By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Not sure how true this is but it’s been said scented-bathing sand is a no-no for hamsters. I let my babies bathe in it; a brand that is meant for hamsters that is natural, gentle, dust-free and will not cause any respiratory or eye related issues. I let them bathe only once or twice a month during dollhouse playtime as a little treat. Is it true that scented-bathing sand is harmful for hamsters? I’m confused because it’s sold in my pet stores and even recommended by the vets there.
Hamsters are really very special pets. There is a lot of fun packed into that little pet. Care of pet hamsters is slightly different than other rodents as hamsters are a desert-adapted species. For that reason, water baths are not necessarily the best thing to do to keep your hamster’s skin and fur at its best. In fact, the opposite is true — sand baths are the preferred hamster method for taking care of that beautiful hair coat.
There are sand baths that can be purchased in pet stores specifically made for hamsters. Some of these are odor-free and some are scented. Will the scented sand baths cause harm to your hamster? If the product is specifically manufactured for hamsters, probably not. But the natural way for a hamster to bath is in unscented sand. The sand should remove oils and other material on your hamster’s skin and hair that cause unwanted odor, so there is not a need for a scented sand bath. It is likely that the owners prefer the scent more than it makes any difference to your hamster.
If you decide to give your hamster access to sand for a sand bath, there are a couple of important cautions. First, using sand from outside has risks because it has not been cleaned and can carry diseases and contaminants. Second, do not use a “dust” product as that can cause respiratory and ocular irritation to your hamster.