Signs of a sick hamster

Updated April 17, 2017

Hamsters are hardy pets, but their small size makes them susceptible to injuries and certain illnesses that can become serious. While some illnesses are obvious, hamsters can hide some sickness until it is too late. It is imperative to interact with hamsters daily to learn habits and quickly notice any changes in eating habits and routine. Some symptoms might require the assistance of a veterinarian.


Overfeeding of fresh vegetables is the most common cause of diarrhoea. This does not cause a loss of appetite or decreased activity. However, do not let the condition continue for a prolonged period. It can result in dehydration. To reverse the condition, withhold the fresh veggies for several days. Re-introduce these foods in small quantities into the diet only if the condition is completely resolved.

Wet Tail is Serious

A common hamster illness, it is caused mostly by stress, cage crowding and drastic changes in diet. It can be cured, but it is fatal if not noticed during early stages. Watch the hamster closely if it has diarrhoea. This condition will cause wetness around the tail. Other signs that differentiate wet tail from regular diarrhoea are lethargy, loss of appetite, a humped back and a ruffled coat.

Skin Diseases

Invasions from mites and ringworm, along with allergies and skin infections, are common. Symptoms include flaky or red skin, hair loss, lesions or increased scratching. A veterinarian can determine the exact cause, which can include a reaction to pine or cedar bedding. Allergic reactions to bedding also can result in lung issues.


Monitor the temperature in the room where the hamster's cage is located. If the temperature drops below normal, the hamster may go into hibernation, become still and breath slowly. The hamster is not ill or dying, but you will want to increase the temperature so the hamster comes out of the hibernation state.


Pockets of infection can occur when there are minor breaks in the skin. Most abscesses, however, develop in the cheeks and are caused from cuts from food. A hamster may have an abscess if it constantly has food in cheek pouches. A vet will be needed to drain the abscess.

Other Symptoms

In addition to the previous mentioned symptoms of possible illnesses, look for inactivity, huddling in a corner, sneezing, eye or nose discharge, and wheezing.

Home and Vet Care

If you think that your hamster is sick or injured, keep it warm. If you notice that it is not eating on its own, provide food by hand and water with a dropper. See a vet immediately.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Mike Virgintino began as a broadcast journalist and has been a marketing communications executive for more than 25 years. A graduate of Fordham University in New York, Virgintino has directed corporate, nonprofit and product branding initiatives for many leading companies and nonprofits. His articles have been published in a variety of trade magazines and American history publications such as Civil War News.