Please note that the author is not a veterinarian. Please consult your vet for any medical advice about your pet.
Growing up, a sense of wonder at nature and a love for animals was instilled in us. A normal weekend was spent at Elachee Nature Center in Oakwood, GA learning about the climate that controlled Georgia’s agriculture and natural resources. This normally went into detail about animals as well as the plants that naturally supported such wildlife. This inbred fascination with nature was also reflected in our home. My brother, sister, and I all had numerous books on wild animals and we loved to watch The Discovery Channel. My mom brought it on herself that we tended to bring home and love animals. By the time I had moved out, my family had two birds, two turtles, numerous white mice and hamsters, and one very rowdy little dog. After I moved out, I collected a couple of cats and a couple of very rowdy large dogs.
The most recent addition to the family is Hannah, the dwarf hamster. My brother, Bob, brought her home in late 2003 and my mom quickly became enamored with her. Mom has been known to get Hannah out of her cage in the middle of the night to play and feed her almonds in the kitchen while she gets ready for work.
Early in 2005, Hannah began to develop bald spots under her chin and across her body. My mom would often talk about how it worried her during our weekly conversations, but I hadn’t realized how far spread it was until I woke Hannah up one Sunday afternoon. She climbed up against the walls of her plexiglass hamster-haven and I realized that she had lost most of the hair on her stomach in a patch that stretched from her right arm to her right leg. Her little pink skin showed through clear as day, and I got her out for a closer look. She didn’t exhibit any bumps or discomfort as I probed her, although she was a little irritated that I was bringing her out without the offer of a tasty treat. I gave her a hamster treat and set her back down in her little home.
Then, I decided it was time for an internet search. Little Hannah needed some help, and I didn’t want to pay a vet to tell me she was just getting old. I researched ‘hamster hair loss’ and found that it is a fairly common problem, especially in older hamsters. The search told me that the most common reasons were age, protein deficiency, vitamin deficiency, hair getting caught in the hamster-wheel, mites, and allergic reactions to the bedding. It also let me know how to check her for mites. Mites cause a red or black pattern of bumps on the skin and they normally nest in the hamster’s hair and bedding. I checked her and realized that her skin was clear, smooth, and free from little insects.
I knew Hannah was aging and getting to where this was a natural instance for her species; however, I couldn’t just tell my mom to prepare for a little hamster funeral. I focused on the deficiencies and found that most pet stores sell a water-soluble vitamin supplement for hamsters. You simply dissolve a pill in the hamster’s water supply, and the hamster ingests it without even knowing.
I called my mom and let her know what my research had concluded and she said that she had found basically the same thing in her own search. She said she was going to get a supplement and see how Hannah responded.
After a couple of weeks, Mom reported that Hannah had regained a new love for life and was even making her wheel “go squeaky, squeaky in the middle of the night.” She mentioned that the hair had not started to grow back but had stopped falling out. She also noted that Hannah seemed to really like her new supplemented water and she had to refill her little dispenser more often.
Before, whenever I had browsed the pet store the animal multivitamins struck me as silliness for profit: a plan to play off our love for our pets to line the company’s pockets. Now that I have seen it in action, I realize how close we are to our little animal neighbors in how our bodies need the substance of healthiness. In animals and in humans, our food comes pre-processed and our exercise is limited by our lifestyle. As people, our doctors, magazines, TV programs on healthy living and even our mothers tell us to take our daily multivitamin to keep us young, fit, and healthy because our food simply does not satisfy the nutritional needs of our bodies. As hamsters, they only have the attention of their owners to see to it that they get what their little bodies need to survive – and there aren’t any TV commercials on the benefits of hamster vitamins. Now the victim of a successful experiment, it seems that Hannah now has a greater appreciation for her nutritional supplement as well.
For more advice from real professionals, the following websites helped me in my search for the cure: