As mammals, hamster diseases in some cases are similar to those found in dogs and cats, as well as a few conditions that are unique to them. Because hamsters are so small, they are more difficult to observe and it can be tricky to tell when they are not feeling well. For this reason, hamster owners should be familiar with common diseases of pet hamsters, and should be comfortable with performing a general physical exam of their pet and monitoring for signs of illness.
All of the conditions described below require veterinary care and
cannot be cured with other the counter medications.
One of the most common serious illnesses that hamsters are known for
is an intestinal infection commonly referred to as ‘wet tail’(known as
an enteric or intestinal disease).
The disease is thought to be caused by a bacterium called Clostridium
perfringens jejuni, in combination with other factors, such as stress
from shipping, exposure to infected pets, over-crowding
and poor diet. The term ‘wet tail’ simply refers to the fact that
the disease causes a profuse, watery diarrhea.
Hamster Wet Tail Symptoms:
caused by wet tail causes severe dehydration and can be fatal in a
matter of a few days if not treated. Treatment of the disease
includes fluid administration and antibiotics. Even with
treatment, many hamsters affected by the disease will die.
Monitor your hamster’s feces closely for signs of diarrhea, especially
when you first bring the hamster home, or when adding an additional
hamster to your household.
Hamster wet tail would need to be differentiated from other hamster diseases
with similar symptoms including
Fighting among hamsters or other skin trauma from a defective cage can cause a skin abscess. These usually occur around the head. The skin wound can introduce bacteria such as Staphylococcus auyreus, Streptococcus spp, Actinomyces bovis and P. pneumotropica.
Hamsters can also get bacterial and fungal skin infections such as
Ringworm. Hamster ringworm symptoms include:
Note that ringworm can be passed to humans so handle the pet with care (wear gloves)
Hamsters are also prone to diseases of the teeth and cheek
pouches. Because they have continually growing teeth, hamsters
need to have appropriate chew toys and diet to wear down their teeth
and keep them at an appropriate length. If the teeth are not
properly worn, or if the hamster suffers from a jaw disorder such as
malocclusion, the teeth may grow to an inappropriate length, making
eating painful and difficult. Overgrown teeth can cause the
hamster to lose weight and become thin and malnourished, and can even
lead to death. Impacted or abscessed cheek pouches are also
fairly common in hamsters.
Check your hamster frequently for signs of oral disease, including weight loss, swollen or painful cheek pouches, difficulty eating, or teeth that are inappropriately long. If you are concerned that your hamster is having difficulty eating and losing weight but don’t see anything obviously abnormal, you will need to consult a veterinarian who can use a speculum to see the animal’s cheek teeth and perform a more thorough examination.
Viruses in hamsters are rare. When hamster viral infections do take
hold, such as the adenovirus, they often do not cause noticeable
symptoms. Other viral infections found in hamsters include the Sendai,
PVM (pneumonia virus of mice) and LCMV (Lymphocytic choriomeningitis
virus) viruses. Although rare, the LCMV can spread from hamsters to
people in the air and via direct contact with an infected animal.
Symptoms in people may not be noticeable or look like the human flu or
meningitis. Symptoms in people include fever, stiff neck, headache,
muscular pain and malaise.
Example of Hamster Cancer Cell. Invasive squamous cell carcinoma, trachea of a hamster.
Source: Washington State University
Hamsters are susceptible to basically any of the diseases that other
mammals can acquire, such as kidney disease, heart disease, and many
types of cancers. Respiratory disease can be caused by the bacteria
Pasteurella pneumotropics. Srepttococcal bacterial hamster infections
can cause pneumonia, cervical lymphadenitis, mastitis and septicemia.
By becoming familiar with your hamster and what
is normal for the animal, you can increase your chances of catching an
illness before it becomes severe. Daily monitoring of your
hamster’s appetite, activity, attitude, body condition, and feces can
tell you a great deal about your pet’s health status. If any
concerns are noted, be sure to contact a veterinarian right away.
Because hamsters are so tiny, it doesn’t take much time for their
condition to deteriorate to critically ill.
Do you have a question about hamster health or care? Ask and our Vet will answer it for free!
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