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When you welcome a small, fluffy friend into your home, you take on a big responsibility for its well-being. Hamsters are resilient little creatures, but they can get sick too. It’s important to know what to look out for to ensure your hamster stays healthy and happy. In this article, you’ll learn how to tell if your hamster is ill and what to do in such cases. 

Behavioral Changes: A Clear Warning Sign

One of the first indications that something is wrong are changes in behavior. A hamster that is usually active and curious but suddenly becomes withdrawn and shows little interest in its surroundings might be unwell. If your hamster exhibits the following behavioral changes, it’s better to have it checked out by a vet: 

  • Sleep Patterns: Sleeping more than usual or being active at different times can be a sign. 
  • Lack of Interaction: A normally tame hamster that suddenly bites or avoids contact. 
  • Food and Water Intake: Eating or drinking less than usual. 

Physical Signs: Paying Attention to the Details

Brown and white hamster eating
image: justus_joseph – pixabay.com

These physical symptoms can indicate a range of illnesses and are a reason for a visit to the vet. Pay attention to: 

  • Fur Changes: Loss of fur glossiness, matting, hair loss, bald spots; crusts, blisters, or redness on the skin. 
  • Eyes: Watery, sticky, red, inflamed, protruding eyes, or swollen eyelids are not good signs and definitely warrant a prompt visit to the vet. Eye diseases are actually very common in hamsters. Especially conjunctivitis, chalazion, keratoconjunctivitis (injury to the cornea, usually caused by dust and dirt in the bedding, often affecting only one eye) and conjunctivitis (bacterial infection or abscesses in the upper jaw, caused by caries, root inflammation, bite wounds, or dust or dirt particles). 
  • Nose: Frequent sneezing and a crusty, sticky, or runny nose can indicate a cold. Hamsters catch colds quite easily. They can even catch them from you. Unfortunately, hamsters do not handle colds as well as humans. Untreated, it can develop into a dangerous pneumonia. Therefore, it’s best to get it checked out by a vet quickly. 
  • Ears: Very frequent scratching may indicate a mite infestation. Ears laid back may indicate fear, insecurity, or discomfort. 
  • Breathing: Wheezing, rapid, or labored breathing. 
  • Weight: Unexplained weight loss or gain. 
  • Body: Ulcers, swellings, or wounds. 
  • Digestion: Diarrhea. Since hamsters cannot rely on large fluid reserves, diarrhea can quickly become life-threatening for them. Therefore, do not wait too long and consult a vet. 

Additional Warning Signs 

  • Changes in Cage Hygiene: Hamsters are naturally clean animals. If your hamster is not keeping his cage as clean as before or has problems with bladder or bowel control, this can be a sign of illness. 
  • Changes in Movement: Problems walking, trembling, or a general lack of coordination can indicate neurological issues, injuries, or joint diseases. 
  • Listen to the Sounds: Pay attention to unusual sounds your hamster makes, such as squeaking, moaning, or grinding, especially when moving or eating.
White Hamster sleeping in the hand of its owner
image: Worawuth Sawaengsuk – vecteezy.com

What to Do If You Think Your Hamster Is Sick?  

If you notice any of these symptoms in your hamster, it’s important to act quickly: 

  • Isolate him from other pets to avoid possible contagion. 
  • Provide a warm, quiet environment with easily accessible food and water. 
  • Closely observe him and note all symptoms and behavioral changes. 
  • Contact a veterinarian who specializes in small animals for expert opinion and treatment. 

How to Support Your Little Friend’s Recovery 

If your hamster has contracted an illness, you can support his recovery by avoiding the following stress factors and ensuring your beloved pet can recuperate in peace. 

  • Noisy Cage Environment: Loud music or TV noises that disturb your hamster’s natural sleep rhythm are a no-go. 
  • Temperature Fluctuations: Ensure a constant room temperature. To keep your pet warm, you can set up an infrared lamp. Aim it only at one corner of the hamster’s home, so the hamster can retreat if it gets too warm. 
  • Cage/Location Change: Moving (new environment, new smells) is always stressful for a healthy hamster. As long as your pet is sick, you should avoid subjecting him to a change. 
  • Waking from Sleep: If your hamster is sleeping, you should definitely avoid waking him up. 
  • Other Pets: Dogs, cats, or birds in the immediate vicinity of the cage are stressful for your hamster. 
  • Transports: Limit transportation to only the necessary, such as unavoidable vet visits. 
  • Too Frequent Handling: Naturally, you are worried about your sick pet and want to regularly check his condition or pet him. Try to avoid handling your hamster too often. 

Conclusion: A Healthy Hamster Is a Happy Hamster 

Your hamster’s health is in your hands. By careful observation and quick action at the first signs of illness, you can ensure your little friend receives the best possible care. Remember that preventive measures such as a balanced diet, regular cage cleaning, and a stress-free environment can help prevent many common health problems in hamsters.

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