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Dr. Jo
Dr. Jo, Veterinarian
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 2803
Experience:  DVM from Iowa State University in 1994; actively engaged in private regular and emergency practice since that time.
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Hi my hamsters front leg is swollen . He seems to be walking

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Hi my hamsters front leg is swollen . He seems to be walking okay and still eating and drinking . Should I be concerned?
My name isXXXXX and I will do my best to help you with your question about your hamster. I'm sorry he's having this problem.

I've got to start by telling you I love the name Nike for a hamster. He is officially the first Nike hamster I've ever met and it's a perfect name.

While it is reassuring that he is still walking okay and eating and drinking, this is still very much worth being concerned over. I'm worried about the swelling being due to a problem that will get worse without treatment.

The best plan for Nike is for you to find a veterinarian who is comfortable with seeing small pocket pets like a hamster and have an exam done. The exam alone may be sufficient, or your vet may need to take x-rays to find out if there is a fracture there.

There are other things it could be besides a fracture. Some are treatable, and unfortunately, some are not. That's why it's really important to get a diagnosis. Without knowing exactly what is causing the swelling, there's no way to know if you can do something about it or not.

Additionally, hamsters are pretty tough animals, and are good at hiding signs of illness and/or injury. Often the only symptom you will see during the early stages of a problem is that your usually even-tempered hamster seems to become irritable. If you wait until he is no longer eating and drinking well or walking normally, your chances of successful treatment are a lot smaller.

If Nike is housed with other hamsters, it would be a good idea to move him into a separate cage until he is better. Fighting is pretty common with hamsters and an infected bite wound could certainly be one possible cause of a swollen leg. Even if there is no fighting, housing him alone will make it easier to tell exactly how well he is eating and drinking.

Another common cause for skeletal problems is feeding seed-based diets. This leads to Vitamin E deficiency. If Nike is on a seed-based diet (as opposed to pellets) this may be part of the problem.

So, please put Nike in a small cage of his own and make plans to take him to the vet as soon as possible. If he were my hamster, yes, I would take the symptom of a swollen leg seriously.

If you return online and wish to post more to this conversation, please type in what you want to say and click REPLY. I'm happy to help.

Thanks for visiting our website, and let me know how else I can be of assistance.
Dr. Jo and 4 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Hi Tony Alexander,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Nike. How is everything going?

Dr. Jo
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Nike is actually my daughter Tess's hamster. We are very concerned as initially the lump seemed to be in his leg, but in fact the front of his chest is very swollen. My daughter is very upset as it seems to be getting larger. He is still active and eating and drinking fine and doesn't seem to be in any pain at all. I would bring him to the vet but we live in a very small town and the vet only comes once a month. The closest city is 5 hrs away. Finances are also another issue. I will check to see when he comes to town again however Tess is concerned they will recommend putting him to sleep. So hard to see her upset like this- she is a true animal lover and hopes to be a vet herself one day. Any input at all would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Sandra

Thank you so much for the follow-up. I always wonder how things are turning out for people and their pets. I'm so glad Nike has Tess to look after him. That's wonderful!

Please don't regret your logistical and financial issues with getting Nike to the vet. The important thing is that you do the best you can for Nike within your unique situation. Tess will learn a lot from you about love, care, and unselfishness as you go through this.

I understand Tess's desire to avoid a trip to the vet because she doesn't want to hear bad news. This is an opportunity to help her gently learn that news - whether good or bad - does not change the reality of any situation. Because she loves Nike, we want her to know he is being taken care the best that's possible. Because you love Tess, we don't want her to fret over him.

So -as you've already done - continue to listen to her concerns. Yes, it is alarming to see this lump getting larger. It's also scary to think that a lot of hamsters don't live much longer than a year or two. It's possible this lump is part of a problem that will eventually bring Nike's life to its close. That's heartbreaking because it's been so wonderful to be able to love him for this long. Because you love him so much, make sure he is able to do the things he needs to do every day. If it's getting harder for him to move around the cage, make sure food and water are close to where he likes to lie down. If he's having trouble cleaning himself, gently help with that. If he is puffed up and shivering, shine a heat lamp (or even a desk lamp) on him. Make a variety of favorite, nutritious foods available within easy reach.

If this is some kind of problem that will heal on its own, doing simple nursing care tasks like that will ensure you've done all you can to help him get over it as quickly as possible.

If this is the beginning of the problem that will eventually draw his story to a close, Tess will be able to rest assured she did everything to help him through this stage of his life as comfortably and loved as possible.

If there comes a time when Nike stops eating, is struggling to breathe, or is really weak and skinny, reassure Tess that euthanasia (I prefer to avoid using the words 'putting to sleep' with young children who might become afraid of sleeping - you know her best) is a most loving, compassionate and unselfish choice. As much as it would break her heart to have to consider having Nike euthanized, she would need to love him enough and be strong enough to put his needs ahead of her own desires. If needed (and available), euthanasia is a blessing.

For now, however, it's wonderful that Nike is still acting otherwise normal. That makes me hopeful this is something he may get over on his own.

I wish I could give you better advice as to the exact nature of Nike's problem, but it's impossible without a hands-on physical examination. I'm sure you understand and I know you aren't asking me for that. I still want to be as helpful as I can because I know regardless of the outcome, Tess is worried about Nike and is likely to remember her time with him for the rest of her life.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

Thank you.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you so much- your thoughtful letter brought tears to my eyes, just the fact that you would take the time to write such caring thoughts will make things easier for Tess- she is almost 13, so I will be able to read it to her. You expressed it in a way that I couldn't and she will value your thoughts regarding this because of your sensitivity, education and experience. I am glad him being so active is a positive sign as I thought. If circumstances change though, I know Tess will definitely take comfort in your caring words. I'm so grateful! Sandra

Thank you for your kind words. It's a pleasure and privilege meeting people who love their pets and want to do their best for them.

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