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Hamster Pulls Its Pouch In And Out

What should be done about a hamster that won’t stop messing with its cheek pouch?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: May 27, 2012, 6 a.m. EDT

Q: Our Winter White dwarf hamster has been pulling his cheek pouch inside out (outside his mouth) and pushing it back in. I've never seen him do this before today (we've had him for three months), but we watched him do it repeatedly in half an hour while cleaning his cage today. I thought he had food stuck in his pouch that he couldn't remove, but after researching what I could on the Internet I think it's actually his pouch he is pulling in and out. Is this eversion normal? Could this issue resolve itself with time, or will it require surgery to correct the problem? He is accepting food as normal and is otherwise behaving normally. The right side of his mouth is slightly swollen, probably from the frequent handling/pushing/pawing he is doing to his cheek pouch. My main concern right now is that if his cheek pouch is irritated or causing discomfort he will continue to pull it out and push it in and cause more swelling/irritation around his mouth and possibly damage to his pouch if it doesn't subside soon. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. My daughter is worried to tears about her favorite hamster.

A: It is not common or normal for hamster cheek pouches to continually be everted. This happens for only a few reasons. Either a piece of food, such as a seed, is stuck in the pouch or a piece of food has irritated the pouch, or there is an abscess in the pouch.

The more your hamster “plays” with the pouch and pushes it in and out of the mouth, the more the pouch becomes irritated. And what may have started as a small problem can become an issue that soon requires veterinary care.

The fact that you think the area around his mouth appears swollen makes me think an abscess is present or a piece of food is lodged in the pouch and he cannot get it out. If it is a piece of food and it finally gets free, then this may resolve on its own. But if your hamster has irritated the pouch tissue or if there is an infection or if a piece of food is stuck in the pouch tissue, then you need to find a veterinarian who can help you. These are usually easy problems to resolve. Sometimes, just some antibiotics are needed and in other cases, a small surgery is necessary to help replace the pouch into the mouth and keep it in place.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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