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MEDICAL CARE

As a hamster owner, you are responsible for ensuring your hamster's health and well-being. To do this, you must have a basic understanding of medical care.

Cause for Concern

If you notice these at any time, ​contact an exotic vet immediately.

  • Drinking or urinating more than usual can be an indicator of many different health issues, including diabetes. Equally, if you see a significant reduction in their water intake, contact an exotic vet as soon as possible.

  • If you see blood on your hamster or their enclosure, check them thoroughly for scrapes or cuts. Your observations will be vital information for your hamster's vet. Be sure to contact an exotic vet immediately.

  • Limpness is a common and obvious indicator that your hamster is sick. Contact an exotic vet immediately, keep the hamster warm, and, if necessary, offer baby food and water through a syringe.

Weekly Health Check

These are essential, and they should be performed weekly to detect problems early. You should weigh them, check their scent glands, skin, eyes, and teeth, listen to their breathing, and feel them for lumps and bumps. If anything appears out of the ordinary, seek advice from an exotic vet.

Weight Check

Weigh your hamster weekly to keep track of their general health; digital scales work the best. The number of grams won't necessarily tell you if your hamster is overweight or underweight (because hamsters come in different shapes and sizes), but, along with size and shape, it can give an idea. A typical Syrian weighs 120-230g, Roborovski weighs 25-40g, Dwarfs weigh 40-60g, and Chinese weighs 30-45g. A sudden weight change likely indicates an issue, so contact an exotic vet immediately if you notice a significant unexplained difference from week to week.

Breathing

If you hear wheezing, clicking or other loud noises, they may have a respiratory infection. Time is critical, so try to get an appointment with an exotic vet immediately, on the same day, ideally. Your hamster receiving antibiotics or other treatment as soon as possible will drastically increase their chance of survival.

Teeth and Nails

Their teeth should be yellow, not white, and an even length. Nails should not be curled over or lying sideways when standing.

Long teeth/nails are a common issue in hamsters as they constantly grow, so they need items to chew to prevent them from growing too long. You can provide chews like Whimzees and rough surfaces like cork bark. Even with these preventative measures, you can't guarantee that their teeth or nails won't become too long. An exotic vet must correct overgrown teeth (do not attempt yourself), as overgrowth teeth can lead to further health complications. Check out our infographic on nail clipping for overgrown nails, which you can clip at home.

Skin

Skin should be pink but not irritated or inflamed. Sometimes, if a hamster has a significant mite infestation, you can see the mites on their skin.

An exotic vet can treat a hamster with irritated skin or suspected mites.

Eyes

Eyes should look glassy and reflective. They should not produce pus, although older hamsters may have slightly closed eyes when waking up. If this is not usual, they may have an infection. Seek advice from an exotic vet immediately. 

Lumps and Bumps

Lumps should be checked by an exotic vet immediately. Be careful not to mistake testes for tumours on male hamsters (they can protrude when they are hot).
 

Scent Glands

Scent glands are located on the side of the hips in Syrians and the belly in Dwarves/Chinese, which are much more prone to infection. They typically appear darker and without fur. If scent glands look infected (or there is a significant amount of fur loss around them), contact an exotic vet for treatment.

First Aid Kit

When owning any animal, something may happen that requires medical care; this includes hamsters. Always contact an exotic vet if you suspect they are sick. Use the subsequent advice as first aid only, not as a substitute for a vet visit.

Syringes

Spoon

Baby/critical care food

Oats

Plain flour

Plasters (for you)

Small bowl

Baby nail clippers

Hot water bottle / heat pad

Ice packs

Clear plastic jug

Syringing water, food and medicine.

Encourage them to eat foods like puree and baby food. Unfortunately, if this doesn't work, a syringe is the only option.

Baby or critical care food is great when they are lethargic or sick. Syringe-feeding water and food saved my hamster, Bear, until an exotic vet could see her (in the morning).

Make porridge for a sick or pregnant hammy. 

Use on their nails if you accidentally cut them too short whilst trimming them to help stop the bleeding.

Yes, these are for you and not your hamster! It's easy to get a cut from scratching yourself on the mesh of your hamster DIY enclosure (I totally haven't done that!) or from a hammy nibble. Regardless, they are always helpful to have nearby.

For wet food, baby food, porridge, etc., as you want food that is easily accessible before getting to an exotic vet. 

Use clippers to clip nails. If nails are long and curled over, trim only the ends with flour on standby. For ease, when sleepy, very gently wrap them in a towel so they're less fidgety, and only cut a few a night. Although an exotic vet can trim nails, it will be less stressful for the hamster if you are comfortable trimming them yourself.

Place only on the outside of your enclosure. Hot water bottles are handy if a power cut occurs, and heat pads are helpful if your hammy is sick. However, please do not place your hamster directly on either and never use a heating pad for their enclosure as they can cause your hammy to get too hot. Use multiple layers of blankets or towels so you can only feel the heat on a sensitive area of your body (i.e. fingertips).

Use outside your hamster's enclosure during a heat wave or a hot summer to provide cooler areas. 

Often helpful at the vet. Due to stress, hamsters may avoid being handled, even if they are friendly. The jug helps to see all of their body without holding them more than necessary. 

Exotic Vet

Always contact them immediately when concerned about your hamster. Do not use this first aid kit or any information on this page in place of a vet visit.

Travel Cage

Helpful to take them to the vet or temporarily house them (for at most a few hours) in an emergency.

Hopefully, you won't need to use these items. However, they are life-saving equipment essential to have on standby in an emergency. Sometimes, judging when your hamster should see a vet isn't easy. Although we are not veterinarians, we have much experience and can offer some advice. Always err on the side of caution, as it may save your hamster's life.

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