Hamster mites are tiny insects that live on the skin of hamsters. They are spread through contact with other infested animals or feed, so mites are not uncommon to find on new hamsters recently purchased from pet stores. While the mites are not lethal, they can be uncomfortable for the hamster and cause permanent damage if not treated.
There are two different types of hamster mites, and both have the same end effect on the animal. Some mites live on the skin and feed off microscopic particles that collect near hair follicles. The ears are the most common place for these types of mites to congregate, as they can then survive on particles that collect inside and around the ear. Others burrow under the skin, and these can be more difficult to get rid of.
When a hamster is infested with mites, he can show some of the same signs as an animal infested with fleas. The hamster will generally scratch incessantly at the itching the mites cause, and can do so enough that it will cause the development of bald patches throughout the fur. A close inspection of the hamster and the fur will determine whether or not mites are the problem. Mites will be visible as tiny black dots that may appear to move on the surface of the skin.
A hamster infested with hamster mites should be isolated until the mites are gone, as they can easily spread. Treatment can include the application of a spray designed to kill mites while not harming the hamster. The spray should not be applied to the hamster's head, but instead applied to the body and the entire cage.
Hamster mites can also be introduced to a cage through hay, feed, or wood chips that have been infested. If the hamster has long been a pet without any problems with mites, the insects were most likely introduced on something placed in the cage. In order to ensure that the hamster is not reinfested, it can be necessary to throw out all hay and wood chips. The hamster and the cage may have to be sprayed several times, according to the directions on the spray, which will kill any new parasites that have hatched from eggs as well as existing hamster mites. In case this does not take care of the mites, a veterinarian may need to be consulted before the hamster develops mange and permanent loss of fur.