If you are considering getting a hamster or another type of small pet for your home, it is important to learn as much as you can about the animal and his needs before you adopt. Some animals might seem like they don’t require a lot of time, attention and care, but when it comes down to it, there could be a lot of responsibility associated with having one of these adorable creatures in your home.
Creating a health habitat for small pets that includes the proper substrate, enclosure type and a variety of healthy foods and fresh water is half the battle. Once you learn how to stay on top of your hamster’s enclosure with regular cleanings and the right type of materials, all that’s left is to enjoy spending time watching your new pet run around and explore his home.
Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth doesn’t just provide care for cats and dogs, but a wide variety of “pocket pets,” which includes hamsters. There are many hamster health risks that pet owners need to know about, but in most cases, prevention is key.
Hamster Enemy #1: Aspergillis
The biggest danger to your hamster outside of not creating a healthy habitat for small pets or providing proper nutrition is something known as the Aspergillis fungus. There are over 150 species of this fungi found all over the world. Known a a “filamentous fungus,” Aspergillis is made up of multiple chains of cells that are called hyphae. It can be found in composts, hay and other areas that help it to grow both indoors and outdoors.
Some of these fungi are pathogenic and are capable of causing diseases that can harm both humans and pets. While most people have a natural immunity to the common effects associated with Aspergillis, those who have a weakened or compromised immune system, including babies and seniors, as well as those who suffer from lung conditions, are the most at-risk.
A hamster enclosure is a very friendly place to the Aspergillis fungus. It thrives in an environment that is rich in ammonia and nitrates, allowing it to grow very quickly. In many cases, mold growth can be seen with the naked eye. In the case of Aspergillis, it will look very similar to white cotton or wool as the chains of fungi grow and expand. As your hamster digs around in his enclosure, the fungus can become mixed in with the bedding, making it less likely to be detected. However, there are signs that pet owners can look for to avoid hamster health risks that could require a visit to the local veterinarian in South Coast.
How to Identify Aspergillis
Even if you don’t see the fungus growing in your hamster’s enclosure, you should be able to smell it right away. The first indicator is a strong musty-smelling odor like mold or mildew. In fact, you might not even be able to identify the fungus with all of the bedding and substrate within the enclosure until it begins to discolor. Aspergillis will eventually turn black and put off airborne spores to help it spread faster and further.
Another way to identify hamster health risks is to watch your pet’s behavior. Your hamster has a very high sense of smell and will know that the fungus is present before you do. He will try to get rid of it by pushing it into a corner of the cage – sometimes piling it high to get it away from the ground where he spends most of his time. Once the fungus begins to produce airborne spores, it can begin to cause problems with the hamster’s breathing, as well as a host of other symptoms.
Some of the symptoms related to Aspergillis exposure include:
- difficulty breathing
- skin irritations
Prevention is the Best Cure
Creating a healthy habitat for small pets is the best way to keep your hamster healthy. Your veterinarian in South Coast can help you choose the best substrate and give suggestions that will help to reduce hamster health risks. Bringing your pet in for a regular check-up at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth can help identify other risk factors that you need to know about to help keep him happy and healthy. Hamsters that have kidney infections, bladder infections or are diagnosed as diabetic are more likely to become ill after inhaling airborne spores from Aspergillis.
Basic cleaning and care will help to make sure that Aspergillis never takes root in your hamster’s enclosure. The cage floor needs to stay dry and clean to prevent the ideal conditions for growth. The place where the hamster urinates must be cleaned at least once a week, along with the rest of the enclosure. You don’t need to purchase any special disinfectants or anti-fungal treatments, just use a mild detergent with hot water and some elbow grease. Make sure that fresh veggies and fruits are not left lying around the cage. Don’t let your hamster hide or store fresh foods. They should be removed within 24 hours. Check water bottles to make sure they don’t leak or drip.
For more tips on how to create and keep a healthy habitat for small pets, speak with your veterinarian at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth. Our team can help you learn more about your new family member and avoid hamster health risks with proper feeding and care. Give us a call today to set up an appointment for a check-up or to find out more about our services for small pets.