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Is It Safe To Bathe A Hamster

Is it safe to bathe a hamster? That depends on the type of bath you want to give.

Hamsters and Baths

Is It Safe To Bathe A Hamster

Bathing a hamster is definitely a tricky operation and one that should only be undertaken with caution. Under most circumstances, a hamster is completely capable of keeping himself clean and rarely, if ever, needs a bath from his care giver. However, you may notice from time to time that your pet has an unpleasant odor. A case of diarrhea may lead to some crusting on the hamster's behind and rear legs. Laying in soiled cage bedding can also make a hamster smell less than fresh. A bath may seem like a good idea at times like these, but there are risks involved.

So, is it Safe to Bathe a Hamster?

Generally speaking, it's not really safe or particularly necessary to bath a hamster. Most of the time a soft brushing with a toothbrush will remove debris and freshen your pet's coat if he hasn't groomed himself lately. If you do find it absolutely necessary to bathe your pet, it's best to understand the hazards involved so you can choose the safest method for the job.

Hazards of Water Baths

A water bath presents the strongest danger for a hamster. These animals can be difficult to hold on to when your hands are dry, let alone when they are soapy. Common hazards encountered when giving a water bath include:

  • Physical injury - It would be easy to drop a slippery, squirming hamster that is trying to escape, what is for him, a very unnatural situation. The fall could lead to a broken bone or possible internal injury.
  • Drowning - Washing a hamster in a basin of water could also lead to accidental drowning.
  • Possible ear infection - Any water that seeps down into the ear canals could lead to an ear infection.
  • Respiratory dangers - Accidentally getting a little water up the animal's nose could lead to a case of aspiration pneumonia or similar infection.
  • Chilling - Hamsters cannot maintain their body temperature when their coat is wet. Failure to completely dry the animal could cause chilling that leads to illness.
  • Burning - Using water that is too warm or drying your pet with a hot blow dryer can both cause skin burns.

If you feel you must give your pet a water bath, it's best to do it under a light stream of warm water and only rinse the animal's rear and undercarriage. Although there are small animal shampoos available at pet supply stores, it's better to use plain water to avoid stripping your pet of his coat's natural oils. Afterward, towel dry him well, brush the coat with a small, soft brush and keep him warm until he is completely dry.

Pet Wipes - A Better Choice

Pet wipes are similar to baby wipes, and using them provides a safer way to clean your hamster without giving him a full water bath. Simply hold your hamster securely in your lap and wipe him well around the soiled areas. Give his top coat a light wipe to freshen it. Use a paper towel to absorb any remaining moisture, and brush him gently to help fluff the coat again so it will hold his body heat.

Sand Bath - A Safer Choice

In the wild, hamsters live in very dry climates and take care of all their grooming needs on their own. Their best opportunity for additional cleansing comes from rolling or running through sand and then brushing it from their coats as they groom themselves. You can imitate this natural setting by offering your pet the chance to roll in some Chinchilla sand bath.

Some hamsters are curious enough to root around a bit in the sand and wind up grooming themselves, while others ignore the sand completely. Just be sure you offer sand and not a dust bath product. Hamsters are very susceptible to developing respiratory problems from breathing in dust. Sand does not remain airborne the way dust does, so it's a safer alternative.

Is it safe to bathe a hamster? The short answer is no, but if you really feel you have to, at least you now know the safest way to go about it.

By Kelly Roper