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Hamster With Crusty Eyes

What would cause a senior hamster to develop crust on her eyes?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: May 2, 2014, 7:15 p.m. EDT

eyes of dwarf hamster
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
A healthy hamster has clear, bright eyes that are not surrounded by any inflammation.

Q: My female hamster is more than 2 years old. She has a growth over each eye and now has discharge, which resulted in her having trouble opening her eyes. She eats well and still runs on her wheel. What should I do to heal her crusty eyes?

A: Because your hamster is 2 years old, it is likely she has started to develop some of the conditions we associate with older hamsters. This includes ocular diseases. If she had a growth over one eye, this could be either a benign or malignant cancerous growth. But it would be highly unusual to have a growth over both eyes at the same time.

It may be that these are not discrete growths or masses but rather swelling of the skin or eyelids near the eyes. This can happen in association with ocular disease or upper respiratory disease. And the fact that you have noticed crusty eyes along with these "growths” will likely lead your veterinarian into pursuing the possibility of eye inflammation causing these issues.

In older hamsters, some of the diseases we consider include cataracts and glaucoma as a cause of ocular inflammation. Infection confined to both eyes is possible, but less likely than other causes of disease.

Once you visit your veterinarian, much of this mystery will be solved by a simple physical examination. Your vet may also want to place a very small needle into the growth above the eyes and remove some cells to examine those under the microscope. Also, your vet may perform a specific eye examination that would include examination of the cornea, the fluid in the anterior chamber, the conjunctiva, the pupil and the retina. Treatment will depend on the cause of the crusting and growth, but it might include antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

See all veterinary Q&A about hamsters, click here>>
See the Hamster Health Center, click here>>
See veterinary Q&A for all small animal pets, click here>>

Posted: May 2, 2014, 7:15 p.m. EDT


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