If your hamster is chewing his foot, he may be trying to soothe a stubborn itch or it could be a clue something is wrong. Chronic foot-chewing can lead to infections or even self-amputation, so understanding what is at the root of your pet's behavior will help you and your vet make an informed diagnosis to ease your hamster's discomfort.
Several factors can contribute to itchy feet in a hamster. Chronic foot-chewing could be the result of a mite infestation, lice, fleas, dry skin, allergies or exposure to an environmental irritant. Clean your hamster's cage thoroughly, weekly, to remove any potential source of mildew, mold or bacteria. Use a warm, damp cloth to wipe your hamster's coat, and comb his fur to check for any infestation. Follow with a dry cloth. Discontinue the use of household cleaning chemicals or sprays in the near vicinity of his cage. Call your veterinarian if your hamster still appears to be addressing a foot itch by biting or chewing.
Your hamster's foot-chewing could be an attempt to alleviate a source of pain. Check your pet's foot for abrasions, festering wounds underneath the fur or possible muscle, tendon or bone injury. Since touching a potential sore spot could cause your hamster to start or even bite, wrap him in a hand towel, hold him closely so he will not fall, and wear protective gloves to protect your fingers. Better yet, take your little foot-chewer to the veterinarian if you suspect an injury.
Itchy, painful feet could be the result of illness in your hamster. If you notice extensive hair loss, substantial loss or gain of weight, tumors or unusually prominent growths, head-tilting, a loss of balance or change in your pet's gait, call your veterinarian. Chronic foot-biting, combined with any of these symptoms, could be caused by an underlying illness, including thyroid disease, a hormonal imbalance, a pituitary disorder or cancer.
Occasionally, a hamster exhibits odd, repetitive behavior that may have no reasonable origin or cure. Similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans, these behaviors may be neurological in origin and are likely incurable. If your hamster has been to the veterinarian and cleared of any physical ailment, and you have addressed any potential allergens or irritants in the area of your pet's cage, but your hamster is still chewing, the cause may be neurological. Because long-term chewing could result in self-amputation, and your pet's neurology could mean progressive behavioral changes that might pose a danger to your family, speak to your veterinarian for advice. It may be necessary to euthanize a neurologically compromised hamster to avoid long-term suffering or danger to your family.
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