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How Do I Care for a Sick Hamster?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Caring for a sick hamster often involves feeding the pet a special diet and administering medication as advised by a veterinarian. Specific conditions, such as diarrhea or lethargy, may require additional specific treatments. Some sick hamsters, like any other pets, are also ill due to their old age and cannot be cured, but only kept comfortable.

When a hamster becomes ill, the first thing to do is to take him or her to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. This will ensure that the animal receives the correct treatment for his or her sickness. A sick hamster may have many symptoms, from bloody stool to the inability to walk, or none. Wet tail, the most common of all hamster diseases, is an infection that can, for example, be diagnosed through the hamster's behavior, stool, and pain level.

The best way that a pet owner can treat a sick hamster, or any ill pet, is to be alert for signs of sickness. A lethargic hamster who is always sleeping or not interested in his or her typical activities, such as running in a wheel or eating treats, may be ill. Changes in stool, such as discoloration or the presence of blood, are signs of illness. Bald spots may indicate something is wrong with the pet as well. Any other changes in the pet's behavior or physical appearance may also be signs of sickness.

Wet tail is often developed by new hamsters as pets who have just come home. Though highly contagious, is very treatable with antibiotics. Care for rodents with wet tail should also involve the removal and cleaning of all of the animal's bedding and other items with which he or she comes into daily contact. This will prevent the infection from returning.

Lumps on a hamster may be benign, but they can also indicate a cancerous tumor. A veterinarian can often remove a tumor from a sick hamster, though the operation is typically expensive. Lumps are more often due to fight wounds or other abscesses. These do not usually require removal, but they will have to be drained and treated with a round of antibiotics.

Some pet owners suggest home remedies for treating a sick hamster, such as Castor oil for a cold. People who have experience in treating animals may be able to give their pets the correct dosage and remedies. Those without experience, and especially those new to owning hamsters, should instead seek out the advice of a seasoned veterinarian first. If home remedies are preferred, pet owners can always verify them with an animal doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that my hamster is sick?

Signs of illness in hamsters can include lethargy, changes in eating or drinking habits, unexplained weight loss or gain, wetness around the tail (wet tail), sneezing, coughing, or discharge from the eyes or nose. A sick hamster might also have a ruffled coat, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. Early detection is crucial for effective treatment.

How can I make my sick hamster more comfortable?

To comfort a sick hamster, ensure their habitat is warm, quiet, and stress-free. Keep their bedding clean and dry, and provide easy access to food and water. You might also consider placing a heating pad set on low beneath part of the cage for warmth, but always ensure there's a cooler area they can move to if it becomes too warm.

Should I isolate my sick hamster from other pets?

Yes, isolating your sick hamster is important to prevent the spread of disease and to reduce stress on the animal. Place the sick hamster in a separate cage in a quiet area away from other pets and household noise. This will also allow you to monitor its condition closely and administer any necessary treatments without disturbance.

What should I feed my sick hamster?

Offer your sick hamster a balanced diet that's easy to digest. Soft foods like cooked egg, plain boiled chicken, or mealworms can be beneficial. Ensure fresh water is always available. If your hamster isn't eating, you may need to syringe-feed them with a mixture of baby food and water, but consult a vet for guidance first.

How do I administer medication to my hamster?

Administering medication to a hamster requires patience and care. Liquid medications can often be mixed with a favorite treat or food. If you need to give the medication directly, use a small syringe or dropper. Gently hold your hamster, ensuring not to squeeze or cause distress, and slowly dispense the medication into their mouth.

When should I take my hamster to the vet?

Take your hamster to the vet if you notice any signs of illness, such as changes in behavior, appetite, or waste, or if you see symptoms like sneezing, discharge, or diarrhea. Prompt veterinary care can make a significant difference in outcomes, as hamsters can deteriorate quickly due to their small size and fast metabolism.

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Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for AllThingsNature, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.

Discussion Comments

By Reminiscence — On Jun 10, 2014

I think one thing that will make a hamster sick is a poorly ventilated cage. A lot of first-time hamster owners will buy those solid plastic starter homes, and they don't realize how warm they can get. I always tell people to invest in an open wire cage so the hamsters won't get overheated.

By AnswerMan — On Jun 09, 2014

I've had my share of sick hamsters over the years, and the first clue for me is biting. If a usually docile hamster starts biting whenever I put my hand in the cage, I know my hamster is sick. They don't usually like to bite hard, because they are vegetarians by nature.

If one of my hamsters starts acting lethargic, I try to remove him or her from the cage and put him or her into isolation. It's usually a small box with fresh bedding and a food bowl. If I see signs of diarrhea or labored breathing, I'll take the entire box with me to the vet. It's not always easy to find veterinarians who treat "exotic" pets like hamsters, however.

Sara Schmidt

Sara Schmidt

With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for AllThingsNature, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
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