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.
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.
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.
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.