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Hamster Health Problems You Can Look For

Updated on July 5, 2011

You are probably familiar with the more major hamster illnesses such as wet tail, diarrhea, or skin disease. But there are other hamster health problems that can make your pet sick, even if it never gets one of the other serious diseases.

Specifically, I mean:

  • Overgrown teeth
  • Overgrown nails
  • Matted fur
  • Hibernation

These are the types of hamster illnesses you can find on your own. You just have to take the time to carefully observe and look your pet over. If you become familiar with the signs of each of these hamster health issues, you can take action early – before they can hurt your hamster.

Petal's Teeth Check by LuLu Witch, on Flickr
Petal's Teeth Check by LuLu Witch, on Flickr | Source

Overgrown Teeth

Your hamster’s two incisor teeth will continue to grow throughout its life. Gnawing keeps those teeth filed and it’s the best way for a hamster to keep the incisors from growing too long. Without this gnawing, the teeth will continue to grow, eventually piercing the pet’s cheeks, mouth, or face. What’s more, the hamster will then have trouble eating and can starve to death.

So it’s in your best interest to give your hamster things to gnaw on. These can include:

  • Chew toys that are made of hard wood.
  • Small dog biscuits.
  • Treat blocks.
  • Hard foods, such as fresh pieces of carrots.

Keep checking your hamster’s mouth to make sure it’s not getting overgrown teeth. If you see the teeth are getting too long, you should take your hamster to a vet who can cut them back or show you how to do it.

Overgrown Nails

Especially as a hamster ages, its nails can begin to grow too long. One way you can tell the nails are getting too long is if you see they are starting to curl. Hamster claws that are too long can make it difficult to your hamster to get around or eventually hurt your hamster’s paws.

One solution is to line a separate hamster cage with fine sandpaper and let your hamster run around in it. As your pet runs around, the sandpaper can help file down the nails. Some people also try attaching the sandpaper to the inside of the exercise wheel. These solutions, however, depend on the activity level of your hamster.

You can clip overgrown nails, but you must be very careful not to cut too deeply or you may cause bleeding. A cat nail clipper is recommended. Or take your hamster to the vet and let him or her show you how to clip the overgrown nails safely.

Matted Fur

Although most often found in cats and dogs, hamsters can also get matted hair. It’s when the hamster’s fur starts to get tangled and then begins to form clumps. Then bedding starts to get caught in it and soon you have a real mess on your hands.

Matted hair can be a sign of hamster wet tail, especially if your hamster also has diarrhea. This condition would require an immediate trip to the vet. But if the hair has become matted through normal activity, such as climbing through bedding or hamster tubes, you may be able to take care of the condition yourself.

Using a small brush, try brushing out the mats. Be careful, as your hamster may try to bite you if you brush too hard.

For tougher mats, you may need to use a small pair of scissors to cut the mats out. This may require a helper to hold your hammy while you do the cutting.

Bathing your hamster is NOT recommended!


You probably know that bears hibernate in the winter. But if there is a sudden drop in the temperature in the hamster cage, your hamster can go into hibernation, even when the outside weather is warm.

Your hamster will appear to be very limp and hardly breathing. When you touch the hamster it will feel cold. You must immediately get the hamster warmed up.

  • Get your hamster into a warm room or warm part of the house.
  • Use your hands to briskly rub the hamster.

Another method is to put your hamster on a hot water bottle with a small towel between the hamster and the hot water bottle.

Eventually, your hamster should begin to wake up, first by opening its eyes, then by twitching, and finally taking some wobbly steps. Make sure water and food are available.

Prevent hamster hibernation by keeping the temperature range in your hamster cage between 72 and 78 degrees F (22 to 25 C). Don’t put the cage in a window where it can get drafty.


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