If your pet hamster has recently started to obsessively scratch on his back, don't just dismiss the behavior as being one of his seemingly endless adorable hammie quirks. Constant scratching can be a sign of various health ailments in hamsters, so it may be time for you to take action.
A hamster's nonstop back scratching may be a sign of pruritis, which is an ailment that can trigger a frustrating cycle of skin damage and irritation. Pruritis is frequently caused by the presence of mites. These mites are especially prevalent in aging hamsters, or in hamsters that are sick, feeble or anxious and stressed out. Mite infestations can bring upon a variety of uncomfortable symptoms in hammies, including loss of fur, crusty skin and intense itching. If your poor hamster can't seem to stop scratching on his back, mites and pruritis may just be to blame.
A hamster may feel especially itchy due to allergies, as well. A lot of different factors may be causing your pet to feel allergic. Explore all of the potential culprits, whether artificial coloring in his commercial hamster mix food or possibly harsh chemicals in any cleaners you use for his cage. Pinpointing the exact allergen may require a lot of trial and error and tweaking, although minimizing your hamster's discomfort is certainly worth the effort. Speak to your veterinarian about hamster allergies if you have any specific questions. She may be able to give you detailed advice on what may be making your individual hammie feel so itchy and allergic. A vet may also be able to offer you hamster-friendly, gentle ideas on anything from disinfectants to commercial foods.
A cutaneous abscess may also be responsible for your pet's back scratching habit. These skin abscesses are essentially reserves of pus within the hamster's skin, and frequently appear due to physical fighting. However, a hamster can also easily contract the bacterial infection through something sharp making its way into the skin -- think wood shavings for bedding purposes, for example. If your hammie scratches his back all day long, he may just have an abscess there. In situations of abscesses, surgical assistance is necessary for extracting the pus.
Grooming Rather Than Scratching
If your hamster is grooming himself on the back, it may appear to you that he's actually scratching himself. However, hammies, like felines, are avid and enthusiastic groomers. In fact, hamsters that neglect to groom themselves are very often sick or unwell. Frequent back grooming is a good thing and no cause for alarm.