Keeping a pet hamster happy and healthy is not a difficult job. The furry rodents know how to keep themselves engaged by getting enough exercise on their hamster wheels and doing a reasonably good job at grooming themselves efficiently. The docile and cuddly nature of hamsters make them excellent pets, but they come with specific care instructions that you must follow if you want to keep your little pet healthy and free of infections and diseases.
Occasionally, eye problems arise in many hamsters, an alarming issue that must be addressed adequately and immediately. Their small size can convert any common injury and infection into a life-threatening situation. Failure to spot a hamster’s eye illness and treat it will eventually lead to blindness.
Knowing the nature of the eye issue in your hamster, why it contracted the disease in the first place, and how to efficiently remove it is essential to understanding and ensuring your hamster is living a comfortable life.
Eye Infections in Hamsters
Usually, hamsters get eye infections from their dirty bedding or trauma to the eye. The chances that an eye infection kills a hamster are meager. If you efficiently treat the problem early, the hamster may survive with its eyesight intact.
Following eye problems are commonly prevalent in hamsters.
Conjunctivitis is also known as “pink eye” and commonly occurs due to injury to the eye or diseased, improperly aligned, and overgrown teeth. Your hamster may also contract this eye infection due to dust irritants or bacterial contamination in your pet’s bedding.
Conjunctivitis causes irritation and inflammation in the outermost layer of a hamster’s eye. Even though a hamster cannot die from an eye infection of this sort, it must be treated promptly to prevent further progression of infection.
There are several reasons your hamster can contract conjunctivitis, including bite wounds and injury to the eye. Other dental disorders like malocclusion, in which incisor teeth overgrow, can also lead to this condition.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis in a hamster are:
- Dripping or oozing discharge from its eyes
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Crusty and sticky eyelids due to dried-up, watery discharge
- Redness and inflammation around the eyelids.
Treatment for Eye Infection in Hamsters in the US
Hamsters are small and susceptible animals, so you must never try to self-diagnose and administer any medication. Take your hamster to a vet as soon as you spot any problematic signs, as they know which drugs will help your hamster and which ones will further develop an allergic reaction.
The vet will clean the hamster’s infected eye and treat it with antibiotic eye drops. You must closely examine your pet’s reaction to the medication and keep it isolated from the rest of the animals to prevent the disease from spreading.
Sanitize and clean the cage and bedding of your hamster, and regularly disinfect every living area of your pet so that future eye infections are avoided.
Can Conjunctivitis Kill a Hamster?
Pink eye is not life-threatening, but if the eye infection is not treated for a long time and the condition worsens, it can lead to extreme discomfort and even blindness in a hamster.
Exophthalmia or exophthalmos refers to bulging eyes or eyes protruding from their sockets. Hamsters are prone to eye bulging, usually when they experience trauma to their periorbital area.
These little rodents have shallow eye sockets, so if someone restrains or holds it too tightly by the skin at its neck, a hamster’s eye is displaced due to the excessive pressure.
Exophthalmos does not kill a hamster immediately, but emergency treatment is required to save its eye. If the exophthalmia condition is worsened, then tarsorrhaphy or even enucleation might be required.
Other common causes of hamster’s eye bulging are glaucoma, corneal injury or eye ulcer, cancer, abscess behind the hamster’s eye, and poor handling. Ocular infection may also lead to the development of this condition.
Symptoms of exophthalmos in a hamster are:
- Tears and discharge in hamster eyes
- Pawing and scratching its face
- Visual impairment that leads to trouble navigating surroundings
- Tearful and crusty eyes
- Swelling of the eye and change in its color.
Exophthalmos is a very painful condition for hamsters, and the vet will immediately prescribe topical ointments and pain relievers for the little rodent.
A sedated hamster may be examined for abscesses or other dental diseases. The vet performs a dental procedure if such abnormalities are proven to be the root cause of exophthalmos.
However, in case of severe protrusion, the eye is beyond salvation, and its surgical removal is recommended to ease the pain and discomfort of the animal.
Can Exophthalmos Kill a Hamster?
Exophthalmos can easily lead to blindness and eye loss in hamsters, which is why it must be treated as an emergency. You must consult your vet immediately to prevent the injury from progressing into a deadly infection.
