Posted: January 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: My hamster has become skinny, bony and feels way more fragile. She now weighs about the same as my Roborovski dwarf, which is about a quarter of her size. She is a teddy bear hamster, but she’s not even a whole year old yet, so it’s not like something they'd get at old age. She is well-fed and I clean her cage every day. What could be wrong?
A: When a hamster loses a lot of weight but there are no other signs of disease, including diarrhea, increased urination or difficulty breathing, we start thinking about dental issues as the cause of the problem. In fact, some of those hamsters can look like they are eating but in reality they take food into their mouth and spit it out because it is too painful to chew.
Sometimes, the problem teeth can be seen without any special equipment if the incisors are involved. But if there is an abscess in the cheek teeth, you might not see it.
A veterinarian will use a small scope to look into the oral cavity to see if there is an obvious dental issue, such as a broken tooth or swellings indicative of an abscess. Physical examination of the mouth area and jaw might reveal pain or swellings. Finally, the veterinarian might suggest taking radiographs of the upper and lower jaw to see if an abscess of the bone or other dental problem is causing the signs you are seeing.
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