Hamsters are generally very healthy little animals who will live a long and happy life if properly cared for. Below are a list of some health issues which a hamster may suffer from. However, hamsterama are not vets, so if you are seriously concerned, you should consult a vet.
If a hamster is not given suitable gnawing material, its teeth will become long and overgrown. Since hamsters’ teeth are constantly growing, it is necessary to provide them with wooden toys and chews to help wear the teeth down. Hamsters will also appreciate unflavoured dog biscuits. If a hamster’s teeth become very overgrown, ir may affect them to the point that they cannot eat. In these cases, it is necessary to get a vet to clip the teeth down. Also, a hamster may occasionally break a tooth off. In these cases, a vets help will be required to trim its opposite number so it does not become too long. The teeth should then eventually even out.
Hamsters are able to divide the mouth into two by drawing a fold of skin into the gap between the front and back teeth. The cheek pouches are separate from the mouth, and are used by the hamster to carry and transport food. The cheek pouches have a very delicate lining which is easily lacerated by sharp objects like straw and sharp seeds which should be avoided. If an object does become lodged in your hamsters cheek pouch, it is easily removed at home. See the FAQ page for more info.
Hamster’s nails generally start to look quite long and overgrown once they reach an advanced age and they should not need them clipping regularly like many other animals.
Hamsters (and humans for that matter) have what is known as a ‘quick’ in their nail. The end of the nail will be white, whilst nearer the foot, the nail will be a pinkish colour. Take a pair of baby nail clippers and cut just below the pink line. If you cut above the quick, the nail will bleed. If you’re not confident, you may want to ask the vet to clip your hamster’s nails for the first time. That way you can observe how to do it should they ever need doing again.
Wet tail is a disease suffered by hamsters which is dreaded by those that own a large hamstery. It is a highly infectious disease believed to be associated with stress. The obvious characteristic of Wet tail is watery diarrhoea from the anus. This makes the fur around the tail and lower back constantly wet. A hamster with Wet tail will typically be lethargic, and may also sit hunched. Should you suspect your hamster of having Wet tail, isolate them from any other hamsters, and keep the cage clean. Vetinary attention should be sought immediately as the hamster will usually die within 48 hours of contracting the disease. It is important to make sure the cage is well ventilated. If you want to use the hamsters cage again, it is important to throughly clean it with diluted bleach. Although dwarves very rarely get Wet tail, it is fairly common in Syrians.
Occasionally hamsters will get wounded, may it be by another hamster or by some kind of accident. Bathe any wound with a suitable antiseptic solution, and make sure the cage remains clean at all times. If the wounds are deep or slow to heal, consult a vet. If the wound was caused by another hamster, it is usually in the hamsters’ best interest to be separated. If a fight results in any blood, the hamsters’ next fight could result in death. For more information on fighting, see the FAQ page.
Abscesses usually happen as the result of an infected wound. The abcess should be bathed with a suitable mild antiseptic solution, especially if there is a discharge. A vet should be consulted in the case of serious abcesses, especially those that take a long time to heal.
Inflammation of the eyes may be caused by an irritant, especially if you are using sawdust (switch to wood shavings). Other irritants could be sand, grit and dust. Irritants may lead to Conjunctivitis so a vet should be consulted in the early stages. Sometimes hamsters fail to remove an encrustation around the eyes. This is generally a sign of ageing. Should this happen, take a cotton wool ball, run it in warm water, wring it out and bathe the area around the eye.
Fur loss is a sign of ageing in older hamsters. The ears go bald first, followed by the hamster’s underside and bottom. Hair loss can also be caused by parasites.
A hamster suffering from parasites is generally recognisable as it usually shows symptoms such as fur loss, scaly skin, and may scratch constantly. As hamsters should NEVER be bathed in water, the only thing to do is contact a vet, who will prescribe drugs or administer an injection.
Always keep your hamster’s cage in a draught proof spot. If your hamster is exposed to draughts, it may catch a cold, which could turn into the more serious pneumonia. A hamster with a cold will be lethargic, have an unkempt coat, and will have a discharge from the eyes and nose. Put the hamster’s cage close to a radiator, and take the hamster to the vet as soon as possible.
Hamsters may occasionally break a leg after a fall from a great height. Keep the hamster in a cage without its wheel or any toys that it may climb on until the leg has healed (2-3 weeks).
The obvious sign of diarrhoea is wet and watery droppings. A healthy hamster will have firm black faeces. Overfeeding with wet vegetables is usually to blame. Leave the hamster without food like lettuce, cucumber or tomatoes until its stomach settles down.
A tumour on a hamster will appear as a hard lump, which may grow rapidly in size. They can usually be removed by a vet under an anaesthetic. Tumours on internal organs may be difficult to remove, but external tumours are much simpler. Like any small animal, there is a risk that the anaesthetic could kill the hamster, but many hamsters recover well, even elderly ones.
The vet will have a better chance of recovering a tumour if it is caught in the early stages, so as soon as you notice a lump, get your hamster to the vet as soon as possible.
Diabetes is quite common in Campbells Russian hamsters but can affect any breed. The symptoms generally start to show between 6 and 9 months and the disease is thought to be inherited. Things that set off diabetes can be: Stress, diets, or even a dirty cage. The symptoms are; excessive drinking, urinating and sometimes eating, Abnormal body temperature (can be warmer or colder than usual) and sometimes shaking and trembling. If you think your hamster has these symptoms then it would be wise to seek the help of your vet. Some vets don’t deal well with small animals such as hamsters so it may be an idea to go to your local small animal vet, which will specialise in the field of hamsters. However even if you do find a vet who knows what they’re talking about where hamsters are concerned there is no cure as such for diabetes. The length and happiness of the life of your hamster can be improved however.
As the hamster becomes dehydrated more easily your vet can prescribe a solution of unflavoured pedialyte, which you give the hamster via their water bottle.
If they recommend a sugar free diet for your hamster the things to avoid feeding them are: grapes, high sugar treats, and anything you thing would have high sugar content.
The things that should be fed to your hamster are: A good seed mix, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and things along those lines. If there is any further information required please log onto our message board and talk to us there. Please remember though Hamsterama aren’t vets.