When you adopt a hamster into the family, you might worry that someone in the family will be allergic to him. But your little rodent friend could be the one with the sniffles. Hamsters can develop allergies or inherit allergic sensitivities. If Scooter scratches excessively, loses hair, is sneezing and wheezing, has runny eyes or his feet are swollen, he might have an allergy.
Your hamster could be allergic to his own bed. Cedar shavings are a popular choice for hamster bedding, but they also can cause allergies in hamsters. If you are set on using wood shavings for Scooter's bedding, use pine instead of cedar. The best alternative to cedar, though, is paper bedding or meadow hay.
If Scooter is showing signs of an allergy, take a look at what he is eating. Hamsters love seeds and nuts, and many prepared hamster diets include both. However, it's not unusual for hamsters to be allergic to sunflower seeds and peanuts. Take those items out of his diet to see if he recovers from his symptoms. Also avoid feeding him hamster food, like cookies or biscuits, that has been artificially colored with dyes that have "E" in the number.
Airborne Allergy Inducers
Sometimes it's something that is in the air that triggers an allergic reaction in hamsters. Breathing in cigarette smoke, hair spray, furniture polish or perfume could, for instance, set Scooter to wheezing and itching. Remember that his lungs are extremely small compared to yours, so try to keep your hamster away from airborne allergens.
Treating an Allergic Hamster
If you've ever suffered from allergies, you know how miserable they make you feel. Act immediately to alleviate Scooter's discomfort if you notice he's having an allergic reaction. If the allergy appears after adding a new element to his environment, like a new type of bedding or food, the unfamiliar item is likely the culprit. Remove it and see if Scooter's condition improves over the next 24 hours. If he doesn't get better, try eliminating other, more established items to determine the cause. Don't make your hamster endure the condition for too long, though. If you can't find the cause of his allergies within five to seven days, or if his condition gets worse, take him to the vet. You should always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your hamster, especially if removing common allergy inducers doesn't help.
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Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.