BASIC HAMSTER CARE
There are many ways you can keep your hamster healthy. Start by feeding him a balanced diet. Buy a brand of hamster food that will take care of his daily nutritional requirements. Supplement his daily diet with a moderate amount of greens. Be sure that your hamster always has a fresh supply of food and water. His bedding should be changed and his housing washed regularly. This will prevent mites and parasites from making their home his home. If you have more than one hamster, isolate the sick hamster immediately. This will prevent contagious diseases like the ones listed below from spreading. If you have a cold, don't handle your hamster. This will help keep your hamster from catching anything from you. It's important to watch your hamster closely when he is outside of the cage to prevent injury. Minimize your hamsters stress by keeping him on a regular daily routine.This will help keep his immune system healthy and will prevent disease.
Despite all of your precautions, sometimes hamsters will get sick. You should always be able to notice changes in your hamster's behavior and physical appearance. Some of the most common ailments your hamster may have are colds, constipation, diarrhea, fleas/lice, mange, paralysis, running eyes and wet tail. Colds
Colds are easily detected by a lack of activity. Your hamster's nose may appear swollen because the fur is ruffled from wiping nasal discharge. If your hamster gets thin, his fur loses its luster, and he is sniffling or sneezing, the cold is in an advanced stage. Disinfect your hamster's cage, water and food dish. Give him fresh, dry bedding. Be sure to keep the cage free from drafts.
A wet tail can be indicative of several things, one of which is constipation. Regardless of age, constipation is directly related to the ratio of pellets they are eating and water they are drinking. Young hamsters consume the pellets and they swell in their intestines when they aren't getting enough to drink. Adult hamsters won't eat dry food if enough water is not available. For this reason, it is very important that you always have clean water for them. Be sure to provide carrots, leafy vegetables and fruits.
Diarrhea is usually happens because you have fed your hamster to many fruits and vegetables. However, it can also be a sign of something more serious like a blockage so your hamster needs to be monitored. Stop feeding fruits and vegetables for a few days. If your hamster still has diarrhea, you will need to take it to your vet.
Fleas and Lice
You hamster can get fleas from your other pets if you have any (cats, dogs, rats). You can get a flea powder from your vet to get rid of fleas and lice. Never use a product purchased at the grocery because they contain poisons that might kill your pet. It's important to change your hamster's bedding before you apply the powder to eliminate any eggs that might be waiting to hatch later on. If you have other pets, it's best to deflea them at the same time so they can't give the fleas back to your hamster.
Signs of mange include frequent head shaking, scratching ears and hair loss. Gray, warty scabs will appear on the ears, nose and genitals. Your vet will likely tell you to give your hamster a medicated bath. You will need to sterilize the cage and toys. You will also replace the bedding. Wash your hands well after the handling your hamster to prevent transferring the mange to your other pets. Mange can usually be prevented by simply using proper hygiene.
Paralysis can easily be avoided. It's often the result of a lack of exercise so it's important to provide a large cage with an exercise wheel and some other activity. A hamster suffering from paralysis will spend most of its time hunched over, sometimes unable to even lift its head.
Paralysis can also be a sign of Vitamin D deficiency. The first sign of this type of paralysis is paw stiffness. This will lead to loss of movement in the forepaws and eventually death. If you feed your hamster plenty of wheat germ and wheat germ oil, you can avoid this. Should your hamster show signs of paralysis, he will need to be seen by your vet immediately to prevent this slow, painful death.
Wet Tail is an extremely contagious bacterial illness that causes diarrhea and is often fatal. Stress can cause this, especially in young hamsters their first few days in a new home. Sudden changes in diet, habitat or overcrowding are also causes. Extreme temperatures and unsanitary living conditions can cause Wet Tail as well. It is important that your hamster live inside the house with you and that you clean his bedding often. If you suspect your hamster has Wet Tail, you must take him to the vet immediately or you risk losing your hamster.
You will also want to keep a lookout for hard lumps in your hamster. Regular handling is important so that you will notice these. They are indicative of cancer and you will need to take your hamster to the vet.