Q: I have a dwarf hamster that is a little more than 2 years old. This week her left eye was suddenly protruding and red like a garnet. Soon after, the right eye also did the same. She does not seem uncomfortable, and there is no sign of infection or irritation. My veterinarian does not treat “pocket pets” and guessed it may have to do with hypothyroidism. Can you give me any idea what this could be and how to treat it?
A: This condition is commonly seen in hamsters, and there can be many reasons for this to occur. These include trauma, infection, cancer and internal organ disease.
When this occurs due to trauma, usually only one eye appears to protrude but if the trauma affects both eyes, the appearance of the eye globe protruding occurs in both eyes simultaneously. In the case you describe, it is more likely that something is causing tissue behind the eyes to put pressure on the eyes, and they appear to be protruding.
The cause could be anything from enlarged fat pads to infection in tissues surrounding the eye globes. It can be very difficult to determine the cause (other than trauma), because a veterinarian needs to be able to “look” behind the eye. That is not possible in most physical examinations without specialized equipment.
Veterinary ophthalmologists possess the types of instruments that enable them to look through the cornea and into the internal structures of the eye. By closely examining the retina (the back wall of the eye globe), they may be able to tell what is causing the eye deformation that you observe. The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists has some listed on its website.
What if you cannot find a veterinary ophthalmologist in your area? A suggestion might be to ask your veterinarian to consult with an ophthalmologist for treatment suggestions if your doctor does not possess the specialized equipment needed to thoroughly examine the internal structures of the eye.