Jun 242011

Two particular problems that even normally healthy hamsters can get are overgrown teeth and overgrown nails. These are hamster health problems that you can help prevent by carefully observing your hamster.

Here’s what to look for and what to do about these hamster health issues.

Overgrown teeth causes

If you look inside your hamster’s mouth, you’ll see two incisor teeth in their upper and lower jaws. Throughout the hamster’s life, these teeth continue to grow. A hamster must gnaw these down or face serious health problems.

If these teeth grow too long, they can begin to cut into his or her cheeks. This can result in your hamster getting mouth sores and being unable to eat properly.

There are other signs of tooth problems including a loss of appetite, drooling, or your hamster having trouble breathing.

Another reason for overgrown teeth could be a broken tooth. This can cause the hamster’s other tooth to grow too fast because it doesn’t have another tooth to help with the gnawing process. If you have an older hamster, this is something to look out for.

Hamster food could also be a cause. If your hamster is concentrating on just eating sunflower seeds, this can result in a calcium deficiency. Lack of calcium can also result in a hamster tooth breaking.

What to do about overgrown teeth

Your first line of defense against an overgrown tooth is making sure your hamster has plenty to gnaw on. That would include:

  • Hard foods, including fresh vegetables
  • Treat blocks
  • Chew toys (Made of wood that’s not too soft)
  • Small dog biscuits
  • Wire cage bars

All of these will help wear down your hamster’s teeth.

You should be regularly checking your hamster’s teeth since they grow so fast. If you see overgrowth or a sore mouth, you should get your hamster to a vet. A vet can also show you how to trim a tooth that’s too long. This can be tricky, so don’t try it by yourself until the vet has shown you how.

Overgrown Nails

Some hamster breeds, such as Dwarf Campbell’s Russians have long nails, but many other breeds do not. So if you notice your hamster’s nails getting very long and even curling under their toes, it means it is time to trim the nails. nail trimmer

Three ways to do this are:

1. Taking your hamster to the vet. You may want to do this the first time you see your hamster’s nails getting too long just so you can see how it’s done. But if you do this every time you want to trim your hamster’s nails, it can get expensive.

2. Using sandpaper so your hamster trims its own nails. With this method, you line either a part of the hamster cage or a separate box with fine sandpaper. You then let the hamster play in that part of the cage or the separate box for a while. This may or may not work depending on how active your hamster is.

People also try putting the fine sandpaper in the hamster exercise wheel. This may work for some hamsters, but others may then refuse to run in their wheels.

3. Do it yourself. If you try to clip your hamster’s nails yourself, there’s a good chance your hamster will bite you. This is really a two-person job. styptic powder

Here’s how to trim your hamster’s nails:

  • Wrap the hamster is a small towel with feet and paws exposed.
  • Your partner should tightly hold the hamster and distract him or her with some treats.
  • You cut the nails, VERY CAREFULLY, with nail clippers (small pet clippers are preferred)
  • Trim only the tips of the nails.
  • Have some styptic powder available. If you cut too much and see some red, you can use the powder to quickly help stop the bleeding.

Again, for the first time you may want to bring your hamster to the vet to see how it’s done.


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Dec 292009

When taking care of your hamster, you face routine health problems as well as the occasional illness and disease. Let’s first consider some of the routine health issues.

Routine Health Issues

Overgrown teeth: Hamsters are born with a pair of incisor teeth in their upper and lower jaws. The teeth continue to grow throughout a hamster’s lifetime. By gnawing on hard things they can keep their teeth from growing too long.

If the hamster’s teeth get overgrown they could cause problems such as piercing the animal’s mouth. If this happens, see a vet immediately.
hamster chew toys
You may see your hammy chewing on the metal bars of his or her cage. Some chewing on cage bars is normal. But excessive chewing can break the hamster’s teeth.

Be sure to get your hammy chew toys that allow him or her to properly gnaw their teeth. Wood toys are good, but be sure the wood is not too soft. Some people recommend dog biscuits to help hamsters keep their teeth in check.

Overgrown claws / nails: As with many other animals, hamster nails continually grow and may need to be trimmed. You can trim the claws yourself, or ask you vet to do it.

You can also read Look for Hamster Overgrown Teeth or Nails for more information.

Matted fur coat: Hamsters that have long hair, such as Teddy Bear Hamsters, can get bedding stuck in their hair, causing a section of their fur to become matted. First try gently brushing your hamster’s coat. If the mat is really bad, you may have to use a small scissors and very carefully cut out the matted section of fur. Bathing your hamster is not recommended.

Hibernation: Hamsters are sensitive to temperature. Too hot and they can get heat stroke. Too cold, and the hamster can go into hibernation. This will cause your hamster’s whole body to slow down. They breathe very slowly and look like they are in a deep sleep. You might think the hamster has died.

You will need to warm up the hamster, preferably by taking him or her in your hands and gently rubbing them. Do not do this in a microwave or oven!

If you keep your hamster cage in an area where the temperature is about 68 to 78 degrees F (20 to 25 C) you should be fine. Avoid putting your hamster cage in a window or someplace where it gets direct sunlight. See the article about hamster cage location for more information.

Hamster Illness and Disease

The following are some typical hamster illnesses you should watch out for. They will typically require a trip to your vet.

Wet Tail: Wet tail is a bacterial infection. It is caused by the stress of a changing location (such as from a pet store to home) and too much handling. Look for a wet and soiled bottom area, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, and/or a bad smell. This disease is also contagious, so if one hamster gets it, other hamsters sharing a cage are likely to get it.

The disease can cause hamster death within a short time period, especially when the diarrhea is severe and leads to dehydration. Wet tail is curable, but you should take your hamster to your vet, who will probably give the hamster antibiotics.

Diarrhea: Hamsters can get diarrhea without wet tail. You may notice they still are active and have not lost their appetite, but are leaving soiled bedding all over the place. It is usually caused by the hamster overfeeding themselves with fresh vegetables. You may want to stop feeding your hamster fresh foods for a few days and see if the diarrhea clears up. Then slowly start giving the hamster fresh food again.

If the diarrhea goes on too long, the hamster could develop dehydration, which can lead to death.

Respiratory/Lung Infections: There are a number of causes of breathing problems in hamsters. Improper bedding, such as pine or cedar chips, can cause dust or small particles to get into your hamster’s lungs and cause breathing problems. Look for a slow down in hamster activity, wheezing or a hamster who is having difficulty breathing. Some hamsters may also start sneezing a lot.

Another cause of lung infections can be the aspergillis fungus. This is a fungus that can grow in the hamster’s bedding, usually where the hamster pees. Initially it can’t be seen, but then turns white and finally black. The fungus can then send spores airborne causing breathing problems for your hamster.

If you see any signs of wheezing or breathing problems, get your hamster to the vet immediately.

Skin Diseases: Skin diseases that can affect hamsters include skin infections, ringworm, mites, and allergies. Look for reddening of the skin, bald patches or hair loss, or lesions (growths) on your hamster’s skin. You may also notice your hamster scratching itself more than usual.
hamster bedding
You will need to see your vet, who can tell you the exact skin disease and provide the appropriate treatment.
Not cleaning a cage often enough or use of poor bedding, such as pine or cedar wood chips, can contribute to your hamster’s skin disease. See the hamster bedding article for more information about bedding materials.

Abscesses: Abscesses are obvious sores or blisters on your hamster’s skin. Sometimes food will cause abscesses to occur in your hamster’s cheeks. It may look like the hamster is always storing food in his or her cheek pouch.

Abscesses need to be drained, so take your hamster to your vet if you notice one.


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