The Omlet Blog

What Illnesses Do Hamsters Get And How Can They Be Treated?

Photos by Frenjamin Benklin on Unsplash

Giving your pet hamster a daily health check will enable you to spot common health problems before they become serious. A visual check will tell you if there are any cuts, limps, or problems with the hamster’s eyes, ears, teeth and nails. You’ll also be able to spot other potential problems such as runny droppings or blood in the urine. Each time you handle your pet, you can feel for lumps and bumps, too.

In general, hamsters are healthy little animals, but it is important to be aware of some of the commoner problems.

Abscess

Hamsters can develop infections if they have cut themselves, and abscesses may form. A hamster who chews the bars of the cage constantly may develop an abscess in the mouth, for example.

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Abscesses need to be treated by a vet.

Colds

Hamsters sometimes develop colds, and can catch the same common cold virus as humans. This is an illness you might hear before you actually see, as the hamster will usually develop a wheeze and a cough along with a runny nose.

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Colds pass quickly, but it advisable to take the hamster to a vet, as the symptoms may be the result of a respiratory infection or allergy.

Cuts

Small cuts can be cleaned with a cloth and lukewarm water. The main task is to find out how the hamster cut itself, and to minimise the danger of repeated injury. There may have been a fight, or the hamster may have fallen after climbing.

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If the cut looks bad, or if there is an associated limp, take the hamster to the vet for an assessment.

Ear problems

Ear infections can cause hamsters to run in circles aimlessly. The condition is distressing, but rarely fatal.

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A vet can prescribe a medicine that will help clear the ear infection, and can also check to ensure that there isn’t a more serious brain-related problem.

Dry ears are a common problem. The symptoms are flaky skin and lots of ear-scratching.

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Rubbing a little petroleum jelly onto the affected area will help treat dry ears.

Eye problems

Eyelid problems, protruding eyes or weeping, infected “sticky” eyes are all possible health problems, and have various causes.

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A vet will be able to advise you on the type, cause and treatment of the eye problem. If one of the eyes is simply gummed up, dabbing it with warm water will help clear the sticky stuff. This is a fairly common issue in older hamsters.

Lumps

A physical examination, carried out gently when you are handling your pet, will be able to detect lumps and bumps. Most of these will be benign swellings, but there are more serious conditions including testicular cancer and mastitis.

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Take the hamster to a vet if it develops lumps.

Mange

This skin condition is caused by skin-burrowing mites, and the presence of scabs, dry skin and matted hair are signs of infestation.

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A vet will be able to prescribe a treatment for mange mites and other parasites, and you will find some handy remedies in pet shops too.

Strokes

If your hamster seems to be unsteady on its feet or constantly stumbling, it could be due to a leg injury, or it could be the effects of a stroke. One of the symptoms of the latter is a constant swaying motion, even when the hamster is at rest.

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There is no treatment for strokes, but most of them are mild. You simply need to keep your pet comfortable, with plenty of food and water, and remove obstacles such as hamster wheels from the cage.

Tooth problems

A sudden loss of appetite in a hamster may indicate a tooth or other oral problem. Damaged or overgrown teeth make it difficult for the animal to eat. A visual check will soon reveal if there is a tooth issue.

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The hamster will need to have its teeth altered by a vet to enable it to eat properly.

Urinary problems

If you spot blood on your hamster’s bedding, it could be due to an injury, a burst abscess, or a urinary infection. An examination of the hamster’s bedding will tell you if it is the latter problem. A change in urine colour, or a lack of urine, indicate health issues too.

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Physically examine your pet: a bloated stomach is a sign of bladder stones, which block the urinary system and can cause blood to appear in the urine. A trip to the vet is essential, as this condition is painful and can prove fatal.

Wet Tail

Wet tail is a nasty form of bacterial diarrhoea, and tends to kill hamsters very quickly. The signs of this disease are wet and faeces-soaked fur around the tail.

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Isolate your pet, provide lots of water (as the diarrhoea will have dehydrated the hamster), and take it the vet. Antibiotics can sometimes save the animal’s life.

This entry was posted in Hamsters