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Old 06-14-2019, 09:32 AM   #1
Charbeaner
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Default Super smelly and losing hair

Hi there, wondering if anyone has gone though something similar and might have advice.

So a few months ago our syrian hamster Mavis started losing hair and smelled just awful (like abscess or something equally vile). We thought she might also be drinking and peeing more but she could also just have been playing with the bottle. The bedding was wet but we couldn't tell if it was with water or urine.

I took her to the vet (which is 1.5 hours away). The vet thought Mavis might have ovarian cysts but she didn't feel comfortable spaying Mavis herself so she referred me to her more experienced locum who was coming up to her clinic in a few weeks. While we waited she put Mavis on a short course of baytril. The smell seemed to improve but not the hair loss.

Fast forward to a few weeks later we took her back to see the more experienced vet and he didn't want to spay her either as he felt like it was maybe just over grooming. But he had no advice on how to stop the over grooming.

So we took her home and she seemed fine other than the hair loss for awhile then she started smelling bad again and our other hamster Walnut (another syrian female who lives in a separate cage) also started to lose hair and smell bad. I thought maybe it was the paper bedding so we changed it out for pine and both hamsters went back to smelling normal.

Just changed their cages yesterday (we change them twice a week) and went to take Mavis out this morning and she smelled so bad I actually gagged. She has a clean bowl full of chinchilla sand but she uses it to pee in instead of bathe. I took a slightly damp cloth and tried to wipe her down and this just made her smell even more, so even though I know baths are not good for them, she was a total smelly dirty mess and we gave her a quick bath (mostly just her bum and belly cuz she smelled like stale urine) and then dried her really well. Because of her thinning hair she dried really easily and quickly.

She has clean sand at all time, we clean her cage twice a week, she does not have wet tail or any lumps or bumps that might be abscesses, she is alert and eating well and other than the hair loss and smell we can't see anything else wrong with her. We can't even take her out of her cage when she smells as anything she touches then smells horrible as well.
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Old 06-15-2019, 12:51 AM   #2
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

I'm really not sure why she is smelling so bad but it does sound like a skin infection however you would expect it to present as showing some oozing a suppuration on the skin surface. A fungal infection may also show this way and can smell bad. It might cost a bit but would it be worth doing a skin scrape / swab culture to see if there was an infection?Mite treatment may help if she has come down with mite overgrowth and secondary infection.
Check out her housing. Is she sleeping in any enclosed hut / house or tube. These can cause bacteria to grow in the moist surroundings and make them smell awful especially if they are peeing in he house too. I'd suggest a large open nest made from piles of ripped up plain tissue or a large cardboard box with doors cut in it.
Bottle chewing may be the issue. Too much water can cause the whole body chemistry to change and the smell of the hamster will change too. The kidneys struggle tryingto get rid of the extra fluid and the liver can fail with the strain if it washing out essentials. Take the bottle out now and give a small heavy bowl. feed a good dry mix and veggies three times a week. Don't give the bottle back till you have seen if this helps.
Lastly there is the more serious issue of something like Cushings, a cancer inside or out or a major organ failure.
Try the simple things first then see if the vets can see her again. I hope she can be helped.
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Old 06-15-2019, 02:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

How old is she? I do think it sounds like infection to smell that bad and it may be she has discharge from internally without you realising. Particularly as it improved after Baytril and then got worse again. Female hamsters can get pyometra (infection of the womb I think it is) and that is quite serious and difficult to treat. As I understand it, it can rarely be solved by antiobiotics alone and does usually mean spaying - which may work for some time but it can still come back as an internal infection in that region.

I am not sure that would explain the fur loss. Fur loss can be caused by allergy to bedding etc as well - but if she doesn't have sore skin or scratching it sore that sounds unlikely.

The smell will be less with pine shavings as the pine is quite a strong smell and will mask it. As you're in the US, you need to be careful using pine shavings, unless it states they are kiln dried or dust extracted, as if not kiln dried, the phenols in the pine can be harmful. Cedar shavings shouldn't be used.

