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Internal Parasites of Hamsters

Hamsters may suffer from infestation with intestinal parasites (worms). Usually infestation with worms does not cause a problem and will often go unnoticed.

Hamsters may carry the dwarf tapeworm Hymenolepis nana. This is the most common internal parasite affecting hamsters. This worm can live in other rodents and also primates including humans! Most often the worms live in the small intestine and do not cause any problems for the hamster. However the hamster may suffer from enteritis and start to lose weight and general condition if there are large numbers of these parasites present. Very rarely the worms may actually lead to signs of constipation if they are so numerous as to cause a blockage of the intestine.

Hamsters may be infected with this tapeworm by ingesting ova present in faeces, (remember it is natural for hamsters to eat their faeces, so an infected hamster may continually re-infect itself). Alternatively the worm can pass to hamsters via various species of flour beetles or fleas.

Hamsters may be treated with niclosamide if they have these worms (see your veterinary surgeon if you suspect a problem). It is however best to prevent infestation by practicing good hygiene and controlling fleas and other insects. Due to the possibility of worms passing on to people always wash your hands following handling your pet and take care to make sure young children do not put their fingers in their mouths or eat whilst handling their pet.

The mouse pinworm is another parasite found in hamsters. This is a nematode with the latin name Syphacia obvelata and is usually found at very low levels. These pinworms are found in the caecum of hamsters and are not thought to cause any problem to their host except occasional itching around the anus. Their presence can be confirmed by looking for their ova in the hamster's faeces or by pressing sticky tape to the hamster's anus and looking for ova stuck to it under a microscope. If evidence of these worms is found the hamster may be treated with piperazine citrate in the drinking water. Two courses of this medication each lasting 7 days should be given with a 5 day break between.

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