You may believe your hamster is sneezing due to a tickle in his nose, but could it be a sign of something more serious? Check to see if anything you put in your hamster’s cage is causing him to sneeze and what to do about sneezing hamsters.
Hamsters do not get the flu or colds like humans, but they can develop a respiratory tract infection. Upper respiratory tract infections can cause symptoms including runny eyes, crusty eyes that can seal shut, lethargy, a decrease in appetite, nasal drainage, and sneezing. These infections can progress to something more serious, such as pneumonia, but if treated promptly, they are usually treatable. Bacteria from the environment, food, or even another hamster can cause an infection, causing your hamster to sneeze.
Do you suffer from allergies? Your hamster could have them too. While we don’t go to the extent of allergy testing hamsters, we can treat the symptoms, suppress histamine release (with the use of antihistamines), and eliminate possible sources of allergens. Certain scents, such as the fabric softener used to wash their fleece blankets or towels, may cause allergic reactions in some hamsters.
Some hamsters are allergic to the bedding in their cage, and others may sneeze due to something in their food or treats. Dust in the environment attracts microscopic dust mites, which your hamster may be allergic to. To eliminate allergens in your hamster’s environment that may be causing him to sneeze, try switching foods, washing bedding in unscented detergents and softeners, and using a HEPA filter near his cage. If these symptoms are worse during drier times of the year, a humidifier may be helpful as well. If that still doesn’t help, ask your exotics vet if you can give him an antihistamine.
Because of the scent it emits, certain items in your hamster’s environment can cause your hamster to sneeze. Perfumes, pine and cedar shavings, scented candles, electric “plug-in” style diffusers, and scented room sprays can all be respiratory irritants. Even some cleaning agents, such as carpet odor remover powders, can irritate your hamster’s tiny, sensitive respiratory tract. If you use one or more of these potential respiratory irritants, it should be simple to discontinue their use around your hamster or to relocate your hamster’s cage away from the source of the fumes. Consider using towels or a recycled paper bedding material like Carefresh instead of pine or wood shavings.
Other reasons for sneezing hamsters
Your hamster could be sneezing for a much more serious reason, which is less likely but still possible. Tumors in the head and nose can cause sneezing, but they are rarely diagnosed because most hamster owners are unwilling to subject their pet to an MRI or CT scan. If you notice bloody nasal discharge, this could be a sign of a serious disease process causing your hamster to sneeze.
If your hamster is acting abnormally, appears lethargic, eats less, does not drink, or sleeps most of the time, you should always consult with your exotics vet (find an exotics vet near you). Schedule an appointment to determine whether he requires antibiotics, antihistamines, or something else. Just because your hamster is a small pet doesn’t mean your veterinarian can’t help it with some major issues. Hopefully, your hamster’s cage is just a little too dusty, or a simple bedding or fabric softener change will suffice, but if not, don’t hesitate to get him checked out!
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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