Cleaning out twice a week could also do more harm than good - as all their familiar scent is removed which makes them scent mark more or even pee on things to scent mark them and can cause overproductive scent glands. Bit of a catch 22 if the smell is very bad.

And assume you have had her a while and this is just a recent issue. A paper based bedding like Boxo or Kaytee clean and cozy would be better to rule out any allergy risk and if you put a good deep amount in - eg 4" to 6" deep, then you can "spot clean" the substrate and not have to change the whole lot for at least a month (under normal conditions) - which would help reduce stress for her or over scenting things. Also changing the sand regularly of course.

Some hamsters have had skin issues from sand. Is it Chinchilla bathing sand you're using and not dust? But it sounds like that is needed if she uses it as a toilet.

Handwashing between feeding/handling hamsters and their cages needed now in case of infection.

I am not sure if you're aware also (assume you are as you sound to have had at least one of the hamsters for a while) but female hamsters do come on heat every 4 days and can have quite a pungent smell at that time. Some hamsters more than others - and some people notice it more than others. That is generally quite a musky smell though I believe.

Does is smell like that? Infection and discharge would be more foul smelling like something rotting possibly.

It is really difficult if you don't have an exotic vet nearby. How far is the nearest one?

As Souffle says, you could go and ask for a few investigations to try and narrow down the diagnosis, like a skin scraping to check for mites or other skin conditions - and mention the possibility of womb infection.

I think personally, if the vets are not that experienced in hamster conditions and they are not confident about spaying then there is a need to find a vet who is confident about spaying. Spaying her may sort it if it is an internal infection of the womb - and at least may help prevent pyometra if it isn't (just my thought on that by the way). But only if a vet is confident about the surgery or that wouldn't be an option.

I noticed you posted on the cushings thread as well. That is also difficult to diagnose, because older hamsters do get fur loss and drink more and pee more as well.

It would help to know how old she is?
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Old 06-15-2019, 02:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

Re the bedding - if the pine shavings aren't kiln dried I would get paper based bedding and one of those little air purifiers going in the room that have a filter and remove odours.

And as souffle suggested, an open nest (or at least a shoebox house open on top of the substrate if she is used to being under cover of a house). Cut base out of shoebox, cut a hole in for a door on one side and use the lid as a lift-off roof (so you can check inside without her nest being destroyed).

Then sit it on top of the substrate. So she can burrow down or bury hoards under her nest and be more comfortable and there's more ventilaiton. If she uses her sand dish as a toilet then the rest of the substrate should stay clean and dry and you can just change the sand regularly and spot clean the substrate occasionally if necessary.

If you can leave her nest alone that would be good, because they do get upset if their nest is removed and especially if that is twice a week which would cause stress - and stress can lead to mite infections.

One other thought - sometimes scented things can also cause skin conditions - so no scented granules, bedding or cleaning materials when cleaning the cage. If you use a pet disinfectant then rinse the cage out really well after cleaning to remove as much scent as possible - or try and find a perfume-free one.

Obviously if she does have infection then you will need to clean the cage with specific pet-safe disinfectant but I would try and spot clean mostly in between if you can.

Our Syrian is over 2 years old and also drinking and peeing more than before, and that is fairly normal when they are older and various organs, like kidneys, stop working so well.

It doesn't really sound like Cushings. Some symptoms of Cushings include, weak back legs, bloated abdomen, sores breaking out on the skin, as well as hair loss - usually in a symmetrical pattern on the back flanks or at least a very large patch (but all these can also be caused by other things, including old age or mites or allergy). It wouldn't smell like an infection.

Another thing is the possibility of an internal tumour pressing on something, especially if she is older, but I think you may notice some swelling if that was the case.
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Old 06-16-2019, 07:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

Ooh lots of questions and suggestions thank you!

