Sick Hamsters: Signs and Treatment of Hamsters With Broken Bones
Hamser Broken Leg
Hamsters are usually pretty resilient, and you're not really going to see a broken bone very often, but when it happens it can be scary for you and your little guy. Broken legs aren't as big of a concern with larger animals because the vet can easily bandage and splint the limb, but with a hamster, the limbs are already so small.
The picture to the right is a surprising picture, as it's just not common. This particular hamster ran into a cat, and his tibia was broken. The hamster's owner was married to a Vet Tech at a feline veterinary hospital, where they bandaged the hamster as such.
Generally, a broken limb is treated by letting the hamster relax and settle down, which the body naturally heals the bone.
Causes of Broken Bones
There can be numerous different causes of a broken limb, but the more common causes can include:
- Getting the leg caught in a wire wheel
- Fight with another hamster
- Scuffle with a cat or dog
- Jumping off a ledge, bed, couch, etc that was too high off the ground
- Accidentally injury caused by a child
- Accidentally kicking the hamster while in a roll around ball
Signs of a Broken Bone
Each hamster will be a little different, but you'll find that the most common signs that your hamster has broken a bone are going to include at least one, if not more of the following signs.
- Limping and not using the leg
- Laying on one side
- Slow moving or unable to move
- Bone poking the skin
- Dragging one foot
- Totally or partially paralysed
Treatment for a Broken Bone
If you think that your hamster may have a broken leg, you want to carefully examine him and then immediately take him to the vet. Generally, there's not much that the vet will be able to do because it's not like a human or dog breaking a leg- the vet just won't be able to wrap it up with a splint.
But, the vet may prescribe and antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, or pain medicine to prevent infection and aid in the pain.
You want to remove the wheel, ladders, and toys in the cage, as well as blocking any tunnels. You don't want the hamster to put any more strain on the leg than he has to; if you have a wire cage, consider just putting the hamster in an aquarium until the hamster leg has healed to prevent him from climbing on the bars and wires. If you're able to, lower the water bottle so that the hamster doesn't have to try so hard to get a drink. If the hamster is housed with other hamsters, move him to his own cage until the leg has healed or the hamster has chewed it off.
For light or mild breaks, it should only take about 2 weeks to heal, but if the break was severe and the bone was outside of the skin, it may take longer, if the hamster doesn't chew off the limb first. If you notice any complications while healing, such as the hamster completely dragging the leg, go back to the vet because you want to avoid an infection as best as you can.
The limb may not heal straight, and the hamster may have a limp, but a limp or a crooked leg won't affect the hamster long-term.
Prevent a Broken Bone
The best way to treat a broken bone is to prevent one. You want to make sure to carefully handle your pet hamster. You want to be on the floor, bed, couch, or sitting down somewhere; this way if the hamster tries to jump the surface isn't too far away- as long as you're holding the hamster over the bed or couch not over the floor while you're sitting down.
Do not leave your hamster unattended because they have very poor eyesight and will jump even if the floor is several feet away.
If you have young children, don't let them handle the hamster unattended, as they can hurt the hamster by accident.
Make sure that you have a plastic wheel for the hamster versus one that is made of wire. The wire wheels are dangerous because while running, the hamster can get his feet caught in the wires and break the leg.
Use common sense.
The picture to the right shows another hamster who has been bandaged from a broken leg.
This broken bone was caused by hamster aggression. Generally the two male hamsters were kept separate, but one of the cages was accidentally left open, and the hamster climbed to the other cage, where the enclosed hamster bit the one and then pulled the leg. The hamster with the broken limb possibly jerked backwards which caused most of the damage to the limb.
The bandage in this case is essentially like an ACE bandage. It is made of a chew deterrent wrap to keep the body at a natural splint. The broken arm is bandaged within the wrap so that it is immobilized. The bandage is large so that the hamster cannot remove it, but it's just right to keep the broken leg from moving around.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized reptile veterinarian.