Keep your hamster happy and healthy
Like us, hamsters can get sick. However, falling ill can take a larger toll on their bodies because of their small size, which is why it is crucial to keep them healthy. To do so, keep an eye out for the following so as to provide treatment as soon as possible:
An abscess below a hamster’s left ear
Abscess – a pocket of pus – is a result of infection. Generally, there are two types of abscess: skin and mouth. To check for an abscess, keep a lookout for lumps or bumps on your hamster. Cuts and scrapes can cause skin abscess while abrasive food materials in the cheek pouch can lead to mouth abscess. In both cases, the abscess forms because the open wound is left untreated and then infected, to prevent the further spread of bacteria.
An abscess may burst on its own but it can be dangerous if the bacteria is ingested. Therefore, it is recommended to let a vet, who may prescribe antibiotics for your hamster, to drain and clean the abscess as soon as possible.
2. Parasitic Infestation
Parasites such as ticks, fleas and mites can cause redness, itchiness and flakiness in your pet. However, hair loss is the most obvious sign of a parasitic infestation.
Parasitic infestation can occur in older hamsters due to weakened immune systems, and while ticks and fleas are visible to the naked eye, mites are not. A microscopic examination at the vet’s will confirm the presence of mites. In all cases, though, it is recommended to take a trip to the vet for accurate diagnosis and prescription.
Yet, as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Before your hamster is affected, help it maintain its hygiene with regular sand baths. Additionally, clean out its cage weekly – rinse in warm water, provide clean bedding and disinfect where possible.
3. Respiratory Diseases
Paper-based bedding are safe options for your hamster
Source: Hamster Society Singapore
Your hamster can suffer from an infected respiratory tract. Before you decide on where to place your pet’s cage, keep in mind that a well-ventilated and draft-free area is crucial to maintain its respiratory health.
Besides, certain types of bedding are potentially toxic to hamsters – phenols in cedar and pine can irritate your pet’s respiratory tract. As an alternative, aspen is a safe wood-based hamster bedding. Otherwise, use paper-based bedding, which is widely available on the market.
To care for your pet, take note of wheezing, laboured breathing, and loss of appetite amongst other behaviour changes, which are signs your hamster has an infected respiratory tract. A respiratory tract infection can lead to pneumonia – or inflammation of the lungs – which is contagious. Aside from taking your sick pet to the vet, owners should take due care to separate it from its playmates.
Hamsters can have diarrhoea – the same in humans, which is a loose, watery stool. Typically, overeating fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables can lead to diarrhoea in hamsters. While such foods provide your hamster with essential nutrients, refrain from feeding until it is well.
Additionally, dehydration can occur as a result of diarrhoea, so constant supervision is required to make sure your hamster stays hydrated.
5. Wet Tail
Not to be confused with diarrhoea, wet tail is a highly contagious disease that is most commonly found in recently-weaned hamsters. However, hamsters with diarrhoea may be susceptible to wet tail as well. Other than being loose and watery as in diarrhoea, pale and mucus-containing droppings point to the wet tail disease in a hamster.
In hamsters, the wet tail disease is frequently associated with stress, overcrowding, and dietary changes. This disease can be fatal – in severe cases, rectal prolapse, where the intestine is pushed out of the body through the anus, can occur – so immediate veterinary attention should be given at any sign of wet tail.
Taking your pet to the vet should be your first line of action after noticing any signs of sickness. As always, it is best to receive advice on medications from a qualified professional rather than a self-diagnosis.