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Chinese Hamster


All about Chinese hamsters. All in one place.

Chinese Hamster Library

All about Chinese hamsters. All in one place.

Chinese Hamster Skin Splits

Skin splits are a problem that is known amongst Chinese hamster keepers, but not noted in any textbooks or scientific papers. Often you see forum questions about mysterious cuts that have appeared on a Chinese hamster with no explanation.

What are they?

Skin splits are a small cut on the back of the neck, anywhere from the base of the skull to the upper area between the shoulder blades. The cut is usually under 5mm in length and is a defined line, almost like it was made by a blade.

Often there is a small area of fur loss around the cut. Indeed the first sign that the skin split is usually a ruffled appearance to the fur over the back of the neck.


An affected hamster is well. They are eating and drinking as usual, and there is no weight loss. They are not itchy. The rest of the fur and skin is normal; they have no other wounds, no other fur loss, and no scaling or dandruff of the skin. There are no sharp items in the cage that could cause a wound. The only abnormal thing is the little cut and a small amount of fur loss around it.

If your Chinese hamster is living in a pair then presume any wound is caused by fighting, and separate them.


The cuts usually heal well over a week or two with very little intervention. Many hamsters only have one episode. Some will have a second, but a third episode is unusual. Sometimes a skin split can become infected and need treatment with antibiotics.

You may find a hamster goes on to develop other symptoms like itching or changes in skin colouration. This indicates that their problem is not the ‘usual’ skin split and there is a different condition causing the wounds, such as mites, skin cancer or hormonal imbalance.

These skin splits only occur on the back of the neck or upper shoulder area, and only occur in Chinese hamsters. This type of skin splits do not happen in other pet hamster species.

It's not a skin split if your hamster...

is unwell

has other symptoms

is not a Chinese hamster

has a change of behabiour



The cause isn’t clear. No link with diet, bedding, substrate, country, colour or breeding has become apparent. There are many questions but no answers. Some theories that have been proposed are:

problem with collagen and skin strength

hormone imbalance

stretching of the skin


Thanks to Metallica Hamstery for the photo of the skin split and sharing theories on causation

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