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One-Stop Hamster Boarding!

Monday, February 28, 2011

C - Calming an Injured or Ill Hamster, Cuts (Minor), Cheekpouch (Impacted), Constipation


Calming an Injured or Ill Hamster

Tips on calming an injured hamster 

  • Place a few sprigs of fresh lavender herb in the cage.
  • Burn some rose or lavender aromatherapy oil in the room.
  • Make sure your hamster isn't cold to the touch, that he/she's maintaining his/her body temperature.
  • Keep his/her surroundings dim, avoiding bright lights.

Cuts (Minor)

Home-made remedy for minor cuts 
Boil some water and pour it into a mug containing a good handful of fresh thyme herb sprigs. Let this sit for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, you can use a paper towel to filter the thyme-infused water from the sprigs. Use this thyme water to clean your hamster's cut twice a day.

Cheekpouch (Impacted)

Background info: Note that hamsters make use of their cheekpouches to hoard food for storage. They may sometimes use their cheekpouches to store bedding/nesting material for transportation. Therefore, it is normal for them to have "swollen" cheeks after stuffing themselves full. Hamsters will empty them from time to time.

Symptoms: Abnormally swollen cheek, especially on one side only. Hamster keeps pushing cheekpouch out of mouth.

Causes: Sticky or sharp object in cheekpouch. Avoid feeding hamsters sticky foods~~ such as raisins, peanut butter, or food that can compact too easily into a ball, such as bread~~ to minimise the chances of the food getting stuck in the cheekpouch.

Remedies: Visit a rodent-experienced vet to have the hamster's cheekpouch "flushed" out of any stuck and irritable stuff.


Symptoms: Swollen belly and hunched-up back when walking. Loss of appetite. No signs of droppings or greatly reduced, paste-like droppings.

Causes: Lack of water, too much dry food, inbalanced digestive system. (Note that "oatmeal is binding so eating too much may lead to constipation". Taken from Ratsrule).

Remedies: Feeding a little olive oil is helpful. Wash hands thoroughly, put a few drops on your finger and let your hamster lick it up. Massage your hamster's tummy with a warm towel. If you see a 'plug' of poo in your hamster's rear, try to soften it with warm water and olive oil. Supplement the hamster's diet with some plain, unflavoured yogurt. Provide some fresh food such as veggies/fruits (for example, apple, strawberry, lettuce or cabbage) in small amounts a few times a week. Ensure adequate supply of fresh water. Do consult a vet and obtain medication for the constipation if your hamster shows no sign of recovery after a day or two.

When the constipation has been treated, obtain some timothy hay from the pet store and feed some to the hamster. The fibre in the hay will help the hamster's digestive system work normally again.


D - Dehydration, Diabetes, Diarrhoea


Symptoms: Lethargic behaviour. Use the following skin pinch test if you suspect your hamster is dehydrated: Pinch the skin on the back of your hamster gently. If the skin returns slowly into place, it's a sign of dehydration.

Causes: Heat stroke. Lack of fresh water. Unable to reach water bottle. Other illnesses.

Remedies: Rehydrate the hamster by adding an electrolyte solution like unflavoured pedialyte to the drinking water, 50% pedialyte to 50% water. Supplement with a slice of cucumber if your hamster is not suffering from wet tail or diarrhoea.

Always ensure that a fresh supply of cleaning drinking water is available in a water bottle and that the bottle is secured at a height that the hamster can reach. Never place your hamster's cage under direct sunlight or in a warm place with poor ventilation. Note that direct draughts on the cage is also not recommended.


Symptoms: Excessive drinking and peeing, pee attracts ants, lethargic behaviour and weight loss in later stages. Important: Use diabetes test strips to test for glucose levels in the urine; a high glucose level would indicate a likelihood of diabetes. 

