How to Care for an Injured Hamster
How Do Hamsters Get Injured?
Small animals are prone to falls, drops, and other mishaps. If they get dropped accidentally, they can suffer a serious injury. Oftentimes, if the drop is high enough, the fall could be fatal. This is why you should be especially careful when you are carrying your hamster.
As a general rule, never let your hamster loose in your house, as this could result in them getting injured. They love to jump, run, and play, and they can easily injure themselves if you don't take preventive measures. Let's talk about how to keep your hamster happy, healthy, and safe.
Do You Have a Vet?
Because hamsters' bones break so easily, especially if they are dropped, I tell owners and people wanting to get one to find a local veterinarian—before you need one—who treats small animals.
Signs Your Hamster Is Injured
- Inappetence or anorexia
- Labored breathing
- Sudden aggression
- Squeaks or cries of pain
- Sleeping more than normal
What to Do If Your Hamster Gets Injured
How Serious Is the Injury?
I'll quite often get an email or a call from a person saying, "I dropped my hamster, now what do I do?" What you need to do will depend on how seriously they were injured. A hamster dropped from several feet onto a hard surface or floor can suffer broken bones and serious internal injuries. In such a case, if your vet advises, having it euthanized is the most humane thing to do. If it is bleeding from its mouth or having convulsions, it is probably not going to survive, but if it just broke a toe or leg, the veterinarian may be able to help them.
Take Your Hamster to the Vet
If you suspect that your hamster is seriously injured from a fall or other cause, take it to the vet to be checked. Don't let the little animal suffer—it may well have to be euthanized, but this is the best thing to do if it is badly injured. Have a good vet's contact available before you ever need one, and don't wait until the last minute to find a vet or it may be too late.
Avoid handling an injured hamster unless it is absolutely necessary. If it is injured and you need to pick it up to go to the vet, wear thick gloves so it won't bite you (you may accidentally drop it again!). Transport them to the vet in a covered cardboard box if you need to.
Addressing Minor Injuries
If a hamster is injured and in pain, it may stop eating; if this happens, you're going to have to visit the vet to get it treated and get pain medication (this often happens if it has a broken rib). With pain medication and hand-feeding, it can survive if you give it a lot of care and spend extra time with it. Ask the vet about how to hand-feed an injured hamster and what to feed it.
Hopefully, the injury won't be as serious as you think. With luck, the vet will be able to help your hamster and before long, your pet will be back home with you.
How to Prevent Hamster Injuries
Here are some general guidelines to follow by that will help you to keep your hamster safe:
- Handle With Care: Use care when handling a hamster so that it doesn't suffer a bad fall. They squirm, and an excited or scared hamster can nip you, causing you to drop it. If you're going to hold them, sit down on the floor or on a bed; it will not suffer as bad an injury if it falls onto a soft surface like a bed.
- Supervise Children: A child should always be supervised when interacting with small pets. When holding a hamster, the child should always be on the floor or on a bed; teach them how to be gentle.
- Watch Household Critters: If you have a cat in the house, you must ensure that the cat cannot get ahold of the hamster in any way and injure it. Same goes for dogs and other potentially predatory species.
- Provide Adequate Housing: Hamsters, especially dwarf hamsters, can get through holes you would never think they would be able to. If it is in a wire cage, the wires must be close enough together so that they cannot escape between them.
- Prevent Cage Injuries: If you have a door that drops down on the cage, make sure you fix it so it can't slam down on a curious hamster. Install a spring or a twist-rod to prevent the door from closing too quickly.
- Use a Hamster Ball: Consider buying a plastic ball in which the hamster can travel and explore your home safely. They go inside the ball and can then wander around the house and explore safely.
- Use a Safe Exercise Wheel: Not only can hamsters suffer a broken bone from a fall, they can injure themselves running on their exercise wheel. Back when wire wheels were in common use, hamsters often injured their legs and toes and suffered sprains from catching extremities in the wires of the wheels. But with the new solid exercise wheels, they suffer far fewer injuries. Also, the new exercise wheels are a lot quieter.
- Prevent Fighting: If you try to keep Syrian hamsters (Teddy Bears) together, they will fight, sometimes to the death (the same goes for breeding). Russian Dwarfs can be kept in small groups if the cage or tank is large enough.
Common and Uncommon Hamster Illnesses
There are many other conditions besides injuries from a fall that would require a visit to the vet:
If you see that your hamster's rear area is wet and it stays wet, this is a condition called wet tail, and it requires treatment by a veterinarian. Wet tail is a serious disease, and your veterinarian will likely prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
What Does It Mean If My Hamster's Tail Is Wet?
Hamsters get wet tail from being kept in cages that are not clean. Your hamster's bedding needs to be changed at least once a week, and the cage, tank, or enclosure needs to be cleaned with warm, soapy water and be completely dry before you put the bedding back into the cage.
Just like on a person, a small wound should be cleaned and treated with antibiotic ointment per your vet's recommendation. Keep the wound clean and dry, apply an antibiotic, and the wound will likely clear.
If you see an otherwise healthy hamster suddenly lose patches of hair, it may have mites, and you should take it to the vet. You'll need to take its cage outside and clean it very well.
Note: Never buy a hamster with patches of missing hair. If you have healthy hamsters at home, you may bring mites home to them.
If you suspect that they are constipated, you will need to schedule an urgent visit with the vet to have the issue resolved.
Choosing a Hamster
Never purchase a hamster that is in a cage with others that appear sick. Unless all the hamsters are healthy, go to a different pet shop to make your purchase.
General Husbandry Tips
Here are a few other things owners need to know:
- Nail Trimming: You can trim your hamster's nails, but you will have to use extreme care as to not cut off a toe or foot, and you should wear gloves so it can't bite you. If you don't feel comfortable trimming its nails, take it to the vet.
- Teeth: It's perfectly normal for their teeth to be yellow (no, you don't need to brush their teeth). But you do need to provide them with wooden chew sticks so their incisor teeth will be kept worn down.
- Environment: Keep them in an environment that is between 60 and 80 F. Avoid drafty places for the tank or cage. Also, be sure that you don't place the tank in full sun because it can heat up quickly and injure or kill them.
- Diet and Nutrition: Be sure that you know what foods your hamster should and should not eat.
- Hygiene: Hamsters can and do catch bacteria from their human friends, so always wash your hands before and after you handle them. If you know you're sick, then don't handle them because you can make them sick too. Sick children should also be kept away, especially if the child is running a fever.
A Little Love Goes a Long Way
Now that we've discussed the many ways to keep your new friend happy and healthy, consider the ways you can enrich their current environment. Remember, all animals need stimulation, socialization, and engagement to keep them well, so find ways to enhance your hamster's environment. Enjoy the companionship!
Are You Ready to Be a Hamster Parent?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.