Hamster Health and General Info
If you're thinking of owning a hamster, please provide him or her with the best cage facilities you can, and always give it great care. These are incredible, fun little critters, but they need to be cared for properly. There are several good books about hamster care, and some good information on the internet.
They can happen to the best of us! That was my (Rusty) horrible experience. Somehow these seriously annoying little parasites appeared out of nowhere. For months I was living the indulged life, then all of a sudden I'm infested with uninvited teeny-tiny biting, itching little beasties! Here's a photo of the little nasty. I was scratching, pushing my bedding away and sleeping on the cage floor, and just being miserable. Lucky for me, my caretaker was getting bitten too. I guess hands and arms coming into your cage can be a good thing, otherwise the mites would not have gotten onto her and bitten her. Caretakers should look very closely on you, your cage bars and accessories. If you have mites, you'll see tiny moving specks. Once the mites were discovered, my caretaker took action! I didn't particularly enjoy the treatment, but it got the little beasties off me and out of my cage.
Here's what I endured
First, I was moved from my 3-story luxury cage into a small wire cage that most hamsters live in. You know, the 1-foot square cage they sell at the pet stores. I was given a small amount of new bedding, and after a through cleaning in hot soapy water, my igloo and wodent wheel were returned to me. My water bottle was also washed in soapy water (just the outside of the bottle). Then, my cage was put in the bathtub. This was to help keep the mites from getting in the rest of the house. Since I wasn't allowed to go out in my ball because the mites could come off of me and get into the carpet, I was only allowed to run around in the bathtub. Be sure the drain is securely closed, because you Don't want to go there! My cage bedding, and my belly and back were given a spray of Scalex Mite & Lice Spray for Birds. This product contains dangerous bug killing stuff (insecticides) so follow the label directions! It should not get in your food or be used excessively. My food bowl was replaced after the Scalex was sprayed so it didn't get sprayed on my food. I lived like this for over a week. Every few days my bedding was changed and I was "treated" with a spray of Scalex as directed on the bottle. In the meantime, my 3-story cage and all it's contents were taken outside. All the wood accessories were thrown away, and only the washable plastic items were saved. These were washed with a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water), then washed with hot soapy water, then rinsed. My cage was washed too. The area around my cage was thoroughly vacuumed every day (use the vacuum tools to get in all the nooks and crannies) and since the little mites could be seen on nearby bookcases, the entire area was sprayed with Scalex as directed on the bottle. When the mites appeared to have been eradicated, I was returned to my 3-story cage back in the living room. I lived "sparsely" for a while, with just a few plastic cage accessories. I endured a couple more weeks of Scalex treatment and careful observation. When I wasn't scratching, pushing my bedding away, and there were no mites to be found on my cage, accessories, or nearby furniture, my caretaker started replacing the cage accessories that had been thrown away. I did get a replacement wood bark tunnel (I like that), but now I have more plastic accessories like the Strawberry and PVC fittings. I have not had mites again, and I hope those little buggers never come back!
(Wet Tail) When Gizmo first came to live in his new home, he had a bout of diarrhea. I'm not sure if it was an official case of "wet tail" or just the stress of moving to a new home and having a new diet. To be on the safe side, we gave him Mardel DriTail. It's an antibiotic mixture used for treating various causes of diarrhea in small animals. It comes in a bottle with a tiny eye-dropper dispenser. Gizmo didn't mind taking his medicine, and in about a week, his diarrhea cleared up.
Find a Hamster Vet
We haven't needed a hamster vet for any ongoing medical care or for treatment of an illness, but on Gizmo's last day he was unable to move his hind legs and unable to get around his cage. We decided to euthanize him, but I was surprised and dismayed to find that there are very few vets who will provide services for hamsters. If you're planning to own a hamster, or own one now, be sure to find a vet in your area who will treat your hamster if it needs care - even if that care is just to help it to a peaceful and pain-free passing.
Read our Product Recommendations for general health & well-being.
Dr. Foster's & Smith's PetEducation.com site has several basic articles about hamster health: