Posted: August 8, 2014, 2:35 p.m. EDT
© I-5 Publishing LLC
Healthy hamsters do not have flaky skin.
Q: I have had a long-haired hamster for over 2 years now. Today I checked on him and I noticed that his skin is flaking. What should I do?
A: At 2 years of age, a hamster is considered an older adult. Just as with any pet that ages, there are conditions that become more common as they get older. The skin is considered an organ as much as the liver, the heart and the kidneys are organs. The condition of the skin can be used as an indicator of overall health and flaky skin may indicate there is a problem with your hamster’s health.
Some of the conditions we consider are dietary insufficiencies, metabolic changes and immune system disorders. Ectoparasites can cause changes to the skin, but it is unlikely an older hamster would show signs related to parasites unless there are husbandry changes or some condition has depressed the immune system, which allows parasites a foothold to start causing disease in an older animal.
Fortunately, with changes to the skin, it takes only a few relatively simple tests to determine the cause of the problem. The first thing that will occur is that your veterinarian will ask you some questions about diet, changes to the humidity and temperature of the cage area, or exposure to parasites in order to help pin down the cause of the problem, even before a physical examination is done. Then diagnostic tests that include microscopic examination of the hair and skin cells can reveal many of the possible causes of the skin changes. Finally, a skin biopsy or culture may be needed to determine the definitive answer to the problem.
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