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The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Hair loss, itching, and skin problems


Chronic Scratching

Keep in mind that mice are very clean animals and they do itch often. This is normal behavior for a mouse. It is only a problem if there is hair loss, redness of the skin, open wounds, or parasites. Food Allergies/Chronic ScratchingIf your mouse has one of these problems you need to act quickly to resolve the situation. The longer the problem goes unresolved the more chances it will develop into chronic scratching. Chronic scratching is also referred to as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in mice. The mouse may start to itch for many different reasons. This scratching will cause even more skin irritation than the initial problem. The irritation caused by the scratching then itches even more, causing your mouse to scratch even more, causing more irritation, causing more scratching. This is a never ending cycle that is hard to break as it quickly becomes habit, sometimes even if the initial problem is gone. Once this habit has taken effect it is very hard to break. Habits are never really broken, they are replaced by another habit. It is your job to give your mouse another habit to take his or her mind off the itching. Try giving your mouse lots of distractions. Things that often work best are those that the mouse can climb, chew, and shred. If chronic scratching gets out of control it can cause many problems including infection, which can result in death. If your mouse has open wounds or an infection it is advised to see a vet right away. A vet should prescribe an antihistamine for the scratching as well as something to fight the infection, such as Baytril, amoxacillin, or something of the like. In the time before you can get your mouse to a vet you can apply Neosporin PLUS or Cordaid as often as the tube recommends. Make sure you rub it in extremely well so the mouse doesn't ingest it.

Unfortunately chronic scratchers often relapse, even if the the mouse is never exposed to the initial problem again. Hot Spots/OCD aftermathChronic scratchers do this out of habit, which almost always comes back many times throughout life. This will likely be a battle for the entire life of your mouse. The faster you can find the initial problem to prevent chronic scratching or the faster you can break a relapse, the better chances that our mouse will not relapse as often.

The mouse shown above did heal, though he was short half of an ear (as shown in the picture to the left). He relapsed several times, as mice with OCD often do. In his extreme case it was best to have him neutered so he could live with females. Doing this allows for bucks to get the added attention 24 hours a day (that a human can't possibly provide). This helps distract them from scratching and breaks the habit. In extreme cases this is the only way to get bucks out of the endless scratching cycle.

Food Allergies

PeanutsOne of the top reasons for hair loss is food allergies. The most common food allergies for mice are peanuts, sunflower seeds, and wheat. However, a mouse can be allergic to anything. Additionally, most mice should be given a low protein diet of 13% or less. However, some mice can't even handle that much. The type of protein also makes a difference. There are many different kinds of protein, obtained from different food sources. Meat protein is the best kind of protein for a mouse. If you need to cut your mouse back on soy based protein (which is most commonly found in food mixes), it is best to give them cooked meat supplements.

On a rare occasion food allergies can get so bad that the mouse bleeds from the ears, eyes, and nose. However, most times food allergies cause what is known as "hot spots." Hot spots are areas on your mouse that are very itchy. The mouse scratches these places bald and they often bleed. Hot Spots usually start on the back of the ears and neck between their head and back, sometimes continuing down their back. Sunflower seedsIf your mouse has hot spots remove all of the common problem foods such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, wheat, and also lower the soy protein in the diet. If one of these things is the problem, your mouse will show signs of improvement within a week as long as you caught the problem in time (before chronic scratching sets in). This is the best way to deal with an allergy that isn't out of control. Usually simply taking these steps will solve the problem. However, if the hot spots are already severe or removing the common problematic foods doesn't work, place our mouse on an all rice diet. Mice are very rarely allergic to rice, which is one of the main reasons it's used for this. You can also add supplements such as vitamins to the water to help get more nutrition in them. A mouse should show improvements after a week on a rice diet. When your mouse has made significant improvements you may start adding different foods to their diet. Only add one new thing a Wheatweek so you can observe the mouse. If the skin flares up again, remove the last food you added and take note that your mouse is likely allergic to that food. Wait until the skin is looking better and start over again by adding one new food a week (minus the problematic foods). This will help you determine what your mouse is allergic to. If you give your mouse more than one new thing a week, you will not be able to determin what your mouse is allergic to.

Note that on average brindle Avy, lethal yellow (red) Ay, and runts have more problems with food allergies than other mice. These mice are at a much higher risk for developing health related problems, especially food allergies.

