Illnesses

~ Cataract
~ Colds
~ Conjunctivitis
~ Dental Probs
~ Dermatophyt.
~ Ear Infection
~ Eczema
~ Epilepsy
~ Flu
~ Intestinal Infect
~ Glaucoma
~ Kidney Prob's
~ Parasites
~ Poison
~ Polycystic Dis
~ Pyometra
~ Shock
~ Strokes
~ Tumours
~ Wet Tail

 
Illnesses

This page will give as much information about illnesses/injuries of hamsters from description, cause to Treatment. This has a lot of first hand knowledge contained within it and was also the first page of this site that went up due to the low level of coverage in the hamster press.

I would also like to point out that many vets are not hamster specialists and I am not blaming them. They have a difficult, intensive training programme. People expect them to know everything about every animal and this is not fair. This page will provide a backup so you can go to the vet and say, "Maybe it could be this that my hamster has got....".

Let's get on with the show.


Cataracts

Symptoms
Opaque eye lens/obvious grey colour to eye(s).
Causes
Old age tends to be the preliminary factor.
Treatment
No Treatment.
Medication
None.


Colds

Symptoms
Sniffling, sneezing and malaise. Maybe watering eyes. If symptoms persist for longer than 48 hours with no signs of diminishing then this may indicate a bigger problem.
Causes
Same virus that affects humans and can readily infect humans and vice versa.
Treatment
No Treatment like human colds. Give them some loving as well as providing plenty of bedding and a piece of moist fruit for hydration purposes.
Medication
None.


Conjunctivitis

Symptoms
Sticky eyes, eyelids stuck together.
Causes
Usually bacterial.
Treatment
Bathing eye in a mixture of sterile water and boric acid powder using an eye dropper.
Medication
Mix some sterile water (cool, boiled water) with a teaspoon of boric acid powder (available from pharmacist).


Dental Problems

Symptoms
Not eating, personality change, mouth irritation.
Causes
Front teeth are either too long or one or both are broken.
Treatment
Trimming the teeth with a pair of nail clippers. The vet can do this for you if you are unsure how to do this.
Medication
Nail clippers.


Dermatophytosis

Symptoms
Loss of hair then flakey skin followed by lesions that get bigger and more frequent with time, sometimes without creating a scab. Secondary infection usually follows suit particularly under the belly.
Causes
Initial cause is most likely due to either a vulnerability to the fungus or stress or a change in lifestyle. Initial infection is a fungus with a secondary bacterial infection.
Treatment
Any bacterial infection in wounds should be treated with a small animal antiseptic or an antibiotic cream.
Medication
  • Fuciderm - A gel that is rubbed into the skin which serves as an antibiotic and a steriod.
  • Imaveral - 1ml to every 50ml of water. Should be applied once every 4 days with cotton wool.
  • *New Treatment*Malaseb - An antibacterial and antifungal shampoo that should be applied to coat every 5 days. Should be applied and left for 10minutes and then rinsed off.


Ear Infection (Middle) of Tympanic bullae

Symptoms
One or two large lumps start to grow quickly on the side of the hamsters head. Looks like a brain tumour but it is not, it is in fact filled with pus (cancerous tumours are hard and never contain pus). Soon the lump will decrease in size and a scab will form, a nasty smell may become apparent. This will heal in time and then the episode reoccurs.
Causes
Infection of the tympanic bullae (middle ear infection).
Treatment
Antibiotics are the only Treatment but these don't always cure it due to the difficult position of the infection. After the lumps start to form then antibiotics should be administered as the antibiotics will be able to kill off infection in the lumps much easier than with the ear.
Medication
5% Baytril. 0.4ml per 100ml in the drinking water.


Eczema

Symptoms
Flakey, dry skin underneath the fur. In baby hamsters this condition can slow growth slightly.
Causes
Stress is a major factor associated with Eczema and can usually be attributed to being untame with the owner. Also old hamsters can get it as their immune systems get weaker. Large variations in temperature can get them to show signs.
Sometimes this condition is an allergic response often to the bedding. Some types of wood shavings can cause irritation such as acidic pine shavings.
This condition is not regarded as serious.
Treatment
In old hamsters vegetable oil can be rubbed onto the skin. Although your hamster looks slightly bedraggled there is no harm when it licks it off unlike human moisturiser. In all other cases immediately change the bedding. Our case involved a stressed baby Syrian, we exchanged the sawdust for hay and the condition vanished. After a few weeks she was less stressed and we tried her back on sawdust, she was fine.
Medication
Fuciderm - A gel that is rubbed into the skin which serves as an antibiotic and a steriod. Rubbed on twice a day.


Epilepsy

Symptoms
Very similar to human Symptoms. Hamster will tend to have fits of screaming. The fits differ on the hamster but tend to run around screaming and then stop and rub there nose as if they have sniffed a strong odour and then they may roll onto their back and lay still while shivering.
Causes
Unknown. The hamsters we have had with it were Russians and were quite old.
Treatment
None. The seizures will get worse. If they are in a colony check that while having a seizure they are not biting anyone (they will do this without thinking). Towards the end of their lives you should put them into a heated tank (hot water bottle on the underneath) with sawdust and food. Try and offer some drops of a strong alcoholic drink, this can calm the hamster.
Medication
None.


Flu

Symptoms
Sniffling, sneezing and malaise. Maybe watering eyes. Very similar symptoms to colds but accompanied by fever.
Causes
Same virus that affects humans and can readily infect humans and vice versa. Most likely that a hamster will have the flu virus as a result of another animal/human having it.
Treatment
No treatment but some fresh fruit and vegetable matter should be provided for rehydration.
Medication
None.


