Symptoms of Poor Hamster Health or Illness
Although hamsters are pretty easy pets, they are very small which means that injuries and illness can quickly become a serious matter. They are actually pretty good at hiding their illnesses until it's nearly too late, which is why it is important to keep a close eye on any changes in your pet's regular diet or routine.
If you notice any signs of illness in your hamster, you need to see a veterinarian as quickly as you can.
If you think that your little furry one is sick or injured, try to keep it warm. If you notice that it is not eating on its own, encourage it to take food or water by a dropper, until you can see a veterinarian.
Signs of illness:
- Loss of appetite
- Huddling in a corner
- Ruffled or unkempt coat
- Discharge from the nose or eyes
- Wetness around the tail
- Hair loss
- Humped Back
Common Hamster Illnesses
- Abscesses: These are pockets of infection that can form from minor breaks in the skin. In many cases, abscesses occur in the cheeks from cuts caused by food. If the hamster looks like it constantly has food in its cheek pouches, it may have an abscess, which a vet will need to drain.
- Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections can lead to pneumonia. You should watch for sneezing, discharge from eyes or nose, wheezing, and labored breathing. Don't worry about occasional sneezing, unless there is loss of appetite, decreased activity, wheezing or difficulties breathing accompanying it.
- Wet tail: A wet tail is one of the more common hamster illnesses, most commonly caused by stress, crowding, and diet changes. Although it can be fatal if not noticed soon enough, it is curable. Watch for signs of diarrhea (causing wetness around the tail), lethargy, loss of appetite, a humped back, and a ruffled coat.
- Diarrhea: Not all hamsters who have diarrhea will have a wet tail. The most common cause of diarrhea in hamsters is the overfeeding of fresh vegetables. Unlike wet tail, there is no loss of appetite or decreased activity. For the most part, the hamster will appear normal. Do not let diarrhea stay for prolonged periods of time, as dehydration becomes a big concern. You will want to withhold fresh foods for a few days and resume only if the diarrhea is completely resolved; you can start giving fresh produce again, but slowly.
- Skin Diseases: mites, ringworm, allergies, and skin infections: These are the most common skin illnesses associated with hamsters. Watch for flakiness or redness of the skin, hair loss, lesions on the skin, or if the hamster appears to be scratching more. In these cases you will want to see a vet to determine the exact cause of the skin concern. Pine and cedar bedding can cause skin irritation, as well as lung problems, so avoid these beddings.
- Hibernation: Watch the room temperature where the cage is. If the temperatures fall below normal, the hamster may go into a hibernating state, where they can appear very still and breathe more slowly. Your hamster is not dead or dying, in this case, but you will want to rewarm the hamster.
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.