Broken LimbsShockAbscesses
DiarrheaWet TailDangerous Medicines

Broken Limbs
Occasionally a hamster may break a limb or its tail from a fall, even whilst in its cage. Often the accident that resulted in the broken limb occurs in the evening or night and is not seen but the following morning the hamster may be limping or have a bent tail.

If a hamster does fall or injure itself it may also be in shock and if so this will need treating.

Unfortunately, because of their small size, it is not possible to plaster a hamster's broken limb (and the hamster would chew it off anyway!) and so it is left to heal naturally. It will help the hamster if exercise is kept to a minimum whilst the limb is healing and so any wheel should be removed from the cage, and if possible the hamster should be placed in an aquarium to prevent climbing up cage bars, etc. Feeding some bread soaked in milk will help to provide calcium to aid the bone to heal.

Occasionally, a broken limb may result in the bone breaking through the skin and becoming exposed. In this event the hamster should be taken to a vet as antibiotic treatment may be needed to prevent infection and the vet may consider that it is necessary to try to move the bone and/or stitch the skin in order that the bone does not remain exposed.

The limb or tail will heal within a week or two, although the hamster may be left with a slight limp or crooked or bent tail. This is nothing to worry about and does not usually cause the hamster any distress and it will learn to adapt.
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Shock
Sometimes a hamster may fall or injure itself and will suffer from shock. Sometimes the cause of the hamster's shock may not be known. The hamster may appear limp and quiet as if dazed with a rapid pulse. The hamster may also be slightly colder in temperature than normal. The hamster should be rubbed gently to encourage blood circulation and then placed somewhere warm, dark and quiet.

If the hamster does not recover within a few minutes veterinary advice should be sought. Any injury suffered may also require veterinary treatment.
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Wet Tail
Wet Tail is a disease that is thought to be stress related and often affects young hamsters around the time of weaning, as this can be a stressful time. Therefore it is important when buying a new hamster that its cage is prepared before its arrival home and it is left to become familiar with its new surrounds in peace apart from feeding for a day or two to keep stress to a minimum. It is also thought that Wet Tail can be caused by bad living conditions, etc. which could also cause stress.

Wet Tail is a bacterial infection or an imbalance of the natural bacteria in the hamster's stomach or intestine and is often confused with diarrhea. Although a hamster with Wet Tail has diarrhea, the diarrhea is so severe that the hamster is wet and/or dirty not only around the anus but usually around the top of the tail as well. The diarrhea is accompanied by a strong unpleasant smell. Droppings are light and extremely soft and may contain mucus. The hamster often walks hunched up, is weak and lethargic and may 'squeal' in pain. Symptoms take 7 days to appear and the disease is often fatal with death occurring as early as 24 hours after the appearance of the symptoms. Therefore it is vital that veterinary treatment is sought immediately if a hamster shows symptoms of Wet Tail. Do not rely on over-the-counter products to treat Wet Tail. These should only be used if it is not possible to get the hamster to a vet immediately and veterinary advice should still be sought at the earliest opportunity, but do ensure if you have used any over-the-counter product that you inform your vet when you visit.

Hamsters suffering from Wet Tail often die from dehydration rather than from Wet Tail itself, or they simply refuse to eat or drink. Also, because of the severe diarrhea, Wet Tail can lead to rectal prolapse where the intestine is pushed outside the body through the anus. It is possible for a Vet to place the intestine back inside the body but if the intestine is damaged or if the diarrhea continues to be severe this is often unsuccessful.

Veterinary treatment will consist of a course of antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medication and help with rehydration. The hamster should be kept warm and quiet whilst undergoing treatment and be disturbed as little as possible. Wet Tail is contagious to other hamsters and so any hamster suffering from Wet Tail should be isolated from other hamsters. It is also a good idea to wash hands thoroughly after handling a hamster suffering from Wet Tail, to avoid passing the infection back to the hamster worsening its condition and certainly before handling other hamsters (this is best kept to a minimum). It is a good idea to remove droppings from the cage at intervals and disinfect the cage with a disinfectant designed for small animal cages when cleaning the cage. Although it is important to keep stress to a minimum it may help to clean the cage of a hamster suffering from Wet Tail every 2 or 3 days.

Any equipment occupied or used by a hamster that has died from Wet Tail should be disinfected thoroughly with a disinfectant designed for small animal cages and left to stand for a few weeks before being used by another hamster.

Wet Tail is a disease associated more commonly with the Syrian hamster and is not associated with Dwarf hamsters. Dwarf hamsters can suffer severe diarrhea but it is not clear at present that they actually suffer from 'Wet Tail'.
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Diarrhea
A hamster can suffer from diarrhea for a number of reasons. Sudden changes in diet and the feeding of too much vegetables and moist food are two common causes.

The droppings of a hamster suffering from diarrhea are usually light colored, soft and watery. The hamster may appear wet around the anus and sometimes a little messy. The hamster usually appears healthy otherwise although the body may start to look a little 'sunken' due to dehydration. Many owners confuse diarrhea with Wet Tail  of which one of the symptoms is diarrhea.

A hamster suffering from diarrhea should only be fed their normal dry hamster mix and should not be fed any vegetables or moist food until recovered. The only moist food which may help a hamster with diarrhea is raspberry bush leaves as these have astringent properties.

The hamster should be kept warm and you should ensure that the hamster is drinking and has plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

In most casing withholding vegetables will cure the diarrhea in a 1 or 2 days. It is usually best to wait a week or two after the hamster has recovered before re-introducing vegetables back into their diet.

If however, after withholding vegetables and moist food, the hamster does not recover after 2 days, the diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms or the hamster's condition deteriorates veterinary advice should be sought.

In such cases a vet may administer anti-diarrheal medication and give help with rehydration. If accompanied by other symptoms antibiotics may be required.
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Abscesses
Abscesses occur when a bite, scratch or wound becomes infected. Often the bite or scratch may go unnoticed. Indeed by the time the lump is noticed the bite or scratch which originally became infected may have healed so it is often difficult to establish whether the lump is an abscess or a tumor.

If a bite or scratch can be seen on the lump then it is almost certainly an abscess. An abscess will require the pus to be drained and a course of antibiotics may be needed to treat the infection and so veterinary treatment must be sought. In extreme cases it may be necessary to visit the vet regularly as the pus may need to removed more than once whilst the infection clears.

Sharp objects or pieces of food that the hamster stuffs in its cheek pouches may pierce the lining of the pouch and become stuck. This in turn can cause the pouch to become infected and an abscess to occur. This can initially be mistaken for the hamster carrying food or bedding in its cheek pouch as the cheek pouch area is swollen. However, if the hamster seems to continuously have its cheek pouches full it may be that the pouches are impacted or an abscess within the cheek pouch has occurred and veterinary advice should be sought.
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Dangerous Medicines
Some antibiotics cause extreme allergic reactions in hamsters or are toxic and should not be used. These are listed below.

  • Amoxycillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Dihydrostreptomycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Lincomycin
  • Penicillin
  • Streptomycin
  • Tetracycline

Any medicine designed for human use, or use on another type of animal (e.g. dog, cat) should never be used for hamsters unless administered by a veterinarian.
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