What Are the Signs of Sick Hamster?

Every sick hamster will develop some symptoms so it is important to know how to recognize them. Hamsters are small animals, they can get sick suddenly and in many cases, they need vet attention or at least your help.

The best way to help your hamster is to spend some time with him every day, playing and holding him. While holding your hammy, you can gently massage him just to get familiar with the shape of a healthy body. This way you will be able to detect any change that may indicate some problem.

Also, it is important to keep track of how much he eats, to learn how to examine him easily on a weekly basis and make sure he is not suffering from any health issue.

If you want to learn what to look for in order to make sure your tiny friend is healthy and to be able to recognize the signs of illnesses that can affect your furry pet, keep reading our article.

Do Hamsters Get Sick Easily?

Yes, hamsters are very sensitive creatures and can get sick suddenly. Due to the fact that they are prey animals, they will never show the signs of pain or illness so you have to learn how to detect that something is wrong with your furry pal.

How To Check Your Hamster’s Health by Yourself?

Checking your Hamster’s health is not complicated and doesn’t take much time so you can perform this check-up on a weekly basis and avoid many unpleasant and potentially painful or dangerous situations.

First look at your pet’s eyes – healthy hamsters have bright and clear eyes, without discharge or white haze ( these are called milky or cloudy eyes). White haze could be the sign of cataract. You should consult your vet.

Next, check the ears, they should be open, on alert. You can check your pet’s hearing if you do some gentle snapping or clicking with your fingers and watch for his reaction, focusing on your pet’s ears. He should be moving his ears and paying attention to hear better all the sounds that comes from you.

If you look at your hamster’s nose, it should be clear, without any blockages that can make his breathing more difficult. The nose should without any discharge. If you hear some wheezing even quite one, that could be a sign of chest infection, do seek for vet’s help.

Teeth – should be yellow/orange and short enough to enable your tiny friend to close its mouth normally. If you would like to learn more about hamster’s teeth normal look but also about possible dental problems, read our article ”How Can I Keep My Hamster’s Teeth Short and Healthy?”

Claws – claws could make similar problems as teeth if they grow too much, that is why you should examine them regularly. The hamster should be able to keep the claws short ( just like teeth) by himself but in case he needs help ( especially if he is getting older ), you are there to help. Hamster’s claws are pretty short and must not have curves. If they have, it means that they are too long. Claws overgrowth could be the sign of liver disease according to the experts from Chicago Exotic Animal hospital

If you need to cut your pet’s claws you can use some small scissors or nail clippers. The hamster’s nails are transparent so for safe trimming you need bright light and some experience. It is important not to cut the part of the nail called quick ( nail ends – blood supply area) as that could be very painful for your tiny friend.

You should cut the end of the nail but pay attention not to come too close to the quick. Offer some treat to your hamster so he can be busy and let you do the job. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, let professionals do the claws trimming.

Scent glands – if you have a Syrian hamster, he has two scent glands placed on his hips area, each on one side of the body and if you have Dwarf or Chinese, he has only one at the place where you expect to see the belly button. Scent glands are important for marking the territory so make sure your hamster has healthy glands.

Dr. Melissa A. Kling, DVM, of Macon, Ga (secretary of the Assn. of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians ) says that scent glands are often seen as tumors by mistake of the hamster’s owners. Microbiologist Elizabeth Johnson, a fourth-year student of veterinary medicine and surgery at Glasgow University School of Veterinary Medicine in Scotland explained that Syrian’s scent glands are looking wet or greasy and sometimes colored and Dwarf’s glands are more tumor-like and therefore many owners worry when they notice them.

Both Dr. Kling and Johnson agree that hamsters show some of the following symptoms in case they have some issues with their scent glands: crusting, redness, presence of pus, unusual swelling and discharge. A sick hamster could show signs of aggression, not willing to be held, not be able to move around, etc.

Genitalia and button area – hamsters are prone to reproductive disease so keeping an eye on your hamster’s genitalia and button area is recommended.

Males can get testicular cancers although this is not so common situation. Look for any bump, lump, bruise or darker area on your furry pal’s testicles.

Note that hamsters are able to retract their testicles if it is too cold and then to return them back when they warm up. The owners usually get wrong about this thinking that their pet suffers from a sudden tumor.

Females can be affected by an infection called Pyometra, life-threatening uterus infection, usually affecting older females, say the experts from the Hamster Society of Singapore.

If you notice any swelling or hard parts in the lower abdomen area check the vet. Plus if you notice that your hammy is drinking more water then usual indicates the problem.

If you would like to know more about this health condition, symptoms and therapy I suggest you read Human Society article on this topic.

Also if you detect vaginal discharge you should consult a vet, even more, if that discharge has a strong smell which almost always signs of some infection that needs to be treated.

Physical Signs that Indicate Some Health Issue

Hair Loss

Is a quite normal thing, especially when a hamster is getting older. Regular shedding process takes place in spring and fall in hamsters of all ages.

