A mouse is a common, easy-to-care for small pet that rarely requires vet visits. Unfortunately, not many people know much about their mouse's health. When problems such as fur loss, excessive scratching or scabbing appear, many pet owners don't know what to do. Hair loss around the eyes, nose and face could be caused by a number of problems. Identifying the correct one is an important part of keeping your pet mouse healthy.
Bald spots on the face and head come in several types. Some mice may also have small scabs on their ears–often an indication of sarcoptic mange, which is a type of parasitic infection. Some mice may have very clean bald spots, with no thinning or loss of neighboring hair. This often indicates barbering, excessive grooming by the mouse or a cage mate. Hair loss on the face accompanied by thinning hair elsewhere, or by itching, may indicate an allergy to the mouse's bedding or a case of lice. Round areas of hair loss may indicate ringworm.
Facial fur loss in mice may be merely cosmetic. In cases of barbering, the mouse or a cage mate may have a habit of overgrooming. If not accompanied by stress behaviors, like poor appetite or nervousness, this type of hair loss does not need to be addressed. Hair loss caused by parasites can result in permanent deformity or even anemia, and allergies may create long-term discomfort and illness.
Very old mice may develop thinning fur on the face, inside of the forelegs and back. This is easy to mistake for thinning caused by parasites, but is not harmful in itself. Some mice also have a thinner coat in general. Fuzzy mice have thin, curly or wavy hair, which is often very thin on the extremities and face. Mice with naturally thinning hair are unlikely to need treatment. Pet owners who are unsure should always seek the advice of a vet.
Some websites advise home antiparasitic treatment for mice. This can be very dangerous. Oral Ivermectin paste, a common treatment for rats with lice or mites, is much harder to dose accurately in mice. Use only topical Ivermectin, and always consult a vet before performing any home treatment. Pesticides and antiparasitic medications can easily become toxic in very small animals.
Pet owners can reduce the chances of hair loss in their mouse by keeping mouse cages clean and sanitary. Avoid wet conditions, which may encourage fungal growth, and heat treat all wood bedding to kill louse eggs. Keep wild mouse populations under control to prevent pet mice from exposure to parasites. House multiple mice in spacious cages with plenty of hiding spots to decrease the chances of bullying and overgrooming.
Mouse image by pioregur from Fotolia.com
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.