Hamster Health Checks
Hamsters are part of a group of mammals called Rodents.
There are 5 species of hamster available as pets in the UK. Some have their own individual heath problems associated with their particular species, but below is a general heath check list that is appropriate for all species.
- Check your hamsters nose daily. A wet or runny nose can indicate a cold. Hamsters are very susceptible to catching colds or flu from humans.
- A runny nose or sneezing could also indicate an allergy. Some hamsters can be irritated by dusty wood shavings or strong smelling dyes in bedding.
- Daily observations should be made of your hamsters eyes. Hamsters can easily get a piece of wood shavings in its eyes when burrowing, if your hamsters eyes look watery then check for foreign bodies.
- Some species of hamster are prone to an eye condition called “Glaucoma” . An eye affected by Glaucoma will swell and fill with fluid. This can be a painful condition for a hamster.
- Some hamsters will develop “cataracts” in older age. Often with this condition a ‘bluish’ circle will be seen in the centre of the eye of an affected animal.
Remember too that hamsters eyesight is very poor, they can only see for a short distance.
Check your Hamsters bottom
Your hamsters bottom should be checked every day. If your hamster shows signs of diarrhoea then this must be investigated.
- Very young hamsters who are newly purchased can sometimes develop stress related diarrhoea.
- Diarrhoea can also be a sign of feeding too much fruit and vegetables, particularly if your hamster is unused to a moist food diet. Should this be the case then stop feeding the green foods until your hamsters tummy has settled, then reintroduce the greens slowly.
- Another more serious condition which will give your hamster diarrhoea is a condition called “wet tail”.
“Wet tail” is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut or a bacterial infection, often associated with contamination by E coli. A hamster suffering from “wet tail” will have a unpleasant smelling discharge associated with the diarrhoea. Veterinary attention should be sought immediately.
- Should your hamster show signs of discharge from her vulva (and it’s a female) then this is a sign of a womb or ovary problem. Sadly conditions like “Pyometra” can be common in older females.
(Pyometra is a condition of the womb, in which the womb fills with puss due to infection. Veterinary advice should be sought).
Everyday you should observe your hamsters overall heath and well being. When your hamster awakes check they are their usual bright lively self. Should a normally active hamster suddenly appear slow and sluggish then the cause should be sought. Elderly hamsters will slow down and sleep more, and show general signs of old age, i.e. thinning fur, very slight weight changes etc. But, should this be observed in a young hamster then the cause of this change should be investigated.
When you get your hamster out for its evening cuddle then have a good feel of its body, check for any lumps and bumps that have appeared.
One distinctive feature of Rodents is their continually growing teeth. Hamsters teeth should be checked on a weekly basis to make sure they are wearing down correctly and don’t become overgrown. Giving a hard dog biscuit to your hamster every week will help the teeth to wear naturally. Should your hamsters teeth become overgrown they will need to be clipped.
Skin and Fur
It’s a good idea to check your hamsters skin & fur on a regular basis. Changes in the skin can indicate many potential health problems.
An elderly hamster will suffer from thinning fur, and some fur loss but this is a natural part of the aging process. However should a young hamster exhibit signs of fur loss then this should be investigated.
Mites and Allergies
The two most common causes of fur loss in Hamsters are mites & allergies.
A Hamster suffering from mites will often continually scratch at his skin leaving it sore, the skin will often have a scurfy appearance. If the hamsters skin is irritated by an allergic reaction the skin will often look sore and very red. Other causes of skin problems and/or fur loss can be Kidney disease, Cushing’s disease etc. Should your hamster show any skin problems then veterinary advice should be sought.
Hamsters nails should be checked weekly. The nails on some species can grow very fast and will need regular trimming should by become too long. Trimming of nails can be easily be done with small scissors.
Hamsters should be feed a well balanced diet comprising of a good quality dry hamster mix, small amounts of fruit and vegetables. Cooked potatoes, egg, meat etc can also be feed. Hamsters are omnivores (and NOT vegetarians as some people think). As omnivores hamsters can eat quite a range of foods, and a good variety of healthy foods will keep your hamster in good health.
Sadly hamsters have a short life span in comparison to other pets. The average life span is 2 years.
With regular heath checks and good food, you will have a happy healthy hamster.
Its worth observing the amount of urine your hamster produces and water it consumes.
One particular species of hamster (the Russian Dwarf Campbell) is particularly prone to diabetes, although it can affect all the species. A hamster suffering from this condition will consume large quantities of water and urinate more frequently. Sadly, as in humans, there is no cure for this condition.
Excessive urination can also be a sign of a bladder infection, in this instance antibiotics can be administered by your vet.
If you own a species of Dwarf hamster that lives with another of its own species then you should regularly check for any skin wounds or bites. Sometimes squabbles can break out amongst hamsters and one or more could receive a bite. Small bites will heal naturally, but more serious wounds will need veterinary treatment.