But significant hair loss indicates that your hamster has some health issues. If you notice thinning fur in your hamster or patchy hair loss, do see the vet because.

According to the experts from the British Hamster Association, these symptoms could indicate that your hammy may have a problem with parasites (parasitic mites) In that case, the redness of the skin would appear as well as itching and scratching, dandruff.

Hair loss can also be a sign of Vitamin B deficiency. Double-check your pet’s diet, talk to the vet about how to improve it.

Lumps /breaks

Use the time while playing with your hamster and check if he has some lumps. The presence of lumps could be a sign of tumor and if your hamster is limping, maybe he has some bone broken. As you know hamster’s bones are really fragile.

Puffy Cheeks

Storing the food in cheek pouches is a normal thing for one hamster. But if you notice that his cheeks look full all the time and seem unnaturally puffy then maybe it is time to see the vet as he might have impacted cheeks.

Puffy cheeks are not always a sign of impacted cheeks though. Dental problems or mouth tumors also can cause cheeks to swell.


Thin and watery stool can be caused by numerous reasons. The most serious is Wet Tail disease which has a high mortality rate. If you notice that your hamster has a wet, irritated button area, show signs of dehydration ( dry eyes, slow movement and very concentrated urine) pay close attention. If diarrhea continues visit a vet urgently.

No matter what was the cause of diarrhea, this is the condition that has to be treated as small animals like hamsters can dehydrate quickly which can lead to death.

A less serious reason for thin and watery stool is a change in diet or hamster consumed more green vegetables then he should. Diarrhea can appear after the consumption of some medications. Maybe those medications kills good bacteria in the intestine causing the problem with stool.

Regarding Wet tail – according to the experts of the Hamster Society of Singapore this disease is caused by bacteria that affect small intestines.

Although very contagious, in most cases only younger Syrian hamsters are affected. Sick hamsters suffer from a lack of energy and appetite. Besides diarrhea, another sign would be weight loss. This disease requires immediate medical care otherwise your tiny fried may die in a few days.

If your hamster has runny nose he might suffer from a cold. Keep the room temperature between 65 and 75F to assure a healthy and pleasant atmosphere for your hamster. Secure the windows and doors to protect your hammy from the draft.

Human germs can easily pass to the hamsters so if you are sick, avoid handling your pet if possible. If the air in the room where the cage is placed is too dry, it can cause respiratory problems.

If your hamster has a runny nose but also sneeze, coughs, has a low appetite and lacks energy check with your vet as these could be signs of bacterial infection Pneumonia which could be lethal for hamsters.

If your hammy pees frequently and maybe has traces of blood in its urine it is possible that your pet suffers from urinary infections which are quite common in hamsters, according to the experts from the Hamster Society of Singapore.

This condition could be painful for your pet and it is very important to keep him hydrated. Simple urinalysis could detect the problem so if you notice the signs we mentioned do see the vet.

How To Take Care of Sick Hamster?

The sick hamster needs to be isolated if he lives in a group. Moreover if the illness he suffers from is a contagious disease.

If your hammy suffers from some bacterial infection keep the cage even cleaner then you usually do. Bacteria don’t like a clean environment. Hamster Society of Singapore suggests changing the regular bedding for a kitchen towel which could prevent further contamination of the cage.

Don’t shred the kitchen towels, just put them flat on the cage floor and change daily for better hygiene.

Observe closely your hamster, checking his energy level and how well does he eat. It is rather challenging to track how much your pet is eating as he stores the food in its pouches and some treats end up in his nest but put additional effort as good appetite is a sign of improvement.

Try to follow the vet’s orders as much as possible to ensure your pet recovers fast.

Should I Take My Hamster To Annual Vet Check-Up?

Yes, it is recommended. Although you may run into some people who say that hamsters live too short and that is not worthy of taking to the vet’s for regular check up-s, I am sure you share my opinion that if you have pets, you try to provide the best possible care for him.

A significant part of good care is a visit to the vet on a regular basis. A good vet should be specialized in small exotic animals.

The cost of vet’s check up-s could go from 30 -300$ depends on where you go. Experienced hamster owners suggest you have a vet fund of 200$ and that should cover the vet’s expenses in case of regular check-ups and visits in case of some health problem.

The vet will check your hamster’s weight, discuss with you about proper diet, housing, toys. Most probably he will take a fecal sample to test it for parasites.

Maybe he will perform blood work and urinalysis if he finds it necessary. If you are interested in neutering/spaying your hamster, that is another topic you can discuss with the vet. Vaccinations are not required for hamsters.

Final Thought

Although tiny creatures, hamsters can suffer from many diseases. Some of them are more serious than others. Always bear in mind that hamsters cannot tell you nor show you that they are in pain. Therefore it is important to learn the meaning of symptoms so you can help your little friend, on time.

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