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Signs Of Illness In Hamsters And Possible Causes

What could it mean if your hamster has trouble breathing, suffers hair loss, experiences diarrhea or many other signs of illness?

By Kevin Wright, DVM, DABVP (reptile and amphibian)
Posted: January 11, 2012, 9:20 p.m. EST

hamster with stethoscope
© Gina Cioli/BowTie
Signs of illness in a hamster could result from several possible causes.

Please note that the following table is not a comprehensive list of medical problems that occur in hamsters, nor is it a comprehensive list of all the possible causes for a particular sign. This is intended as a guideline only and should not replace having your hamster evaluated by an experienced small mammal veterinarian. Do not rely on your dog and cat veterinarian to treat your hamster unless you have researched them and are comfortable with their level of hamster experience.

For more about hamster health, visit the Hamster Health Center

 

COMMON SIGNS   COMMON CAUSES

Abdomen, enlarged or swollen   Amyloidosis
Bloating due to inappropriate diet
Congestive heart failure
Cushing’s
Dystocia, problem pregnancy
Gastrointestinal obstruction
Tapeworm
Tumor / Neoplasia

Appetite loss, anorexia   Dehydration
Diarrhea
Inappropriate food
Malnutrition
Malocclusion of incisors or cheek teeth
Pinworm
Sepsis (severe infection)
Tapeworm
Tyzzer’s disease
Tumor / Neoplasia
“Wet Tail”

Breathing, difficult or labored (dyspnea)   Amyloidosis
Atrial thrombosis
Congestive heart failure
Cushing’s disease
Heat stroke
Hypothermia
Hypoglycemia
Ovarian cyst
Pneumonia
Sepsis (severe infection)
Toxicosis
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Breathing, rapid (tachnypnea)   Amyloidosis
Atrial thrombosis
Congestive heart failure
Cushing’s disease
Heat stroke
Hypothermia
Hypoglycemia
Ovarian cyst
Pneumonia
Sepsis (severe infection)
Toxicosis
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Collapse or Coma   Amyloidosis
Atrial thrombosis
Congestive heart failure
Heat stroke
Hypothermia
Hypoglycemia
Sepsis (severe infection)
Toxicosis
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Coughing   Amyloidosis
Congestive heart failure
Pneumonia
Upper respiratory infection

Discharge from genitals (Pus, blood, mucus)   Dystocia (difficult labor or retained fetus)
Ovarian cyst
Urinary tract infection
Uterine infection (pyometra)
Tumor / Neoplasia

Discharge from anus (Pus, blood, mucus)   Gastrointestinal infections (such as Tyzzer’s disease, other bacterial infections,
Giardia, pinworms, tapeworms, Tritrichomonas, other parasites)
Inappropriate antibiotics
Inappropriate food items
Trauma, particularly rough handling
Tumor / Neoplasia

Constipation   Atresia anus (very young hamsters)
Dehydration, particularly from water bottles running empty
Gastrointestinal foreign body such as swallowed piece of string
Tapeworm
Tumor / Neoplasia

Diarrhea   Gastrointestinal infections (such as Tyzzer’s disease, other bacterial infections, Giardia,
pinworms, tapeworms, Tritrichomonas, other parasites)
Inappropriate antibiotics
Inappropriate food items
Stress, including recent shipment or rough handling

Drinking, excessive  

Amyloidosis of the kidneys
Bladder infection / urinary tract infection
Cushing’s disease
Diabetes mellitus
Diarrhea for any reason
Kidney failure
Ovarian cysts
Tumor / Neoplasia
Urinary tract infection
Uterine infection (pyometra)
Warmer than appropriate temperature


Exercise intolerance, shortness of breath   Amyloidosis
Atrial thrombosis
Congestive heart failure
Heat stroke
Hypothermia
Hypoglycemia
Obesity
Pneumonia
Sepsis (severe infection)
Toxicosis
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Eye, bulging (Exophthalmos)   Abscess (periorbital)
Glaucoma
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Tight restraint
Tooth root abscess or injury
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Eye, cloudy   Cataract
Corneal ulcer
Keratitis (infection of the cornea)
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Eye, crust   Conjunctivitis
Corneal ulcer
Dehydration
Foreign object
Inappropriate bedding (dusty, etc.)
Upper respiratory infection

