Sick hamsters – signs and symptoms

Treating sick hamsters is easy if you can detect early signs and symptoms of an illness or injury. Hamsters are generally hardy animals. However, due to their small body, hamsters can die quickly if an illness is left untreated. It helps to detect the early signs of an illness so you can address the problem quickly before it becomes life-threatening.

Most common signs of sickness in hamsters include:

  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Wet tail
  • Wounds from fighting
  • Tumors
  • Long incisions

hair loss

If you notice your hamster’s hair thinning, consider seeing a vet. The condition could be caused by skin parasites, bacterial infections, fungal disease and allergic reactions to bedding.


Diarrhea is a very serious problem and can be fatal for a small animal. One common causes of diarrhea is introducing a new hamster food, including vegetables. Whether the diarrhea is caused by diet or by something else, if it lasts longer than a day, contact the veterinarian immediately.

wet tail

Most common in Syrian hamsters, wet tail is a bacterial infection that causes watery diarrhea and dehydration. Additional signs include matted tail fur, a hunched stance and irritability.

wounds from fighting

Hamsters are territorial rodents and they may fight among themselves resulting in bite wounds. Look out for wounds after separating the fighting hamsters. Clean any wounds with dilute Betadine (antiseptic solution).


While it is normal for a hamster to have filled cheek pouches that might look like abnormal growths, any lumps and bumps in other areas of his body is a red flag. These swellings might be associated with abscesses or tumors, and warrants a visit to the vet. 

long incisors

Like all rodents, a hamster’s front teeth (incisors) grow throughout their lives. If they are not worn down properly, they can overgrow and cause severe problems.

Provide wooden chews or have their teeth trimmed or filed to the appropriate length under anesthesia at the veterinarian.

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