How Do I Care for a Sick Hamster?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Caring for a sick hamster often involves feeding the pet a special diet and administering medication as advised by a veterinarian. Specific conditions, such as diarrhea or lethargy, may require additional specific treatments. Some sick hamsters, like any other pets, are also ill due to their old age and cannot be cured, but only kept comfortable.

Keep hamsters away from drafty windows.
Keep hamsters away from drafty windows.

When a hamster becomes ill, the first thing to do is to take him or her to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. This will ensure that the animal receives the correct treatment for his or her sickness. A sick hamster may have many symptoms, from bloody stool to the inability to walk, or none. Wet tail, the most common of all hamster diseases, is an infection that can, for example, be diagnosed through the hamster's behavior, stool, and pain level.

The best way that a pet owner can treat a sick hamster, or any ill pet, is to be alert for signs of sickness. A lethargic hamster who is always sleeping or not interested in his or her typical activities, such as running in a wheel or eating treats, may be ill. Changes in stool, such as discoloration or the presence of blood, are signs of illness. Bald spots may indicate something is wrong with the pet as well. Any other changes in the pet's behavior or physical appearance may also be signs of sickness.

Wet tail is often developed by new hamsters as pets who have just come home. Though highly contagious, is very treatable with antibiotics. Care for rodents with wet tail should also involve the removal and cleaning of all of the animal's bedding and other items with which he or she comes into daily contact. This will prevent the infection from returning.

Lumps on a hamster may be benign, but they can also indicate a cancerous tumor. A veterinarian can often remove a tumor from a sick hamster, though the operation is typically expensive. Lumps are more often due to fight wounds or other abscesses. These do not usually require removal, but they will have to be drained and treated with a round of antibiotics.

Some pet owners suggest home remedies for treating a sick hamster, such as Castor oil for a cold. People who have experience in treating animals may be able to give their pets the correct dosage and remedies. Those without experience, and especially those new to owning hamsters, should instead seek out the advice of a seasoned veterinarian first. If home remedies are preferred, pet owners can always verify them with an animal doctor.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments


I think one thing that will make a hamster sick is a poorly ventilated cage. A lot of first-time hamster owners will buy those solid plastic starter homes, and they don't realize how warm they can get. I always tell people to invest in an open wire cage so the hamsters won't get overheated.


I've had my share of sick hamsters over the years, and the first clue for me is biting. If a usually docile hamster starts biting whenever I put my hand in the cage, I know my hamster is sick. They don't usually like to bite hard, because they are vegetarians by nature.

If one of my hamsters starts acting lethargic, I try to remove him or her from the cage and put him or her into isolation. It's usually a small box with fresh bedding and a food bowl. If I see signs of diarrhea or labored breathing, I'll take the entire box with me to the vet. It's not always easy to find veterinarians who treat "exotic" pets like hamsters, however.

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