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Old 08-24-2021, 10:55 PM   #1
jsp
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Default Balding hamster

Hi,

I wondered if I might ask what you think this pattern of balding means:

Roc's hair

My hamster is called Roc, and he is 17 months old. Apart from the hair loss he is fit and well as far as I can see.

I cannot give him a full examination as he is very nervous and bites savagely if I pick him up. I stopped handling him at four months old, and he has been very happy in his cage living like a wild hamster, without any interference from us.

He is completely nocturnal and hurtles back down his pipe to his burrow if we walk into the room when he is awake at night, so I see him very little.

I have slept in his room recently though to check he is okay, and he definitely still runs on his wheel and zooms about the place. He was never very fast, but is not currently especially slow either.

I think he may just be getting old, but I wondered if anyone might know?

I have asked the vet twice by phone and am going to take Roc there in person once I recovered from covid. I'd be really glad to ask for advice here as I know you all have a lot of specialist knowledge though.

Thanks!

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Old 08-24-2021, 10:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: Balding hamster

He weighs a bit more than 250g which is his normal adult weight.
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Old 08-25-2021, 05:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Balding hamster

It's difficult to know as hair loss can be caused by a number of things, including ageing. Although with ageing it tends to start behind the ears in my experience.

On his photos he does appear to look a bit rounded/swollen at the back end (wider). Have you noticed any swelling in his abdomen area?

Ideally you would need a vet check. It's unusual for hamsters to bite unless they are in pain or scared, but he may have had some traumatic bad handling experience before you got him.

Sometimes we need to handle them to check them so wearing gloves can help if he bites. (Eg thick ones like leather or gardening gloves) You will be more relaxed if not fearing a bit and so be able to handle him more gently. But do it over something soft/low down in case he wriggles free and falls.

There's some info on hamster hair loss below. They can actually have a moult in warm weather as well. Our Syrian looked very much like yours in the summer of his first year and it turned out to be a moult and all grew back again.

To help with fur condition, linseeds are hugely beneficial. Natural oils and vitamin E. I gave a pinch of these a day and our hamster's fur all grew back - it can really give them good fur condition ongoing. Not expensive to buy a bag of linseeds and they last for a very long time (over a year or more). I gave them separate to the normal food on a separate little dish. They like them and just lick them up.

It can take a few weeks but can really help. Aside from that though you need to know what is going on. It may be nothing serious, but he is getting to the 18 month age that is considered old. If he seems well in himself then it could be ageing or diet or moulting. What hamster mix does he have?

But he does need a gentle checkover really if you can find some gloves - to see if his abdomen is swollen - as he may be in pain or discomfort if it is. They are good at hiding illness because they're prey animals.

Hamster fur loss

If you do take him to a vet make sure it's an exotic vet that knows about hamsters. Some vets just automatically assume it's mites and give mite treatment (without testing). The mite treatment is very toxic to hamsters and should only be used if absolutely necessary. A good vet will take a skin scraping and look under the microscope to see if it's mites.

I wouldn't suspect mites unless he has been scratching excessively to the point of making his skin sore (doesn't look like mites to me).

Have a look at the link - it shows different patterns of hair loss - it may just be age.
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Old 08-25-2021, 07:14 AM   #4
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Default Re: Balding hamster

Thank you very much for taking the time to write all that, it's really kind of you.

I will take him to the vet for a checkup once I am recovered from my covid infection. I know they do have one vet at my local surgery who knows about exotics so I will book an appointment for when she is there.

I will buy some linseeds for him too. I'm sure he will enjoy those.

The thing I notice when I look at the first photo compared to the newer ones is that he just looks so much more butch in the first photo. When he was young he was a very machismo hamster and very muscular, and always scent marking things. He looks a bit more calm and squishy and middle aged now, so maybe his is just getting older.

I'll take him to the vet to check asap. Thanks!
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Old 08-25-2021, 07:28 AM   #5
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Default Re: Balding hamster

17 months is quite old Ish. Syrian hamster lifespan is from 18 months to 2.5 years usually. At 2 they are the equivalent of an 80 year old human. So at 17 months he is kind of a 60 year old. Which is not old, but ageing

I would just give him a look over yourself first (with gloves) and see if he has any swelling/distension. It may be just the photos. If he does then that could be something serious - fluid build up. Either heart, kidneys, or possible from a tumour. Or (rarely) Cushings disease (which tends to be "pot belly"). Then it's just tlc at his age. Unless there is a specific lump etc.