If the test is positive, there are dietary measures to be taken such as eliminating simple carbohydrates which include pastas, white rice & many wheat products, and replacing these with complex carbohydrates such as broccoli, and more protein such as tofu, millet, scrambled egg. However, contrary to popular belief, there is a small group of "safe" fruits and veggies that are suitable for diabetic hamsters including apples, corn, carrots and strawberries. This is because these foods cause a very low "glycemic" reaction when eaten, which is the amount of blood sugar triggered into the system. An explanation of glycemic index and load, along with a comprehensive list of foods, can be found here:

International glycemic index and load food values

Please keep in mind that many of the foods listed here are for human consumption, and not suitable for hamsters under any condition!

A list of some common foods (including apple, strawberry, corn and carrots) along with their glycemic values can be found here:

Glycemic values for common foods

There have been reports of success lowering a diabetic hamster's glucose levels using the herb "fenugreek".

Some hamsters diagnosed with diabetes have benefited from treatment with "Glipizide" which is an oral drug used with Type 2 diabetics. This must be prescribed by a veterinarian who's familiar with rodents and who will help you monitor your hamster weekly while using the drug. Glipizide can cause severe side effects if the dosing is too high for the hamster, so this treatment isn't recommended unless you have the support of a veterinarian knowledgeable about rodents and hamsters.

If the test is negative and symptoms of excessive drinking/peeing are present, the hamster might be suffering from a urinary tract infection (Some bleeding might occur as well). If this is the case rather than a high glucose reading, consult a vet to obtain hamster-safe antibiotics such as Baytril or Albon. Refer to [A] Antibiotics and Medicine.

Causes: Hereditary disease, emphasized in genes by poor breeding practices. More likely to occur in dwarfs such as campbell russians and winter whites. Note that hamsters with a history of diabetes should not be bred further.

Please refer to [ W ] Wet Tail for related remedies. Note that wet tail comes with severe diarrhoea and is fatal if left untreated within 48 hours. 


A - Abscess, Antibiotics and Medicine


Symptoms: A lump formed from a previous wound, may be filled with pus.

Causes: An abscess is an infection from a bite or cut.

Remedies: Usually requires a vet to lance (make a surgical incision in) the abscess and drain any built-up fluids in it. To be followed by a course of antibiotics. See Antibiotics for more information.

Antibiotics and Medicine
List of known medication including antibiotics. (Put together by rascal of Hamsterific and missPixy of Hamsterhideout)

Safe meds for hamsters
Carprophen (anti-inflammatory pain reliever)
Cephaloridine (Loridine)
Chlorampenicol Palmitate (Chloromycetin)
Chloramphenicol Succinate (Chloromycetin)
Gentamicin (Gentocin)
Enrofloxacin (Baytril) *has proven effective against Wet Tail **Shouldn't be given to Nursing or Pregnant hamster
Neomycin (Biosol)
Neomycin Sulfate Oxytetracycline (Liquamycin)
Sulfaquinoxaline (Sulquin)

A list of toxic meds: Never accept a prescription for any of the following for your hamster!!!
Ampicillin (Polyflex)
Cefadroxil (cefa-drops)
Clindamycin (Cleocin)
Griseofulvin (Fulvicin U/F) (Thanks to birthdayHamster for pointing it out)
Lincomycin (Lincocin)
Penicillin/Benzathin/Procaine (Bicillin, Flocillin)
Penicillin Procaine (Azimycin)
Streptomycin (Biotec)
Tylosin (Tylan)

When your hamster is on a course of antibiotics, be sure to supplement his/her daily food mix with 1/4 teaspoon of plain, unflavoured yogurt. Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria which is required to keep the hamster's digestive system balanced while on the antibiotics. 


B - Balding, Bleeding, Breathing (Difficulty, Problems, Clicking Sounds), Broken Limbs, Broken Tooth

[ B ]

Please refer to [ F ] Fur Loss.


Background info: Note that female hamsters do not have periods and therefore do not suffer from once a month "bleeding".

