Hamsters make great pets and are one of the more popular rodents for most pet owners. These critters are pretty small and easy to take care of, so they are often pets for children. Still, some teens and adults do have pet hamsters. Like any other human being or animal, hamsters can get sick and can suffer health problems. Pet owners need to know how to watch out for their little critter. There are some health warning signs in hamsters that every pet owner should know about.
1. Constant Urination/Bloody Urine
Such symptoms can point toward more serious conditions. For instance, hamster could have developed bladder stones or be suffering a urinary tract infection. Of course, both conditions at the same time are plausible. Constant urination can be caused by other issues too. Any amount of blood in the urine should prompt an immediate visit to the veterinarian. Of course, it will take a thorough examination to find the cause of these symptoms, but bladder stones or a UTI are the most likely culprits.
2. Changes in Behavior
Unfortunately, changes in behavior are associated with very bad health issues in hamsters. A change in behavior is usually associated with cancer, which is extremely difficult to deal with in hamsters. Tumors that are on the outside of a hamster’s body can be surgically removed, but internal tumors present a larger problem. First of all, it’s very difficult and nearly impossible in some cases to operate internally on a hamster because the animal is so small. Removing tumors from organs is usually not a possibility. Only a visit to the veterinarian will give definitive answers.
Prolonged episodes of lethargy are dangerous in any animal. Moreover, lethargy often points to a more serious underlying health problem. In young hamsters, lethargy can indicate a case of “wet tail”, which can be extremely dangerous for the animal. It may also be a sign of cancer or effects from a poor diet. A hamster that exhibits prolonged lethargy needs to be seen by a veterinarian right away because it isn’t normal for these animals to be lethargic. However, you can’t mistake lethargy for being nocturnal, as some hamsters are.
Abscesses are best described as hard lumps under a hamster’s skin. These lumps are extremely painful for hamsters and can form just about anywhere on the skin or inside the animal’s cheek pouches. As for causes, bite wounds or wounds caused by hard foods can result in abscesses. Such lumps need to be drained by a veterinarian, who will often prescribe an antibiotic too. Luckily, abscesses aren’t necessarily life threatening occurrences, but they do need to be eliminated quickly.
5. Weight Loss
In any animal, weight loss is never a good sign, especially if it can’t be explained. Weight loss in hamsters can indicate Salmonellosis, poor diet, or even depression (hamsters can become depressed!). Without a doubt, the cause of such sudden weight loss needs to be identified right away because this is a symptoms of many – potentially deadly – health defects. A hamster who has lost a lot of weight recently may look frail or weak, even if the animal eats and drinks plenty each day.
6. External Tumors
Any external tumors on a hamster need to be examined right away by a vet because they are usually associated with various forms of cancer. Yes, hamsters can contract cancer like any other animal. External tumors are fairly simple to take care of, but a veterinarian will also check the hamster for internal tumors. A few other health issues can cause these tumors, even though they could just be other lumps or bumps. Anyways, immediate care for the hamster is necessary to tackle any problems.
Hamsters are a little small for surgery.
Sadly, hamsters can’t be operated on like a human, cat, or dog can. Veterinarians can spay and neuter hamsters, but that’s about it. It’s too difficult to operate inside of a hamsters tiny body. Of course, their organs are also extremely small, so surgery is almost always out of the question. Fortunately, not all health problems in hamsters will lead to life threatening situations. A hamster might just have an abscess, a poor diet, or something else that is simple to take care of.
For more information on rodent health, visit Maintaining Your Pet Rodent’s Health and Hamster Hamster Diseases/General.