, undetected fleas can even lead to loss of fur and painful allergic reactions.
How do you know if your hamster has fleas?
Most hamster fleas will be visible to the naked eye, but if you are unsure and want to confirm whether your pet hammy has a flea infestation then you should do a quick examination of your own. This involves:
- Separating their fur with your fingers to allow you to get a good look at the roots and the skin beneath it. If you have a long-haired hamster, however, this can be challenging, so it advisable to use a comb.
- Checking their bedding. If your hamster has fleas, then they are likely to be buried within their nest.
You will know if you have found a flea but to be double sure you could always drop a few drips of water on to its back. If it smears red on a paper towel, then you know that this is a blood-sucking parasite.
How do you get rid of fleas on a hamster?
Your pet store or vet should be able to diagnose a hamster flea infestation and provide you with flea spray or treatments specifically for you to use on your hamster. You should never be tempted to use another pet spray as a substitute, as the chemicals are likely to be different and could cause your hamster serious harm.
As well as treating your pet hamster, you will need to deep clean its cage as this is where the majority of fleas and their eggs will be harboring. You will need to discard any toys or tunnels and replace them with new as they are likely to be potential breeding areas. Before putting in the new substrate and bedding check the packaging and contents for parasites.
You should also treat all other pets within the house for fleas in order to eliminate them entirely as well as treating the carpet and other communal areas.
What do hamster fleas look like?
Adult fleas are dark in color and around 2-3mm in length. Although they can be detected by the naked eye, you are more likely to spot “flea dirt” first. These dark specks look like scattered pepper on the skin, although they are in fact flea faeces – yuck!
As hamsters rarely play with other pets, and with Syrian’s being solitary, the only way that a hamster like Oscar could contract fleas is via another human or from running around on contaminated floors. This is why it is important to make sure that other animals living or visiting your house are flea-free, and that you wash your hands thoroughly after playing with them.