It is helpful to know the most common signs of illness in hamster so you can jump on the problem as rapidly as possible.
Most Common Signs of Illness or Injury
1. Hamster Abscesses
Abscesses are pockets of infection which can form from fairly minor breaks in the skin. Pus accumulates under the skin, sometimes forming a sizable lump which may sometimes begin draining on its own. Abscesses can form from cuts or scratches on the skin and also in the cheek pouches if abrasive food material causes scratches in the lining of the mouth. If a hamster continually looks like it has food packed in its cheek pouches, there may be an abscess or an impacted cheek pouch present. Abscesses require veterinary attention for draining, flushing, and treatment with antibiotics.
2. Hamster Respiratory Infections
Hamsters can get respiratory infections that can lead to pneumonia. Signs of a respiratory infection include sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose, wheezing, and labored breathing. Bacteria from the environment or food or even another hamster can cause an infection that may make your hamster sneeze. Occasional sneezing is not too worrisome but if there is any loss of appetite, decreased activity, wheezing, or difficulties with breathing, immediate veterinary attention should be sought.
3. Wet Tail in Hamsters
Wet tail is a highly contagious disease and is most common in recently weaned hamsters. In some cases the disease is associated with stress, crowding, and dietary changes. Affected hamsters may die very quickly, exhibiting signs such as diarrhea (causing wetness around the tail), lethargy, loss of appetite, and a ruffled coat. Not all hamsters with diarrhea have wet tail but if your hamster has any of these symptoms you should seek veterinary care.
4. Diarrhea in Hamsters
A number of infections can cause diarrhea including, but not limited to, wet tail, dietary changes, intestinal parasites, and treatment with antibiotics. Overfeeding vegetables and other fresh foods is a fairly common cause of diarrhea but in this case, there is usually no loss of appetite or decrease in activity. Dehydration is a real concern anytime your hamster has diarrhea so make sure they are still drinking their water if it occurs. With diarrhea, withhold fresh foods for a few days and resume offering them only if the diarrhea is completely resolved. Then start back onto fresh foods slowly so that your hamster can slowly adjust to the dietary change. If lethargy or a lack of water intake occurs alongside diarrhea you should seek veterinary care.
5. Skin Diseases in Hamsters
Ringworm, a fungal infection, allergic dermatitis and skin infections can also occur on the skin of hamsters. Hair loss is not all that unusual and can be seasonal or happen in older hamsters. But if there is flakiness, redness, or any lesions on the skin, or the hamster appears to be scratching more than usual, a vet should be seen. Cedar bedding can also cause skin irritation so it should be avoided.