Hamsters are pretty hardy little creatures. But, because they’re pretty itty bitty, when they develop an illness or get injured, things can escalate pretty quickly, and a should-be minor problem can become serious. This is why it’s important to make checking your hamster for any signs of disease, illness or injury, a routine. The faster you notice that there’s something wrong with your hamster, the faster you can treat it and they can be on the road to recovery. While hamsters aren’t really prone to injuries, they can and they do happen. Hamster skin abscesses are common with of any type of broken skin.
What is a Hamster Skin Abscess?
Basically, a skin abscess develops when the hamster’s immune system tries to heal over a wound before the actual infection has cleared. Pus starts to develop underneath their skin. The pus turns into a bump and the area around the bump begins to swell. This bump, my friends, is an abscess.
What Causes a Skin Abscess?
There are really three common causes of skin abscesses in hamsters.
- When hamsters have housemates (we recommend Syrian hamsters be housed individually). Abscesses most commonly present themselves when one hamster is bitten, scratched or wounded by another hamster.
- An injury caused by an object in the cage. Even a minor scratch can cause an abscess, which makes researching everything you place in your hamster’s living space even more important.
- Abrasive food material scratching the lining of the mouth.
Symptoms and Signs
They’re pretty easy to spot: it’s a bump on your hamster that’s not usually there. Cheek abscesses may be a little more difficult to notice, as you’re probably not constantly prying open your hamster’s mouth to look inside. Well, I hope you’re not. But, if your hamster looks like his cheeks are always full of food (think mumps), you may have an abscess on your hands. If left untreated, cheek abscesses can cause potential stomach issues down the road. They could be painful, too, and that may produce a lack of appetite.
Other symptoms include lethargy, not exercising and just an overall “down in the dumps” appearance. Trouble moving is common if the abscess is near the legs, trouble eating and drinking is common if the abscess is near or inside of the mouth. Depending on where the abscess is located, you’re likely to see different symptoms.
So How do I Treat it and What do I do to Prevent Them?
Although abscesses may sometimes start draining on their own, they absolutely require veterinary attention for proper draining, flushing and antibiotic treatment. It’s really important that you have your hamster's abscess treated ASAP. If it pops, further infection is a possibility, and further infection = no good for anyone.
Prevention is always the best medicine. Make sure that you’re cleaning any bites, any scratches, any wounds. We know they’re not always noticeable, but be on the lookout. Make sure you do your research, too. Abscesses can be prevented by providing your hamster a healthy, safe environment to live in.
So now that you know what to look for, you know what to do if you spot one. Non-cancerous skin abscesses are not life threatening if you act quickly and treat them right away. And we know that’s what you’ll do because you’re an A+ pet parent. Hats off to you.