Bedding Allergies

Bedding allergies can cause hair loss in any location, inflammation of the skin, puffy eyes, sneezing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and even bleeding from the ears, eyes, and nose. Bedding AllergyA mouse doesn't need to have more than one of these symptoms to signify a bedding allergy. A mouse can be allergic to any bedding. However, paper based dust free bedding is the least likely to cause problems. Wood bedding has the highest chance of causing allergies. If you suspect that your mouse is allergic to the bedding, the best thing you can do is place them on a dust free paper based bedding, plain shredded paper, or fleece right away. If the problem is in fact the bedding, the symptoms should improve within a week or 2. However, if your mouse has developed OCD because of the allergy, you may not see improvement without breaking their scratching habit. See the section on Chronic scratching for more information. Also, if your mouse has developed asthma from wood bedding or scented bedding ("naturally" scented or otherwise), these symptoms will likely never completely go away. ALL wood bedding and scented bedding have potential of causing asthma if a mouse is allergic. If your mouse is allergic to a wood bedding, never use any kind of wood bedding for them again. A mouse that is is allergic to one kind of wood it is extremely likely to be allergic to other kinds of wood as well. Mice should never be on a scented bedding such as mint, lilac, rose, or anything else that companies come up with to sell their product. These bedding are not safe. Unfortunately there are very few regulations on animal products, therefore dangerous products are often sold in pet stores. Manufacturers as well as pet stores are far more worried about making money than animal safety. Never assume anything is safe just because it is being sold in a store.


Over grooming, also called "Barbering", is a cause for bald spots. Mice are very clean animals (contrary to popular belief among non-mouse lovers). BarberingSome mice over groom themselves and some over groom their companions. Some mice will even pluck the whiskers of their companions. If you have a barbering mouse, try giving them something else to do with their time. Give them a new toy or a jungle gym. If you have a critter trail, try changing the tubes around or adding a new attachment. I find that mice love rope. Hemp rope (found in craft stores) is safe and enjoyable to mice. I tie one end of the rope to the mesh tank top and the other to a cat toy hanging from it. Spicing things up a little might distract them enough to stop the behavior. If you give them a new hobby, such as toilet paper roll chewing, they might forget about over grooming. If you have a cage and your mouse has a bald spot on its nose or forehead then the problem might be from him/her sticking his/her nose out of the bars and rubbing it raw. If your mouse isn't in a cage and it has the bald spot on its nose, try checking the house he/she is in for places where it might be sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. If they wear their fur down to much it can bleed. When ever an open wound is involved there is a risk of infection. Try eliminating the problem before it gets that bad.


Mites are little parasites that can hide in a mouses fur. Some species of mites can be seen (but barely) while others can't be seen at all by the naked eye. Signs that you mice have them are little black dots (the mites), tiny round specks (the nits - eggs), flaky skin (mange), or intense scratching. A vet can verify if your mouse has mites or not by taking a sample from the mouse (painless) and looking through a microscope for mites and nits. If your mouse has mites you need to treat for them right away. The treatment for mites is the same as the treatment for lice (seen below). If gone untreated it can be very harmful to your mouse's health. They can even kill your mouse if left untreated long enough. Mites are host specific, not species specific. This means that they will jump onto and they can live off other animals but they prefer their species of host (in this case it is mice).


Lice are parasites that will cause the same problems and can be prevented in the same ways as mites. Mites and lice look different in their adult stage but they look very similar in the middle of their life span. Lice look like little brown/black dots in the middle of their life span. As they grow into full adults they look red with a long body while mites are round and smaller (much like juvenile lice). Mites tend not to move, or not move much. Lice are very quick little things. When inspecting and finding lice, they will move extremely quick, making one think they they may just be seeing things that are not really there. Lice are species specific. They will not transfer to humans (human lice are much different), cats, dogs, etc. They may hop on for a ride but will not stay for any length of time at all. They can not live off of species other than their specific species host. I have seen it stated on many sites that lice will not jump out of tanks into other tanks, climb walls, climb shelves, etc. I have found this to be far from the truth.

Below are some pictures of what lice look like magnified. I'm sorry the pic's are not terribly clear but they will give you an idea of what to look for.
Size comparison
Color of lice

Transmission of parasites and reducing the risk.

There are several ways your mouse can get parasites. One way is critter bedding. It is not unheard of for bedding to have parasites. The leading parasite carrying beddings are Timothy hay and CareFresh. However, almost all beddings can carry parasites. If your mouse gets parasites this way you need to contact the company that makes the bedding so they know there is a problem. If you worry about this happening you can always freeze or bake the bedding before using it in your mouse's cage. You can freeze bedding at 0°F (-17°C) for 24 to 48 hours or you can bake it at 140°F (60°C) for 30 minutes in an oven with a shallow pan. Do note that you will need to bake bedding longer if you are baking larger quantities! The bedding needs to be heated all the way through for 30 minutes. It may take a while to get the core bedding temperature to the 140°F needed. Note that paper and wood will only combust without a naked flame in temperatures at or above 451°F (233°C). However, if it is exposed to a naked flame, it can catch fire extremely easily. Baking should always be well supervised. Be sure that any baked or frozen bedding is room temperature again before putting your mouse on it! If you don't then it could kill your little one! If you store your bedding where wild animals can come in contact with it, then parasites can be transferred that way also. If you have any wild mice in your house they can transfer parasites to your mice. Many homes have wild mice and many times people don't even know it. The best thing you can do is try and avoid parasites as best as you can. Treating your mouse for parasites is risky. Some mice have died from the treatment. But once your mouse has them it must be treated as the alternative is worse.