Specific cases and remedies:

  • Blood from the urinary tract - This could mean an urinary tract infection(UTI). Consult a vet and obtain a hamster-safe antibiotic such as Baytril or Albon. Note that if bleeding occurs again after the course of antibiotics, it could mean that there is an internal cyst in one of the hamster's internal organs. Consult a vet again to have the hamster examined.
  • Blood from the hamster's anus - This could be a result of feeding too much wet food such as fruits or vegetables. Cut down on those foods. If after a week you see no improvement, make an appointment with a hamster-experienced vet as this continued bleeding could point to something more serious such as a tumor in the intestinal tract.
  • Blood from minor external cuts on the hamster's body - Refer to [C] Cuts.

Breathing (Difficulty, Problems, Clicking Sounds)

Please refer to [ R ] Respiratory Problems.

Broken Limbs
Please refer to [ L ] Limbs (Broken, Sprained or Swollen).

Broken Tooth
Please refer to [ T ] Tooth (Missing, Chipped, Loose, Misaligned, Overgrown). 


E - Eye (Swollen, Closed)

Eye (Swollen, Closed)

Symptoms: One or both eyes remaining shut even when hamster is awake. Matted or messy fur near eye as a result of watery eye. 'Crusty eyes' - Visible foreign deposits on slit of eyelids. Related problems: Conjunctivtis (Reddish or pinkish colour on eye not present previously), Respiratory problem (Refer to [R] Respiratory/Breathing).

Causes: Infection or irritation caused by dirty environment (for example, dirty cage or bedding). Ensure pine or cedar bedding is not used. Closed or swollen eye sometimes comes together with respiratory infection.

Remedy: Obtain Bausch and Lomb soothing eye wash (obtainable from local pharmacy) and let 1 or 2 drops fall directly on the eye using the spout. Let your hamster rub it in himself (he will!). Repeat twice daily. Alternatively, wash the hamster's eye with this home-made remedy: Add one teaspoon of boric acid to half a cup of boiled and cooled down water. Using an eye dropper, bathe the eye 2 or 3 times a day with it.

Listed ingredients in the Bausch and Lomb soothing eye wash are:
boric acid, sodium borate and sodium chloride; preserved with sorbic acid (0.1%) and edetate disodium (0.025%) with the boric acid being the active ingredient.

If the eye does not show any signs of recovery in 2-3 days, consult a vet as a more serious health issue could be present. Sometimes an impacted cheekpouch can cause watering/closed eyes, as can overgrown teeth. 

If your hamster's eye is swollen but not watering or sticky, there have been corneal ulcers, and ingrown eyelashes (called "entropion") reported in this site. These conditions can easily be mis-diagnosed as a simple infection by a vet.


F - Falls and Related Injuries, First Aid Kit, Fur Loss

Falls and Related Injuries
Please refer to
Limbs (Broken, Sprained, Swollen) or 
[C] Calming an Injured or Ill Hamster or [C] Cuts (Minor)

First Aid Kit

Please click here: First aid kit for hamsters

Fur Loss 
Symptoms: Excessive scratching, especially to the point of exposing raw & red skin. (Note that a hamster's daily grooming and cleaning routine includes some "light" scratching, licking and "biting" of fur. This is normal.)

Causes: Mites, allergy to bedding, old age. Pine or cedar-based bedding can cause irritation to a hamster's skin, leading to excessive scratching and fur loss. Fur loss due to bedding irritation can usually be found at on the hamster's underside and legs as these are the areas in contact with the bedding.

If you use a horizontal wire cage (such as the Habitrail Safari or Space Station) and your hamster chews on the wire frequently, it may lead to a bald patch just above the nose. This is due to rubbing on the wire during chewing.

Old age can lead to some loss of fur around the legs or ears. This is normal and unavoidable.

Other causes of fur loss, quoted from missPixy from HH

Sarcoptic Mange:
clinical signs: there is hair loss around the face which includes infection. The condition is contagious.

diagnosis: microscopy to reveal the mite Sarcptes scabiei is necessary.

treatment: Ivermectin 1% given orally every 10 days, for a month.

