QUICK REFERENCE FOR PROBLEMS, INJURIES & 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 aren’t affected by many natural diseases. But, they are very susceptible to the infectious diseases of other animals, including humans. Many of the problems and ailments now associated with hamsters are a direct result of captivity.
Because they are small, a minor illness can rapidly become major if immediate treatment isn’t pursued. Since they are nocturnal many of the early signs of illness are not noticed. To insure good health, hamsters should be checked regularly: to include eating habits, exercise habits, teeth, limbs, body check for lumps, cuts and abrasions, etc. etc.
A sick hamster generally becomes irritable and “bitey.” They frequently become lethargic or walk almost stiff-legged if forced to move or may sit in a “hunched” position. The eyes are usually dull, sunken and sometimes watery. And, they don’t eat much, which results in weight loss.
SYMPTOMPOSSIBLE CAUSE
Blood in UrineBladder ; Kidney Infection
Bloody DiarrheaIntussusception
Breathing HeavyShock – Colds ; Influenza
Broken LimbBroken Limb
Bulging AnusConstipation – Intussusception – Rectal Prolapse
Closed Eye(s)Impacted Pouch – Irritated Eyes
ConstipationEndoparasites
Crusty Lesions in ears, face, feetEar Mites
Cuts ; BitesAbscesses – Cuts ; Bites
Dragging Hind QuartersBroken Limb – Cage Paralysis – Hind Limb Paralysis
Dry Scaly SkinDemodicosis – Mange – Mites – Ringworm – Sarcoptic Mange
Eating BabiesCannibalism
Eggs in FecesEndoparasites
Excessive DrinkingBladder ; Kidney Infection – Diabetes
Extreme DiarrheaTyzzer’s Disease – Wet Tail
Eye RuptureEye Prolapse
Facial SwellingDental Caries – Impacted Pouch
Hair LossHair Loss – Mange – Mites – Ringworm
Head TiltEar Infection – Strokes
InfertilityInfertility
LethargyColds & Influenza – Tyzzer’s Disease – Wet Tail
LifelessHeat Stroke – Hibernation – Shock – Strokes
Long NailsOvergrown Nails
Loose DroppingsAntibiotic Induced Diarrhea – Diarrhea
Loss of BalanceEar Infection – Strokes
LumpAbscesses – Cancer ; Tumors – Impacted Cheek Pouch – Testicular tumors
Overgrown TeethOvergrown Teeth
ParalysisCage Paralysis – Strokes
Runny NoseColds ; Influenza
SalivationDental Caries
ScratchingAllergies – Fleas – Mange – Mites
Shaking/TremblingDiabetes – Heat Stroke – Hibernation – Stroke
SneezingAllergies – Colds ; Influenza
Swollen AbdomenConstipation
Swollen Eye Glaucoma
Tires EasilyStrokes
Unable to have BabiesDystocia
Watery EyesAllergies – Colds ; Influenza – Irritated Eyes
White Film on EyeCataracts
Weight LossDiabetes – Endoparasites – Tyzzer’s Disease
Wet “Bottom”Antibiotic Induced Diarrhea – Diarrhea – Wet Tail
WheezingAllergies – Colds & Influenza
Vaginal BleedingDystocia – Ovarian Cysts
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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 veterinarian advice should be sought.
ANTIBIOTIC INDUCED DIARRHEA – Antibiotics with a narrow spectrum against gram-positive organisms, especially erythromycin, penicillin, lincomycin, cephalosporin and streptomycin can cause diarrhea. Symptoms and treatment are the same are those for “diarrhea.”
BLADDER OR KIDNEY INFECTION – One of the first signs is excessive drinking, which in turn creates increased urinating. Occasionally there is blood in the urine and the hamster may squeal in pain while urinating. Immediate veterinarian assistance is required.
CANCER & TUMORS – Both internal and external cancerous tumors can develop. The external tumors are generally noticed as a hard lump that grows rapidly. It is possible for a veterinarian to successfully remove external tumors. 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 – A disorder resulting from hamsters being confined in a cage that is too small and doesn’t allow it sufficient exercise. The symptoms include the hamster appearing to be semi-crippled by dragging its back end around. There is, however, a very simple cure and an even simpler preventative measure – 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.
CANNIBALISM – Not a disease but normally rears its ugly face with nursing

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