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Ask Dr. Kara Your Own Question
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16920
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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What can I do to help my sick hamster

Customer Question

What can I do to help my sick hamster
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 4 years ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help with your concerns about Wiggles your hamster.

I'm sorry to hear that your fellow isn't feeling well and has an eye that has so much discharge it was glued shut.


Two years of age is actually considered old age for a hamster, unfortunately they do not live long and as they age their immune systems become weaker and they are more susceptible to infections. As such it was a great idea to thoroughly wash his cage and toys well and wash your hands before handling him.


Is he still eating and drinking normally?

Is he active, alert and playful?
Does he have any symptoms other then eye discharge?

The average life span of a hamster is 2 to 2&1/2 years so he is not a youngster. Hamsters are prey items and as such hide their illnesses very well until they are too sick to do so any longer. That means by the time we can see changes in our pets they are usually very ill. Ideally he would see a veterinarian for an examination and at least some medicated eye drops. This may be as simple as an eye infection from getting bedding or debris in it or it may be as serious as pneumonia.


If that isn't possible for whatever reason I can give you some suggestions, but they may not be enough for him.


Do warm compress his eye and then flush it with sterile saline to remove as much debris as possible, then wipe the area around his eye dry with a clean cloth. Then apply a little Polysporin antibiotic ointment to keep his eye comfortable and treat any bacterial infection present. This may need to be done two to three times daily for at least 7 to 10 days.


Hamsters can get sick from contaminated bedding and improper diets.

As far as general care to keep your hamster as healthy as possible as long as possible here are some suggestions.
Please don't use wood chips of any type for bedding.
Wood chips of any kind can be a problem. They release aromatic oils and can carry bacterial and fungal spores. I recommend recycled paper pulp bedding as it is hypoallergenic, nontoxic and absorptive.

What should you use to clean the cage? I like very dilute antibacterial hand soap with very hot water, then rinse well in very hot water and dry well. You can also use a 5% bleach solution, but you must rinse very well to remove any odor. The cage should be cleaned completely weekly as hamster urine is very concentrated and can be very irritating to the nasal passages.

Ideally he should be eating rodent blocks. These are nutritionally complete whereas with seed mixes they eat what they like, not necessarily what is good for them, making for a weak immune system and poor bone structure (as seeds tend to be high in phosphorus and low in calcium).

Inside his cage give him things to chew on (untreated pine wood blocks and nonscented paper towel and toilet paper rolls are fine) as well as an exercise wheel. If it's squeaky use olive oil to grease the axle.
Small cardboard boxes to play in, chew on and hide in are great too.

Keep him away from drafts, including heating vents and windows/doors.

And make sure that he is in a quiet area so that he can get her rest in during the day.
None of us are very friendly when we are tired and not getting enough sleep can weaken the immune system.


If he isn't eating normally, you notice changes in his coat or feces, lethargy, or sneezing then it's time to seek a veterinarian who is comfortable treating hamsters. These little ones are prey items so they hide their illnesses well, if he seems sick he is.

Let me know if you have further questions.