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    Common problems, injuries, and ailments in hamsters

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    Quick reference for problems, injuries, and ailments. This section has been reviewed by Dr. Taylor Douglas, DVM, Sunriver Veterinary Clinic, Sunriver, Oregon. In general, hamsters, especially those in the wild, are robust little animals and are not affected by many natural diseases.

    However, hamsters are very susceptible to infectious diseases from other animals, including humans. Many of the problems and ailments associated with hamsters are a direct result of captivity. Due to their small size, a minor illness can quickly become a major issue if immediate treatment is not sought. Additionally, since they are nocturnal, early signs of illness often go unnoticed.

    To ensure good health, hamsters should be checked regularly, including their eating habits, exercise habits, teeth, limbs, and body for lumps, cuts, and abrasions. A sick hamster generally becomes irritable and bitey,” frequently becoming lethargic or walking almost stiff-legged if forced to move or sitting in a “hunched” position. Their eyes are usually dull, sunken, and sometimes watery, and they don’t eat much, resulting in weight loss.

    Symptom: Possible Cause
    Blood in Urine: Bladder or Kidney Infection
    Bloody Diarrhea: Intussusception
    Breathing Heavy: Shock, Colds or Influenza
    Broken Limb: Broken Limb
    Bulging Anus: Constipation, Intussusception or Rectal Prolapse
    Closed Eye(s): Impacted Pouch or Irritated Eyes
    Constipation: Endoparasites
    Crusty Lesions in ears, face, feet: Ear Mites
    Cuts or Bites: Abscesses, Cuts or Bites
    Dragging Hind Quarters: Broken Limb, Cage Paralysis or Hind Limb Paralysis
    Dry Scaly Skin: Demodicosis, Mange, Mites, Ringworm or Sarcoptic Mange
    Eating Babies: Cannibalism
    Eggs in Feces: Endoparasites
    Excessive Drinking: Bladder or Kidney Infection or Diabetes
    Extreme Diarrhea: Tyzzer’s Disease or Wet Tail
    Eye Rupture: Eye Prolapse
    Facial Swelling: Dental Caries or Impacted Pouch
    Hair Loss: Mange, Mites or Ringworm
    Head Tilt: Ear Infection or Strokes
    Infertility: Infertility
    Lethargy: Colds & Influenza, Tyzzer’s Disease or Wet Tail
    Lifeless: Heat Stroke, Hibernation, Shock or Strokes
    Long Nails: Overgrown Nails
    Loose Droppings: Antibiotic Induced Diarrhea or Diarrhea
    Loss of Balance: Ear Infection or Strokes
    Lump: Abscesses, Cancer or Tumors, Impacted Cheek Pouch or Testicular tumors
    Overgrown Teeth: Overgrown Teeth
    Paralysis: Cage Paralysis or Strokes
    Runny Nose: Colds or Influenza
    Salivation: Dental Caries
    Scratching: Allergies, Fleas, Mange or Mites
    Shaking/Trembling: Diabetes, Heat Stroke, Hibernation or Stroke
    Sneezing: Allergies or Colds & Influenza
    Swollen Abdomen: Constipation
    Swollen Eye: Glaucoma
    Tires Easily: Strokes
    Unable to have Babies: Dystocia
    Watery Eyes: Allergies, Colds or Influenza or Irritated Eyes
    White Film on Eye: Cataracts
    Weight Loss: Diabetes, Endoparasites or Tyzzer’s Disease
    Wet “Bottom”: Antibiotic Induced Diarrhea, Diarrhea or Wet Tail
    Wheezing: Allergies or Colds & Influenza
    Vaginal Bleeding: Dystocia or Ovarian Cysts

    Common Problems and Ailments:
    Allergies – Hamsters can become allergic to bedding (particularly cedar shavings), some foods, cigarette smoke, perfumes, furniture polish, etc. It is also thought that some allergies are hereditary. Increased scratching, sneezing, runny eyes, swollen feet, wheezing or white flakes around the eyes and ears after the introduction of something new are a sign of a possible allergic reaction. Remove whatever has been added to the cage or food and watch for signs of improvement.

    If there is no improvement within a couple of days, it might be the result of an infection, and veterinary advice should be sought. Antibiotic-induced diarrhea can be caused by antibiotics with a narrow spectrum against gram-positive organisms, especially erythromycin, penicillin, lincomycin, cephalosporin, and streptomycin. Symptoms and treatment are the same as those for diarrhea.” One of the first signs of bladder or kidney infection is excessive drinking, which in turn creates increased urination. Occasionally, there is blood in the urine, and the hamster may squeal in pain while urinating. Immediate veterinary assistance is required.

    Cancer and tumors can develop both internally and externally. External tumors are generally noticed as hard lumps that grow rapidly, and veterinarians can successfully remove them. However, internal tumors are not normally diagnosed early enough for surgical intervention.

    Symptoms include weight loss and a general appearance of being ill. Cage paralysis is a disorder resulting from hamsters being confined in a cage that is too small and not allowing sufficient exercise. The symptoms include the hamster appearing semi-crippled by dragging its back end around. The cure is simple and the preventative measure is even simpler – a larger cage and more exercise.

    It is also thought that diets low in vitamins D and E may be a contributing factor to this condition. Vitamin supplements may be beneficial.

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    Common problems, injuries, and ailments in hamsters. (2019, Feb 03). Retrieved from

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