Demodecosis: infection with these mites is common, but clinical disease is only seen if the immune system is compromised, in the young, pregnant or aged hamster.

clinical signs: these include dry skin, fur loss, infection and scaling.

diagnosis: microscopy of skin scrapings is necessary.

treatment: Ivermectin 1% can be given undiluted orally. one drop is given and repeated every 10 days as necessary. weekly amitraz baths are also effective.

clinical signs: these include fur loss, dry skin with yellow flaking. The body and ears are affected. the condition is sometimes includes infections.

diagnosis: microscopy and culture on Sabouraud's medium should be carried out.

treatment*: the patient should be handled with gloves and may be washed with a pvoidone-iodine shampoo or an anti-fungal preparation such as natamycin. A the hamster's house should be cleaned out with povidone-iodine solution.
*Credit for Ringworm treatment information:
Diseases of Small Domestic Rodents, Second Edition, 2003.
V. C. G. Richardson

General Remedies: Change the bedding/litter to a recycled pulp or paper based type if you have been using pine or cedar. Supplement the hamster's diet with cod-liver oil and crushed yeast tablets to aid fur coat recovery. Pure aloe vera gel is useful for soothing irritated skin. Obtain the gel from a pharmacy and apply directly onto the hamster's skin twice daily. Recommended to do this while arranging and waiting for an appointment with a vet if the cause of the fur loss cannot be determined.

addition of vitamin A helps with fur growth. this can be found in carrots... try chopping some up to add to their meals. vitamin D as well... this can be found in milk products, and cheese (lowfat is preferable). also, there's something called Vitapet Small Animal Fur Conditioner that contains cod-liver oil, vitamins A and D
Above notes quoted from missPixy from HH


H - Herbs (Thyme)

Herbs - Thyme

Background Info: Thyme is a herb and is a natural antibiotic and decongestant. It is useful for relieving respiratory (breathing) problems such as stuffy nose and for cleaning minor cuts and wounds.

Fresh thyme herb can be obtained from supermarkets or grocery stores (produce area), usually in packets. Thyme aromatheraphy oil can also be used in vaporisers, remember to use in small amounts or diluted with a base oil first.

Note that thyme should not be used in the presence of pregnant hamsters or humans. Also stop using when signs of respiratory problems are gone as overusing on a normal respiratory system can actually irritate it.


L - Limbs (Broken, Sprained, Swollen), Loss of Balance, Lumps and Tumours

Limbs (Broken, Sprained, Swollen)

Symptoms: Dragging of limbs when moving about. Signs of limping.

Causes: Bad fall resulting in broken or sprained limbs. Limbs caught in part of the cage or other objects. Fighting with other hamsters. In more severe cases of falls or accidents, dragging of limbs is due to an injured spine.

Remedies:  Separate your hamsters if they had been in a fight. Remove the exercise wheel, ladder and any other objects that the hamster might climb on. This is to prevent further injuries or aggravation of current injury. Lower the water bottle to a comfortable height so that the hamster does not need to stretch to reach it. Sometimes, hamsters are able to heal broken limbs on their own but you should consult a vet to obtain anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as Carprophen to aid their recovery process. In the meantime, keep your hamster comfortable and calm by refering to [C] Calming an Injured or Ill Hamster.

Loss of Balance

Symptoms: Excessive and frequent displays of the following symptoms for no apparent reasons:
  • Leaning to one side when moving about
  • Backflipping
  • Running in circles
  • Spinning on the spot
Causes: Inner ear infection. Brain tumour. Genetic disorder affecting the brain, nervous system or inner ear. In this case, note that affected hamsters should not be bred further so as not to pass on the responsible genes to their offsprings.

Remedies: Consult a vet to determine the cause of the symptoms. Keep the hamster comfortable as well as you can. In extreme cases, where the hamster is unable to cope with daily routines normally, it may be required to put down the hamster to end his/her suffering. Get the vet's opinion on this decision.

