header image
Home
Hamster Shows
Shows - 2014
Shows - 2015
Information Sheets
General
NHC Info
Articles
Hamster Keeping
Hamster Showing
Hamster News
Quick Links
Hamster Clubs
Other Links
-
Miscellaneous/Donation
Hamster Health Checks

Hamster Health Checks

There are a few checks you should run through on your hamster regularly. By always being aware of these things and keeping a close on them action can be taken before it gets too serious. All animals in this section with issues were taken to a vet to be treated.

 

To read what each photo is of simply move your mouse curser over the picture.

Teeth
Weight
Nose
Eyes
Nails and Fur
Skin
Scent Glands
Rear End
Lumps and bumps
Water Consumption

Teeth

Hamsters’ teeth should be checked to make sure they are not over grown or uneven. If one tooth has snapped off lower than the other often the hamster will still be able to eat, but it is usually good to check this over with a vet who can trim the teeth. The hamster’s bottom teeth should be longer than the top.

The teeth should be a yellow shade, although they start white when the hamster is a baby they yellow rapidly. If you hamster is not a baby and has white teeth it is best to take them to a vet. If you have any concerns over your hamster’s teeth at all please see a vet.

To help keep teeth in good condition suitable chews should be provided. Along side traditional wooden chews for your hamster it can be beneficial to offer a dog biscuit bone (e.g. Biscrok* Bonio*) or cat biscuits.  The meaty taste is often appealing to the hamster and so provides something useful for the animal to chew on to wear down their ever-growing teeth. For information on what to feed your hamster, please visit our General Care page, or its section on Food and Water.



Weight

It is a good idea to regularly weigh your hamster, this way you will soon spot if there is rapid weight loss. Remember like humans a hamsters weight will naturally fluctuate throughout the day (by about 6g) so it is best to try to weigh them around the same time. Also as with humans a hamster will lose weight as it enters old age, so expect the weight to fall once a hamster is over 18 months.

A decent sized adult Syrian can weigh around 200g, though many Syrians brought in pet shops will weigh considerably less than this.  A hamster is fully grown by around 6 months, you should notice slow weight gain up till this point, though some will have finished growing by 4 months. By keeping a record of your hamster’s weight you will have more information to give a vet should there be any issues; you will know what weight is more normal for your hamster.

If your hamster looses a lot of weight quickly (especially if this is accompanied by loose droppings or the hamster has stopped eating) seek immediate veterinary aid. For information on what to feed your hamster, please visit our General Care page, or its section on Food and Water.


Nose

It is a good idea to check your hamsters nose, is it overly wet? Is there any discharge? Hamsters can catch colds very easily, in fact if you have a cold it is best not to go near your hamster to help prevent it catching the cold from you! If the hamster does not seem to be getting over the suspected cold it could be the hamster is allergic to something in the cage, some are sensitive to fine wood particles you get especially in sawdust or any other dusty substrate / bedding. It could be a sign though of a worse infection, if your hamster is losing weight and/or condition seek out veterinary advice. For more information on what bedding or substrate to use, please visit our General Care page section on Substrate, or our article Substrate Review.


Eyes

Hamsters’ eyes should be clean and clear. Some species of hamster (most commonly Winter Whites) can get eye infections very easily. They can have anything from a slightly weepy eye, or a stye on the eyelid to an eye condition called Glaucoma which causes the eye to swell as it fills with liquid. If you have any concerns over how your hamster’s eyes are looking seek out veterinary advice. Usually most mild infections can be sorted quickly and easily by a vet before it gets too serious. As the example shows, infections are quite common in older hamsters, this winter white is over 2 and so could not fight the mild infection well without veterinary assistance.

Remember to move the curser over the picture for more info.

elderly winter white with stye

Nails and Fur

Hamsters’ nails can become over grown. By offering the hamster a bowl of chinchilla sand (not dust) either in the cage or in a play pen the hamster can naturally wear down the nails a little. If you find the nails look a little long simply fill a bowl (rabbit food bowls can work well) with the sand and place it in the cage, the hamster can then dig in the sand wearing the nails down. It is also worth adding a bowl of sand if the hamsters fur seems greasy or just lacks its usual lustre. The hamster will roll in the sand which will naturally clean its coat, removing any excess oils. Dwarfs more often appreciate a bowl of sand than Syrians do and will more willingly roll about in it, though Syrians will often use it as a toilet which has benefits. Some find putting a small tile upside down (rough side up) in a cage helps with nails too as a hard surface for the hamster to walk and scratch on. It can also be useful to help cool the hamster if it is a very hot summer (just chill the tile a little in a fridge).

If the nails are very long, or are not wearing down it is worth taking to hamster to the vet to have their nails trimmed. Long nails can impede the hamster’s movement and can cause the hamster pain, plus have a high risk of getting caught and pulled out!

If the hamster coat condition has gone downhill rapidly and a sand bath has not helped it may be worth seeing a vet. Check the hamster weight too to see if they have lost any at this point. Hamsters’ fur will thin with old age. Do not be alarmed if an old hamster starts to look ragged with bald bits, however, if a young hamster is experiencing hair loss it needs looking into by a qualified professional. Hair can thin from mites or allergies, or more serious conditions like Cushings Disease. By visiting a vet your hamster can be tested for mites etc, and receive any treatment or care needed. If mites or diseases are ruled out it is worth considering if the hamster is allergic to the type of bedding / substrate you are using. For more information on what bedding or substrate to use, please visit our General Care page section on Substrate, or our article Substrate Review.



