The eyes are often the first thing you notice when you look at a hamster. These cute little rodents naturally have quite big eyes, that often resemble two shining black buttons. However, just like us humans, hamsters can develop eye infections. In this article you are going to learn all about the signs, causes and treatment options for eye infections in hamsters.
An eye infection is also commonly known as conjunctivitis, which is inflammation of the outer layer of the eye. This can be a painful condition and make your hamster feel quite sorry for himself.
Unfortunately, eye infections are quite common in hamsters and it can very useful as an owner to know how to spot if your beloved little pet has one. Let’s take a closer look at how you can identify if your hamster has an eye infection and what you can do about it.
How to Identify if Your Hamster Has an Eye Infection
A healthy hamster should have two bright and open eyes with no discharge. If your hamster is feeling ill, he may even eat and play less and also try to hide away.
Common signs of an eye infection in hamsters include:
- Discharge from the eyes
- Sticky or crusty eyes
- One or both eyes squinting or closed
- Swollen eye(s) or face
- Redness around the eyelids
The discharge usually starts quite watery but can then become slightly brown/red tinged or even yellow/green in colour. The eyes can appear sticky or crusty if the discharge dries, which can make them quite itchy. The hamster may rub his eyes, or try to groom the skin around his eyes more than normal.
Are Eye Infections in Hamsters a Serious Condition?
There are many different things which can cause infections in hamster’s eyes. Some of these causes are more serious than others. Usually they are not immediately life-threatening, but an eye infection should be treated as soon as possible in order to avoid any further problems.
If your hamster isn’t eating or appears very sick, it is best to take him to the vet clinic without further delay.
Now let’s learn about the different causes of eye infections in hamsters.
The most common causes of eye infections in hamsters include:
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection
- Injury to the eye
- Bite or scratch wounds from another hamster
- Irritation from dusty bedding
- Irritation from excess urine in the bedding
- Dental problems such as overgrown teeth
If your hamster’s eyes appear sore, then it is often best to visit your vet clinic. Your veterinarian should ask you some questions about your hamster and then complete a full physical examination. The vet may do a quick test to check the surface of the eye, to make sure there is not an eye ulcer present.
The treatment depends on the what is the underlying cause of the infection. Often mild conjunctivitis will be treated with antibiotic eye drops. If the hamster’s eyes appear very infected and sore, then pain relief medication and oral antibiotics may be needed too.
Bacterial and Viral infections
Bacterial and viral infections can spread easily from one hamster to another. Therefore, if you have more than one hamster it is best to keep the sick and healthy ones separate, until the problem is resolved. Cages, water bottles and feeding bowls should also be disinfected with a safe and appropriate product.
If it is suspected that your hamster has a tooth problem, then he may require a quick anaesthetic in order to fully examine his mouth and teeth. Overgrown teeth may need regularly trimmed and his diet may need changed.
Some hamsters will become stressed and fight if kept in pairs or groups. Fights often lead to eye injuries and infections. If your hamsters are fighting, then it is best to separate them or try housing them in a larger cage.
If your hamster’s bedding is dusty it could be irritating its eyes and causing conjunctivitis. It is best to change to a dust-free alternative!
If your hamster’s cage has a strong urine smell, then it could be the cause of your hamster’s eye problem and you need to clean and change the bedding more often. Urine contains ammonia, which gives urine it’s characteristic strong smell. It is irritant to the eyes and respiratory system if allowed to build up in the cage.
Cleaning the eyes
It is important to gently clean around your hamster’s eyes to remove any crusty bits. This can be done with damp cotton wool and luke warm water. Excessive discharge can be removed using a few drops of a mild saline eyewash.
Encourage your hamster to eat
You may need to tempt your hamster to eat, by offering some of his favourite foods as well as his normal diet. A little cube of apple, carrot or banana might help. If your hamster is feeling very down, then he may need syringe feeding and syringed water until he is feeling better.
Follow your veterinarian’s advice
Always follow the advice given by your vet if you have been given antibiotic eye drops to use. Even if the eyes look better after the first day of eye drops, it is important to complete the full course of medication. This helps to fully treat the infection and prevent it from returning.
How to Prevent Your Hamster Getting an Eye Infection
It is not always possible to prevent illnesses or infections, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the chance of your hamster getting an eye infection.
Following these simple rules will help to keep your hamster healthy:
- Regularly disinfect the cages, water bottles and food bowls to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses
- Prevent fighting: Don’t house hamsters of different age groups together or overcrowd a cage
- Regularly remove dirty bedding to prevent the build up of urine/ammonia
- Bring your hamster to your veterinarian regularly for a health check
As we have discussed, eye infections in hamsters has many different causes and can be quite a painful condition. As well as having sore eyes, your hamster may feel a little depressed and sorry for himself. It is always a good idea to seek veterinary advice if your hamster is sick, but as discussed in the article, there are lots of things you can do at home to help too.
Congratulations, now you are fully informed about the signs of eye infections in hamsters, as well as the causes and the possible treatment options. You also know how to help prevent your hamster getting conjunctivitis too!
Feel free to share this article with other hamster loving friends to help keep their hamsters healthy.