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Common Ailments

Abscesses may develop on the body as a result of injuries on sharp objects, or from fighting when more than one hamster is kept together. Abscesses may also develop within the mouth as a result of tooth problems, or from unsuitable food building up in the cheek pouches. They consist of raw, smelly, discharging areas that have become infected by bacteria. Antibiotic treatment from a veterinarian will usually be required. If the hamster will tolerate it, regular bathing of the affected areas with a solution of one teaspoonful of salt in a pint of warm water will be helpful.
Constipation may occur in  young hamsters, just before they are weaned, if they do not have access to fluids other than mother's milk. It can also occur in older animals if they swallow the wrong sort of bedding material, such as absorbent cotton. The hamster develops a swollen tummy and stops eating its food. Extra green vegetables and fruit usually cures the problem.
Skin problems
Mature male hamsters often develop dark spots, covered by coarse hair, on either side of their body over the hips. This is not abnormal it is caused by scent gland development in these areas. Sometimes the glands become sore and trouble the hamster, and may need treatment with an ointment to reduce the irritation. Hair loss around the ears, on the rear, and underneath the tummy is also common in older hamsters. Infectious skin problems are not common in hamsters kept as pets, because they generally have very little opportunity to come into contact with other hamsters. It is possible for them to suffer from ringworm, a fungus that grows on the hairs, which can also cause skin problems in humans and other animals.
Ear mites
Ear mites are tiny parasites that live down the ear canal and sometimes on the sin around the head, causing crusting and itchiness. Putting ear drops into a tiny hamster's ears is pretty much impossible, but an injection can be given to kill the mites. Ear mites are not contagious to other animals. Hamsters can also be affected by demodectic mange mites, which are long, thin parasites that live in the root follicles of the hairs, causing patches of baldness.
Eye problems
Conjunctivitis is not uncommon in hamsters. This condition can cause sore eyes, and the eyelids may even gum up and stick together, trapping the discharge underneath them. It can be sparked by a more general problem, such as a respiratory infrection, or by irritation of the eyes by dust particles. The eyes should be bathed in a saline solution of one teaspoonful of salt to a pint of warm, boiled water and  if necessary, the eyelids should be gently pried open. A veterinarian will be able to prescribe an antibiotic ointment to treat the problem.
Hamsters are quite sensitive to poisoning, particularly because they spend a lot of time grooming and will lick off any substances that get on their coat. Do not use aerosol sprays in the room where the hamster lives without checking first that they are nontoxic to animals.
Wet tail
Wet tail is so named because of the wetness and staining that occur around the tail in affected hamsters. It is usually the result of diarrhea caused by an infection of the lower part of the bowel, but in female hamsters it can also be caused by a womb infection. Affected animals will be hunched up, listless, and disinterested in food and the diarrhea can quickly spread between hamsters in a colony. The outlook for affected animals is not good, but some animals do recover with prompt treatment. Stress, for example, is considered an important factor in the proliferation of wet tail (and explains why the disease is so prevalent in young hamsters during their early days in new homes), as are sudden change in diet, habitat overcrowding, extreme temperatures and unsanitary living conditions.
Breathing problems
Snuffling caused by upper airways infections is quite common, especially if the hamster is kept in damp or drafty conditions. Sometimes this can lead to pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, which is also common in older hamsters that have a low resistance to disease. This is very often fatal.
Cancer is a very common condition in older hamsters, occurring in many different sites around the body. It can only rarely be treated by surgery.
If your hamster fur is damp, he seems unresponsive and you can't get a wakeful reaction, speedy action must be taken. You should begin cooling your hamster by pouring cold water over him and making him drink. If he doesn't seem completely back to himself shortly, you should take him to the veterinarian right away.
Some hamsters may have allergies to certain foods and types of bedding. You may notice that your hamster is sneezing and his eyes are watery but his behavior has not changed. He may have red feet and have dry, flaky skin with some hair loss. These symptoms point to allergies, which can be treated in various ways. First, your hamster may be allergic to his food. Try feeding him a simple diet with a reduction of protein. Easily digestible foods such as white rice or white bread, fruit and vegetables and cereal (like corn flakes) are favorable. Next, try changing your hamster's bedding; he may be allergic to the filler (such as sawdust). Other causes of allergies are strong odors such as cleaning agents, cologne and cigarette smoke. Once you determine what your pet is allergic to, removal of the irritant should provide relief.
Just like humans, hamsters are susceptible to colds and can actually catch a cold from you! A good preventive measure is to keep your hamster away from drafts and severe drops in temperature. Hamsters should be kept at a moderate room temperature. If your hamster has symptoms such as a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and lethargy, he most likely has the sniffles. He will probably be curled up in a corner and may feel cool to the touch. A cold in a hamster can quickly turn into life-threatening pneumonia. Therefore he must be treated immediately by first putting his cage in a warm area that is free from drafts. An artificial light source can be put near the cage and bedding material should be abundant to provide your hamster with additional warmth. A lukewarm solution of equal parts milk and water with a teaspoon of honey should be given to your hamster. Take your hamster to the veterinarian after two days if you don't see improvement.

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