"Sniff, sniff, scratch, scratch." ...HAMSTER
Mange, Tapeworms, and Pinworms
Mange is a common parasitic disease that affects the skin of Hamsters. This parasite can cause skin irritations and hair loss in large clumps on the back of the hamster. If you suspect your hamster is afflicted with mange, it is best to pay a visit to your veterinarian for further examination. While mange is treatable, an illness involving hair loss could indicate further problems, either internal or external.
Hamsters can become infected with tapeworms if they inadvertently eat contaminated food that contains tapeworm eggs. The tapeworm lives in the hamsterís intestines and competes with the hamster for nutrients and water. Generally hamsters will experience weight loss when carrying a tape worm.
Tapeworms are diagnosed by a close inspection of the hamsterís fecal matter. Collect a sample of the feces and take it to your veterinarian for further inspection. If diagnosed, the veterinarian can prescribe the right treatment. Use extreme care when handling hamsters that are suspected of having tapeworms as the parasite can be transferred from the hamster to humans. Always wash your hands before and after handling your hamster.
Pinworms are a much less common parasite that resides in the large intestine of the hamster. Hamsters typically do not experience adverse side effects from carrying the parasite, although in some cases the parasite can cause extreme itching around the anus.
Pinworms are diagnosed by a close inspection of the hamsterís skin around the anus. If you suspect pinworms, take your hamster to your veterinarian for further inspection. If diagnosed, the veterinarian can prescribe the right treatment. Pinworms cannot be transferred from the hamsters to humans, but as always, wash your hands before and after handling your hamster.
Cancer is defined as any type of tumor or growth that invades healthy tissue. Just like humans, hamsters experience tumors that, unless properly removed, can experience death. Cancer is a highly variable disease that has no specific source and can spread quickly causing death before it is detected. Possible sources include genetics, diet, environment, exposure to harmful chemicals, etc.
Older hamsters should be checked regularly for abnormal growths. Hamsters that experience fevers, weight loss, lethargy and loss of appetite should be taken to a veterinarian for an examination. Once cancer forms it can exhibit itself as an open sore (that bleeds or causes abnormal discharge), lumps under the skin, bulges in the throat (causing difficulty breathing and eating), abnormal bowel movements, etc.
Cancer is more common in female hamsters than in males. Hamsters with internal cancer are typically euthanized due to the difficulty of operating on such a small animals.
Rabies is a virus that can cause a wide variety of symptoms in hamsters. Once bitten by a rabid animal, hamsters will develop a nasty and irritable temperament within days and usually die with in a week of the first signs. As the virus progresses, the hamster will eventually experience paralysis of their lungs and throat causing the animal to suffocate and die.
Rabies is a virus that can be prevented through vaccination every three years. As rabies is common in both domestic and wild animals, most states in the US require pets to have rabies shots.
Once contracted, rabies is usually fatal. This virus attacks the central nervous system, starting at the brain and radiating throughout the body through the nerves.
Rabies is transmitted from animal to animal or from animal to human through a bite wound that breaks the skin. The virus can also be transmitted through saliva. Use extreme care when handling a pet that you suspect may be rabid.
Wet Tail, or Proliferative ileitis, is a serious intestinal disease caused by bacteria. This intestinal infection is most common in baby hamsters, but is seen in adult hamsters as well. Hamsters with this disease will exhibit a wet and soiled anal area (due to blood and fluids) and is generally accompanied by diarrhea. Additionally, affected hamsters will seem lethargic, sullen, and highly irritable.
Hamsters exhibiting signs of Wet Tail should be treated immediately by a veterinarian, as death can occur in as little as two days. Treatment includes antibiotics and anti-diahrrheal, and fluid replacement remedies.
Proliferative ileitis bacteria is not transmittable to humans.
Salmonella (Salmonellosis) is a serious intestinal disease cause by several different types of bacteria. This bacteria is generally transmitted on food Ė specifically fresh fruits and vegetables. Salmonella in babies can occur if new born hamsters are exposed to affected hamsters in their family or colony.
Infected hamsters will experience diarrhea and will seem lethargic, sullen, and highly irritable. If you suspect your pet may have Salmonella, seek the help of a veterinarian to begin antibiotic treatments Ė this disease can be fatal. Use extreme care when handling your pet as Salmonella is transmittable to humans.
To prevent Salmonella, carefully wash all fresh fruits and vegetables that you feed to your hamster.
Hamsters can develop calcified stones in their urinary tract that cause extreme pain and discomfort for hamsters. While hard for pet owners to diagnose, these stones sit in the bladder causing infection and frequent, difficult urination.
Bladder stones can be removed by veterinarians and dietary modifications can be made to prevent recurrence of this issue.