How to Care for a Sick Hamster

There are few things that are worse than having a sick hamster.  Knowing that your pet is not feeling well is both difficult and upsetting.  Here are some tips to help you try to make your pet feel better.

If you notice your hamster is ill, be sure to quarantine him.  This is a good reason why you should always have a quarantine tank set up.  This makes for quick isolation from the rest of the group.  (Having to either purchase or set up a quarantine tank can cause precious time to be lost, and hamsters often fall prey to illness very quickly.)  Isolation is desirable not only due to the fact that you want to keep your other pets healthy, but keeping your hamster in a quiet area away from others can help speed up his recovery.  Make sure you place your quarantine tank in a location away from other pets, other family members, bright light and noise.

Feeding: Sick hamsters often stop eating.  This can be fatal due to their small size.  Hamsters need to eat regularly so they can fight off infection and recover from their illness.  You can move their food dish closer to where they sleep so that they can reach it more easily.  You can also offer higher-calorie, easily eaten foods to help them keep up their calorie intake.  Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs (in small amounts), small bits of cooked chicken, and baby food (fruits or vegetables) can be offered.  Feed the baby food through a medicine dropper or an eye dropper.  If your hamster seems to be very hungry, keep feeding for a while, and then take a break then try to feed some more.  Do not let him eat and eat without a break.  It might make him worse.

Water: Liquids are even more important for your pet hamster.  Move the water bottle closer to where your hamster is sleeping, so he can drink more easily.  If your hamster is very weak, you can offer water via an eye dropper a small amount at a time.  You can also offer a weak solution of unflavored electrolyte (half water, half electrolyte solution).

Keeping your pet comfortable: Sometimes, when a hamster is not well, not eating and not drinking, he can become chilled.  This can even cause a hamster to go into hibernation.  You want to keep your hamster warm, but not too warm (which can lead to death by heatstroke).  Provide plenty of plain, unscented toilet paper.  You can tear it into strips for him.  He will use it to make a warm nest and curl up in it.  This can help him fight the cold feeling of the illness.

Limiting your pet’s activity: At times, it might be necessary to remove your hamster’s exercise wheel until he is feeling better.  Hamsters are known to exercise when ill, and this can actually result in injury or dehydration in your pet.

As always, contact your pet’s veterinarian if you have any concerns about your hamster, especially if your pet does not improve or gets worse.