All about your hamster health

Hamster Health
Hamster Health

Prevention is better than cure!

It is always preferable to have prepared the address and phone number of a veterinarian competent in rodents, so you don’t have to choose urgently if a problem arises.

NAC specialization (or rodents) does not exist in itself. These are veterinarians who have attended seminars, and training sessions, and they are working regularly with rodents.

These veterinarians are more familiar with dosages, the handling and specificities of rodents (as others are specialized equine, for example). A “cat-dog” veterinarian may sometimes be appropriate, but not in all cases. It happens that the vets “try “nevertheless, even without knowing anything about it and therefore do worse than better, it can sometimes also cause the death of your hamster. When he is honest, he will say whether he knows about it or not, and if not, it is better to find someone others.

To find a good veterinarian, nothing beats word of mouth! Feel free to ask the breeder from whom you acquired your hamster, or other passionate breeders. Forums, and amateur clubs of rodents, can be useful in finding addresses. There are now some clinics that are specialize in NACs and/or rodents. If you are too far away, you can also call them to ask for help.

Why should you have a competent rodent veterinarian?

For many reasons:

– Some symptoms are alarming in some species but normal in others. For example, “swollen” cheeks in hamsters are normal (these are jowls), while in mice it may indicate a cyst, abscess or other.

– The doses of medication are to be made according to the weight and quantity supported by the animal.

– Reactions must be immediate to save the animal in many cases. In a large animal, we can wait to see how the disease progresses (sometimes a few days…), in a hamster, it is often a matter of hours, even minutes.

– Handling during inspection and taking medication must be adapted. We’ve seen vets throwing hamsters on the ground of surprise during a bite due to an incorrect injection (The pain of the animal that reacts by biting, the veterinarian, surprised, shakes his hand and the animal flies.

– Rodent diseases can be very similar, and as it is a “younger” practice than for large animals, some diseases are still poorly understood. Veterinarians should know them at maximum, and be able to find out when he is not sure.

Do not hesitate to ask him if he knows anything about it, if he is able to treat it, check how he handles it… You can for example ask for advice on the phone and see what kind of answer he gives you.

What are the symptoms that should alarm you ?

  • Dull coat
  • Backside soiled, wet
  • Hair loss, holes in the coat
  • Scabs, traces of blood
  • Loss of appetite
  • raging thirst
  • Eyes soiled, closed
  • Sneezing, coughing, breathing noises
  • Loss of balance
  • slimming
  • Stomach curves, the animal seems swollen
  • Tremors
  • dripping nose
  • Hump, size

Note : If your hamster sleeps all day, it is not sick, the hamster is a nocturnal animal. A big appetite is not a problem too; they make reserves and hide food in their shelters.

Some hamster diseases

Wet tail disease or proliferative Ileitis

It is a digestive infection that affects almost exclusively young Syrian hamsters. When it begins, it is at weaning, or just after, because it is an extremely stressful period for your hamster.

The causes are diverse (stress, due in particular to overpopulation, malnutrition, changes that are too much important…). It can be a bacterium or an imbalance of the bacteria naturally present in the hamster’s stomach and intestines.

Even if the wet-tailed animal also has diarrhea, it is a much more deadly disease. that must be treated immediately. Death within 24/48 hours is frequent. Consult emergency a veterinarian, to be effective it is ideally necessary to treat within 6 hours maximum after the suspicion of the disease.

The incubation time is 7 days, so you can buy a healthy (but disease-carrying) hamster that will trigger the wet tail up to a week after purchase.

The symptoms are:

– Severe diarrhea, almost water;

– The hamster has an arched back;

– A tousled hair;

– The hamster is lethargic and no longer feeds;

– The whole rear end is wet.

Most often, hamster dies of dehydration, or lack of food, since it no longer eats, rather than the disease itself.

The disease being very contagious, the sick hamster must be isolated and all the equipment (cage, house…) must be disinfected

When the diarrhea becomes too strong, your hamster may have a rectal prolapsed, which means that the intestines are pushed out of the body. It appears that the predispositions to catch this disease in Syrians are partially genetic.

The coryza

The symptoms of coryza are:

– Noisy and difficult breathing

– Nasal and eye discharge

– Sneezing

The hamster can catch this disease by a cold blow: a cage located in air current  or by a another hamster already sick. Difficult and/or noisy breathing should always be treated quickly by a veterinarian, otherwise it quickly degenerates and often leads to the death. He can tell you if it is a coryza or another respiratory problem.

Hypothermia being very frequent in case of coryza it is advisable to keep your hamster warm by adding materials to his nest (tissues, hay…) and placing his cage on hot water bottles covered with a towel. It is also recommended to give him regular drinks with the help of a needle-free syringe that you can get from a veterinarian or pharmacy.

Dental malocclusion

During malocclusion, the teeth grow but no longer wear out because they are no longer in front of each other.

The symptoms:

– The hamster stops eating

– Weight loss,

– Frequent nasal and eye discharge.

Malocclusion can be due to a hereditary problem or a tooth that would get stuck sometime. Think to Visit your veterinarian, he will cut the teeth of your hamster and he will have to do it regularly.  If the teeth are not cut, they do not stop growing and can pierce the palate which can cause an abscess.