3. Corneal Ulcers
Rodents such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, and porcupines have large corneas, which makes them susceptible to irritation and exposure to many exogenous contaminants like ammonia, bacteria, or viruses in their bedding or cages.
Hamsters may get corneal ulcers, or keratitis, due to abrasions, scratches, and other infections that can damage the cornea’s deepest layers.
Bacterial infections and viruses are the most common causes of corneal ulcers, but injuries such as scratches and abrasions increase the chances of your pet getting keratitis. Viral infections attack an intact cornea, but bacterial infections result from trauma to the epithelium. Other causes of corneal ulcers in hamsters are:
- Allergic responses
- Fungal infections and inflammatory diseases
- Diseases that lead to excessive drying of eyes
- Chemicals such as cage sprays.
If your hamster has an eye infection that results in a hazy or cloudy appearance of its eye, it means your pet has developed a corneal ulcer. Other symptoms include:
- Blinking excessively
- Watering eye
- Holding eyes completely shut
- The white part or sclera develops a red color
- Swollen eye
Corneal ulcers require professional examination by a vet. Pet owners cannot determine whether the ulcer is simple or complicated. A veterinary surgeon will diagnose and test the eye for the level of infection development.
If the corneal ulcer is mild and not severe, the hamster’s body heals its wound within four to seven days. In such a case, the vet will treat your pet’s eye with antibiotic drops and ointments, reducing infection development. Pain-relieving medications are prescribed to reduce the hamster’s discomfort.
Other medications are used to treat the eye infection if the corneal ulcer is complicated. A hamster protection cone collar prevents the pet from scratching its eye or rubbing it on other surfaces, worsening the infection.
Can Corneal Ulcer Kill a Hamster?
Corneal ulcers, if left untreated, can lead to the progression of the viral or bacterial infection, resulting in extreme pain for your hamster. Your hamster will not die from this eye infection, but it requires immediate medical attention.
4. Sticky Eye
The sticky eye is a common phenomenon in hamsters, which doesn’t necessarily mean the hamster has an eye infection. Sleep crust, a mixture of mucus, oil, tears, and exfoliated cells is a healthy eye function.
Blinking and washing the eyes after waking up prevents the eyelids from sticking together.
However, in hamsters, the excess fluid may cause painful stickiness of the eyelids, glued together as the sleep crust dries up.
Even though this condition is easily treatable, a hamster may get frustrated and start scratching its eye, causing further abrasion and damage.
A hamster’s eye’s sticky drainage and excessive mucus might indicate an infection. However, normal fluid generation can also worsen when a hamster grows old.
An old hamster sleeps longer than young ones, which is why the excess fluid dries before the hamster wakes up, forming a sticky crust that glues its eyelids together.
If the hamster tear ducts are blocked and do not adequately drain the mucus, it increases the chances of sticky eyes, leading to inflammation, infection, and irritation.
Symptoms of sticky eyes in a hamster are:
- Dried mucus and discharge around the eyes after waking up
- Eyelids glued shut, and the hamster is unable to open its eye
- A thick yellow discharge oozes from the eye, indicating the blocked tear duct.
Sticky eyes do not cause swelling and redness of eyes or eyelids, so if your hamster can only not open its eyes due to the stickiness, you can gently wipe its eye with saline solution at room temperature.
A clean cotton bud or pad is dipped into the saline solution to wipe off the crust on the outer portion of the eyelids.
It is better to soften the hard crust before trying to peel open the hamster’s eye. The warm and soaked cotton pad is kept on the eyelid for a few minutes to soften the dried-up mucus.
It is the best practice to use a sterilized wipe for this purpose, and the pet owner must scruff its hamster so that it doesn’t move frequently and increase the chances of accidental poking of its eye.
Can Sticky Eyes Kill a Hamster?
Sticky eyes are a widespread occurrence in older hamsters. If the problem is only dried crust that doesn’t enable the hamster to open its eyes, gently wiping it will be enough. However, if you notice redness and swelling combined with shut-eye, an underlying infection is developing, which needs a medical examination.
Hamsters are tiny animals that are most frequently mishandled, as children and sometimes adults try to cuddle them without caring for their sensitive bodies. Being a hamster owner, you must always be careful of potential infections and injury causes that can threaten your pet’s life.
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My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more