However, the remedy may simply be a round of hamster-safe antibiotics such as Baytril to clear up an inner-ear infection. Try to see a vet as soon as possible once you notice these symptoms, because the infection can spread quickly and even cause a hamster to go deaf.

Lumps and Tumours

Background info: Do not confuse scent glands and tumours. Note that dwarf hamsters have a scent gland on the underside of their body. It is near the middle of the chest and may be slightly yellowish or brownish. Syrians have them on top on each side their body near their rear.

Syrian's scent glands(Thanks to piglet's parents for this pic):
Posted Image

Dwarf hamster's scent gland
Posted Image

Symptoms: External tumours can be observed as abnormal growths on the outside of the hamster's body. Internal tumours can also grow inside a hamster, causing a swell or bloat on the outside.

Causes: Cancerous growths might be due to genetic factors, environment, diet or a combination of any. In any case, it is recommended that this hamster is not bred further.

Remedies: Consult a vet to determine what course of action is best. Sometimes surgery is necessary if a tumor is growing and threatening to impair an organ or other body functionality. A biopsy done on a surgically removed tumor can tell you whether the tumour or growth is malignant (threatening to life) or benign (non-threatening). The vet will advise you if the tumour has to be removed by surgery. 

Refer to [S] Surgery for tips on preparing your hamster for surgery.


M - Medicine (Safe/Toxic), Mites and Parasites

Medicine (Safe / Toxic)
Please refer to [ A ] Antibiotics and Medicine.

Mites / Parasites

Home-made remedy for mites 
Mix 1 tablespoon of Listerine and 1 tablespoon of Witch Hazel with 2 cups of boiled water cooled down to room temperature. Put the mixed solution in a spray water bottle for plants and spray it on your hands. Rub your fingers all over the hamster's body, careful to avoid the face area and all the while working your fingers into the skin so that it's all covered with the solution. Note that the hamster should not be made soaking wet else he/she might catch a chill. Apply this solution once a day and put the hamster straight back to the cage. Continue for 3-4 days until there are no signs of the mites. Wash the cage and accessories more frequently during this period with a double strength solution (2 tablespoon of Listerine and 2 tablespoon of Witch Hazel with 2 caps of water). Also recommended to spray the surrounding area, for example the shelf area and floor where the cage is, with this solution.

Also refer to [ F ] Fur Loss for other related information. 


P - Pyometra

Symptoms: Pyometra is an infection of the womb and thus only affects females. A pyometra can be 'open' when the hamster will show a discharge which can be yellowy or blood stained and sometimes foul smelling, or 'closed' where there is no discharge. In both cases the abdomen is swollen and the tummy feels hard and tense as there is pus inside the womb. It can be difficult to detect in the early stages as hamsters often appear quite normal until it is quite advanced. They often drink more and appear lethargic as the toxins invade the bloodstream. Appetite is lost also and weight loss occurs.
Causes: Pyometra is caused by bacteria entering the womb and usually there is no cause identified though it can be from a respiratory or urinary infection or following birth, if all the pups and placenta have not been delivered successfully.

Treatment: Antibiotic treatment will only bring about a temporary remission of this disease. Most vets will prescribe Baytril but unless the infection is low vaginal it always returns and the hamster will invariably die unless surgery is performed.

The only cure is to spay the hamster by removing the womb and ovaries surgically. This, in itself, is risky however it is the only option for a cure in a young, otherwise healthy animal. Baytril can be useful in reducing the infection prior to operating and also post operative. With careful nursing the hamster is usually up and about within a few hours post operation. It is important to keep the hamster feeding after the op and painkillers should be given for the first few days. The operation can be quite expensive in some areas and it is important to find a good rodent experienced vet to operate.

Hamsterlopaedia – Peter & Chris Logsdail & Kate Hovers
Hamsters in Sickness and in Health – Sheila Adby & Dan O' Neill

souffle for the main write-up, missPixy for compilation and ashleighhhhh for the suggestion to add this topic. From HH