I have recently had a lump removed from our Syrian when he was 21 months - before it got too big - but surgery at that age depends on the condition of the hamster.

If he seems well and healthy otherwise and still fairly active, I wouldn't worry too much and there isn't much you can do about the ageing process apart from treats and tlc. If he does have what seems to be swelling or fluid though I would see a vet. There probably won't be anything they can do but they can advise if it is causing him pain or not and may prescribe anti inflammatory pain medication.
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Old 08-25-2021, 09:27 AM   #6
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Default Re: Balding hamster

Thanks, that's really helpful to know.

I did wonder if he was just getting on a bit, but wasn't sure. I'm really not a calm person about things like pets getting old and I dread the idea of him getting ill or anything.

When I was trying to photograph him yesterday I had to keep lifting the paper stuff off the top of him and I did get to see him properly and he was walking in a kind of waddly way, with what looked like a football in his middle, which I didn't think was a very good sign. I might just be worrying about nothing of course. I have form for that. I will try to get him to the vet soon.

It should be easy, but I'm recovering from covid and my head spins, so I can't drive at the moment. I will need to get myself back together somehow.

It's really good to know that he is getting on for retirement years. I need to prepare my son for the idea that he might pop off at some point and having a clear idea of what's what, really helps with that.
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Old 08-25-2021, 03:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: Balding hamster

I did think he looked a bit swollen round the middle/ back end. And the waddling suggests this too. It does sound like some kind of fluid build up maybe. I hate to say this but you might need to prepare for the idea that he is nearing his time. Any kind of fluid build up is usually fairly serious. I am not sure there would be much a vet could do. However it needs keeping an eye on. Our previous Syrian was like this towards the end and got so large I was worried he would burst and have a horrible ending. He was quite clearly not doing well by then with his ears down all the time (a sign they are suffering or in pain- although they’re ears are also down when they‘ve just woken up which is normal). He was clearly struggling to walk as well.

It got to the point where I felt I needed to help him on his way and took him to the vets. Where she agreed he was suffering and needed to be pts. Afterwards she said it was the right thing as he was about to burst there was so much fluid.

So it’s a difficult time. How long do you monitor and if and when to take them to the vets if the vet can’t do much.

I would say take him to the vets as they may at least prescribe Metacam for pain relief which they may need anyway as they get older (they can get arthritis too!). And ask their opinion.
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Old 08-25-2021, 08:49 PM   #8
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Default Re: Balding hamster

Gosh, yes that does sound hard.

I just woke up in the night and went to check on him and now that I look closely, he really looks absolutely fine, if slightly baldy. I just offered him some carrot slices and he stuffed his pouches full until he looked like an articulated lorry and pottered off on his way. I know pottering isn't really a hamster thing, but Roc never ever went any faster than a moderate pottering speed even as a baby so that may just be normal.

I'll still try to get him to the vet soon just to be sure. I gave him a dish of linseeds and he has taken nearly half the dish full back to his store cupboard. He's very efficient about that kind of thing.

Thanks so much for your encouragement. I'm sure I'll be back on my feet soon and will make it to the vet.
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Old 08-26-2021, 04:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Balding hamster

I am so sorry you have been ill as well x Good to hear he isn't too bad. If he is doing ok for now then yes wait till you feel better to take him to the vets.
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Old 09-06-2021, 11:09 AM   #10
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Default Re: Balding hamster

Hi,

Roc went to the vet today and he no lumps or bumps, and the vet says he just looks like a healthy hamster who is getting on a bit. I stroked Roc's back a bit, and he is getting a bit thinner, and his backbone stands out a little bit. He's still very supple though, and goes about the place gathering up food and climbing up the whole height of his cage.

The vet was just a normal vet and she said we could have a referral to an exotic vet if we would like one and I wasn't very sure. He didn't like being taken out of his cosy burrow very much at all, and I was thinking that if he is just getting old, maybe it would be better not to take him to another vet.

The vet said that if he stopped eating and drinking, or starting drinking huge amounts then we should bring him back, but that otherwise he is fine.

I wondered if that sounds okay as a plan?

Thank you very much for looking again.
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