Eye, squinting   Conjunctivitis
Corneal ulcer
Dehydration
Foreign object
Inappropriate bedding (dusty, etc.)
Upper respiratory infection

Hair loss, asymmetrical   Barbering
Early shed
Mange (demodecosis)
Ringworm (dermatophytosis)
Trauma, cagemate aggression

Hair loss, focal   Barbering
Early shed
Mange (demodecosis)
Ringworm (dermatophytosis)
Trauma, cagemate aggression

Hair loss, symmetrical   Cushing’s disease
Ovarian cyst
Pituitary tumor
Tumor / Neoplasia

Head tilt   Ear infection
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia
Vestibular disease

Nasal discharge   Allergies
Anemia from other health conditions
Inappropriate bedding (dusty, etc.)
Incisor malocclusion
Upper respiratory infection

Polydipsia (excessive thirst)   Amyloidosis of the kidneys
Bladder infection / urinary tract infection
Cushing’s disease
Diabetes mellitus
Diarrhea for any reason
Kidney failure
Ovarian cysts
Tumor / Neoplasia
Urinary tract infection
Uterine infection (pyometra)
Warmer than appropriate temperatures

Polyuria (excessive urination)   Amyloidosis
Cushing’s disease
Diabetes mellitus
Inappropriate diet
Kidney disease
Ovarian cysts
Tumor / Neoplasia
Uterine infection (pyometra)

Pruritis (itching)   Allergies
Cushing’s disease
Dermatitis, bacterial
Inappropriate bedding (dusty, etc.)
Mange, demodecosis
Pinworm
Ringworm
Tumor / Neoplasia

Sneezing   Allergies
Anemia from other health conditions
Inappropriate bedding (dusty, etc.)
Incisor malocclusion
Upper respiratory infection

Sores, draining   Cutaneous abscesses
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

Sores, scabs   Mange, demodecosis
Ringworm
Self-mutilation (overgrooming)
Trauma, bite wounds
Tumor / Neoplasia

Sudden death   Atrial thrombosis
Heat stroke
Inappropriate food item
Poisoning (pesticides, paint fumes, etc.)
Sepsis
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia
Uterine infection (pyometra)

Swelling beneath skin   Cutaneous abscesses
Bite wounds
Foreign object
Impacted scent gland
Tumor / Neoplasia

Swelling of the belly   Amyloidosis
Bloating due to inappropriate diet
Congestive heart failure
Cushing’s
Dystocia, problem pregnancy
Gastrointestinal obstruction
Tapeworm
Tumor / Neoplasia

Urination, excessive   Amyloidosis
Cushing’s disease
Diabetes mellitus
Inappropriate diet
Kidney disease
Ovarian cysts
Tumor / Neoplasia
Uterine infection (pyometra)

Wheezing   Allergies
Cardiomyopathy
Pneumonia
Upper respiratory infection

Posted: January 11, 2012, 9:20 p.m. EST


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Signs Of Illness In Hamsters And Possible Causes

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Reader Comments
Nice for u poeple to be on the internet. Our hamster has stopped being active. It seems that the lower body has losted its power. The hamster falls and no more at balance. Water notice It don't drink and the hamster only wants to sleep. Can we do anything to help?
david, durban
Posted: 8/2/2014 10:34:52 AM
My ((male))hamster has a swollen testicle, abnormally so, whilst the other is so withered and and tiny, It has become practically absent. It looks painful, and he is no longer very active. I'm very worried and don't know what to do, he resumes regular behavior other wise, but he does seem as though he has some slightly bald spots. should i be worried?
Jenifer, englewood, CO
Posted: 6/25/2014 9:16:36 PM
my hampster is shakey and weak. she eats a little but she does drink a little water. we don't know what to do for her. please help
cecelia, Winslow, ME
Posted: 6/18/2014 2:59:22 PM
My hamster was bitten by her cagemate. What should I do?
Megan, Wilmington, DE
Posted: 6/23/2013 10:47:30 AM
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