Intestinal Infection

Symptoms
Diarrhoea or loose stools. Very loud stomach noises.
Causes
Bacterial infection.
Treatment
Antibiotics. Live yoghurt can help re-balance the conditions in the gut.
Medication
5% Baytril. 0.4ml per 100ml in the drinking water.


Glaucoma

Symptoms
Eye(s) get large and "bulge" outwards. Tends more markedly in Russian Dwarf hamsters.
Causes
Thought to be genetic and hence hereditary. A pressure build-up within the eye.
Treatment
No treatment. Eye may burst and eye lids will then heal shut.
Medication
None.


Kidney Problems

Symptoms
Excessive drinking.
Causes
Diabetes or kidney infection. Diabetes occurs naturally and chances increase with age.
Treatment
If it is a kidney infection then antibiotics can be administered. There is no set treatment for diabetes but removal of fatty foods from the diet can help.
Medication
If kidney infection then 5% Baytril. 0.4ml per 100ml in the drinking water.


Parasites

Symptoms
Scratching. Possible malaise. Red patches on the skin, flakey skin. Spots and small wounds.
Causes
A variety of organisms can live on your hamster. Ticks, lice and mites.
Treatment
Firstly, higher parasites (the ones you can see) are unlikely to kill your hamster as they will be killing themselves by killing their food. If your hamster does die, there are either a very large number of parasites living on it or it was weak or it died of an unrelated cause.

However, noone likes parasites. Firstly, if they are skin parasites there are plenty of shampoos and lotions to kill parasites for pets. ONLY use medication that says you can use it on hamsters or birds, everything else will be too strong and WILL kill your hamster. After washing it in the lotion/shampoo then rinse thoroughly to prevent them licking any off, then put in a completely clean cage i.e. nothing that hasn't been cleaned is given back to the hamster.

Parasites can come in via bedding, sawdust, food and other pets. Be sure that the cage is completely clean.

Secondly, medication from the vets can be used that tends to be given orally.

Medication
Small animal sprays such as Johnson's Anti-mite & insect spray for cage birds.


Poisoned

Symptoms
Unable to coordinate limbs. Bleeding. Lack of appetite and lethargy.
Causes
Hamster has touched/eaten/drunk poisoned food or a toxic substance.
Treatment
Veterinary Advice should be sought IMMEDIATELY.
Medication
Depends on chemical. Veterinary medication only.


Polycystic Disease

Symptoms
Stomach increases, excessive drinking, immobile, hamster not cleaning itself.
Causes
Not known, highly likely it is genetic.
Treatment
No treatment exists. Keep hamster warm and provide soft food.
Medication
None.


Pyometra

Symptoms
Discharge from vagina, thicker and cloudier than urine. Discharge will get thicker, darker and foul-smelling as time goes on. Hamster will suffer from malais. Can cause death.
Causes
An infection of the womb.
Treatment
Operation by competent veterinary surgeon.
Medication
May be stopped by antibiotics in early stages but this is a poorly understood infection. If any doubts, seek a veterinary surgeon.


Shock

Symptoms
Strong desire to hide, trembling.
Causes
Fall, toxic substance.
Treatment
Keep hamster warm and tempt with treats.
Medication
None.


Strokes

Symptoms
A range of Symptoms exist from difficulty walking, lopsided head, difficulty eating.
Causes
Exactly the same as humans. A solid object in the bloodstream blocks a vessel in the brain and the cells around that blockage die from lack of oxygen.
Treatment
Hamsters recover well from strokes. The worst case we had was a baby hamster that fell onto the floor, it couldn't stand up. After three days it was fine.
Medication
None.


Tumours

Symptoms
Lumps anywhere on the body.
Causes
DO NOT CONFUSE LUMPS WITH YOUR HAMSTERS TESTICLES OR SCENT GLANDS!
Tends to affect older hamsters, is a cancer.
Treatment
Sometimes, depending on the site of the lump, operations can be done to remove it.

If the hamster is in no diffulty or stress or pain then there is no reason to consider the drastic action. Hamsters can live quite long lives after an initial tumour develops.

If they are in a difficult place such as the mouth then there is nothing to do. It is strongly recommended that you put your hamster to sleep as lumps will grow at a dramatic rate and spread. Their intense growth cracks bone easily and if this occurs the hamster will show signs of being in pain.

Make sure that it is cancer first. Stupid confusions can occur.

Medication
Surgery on benign tumours.


Wet Tail

Symptoms
Similar to diarrhoea. Scouring around anus. Hunched up. Extreme diarrhoea accompanied with an unpleasant foul smell. Very lethargic.
Causes
Bacterial. Most noticeable when you have lots of hamsters and young hamsters. Mostly stems from new young hamsters suffering from stress.
Treatment
Wet tail is often confused with diarrhoea but it is a totally different condition. Provide an electrolyte solution (available from chemists/pharmacists) and get the hamster to drink this as hydration is very important and can mean life or death. Don't jump to conclusions, take the hamster to a vet.

Wet tail is a fairly rare occurence.

Any hamster with wet tail should be immediately isolated from all other hamsters and you should wash your hands thoroughly after handling a hamster with the condition.

If a hamster had wet tail then everything that has been in the cage and including the cage, has to be destroyed.

Medication
Veterinary medicine only. New ones coming onto the market steadily.


Site is © Nathan Atkinson 2000-2001