If your hamster does get sick, It’s important to know what to do. Here, I’ve created a quick guide that you can go by, in case of emergency. (Feel free to print off this list and keep it by your hamster’s cage). The list starts with the most common of illnesses, and moves through most diseases from there.
- Wet tail: Diarrhoea and damp rear-end. It can be fatal if left too late to be treated.
- Tell-tale signs: There aren’t many signs for wet tail, until the final stages. Hamster usually continues as normal, eating but probably drinking more to avoid dehydration. Eventually, hamster will get lethargic, fur around their bottom will matte and they will become very uncomfortable. Faeces will be semi-solid or liquid.
- Treatment: Take your hamster to vet immediately! There is no natural cure for wet tail.
2. tumour: Bump or area of hard flesh, that has appeared on hamster, usually over a period of days or weeks. Again, can be fatal if it’s cancerous. Make sure not to confuse it with an abscess, which is a lump filled with puss, and far less serious.
- Tell-tale signs: If a tumour appears, lethargy and lack of appetite may follow.
- Treatment: A tumor can be malignant or benign. A malignant tumor is a cancerous tumor and will need to be removed. A benign tumor is a non-cancerous tumor, usually completely harmless. However, in both cases the tumor can grow to a excessive size, irritating your hamster. If you spot a tumor, keep an eye on it. If it grows, bleeds or irritates your hamster, take him to the vet.
3. Respiratory problems/coughing and sneezing: Hamster is struggling to breath and/or is coughing and sneezing. If there are no other problems, other than the odd sneeze and cough, it can just be the common cold.
- Tell-tail signs: If the common cold is suspected, the hamster will have a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, watery eyes and lack of appetite. They will probably curl up in their bed, possibly cold to touch. If it’s not a cold (i.e wheezing, excessive coughing, having trouble breathing, lethargy), it could be a chest infection, lung problems or congestion.
- Treatment: Like humans, there is no cure for the common cold, which was probably transmitted by a human in the first place. Keep all infected humans away from cage, and leave your hammy alone, as he needs rest. Keep the hamster in a warm room, beside a radiator, as pneumonia can develop if hamster is cold. If other respiratory problems are suspected, take him to the vet.
4. Abscesses: Unlike a tumour, this is a lump filled with puss, and unless infected, is generally harmless.
- Tell-tail signs: A lump will appear. Some irritation if the lump is large or bursting.
- Treatment: Take your hamster to the vet, as the abscess could burst and become infected.
5. Diabetes: Though a rarer disease in most hamsters, it is common in the Russian dwarf campbell.
- Tell-tail signs: Excessive drinking (combined with excessive urination), change in behaviour, shaking or trembling, lethargy, and eventually a coma.
- Treatment: If diabetes is suspected, take your hamster to the vet.
6. Urinary infections/ Bladder stones: Not very common, but is most likely to happen to an older hamster, rather than a younger one.
- Tell-tail signs: Excessive drinking, straining when trying to go to the toilet, blood in urine, lethargy and discomfort.
- Treatment: Take your hamster to the vet immediately.
7. Broken Limbs: Can happen at any age, from climbing accidents or fights etc.
- Tell-tail signs: The hamster is dragging a limb on the ground, not putting wait on it, squeaking with visible discomfort.
- Treatment: The only thing you can do is take the hamster to the vet. However, he may not regain full use of that limb depending on the severity of the break.
8. Minor Cuts: Cuts from toys or fights, not bleeding heavily and only causing minimal discomfort.
- Tell-tail signs: The cut will be visible.
- Treatment: Can be treated at home. Boil some water and pour into a mug. Add some fresh thyme sprigs and leave for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put a little on a cotton bud and dab on the wound and surrounding area. Do this twice a day until the cut has healed. This prevents infection.
9. Impacted Cheekpouches: Common in hamsters that are fed sticky or sharp foods, such as raisins, bread, crisps etc.
- Tell-tail signs: Swollen cheekpouch(es) for a long period of time. Usually a hamster with collect food and empty its cheekpouches within 4-6 hours. If your hamster has had a large cheekpouch (particularly on just one side of the face) for more than 24 hours, it is probably impacted (i.e food has gotten stuck)
- Treatment: Take your hamster to the vet.
10. Constipation: Common in all hamsters who are fed a very dry diet.
- Tell-tail signs: Hunched back, lack of faeces in cage or small paste-like faeces, and excessive drinking.
- Treatment: Feed your hamster a few drops of olive oil. Place some on the tip of a clean finger and allow your hamster to lick it off. Remove any poo in the hamster’s rear, but softening it with warm water. Massage hamster’s stomach with a warm, damp towel and increase the amount of veg in diet, to a few times a week. Remove any oatmeal from diet. If the hamster’s condition does not improve within a week/week and a half, take your hamster to the vet.
There is an endless list of illnesses that a hamster can have, so this page will be updated regularly, with more illnesses and diseases. If you’re not sure what’s wrong with your hamster, do not hesitate to ring a vet for advice. There is also a useful forum here, for a wider range of problems!