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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?

Excessive drinking is a sign your hamster is ill. Via shawn_ang/iStock/Thinkstock

Author: Kevin Wright, DVM, DABVP (reptile and amphibian)

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 SIGNSCOMMON CAUSES

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

Appetite loss, anorexiaDehydration
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 ComaAmyloidosis
Atrial thrombosis
Congestive heart failure
Heat stroke
Hypothermia
Hypoglycemia
Sepsis (severe infection)
Toxicosis
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

CoughingAmyloidosis
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

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

DiarrheaGastrointestinal 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 breathAmyloidosis
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, cloudyCataract
Corneal ulcer
Keratitis (infection of the cornea)
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

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

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

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

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

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

Head tiltEar infection
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia
Vestibular disease

Nasal dischargeAllergies
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

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

Sores, drainingCutaneous abscesses
Trauma
Tumor / Neoplasia

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

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

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

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

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

WheezingAllergies
Cardiomyopathy
Pneumonia
Upper respiratory infection
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Article Categories:
Critters · Hamsters

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