Give your hamster soft foods that it can eat without problems: baby jars, apple compote, bread dipped in soy milk… Beware of diarrhea; always crush its seeds to put in the mixture.

Abscesses and tumors

Abscesses often appear following an infected wound. They can be hard or soft. It is necessary to wait for the abscess to mature and let it pierce on its own or have it done by a veterinarian. Antibiotics and the application of a disinfectant are usually necessary to prevent the injury from getting worse.

Tumors are often a sign of a genetic problem, the most common being breast tumors (especially in pet store “lines”). Tumors can be surgically removed by a competent veterinarian if the hamster is in good physical condition (surgery is not easy to overcome in order to the hamster’s organism). It should be noted that tumors can return after the operation, especially if it is a genetic problem. Older animals will not be operated on and it will therefore be necessary to ensure that the tumor does not hurt (it can support internal organs such as the bladder for example) and then consider euthanasia.

Dental abscess

They often appear because of an infected tooth but can also be associated with a respiratory infection (choriza). A ball forms on the jowl, nose, or under the jaw. The hamster can be more or less weak; it sleeps more, goes out, eats and drinks less. Dental abscesses are difficult to treat. A visit to a veterinarian is essential.

Retro-orbital abscess

Like dental abscesses, retro-orbital abscesses (behind the eye) are caused by infected teeth or appear after a poorly treated choriza.

The hamster’s eye comes out, its head is deformed, it cannot eat and is weak. The eye is lost (the hamster is blind in this eye) and must be surgically removed but this procedure involves risks and the animal will suffer. Euthanasia is generally to be considered.

Skin diseases of hamster


Dermatitis is usually present on the abdomen and can also appear in the hamster’s mouth. They are often due to an allergy. The skin is red, crusted and infected. A hamster allergic to its litter can also develop dermatitis on the plant of the legs.

See a veterinarian who will prescribe the appropriate medications. Try to find the origin of the allergy by changing bedding, for example.


Scabies is a mite that attacks the skin. It is treated with a suitable antiparasitic agent (with a prescription from a veterinarian, products sold in pet shops rarely work). The duration of the treatment varies, but it often takes several weeks. Scabies causes areas to be completely or partially stripped of their hair, the skin of the area is red and often crusted. The animal scratches a lot.

There is also a particular type of scab, called ear scab, which is often found in rats. Mites only attack the area of the ears, and sometimes the tail, forming small balls.

Scabies that degenerate can cause serious problems. For ear scabies, the ear can reach a size five times larger than normal, causing disorders of the inner ear.


Ringworm is a fungus; it is a disease that can affect all animals, and even humans. The moth is generally not transmissible between different species, but it can be passed on to humans (in especially children and women, especially pregnant women).

The animal has hairless areas on his body. Most of the time, they are circular in shape. The skin is generally clean underneath; there is rarely any redness or scabbing. The ringworm is treated with an antifungal drug, the treatment is often very long (minimum four weeks).

Scabies and ringworm are contagious diseases by contact, even indirect contact. if you have other hamsters, the Affected one must be placed in a quarantine room, and you must disinfect yourself after manipulating it. Do not use the same park or put other hamsters in the same place than the sick animal. They may not necessarily get sick themselves, but the risk is high.

Broken leg

The hamster can break a leg by falling or getting stuck somewhere.

Your hamster needs rest; take off his wheel and his floor if it has one. Place his feeder and his bottle next to his nest.

Consult a veterinarian who can prescribe an anti-inflammatory if necessary.


It mainly affects Campbell’s and Russian dwarf hamsters, but can also be found in other races.

The symptoms are:

– Positive glucose test (tongue test)

– Excessive thirst

– Excessive urine

In the most serious cases:

– Low body temperature

– Tremors

– Coma

Treatment: only a veterinarian will be able to offer you an appropriate treatment. In some cases, the adaptation of the food (sugar-free) can be beneficial. It will also be necessary to add something to counter the dehydration.


Because of its anatomy, the hamster is, like all rodents, unable to vomit. A food eaten can cause the death of the animal if it is toxic.

What are the signs of intoxication? The hamster is thirsty, agitated, has spasms… On the way to the vet, you can always give ½ to 1 ml of activated charcoal.

Obsessive-compulsive disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorders exist in hamsters. These are actually behavioral disorders (PLC behavior) linked to an often environmental problem (too little space, no exercise…) and sometimes also a genetic neurological problem.

This is usually manifested by continuous use of the wheel (sometimes night and day) up to exhaustion, which often causes injuries to the soles of the legs, but also physical exhaustion and a weight loss. In the most serious cases, the animal goes round in circles wherever it is placed.

To treat OCD, the first thing to do is to find the cause. You have to start by taking it out, change his cage for a larger habitat, remove the wheel if it gets hurt. Neurological OCD is unfortunately almost impossible to cure.

Discover here the essential accessories for hamsters. Click on the link bellow 👇😎

References :

“Hamster Bedding: The Best Options”Hamster Bedding: The Best Options. 2014-10-02.

“The Best Hamster Bedding Guide”Dwarf Hamster home. Dwarf Hamster home.

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