She just turned 1

Her skin is healthy looking, no redness, no flaking, nothing, just the hair loss. The hair loss is on both sides of her flanks and on her belly. Iíll see if I can get a picture

We had her on Kaytee paper bedding but she smelled worse on that. Her fur got all dirty and greasy and unkempt looking. Our other hamster seemed to react to it too and is doing better on the pine

If we donít clean her cage frequently it makes the whole living room stink. We do try to spot clean first and just change the litter box and then clean the whole thing if spot cleaning doesnít help.

We donít use disinfectant, I use super hot water and dish soap and then rinse well.

I do use kiln dried Pine, and sometimes Aspen. I never use cedar.

Both vets had a feel of her abdomen and neither thought it was Pyometra

Her water consumption or the water bottle chewing, whatever it was has since returned to normal.

She does sleep in a closed house, I can remove that and make her a little tissue nest instead

The stuff we have is called Chinchilla Dust Bath. It is all the stores here carry.

I am not in the US, I live in a small Northern Town in BC Canada with the nearest ďexotic vetĒ an 8 hour drive away. The vet who we see each month (the locum who is 1.5 hrs away) is quite experienced and I trust him. Heís been dealing with our guinea pig and his multiple health issues for months now and he knows his stuff.

I am starting to think that the smell is just from her being in heat and I just have a sensitive nose. She has smelled great ever since we washed her the other day (her fur was sooo gross and Now sheís all fluffy and smells clean - donít worry this was her first and last bath, we were desperate)

The hair loss is baffling though. Iíve had multiple guinea pigs with mites and their skin was always a mess underneath the hair loss from the scratching .
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Old 06-17-2019, 05:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

Don't use the dust bath. This may be the cause as it blocks up the pores. You can use childrens play sand that you have baked in the oven. The dust is dangerous to hamsters.
Hamsters can get hormonal hair loss if the hormones are unbalanced. It's also sometimes caused by rapid swings in temperature from cool to very hot sometimes.
The heat smell is on a 4 day cycle normally and some colours (cinnamon in particular) smell much more strongly than others. If she presses her rump down on you and you get the scent on you then it can hang on and make you whiffy for ages. I would take that plastic house out and replace with a cardboard one or an open nest and see how that does for her. Some females don't clean themselves as well as others so a wipe underneath with a cotton ball soaked in water should clean her up.
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Old 06-17-2019, 08:14 AM   #7
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

Agree with Souffle - anything that says "dust" can be an issues - causing respiratory or skin conditions. You can actually get the Supreme Chinchilla sand on Amazon.ca although maybe not that cheap? Doesn't sound too expensive though. That one is fine - I've used it.

https://www.amazon.ca/Supreme-Tiny-F...gateway&sr=8-1

One of the problems is that the more you clean, the more she will produce additional scent - it can be a bit of a catch 22. They scent mark everything to claim it really so if everything is cleaned they scent mark a lot and may produce more scent than usual, plus may also start peeing on things to claim them as territory if the think someone has been in their territory messing about and taking their smells away! And that's on top of the heat smell (although normal scent marking doesn't actually smell).

It may be why her fur is so greasy if she is overproducing scent for scent marking.

If they are fine on the bedding then that should help a bit. How deep do you have the substrate? That can make a big difference to reducing clean outs. If you have 5 or 6" deep then the bottom half and the base of the cage tends to stay clean and dry and you can spot clean the top part - and go on like that for quite a long time.

Yes a shoebox house would be better I would maybe invest in an air purifier! Not a scented one though.
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Old 06-17-2019, 05:15 PM   #8
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Default Re: Super smelly and losing hair

I didn’t know that about the dust, it was recommended to me by someone reputable but I guess she didn’t know either. Luckily I have just run out and haven’t bought more so I will look for the sand online.

I have a homemade bin cage but I cut the sides off an old cage to make windows in the side so I can only do 1-2 inches of bedding or it will fall out.

I will clean less and spot clean more and try the cotton ball wipe of her bottom. I have also gotten rid of the plastic house. We had a little log tunnel that is open on both ends so I put that in for now.

Thanks so much!!!!
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