Lice/Mite Treatment

Treatment should be administered as soon as possible, before they cause suffering or death to the mouse, or cause the mouse to develop chronic scratching. Do NOT treat mice with oral Ivermectin paste! Oral ivermectin paste can NOT be mixed evenly with water and can NOT be dosed properly in such a small quantity that is needed for a mouse. Some mice will get too much ivermectin while others will not get enough. Oral treatment is dangerous and can cause neurological damage and even death! Even if it is shaken unbelievably well, it still will not dissolve/mix in water well enough to get an accurate dose. If a mouse doesn't get enough ivermectin in their dose, it will not eliminate the infestation. Topical ivermectin is much safer (showing no ill side effects in lab studies, or when I've had to use it). I also found that when I treated with oral Ivermectin, it didn't eliminate the lice infestation. However, the topical did.

Before I give out dosing instructions, know that it is always recommended to consult a vet. My opinion does NOT override the opinions of vets. The procedure below is what I used under consult of a vet and thru laboratory findings that we found thru searching online. I highly recommend that you ask your vet to mix this topical medication for you. If it's not mixed right it may not get rid of the lice or it could kill the mice! Feel free to print this page and bring it to your vet. If your vet looks into lab treatments, they will find the same dosing instructions as I have set forth here. Most vets are not aware of this treatment, unfortunately. If your vet wants to dose your mouse with oral ivermectin, I recommend that you strongly encourage them to look up lab studies for the topical treatment. It can easily save your mouses life!

Treatment for TOPICAL Ivermectin only.
Click for larger image Click for larger image
Remove all wood, cardboard, etc from the mouse's tank. The only things that are safe to use in the tank are those of necessity (such as food) and hard things such as metal (wheels) and plastic (houses, toys, etc). Use Iver-on (box shown here. click for larger view) to spray almost everything (specifics below). Dose: 1/6th Iver-on to water. NOTE that if you use something other than what is shown here, this dose may not be accurate!!! If you use what I did (5mg ivermectin/mL), mix 1 part Iver-on with 5 parts water. Shake well to mix. Also shake often! The Iver-on does mix with water well. However, if it sits for any amount of time, it will begin to separate. For best results, shake it as often as you can (I shook it before spraying, each time). Spray a fine mist on the back of each mouse. It is recommended that each squirt should deliver approximately 0.01 ml (0.01cc). Make sure you cover the eyes of the mouse when spraying. If the iver-on gets in the eyes, it will cause irritation or worse. I did NOT spray anything but the mouse's back (no belly, head, etc). If too much gets on the mouse, wipe excess off. I used this treatment in female colonies that love to groom each other. No ill side effects were seen from them ingesting the spray on the backs of other mice. In addition, labs use this on pinkies with no ill side effects. It is safe for all ages of mice. In addition to spraying the mice, also spray bedding lightly. Spray tank mesh lid well (not dripping, but spray well). This will keep the lice IN and force them to die off. If they get out, they can lay nits (eggs) on the carpet or other places in the house. These nits will hatch and end up right back on the mice again. It's very important to spray that lid. Also, contrary to every site I've read, lice WILL climb out of thanks, climb shelves and walls, etc. I had it happen and I'm extremely careful about washing hands, changing clothes, etc in between tanks infested and those who are not. All of my mice got them even though the infested mice were on a different floor of the house than the non-infested ones!

Treat once every 7 days for 3 weeks. Clean cages before each treatment. After the full 3 weeks of treatment, take a 2 week break. After the 2 week break, treat again for 3 more weeks (once every 7 days, as before). This should eliminate even the heaviest infestations. Bleaching tanks, toys, etc isn't necessary. If you feel safer doing it, by all means do so. But it doesn't really make a difference (this was stated by my vet as well as findings I had. You do not need to through away any toys, houses, etc which you took out of your mouses tank. Just freeze or bake them (instructions for this are above) before placing them back with the mice after the infestation is gone.

I recommend this treatment for infestations as well as treating every mouse that comes in your home. Treat them while in QT. You can also use it as a preventative if you take your mouse out of the house where it might get parasites (mouse shows/swaps, vets office, etc). Parasites can be extremely hard to find and you likely will not notice any parasites on the mice until the infestation is bad.

Click here to read a detailed summery of my experience treating lice.

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