How to Care for an Injured Hamster
How Hamsters Get Injured
Small animals like hamsters are prone to falls, drops, and other mishaps. If the hamster gets dropped accidentally it can suffer a serious injury, and if the drop is high enough the fall could be fatal. This is why you should be especially careful when you're carrying your hamster. And you should be especially watchful and careful when a child is holding a hamster.
Never let your hamster loose in your house, as this could result in your hamster getting injured. Hamsters love to jump, run and play, and they can easily injure themselves if you don't take preventive measures.
Signs of a Serious Injury
- Your hamster stops eating and refuses to eat
- Labored breathing
- Aggression from a hamster that was very tame before
- Squeaks or cries of pain
- Your hamster stops moving and sleeps more than usual. As a hamster gets older, it's going to sleep more than when it was younger. However, if your hamster suffers a fall and starts to sleep more than usual, you should worry.
What to Do if Your Hamster Gets Injured
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 your hamster was 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, having it euthanized is the most humane thing to do. If the hamster 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 the hamster.
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.
Be sure that you know a good vet that will treat hamsters before you ever need one. 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 gloves so it won't bite you and make you drop it again. Transport your hamster to the vet in a covered cardboard box if you need to.
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 to your hamster 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.
Preventing Hamster Injuries
Because hamsters' bones break so easily, especially if they are dropped, I tell hamster owners, and people wanting to get a hamster, to find a local veterinarian—before you need one—who would treat a small animal like a hamster. Call and make sure they treat hamsters.
Use care when handling your hamster so that it doesn't suffer a bad fall. Hamsters can squirm, and a excited or scared hamster can nip at you, causing you to drop it. If you're going to hold your hamster, sit down on the floor or on a bed, because your hamster will not suffer as bad a injury if it falls onto a soft surface like a bed. If children hold the hamster, they should always be supervised and they should always be on the floor or on a bed.
If you have a cat in the house, you must insure that the cat cannot get ahold of the hamster in any way and injure it.
If the hamster is in a wire cage, the wires must be close enough together so that the hamster cannot escape between them. Hamsters, especially dwarf hamsters, can get through holes you would never think they would be able to.
Injuries From Cages
If you keep your hamster in a wire cage, keep wire cutters handy, so that if your hamster gets caught in the wire you can free it quickly and easily. This possibility is the reason that I always use tanks instead of wire cages for my hamsters.
If you have a door that drops down on your hamster's 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 quickly.
Consider buying a plastic hamster ball in which the hamster can travel and explore your home safely. The hamster goes inside and then they can wander around the house and explore safely.
Not only can hamsters can 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 their legs or toes in the wire on the exercise wheels. But with the new solid exercise wheels, hamsters suffer far fewer injuries. Also the new exercise wheels are a lot quieter. Don't use a wire exercise wheel unless there is nothing else available.
Injuries From Hamsters Fighting
If you try to keep Syrian Hamsters ("Teddy Bear Hamsters") together, they will fight, sometimes to the death. If you are breeding them, you need to take the female to the male's cage, watch so she doesn't get injured, and as soon as she is bred take her back to her own cage. Russian Dwarf Hamsters can be kept in small groups if the cage or tank is large enough.
There are many other reasons besides falls that a hamster may be feeling poorly and need a vet's attention.
What Does it Mean if My Hamster's Rear End Is Wet?
If you see your hamster's rear area get wet and stay wet, it needs to go to the veterinarian and be treated for wet tail. Wet tail is a very serious hamster disease. The veterinarian will treat it with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which may save its life. 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. Shredded newspaper makes a wonderful bedding.
Just like on a person, a small wound on a hamster should be cleaned and treated with antibiotic ointment. Keep the wound clean and dry, apply antibiotic, and the wound should clear up quickly. If it doesn't, take the hamster to the vet.
If you are at all in doubt about what kind of care you should be giving to your hamster, take it to the vet.
If you see an otherwise healthy hamster suddenly lose patches of hair, it may have mites and it will need to be taken to the vet. You'll need to take its cage outside and clean it very well. Never buy a hamster with patches of missing hair. If you have healthy hamsters at home, you may bring mites home and infect all the hamsters with mites.
If you think your hamster is constipated, give it two to three drops of cod liver oil to take care of the problem.
When You Choose Your Hamster
Never purchase a hamster that is in a cage with other hamsters that appear sick. Unless all the hamsters are healthy, go to a different pet shop to make your purchase.
More on Hamster Care
Here are a few other things hamster owners need to know.
Nails Need Trimming
You can trim your hamster's nails, but you will have to use extreme care that you don't cut off your hamster's 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.
Your Hamster's Teeth
It's perfectly normal for your hamster's teeth to be yellow. No, you don't need to brush your hamster's teeth. But you do need to provide your hamster with wooden chew sticks so its incisor teeth will be kept worn down.
Put Your Hamster in the Right Spot
Your hamster needs to stay between 60 and 80 degrees. Avoid drafty places for your hamster's tank or cage. But also be sure that you don't place your hamster's tank in full sun, because it can heat up quickly and injure or kill your hamster.
What Should Hamsters Eat?
Be sure that you know what foods your hamster should and should not eat; here's a complete discussion.
Hamsters can and do catch colds from their human friends, so always wash your hands before and after you handle your hamster. If you know you're sick, then don't handle your hamster, because you can make it sick too. Sick children should also be kept away from the hamster, especially if the child is running a fever.