Skin

As with loss of fur, inflamed skin or flakiness can be allergies or mites. It is important though to seek a vets advice as it can be more serious, plus a vet will be best able to help your hamster if it is simply mites or allergies. Dark discolouration on the top of the hips in syrian though is the scent glands, many people mistake this for a scab or rash, but they are perfectly normal and should be there.

Dwarfs living in pairs or colonies need to be checked over for any signs of aggression. The moment blood is drawn it is often best the pair are separated before more injury or death is caused. Small bites should heal well, though can be quickly cleaned with a cotton bud dipped into some slightly salted warm water, more serious injuries will require a vets assistance.


Scent glands

Syrian scent glands are located on the hamsters hips, some people do worry that these are lumps or cuts on the hamster but are perfectly normal. Syrians scent glands rarely cause any issues, however, if the hamster is overly licking the hip spot or rubbing against things so that the hair around it is wearing thin causing the scent glands to become more obvious it may be worth making a few changes to your hamsters cleaning routine. This is often a sign of over scenting, try leaving behind some of the hamster’s old nesting and bedding when cleaning out the cage, also try not to scrub all the scent off toys like a wheel that may be in the cage too.

Here is a picture of a health syrian scent gland, the hamster is an elderly syrian (over 2) so the hair is thinning, and could be easily moved aside to take the shots, the fur does not naturally lie on the hamster like this but was moved for the photos.

Remember to move the curser over the picture for more info.

syrian scent gland close up of scent gland

Dwarf scent glands can be a lot more problematic. They are found on a males belly in roughly the place you would expect a belly button and are usually stained yellow. Due to their location they can easily become infected, either due to the hamster over scenting or due to bedding particles getting stuck. Check any male dwarf’s gland regularly; if it starts to look crusty simply wipe it over with a damp cotton bud very gently. If you are worried it is infected at all (area may be raised, red, hot, there may be noticeable pus) seek veterinary aid immediately.

Remember to move the curser over the picture for more info.

severely infected scent gland infected scent glad clear of puss

Rear End

It is important to regularly check hamsters’ openings to make sure all is ok. If there is staining and you have noticed loose droppings this needs immediate investigation. It can be caused by the hamster consuming too much wet food (remember only ever feed small amount of treats at a time, especially if it is fruit or veg or another wet food like porridge) In which case the hamster will improve if you cease feeding them the wet foods for a while (and then only introduce a few back slowly in very tiny pieces). For information on what to feed your hamster, please visit our General Care page, or its section on Food and Water.

Young hamsters can become diarrhetic due to stress, and this can lead to wet tail. A hamster with wet tail needs veterinary aid immediately as they can go downhill very very quickly. If any hamster seems ill a vet needs to be sought quickly as they are prey animals they hide signs of illness to the last moment, often there isn’t time to ‘wait and see’.

With female hamsters any kind of discharge from the top opening needs veterinary advice quickly. It can be a sign of infection, Pyometra, which is an infection of the womb is quite common and is extremely serious. Any discharge especially if it smells can be due to infection, the hamster will need veterinary care as soon as possible.  It is worth remembering though that some females have a naturally more pugent odor than others, their cycle is 4 days long and at different times through this the hamsters smell can lessen and increase.  It is imporant to know you hamster and its natural smells to know if something is wrong at all.


Lumps and Bumps

It is a good idea to check your hamster over for any lumps and bumps. Hamsters can get growths both benign and cancerous. Early detection of lumps and their removal is, as with human, a vital step in helping overcome such issues. Sometimes lumps are ulcers that will need veterinary assistance to sort out. Often lumps are cured by a quick course of antibiotics, but there are many more serious causes of them in hamsters, it is always best to visit a vet as many things are easily cleared up and even some of the more serious can be sorted if caught early enough.

Remember to move the curser over the picture for more info.

Papova Secondary tumour Papova sign (chin lumps)

Water consumption

Hamsters, like people, can develop diabetes. It’s worth checking how much water your hamster has been drinking and maybe even keeping track of how often the water bottle needs refilling. Diabetes is currently more likely in Campbells and hybrids (Campbells Winter White crosses) but any species can develop it. If you are concerned about your hamsters drinking level and if they are urinating more it is worth checking it out. Even though there is no cure there are dietary changes that can be made to help the hamster, but these should not be made unless the hamster defiantly has diabetes. You can test a hamster by placing in into a clean (and dry) pint glass or similar container and waiting for it to urinate. At this point remove the hamster. This shouldn’t take too long, if you have been waiting over 15-20 mins the chances are your hamster is fine as it has yet to feel the need to urinate, however worth getting the hamster out and trying again later. Using a urine test strip meant for humans with diabetes (that can be brought in most chemists) test the urine. It may be worth though visiting the vet no matter what the result, to find out why there is a change in your hamsters drinking and urination. For information on what to feed your hamster, please visit our General Care page, or its section on Food and Water.

The NHC promotes a high standard of hamster care and welfare. Membership of an NHC affiliated club means you automatically agree to follow your club's rules and those of the Constitution. In addition, you also agree to follow the separate NHC Codes of Practice. The NHC expects ALL its members to keep their hamsters in suitable housing, with some type of enrichment. There are no exceptions.
The National Hamster Council is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk