Eye problems can be common in hamsters, like in most animals. Since hamsters are so small, it’s important to know how to help your furry friend. Not only with an infection, but with any other eye problems as well.
Read on to find out how to help your hamster when and if he develops eye problems. My Teddy (Syrian male) had a sticky eye a couple of times, but he survived just fine.
Now let’s get into the various eye problems hammies can develop.
Treating your hamster’s eye infection
A hamster can develop an eye infection fairly easy. It can be from dirty bedding, which can be avoided by cleaning the hamster’s cage one per week.
It can also happen because of a stray bacteria on the hamster’s food, for example on a piece of apple or broccoli. Or it could be from many other reasons. The point is that your hamster has an infection and needs your help.
For the most part, an infection can be noticed if the eye is red, puffy, hot to the touch. If there is oozing and pus, you can be sure it’s infected.
The best thing to do is to bring your hamster to the vet as soon as possible, so he can prescribe a round of antibiotics. The treatment can last up to 2 weeks in some cases, and your hammy might be required to stay at the vet for a couple of days.
For future reference, the veterinarian you should look for is an exotics vet. This is the kind of vet that can help with your hamster, guinea pig, snake, and parakeet as well.
If you’ve got a Dwarf hammy and you’re keeping him with other hammies, make sure to separate the sick hamster. The infection can be contagious, and hard to deal with if all hamsters have it.
Until you reach your veterinarian, you can try using a saline solution to clean your hamster’s eyes. Saline solution is basically just distilled, salted water. It’s got almost the same structure as tears, and can be used to clean wounds.
Here’s how to make a batch of saline solution for your hamster:
- 250 ml/8.45 fl oz distilled water
- 2.5 g/0.008 oz table salt
- 2.5 g/0.008 oz baking soda
- very clean pot, washed with very hot water and soap beforehand
- sterile glass jar or cup to keep the saline solution in
- a set of clean cotton pads or cotton buds
You can use distilled water, or tap water. If you use tap water, be sure to boil it very, very well and them let it cool to room temperature. After that it can be considered sterile, and go on with the steps I’m describing.
- Heat the water (either distilled, or sterilized tap water), and dissolve the salt and baking soda
- Let cool to room temperature
- Store in the clean glass jar or cup
- Get a clean cotton pad or cotton bud, and dip it in the liquid. It needs to be wet, but not soaked so you get the hamster wet. A wet hamster is a very easy to get sick and doesn’t dry quickly.
- Clean and wipe the hamster’s eye until you can not see the pus. You’re going to have to scruff the hamster’s neck to keep him still.
- Use a clean pad or bud for each wipe ! You must keep the saline solution clean.
The solution is good for 24 hours, tops. If anything gets into it, or it looks odd or cloudy or dirty, throw it out and make a new one.
In the meantime, make sure you’ve got your vet on call if you need any extra info or guidance.
Do not use antibiotics you’ve got around the house ! Hamsters are different than humans, and not only require different doses but they also process medicine differently than us.
Hamster’s eye is closed shut (sticky eye)
A case of sticky eye can happen to anyone. This doesn’t necessarily mean your hamster’s got an infection. It could be that, but it’s likely something else.
The crusty part you see on your hamster’s eye is what develops on your eye as well when you sleep. Most of the time your eyes (and the hamster’s) don’t get stuck shut, But, sometimes it happens, and it can be painful.
Not only that, but it can get very frustrating for the hamster. He might try to paw at his eye and cause further damage.
In this case the solution is a lot like with the infection. Make a batch of saline solution, and keep it at room temp. Use clean cotton buds or pads to wipe at the hammy’s eye.
The difference is that the crust will have to soften. You will have to hold the pad soaked in saline solution for a few seconds on the hamster’s eye until it gives. Again, scruffing the hamster will help keep him still while you wipe his eye.
My Teddy had this a couple of times, and I didn’t know about the saline solution at first. I used one of those sterilized baby wipes you can get at the pharmacy. Not baby wipes from the supermarket !
Sterilized baby wipes will work too, just that you’ll have to keep switching the corner with which you’re wiping. And they dry out fairly quickly, so they’re not the best bet, but will do in a pinch.
Your hammy’s eye is red (pinkeye)
Conjunctivitis can be a problem in hamsters, as well as humans. It can be less dangerous than the infection we talked about earlier.
It can come about as an irritation because of dust in the bedding, a scratch, a small injury, an overgrown tooth. Anything, really, since conjunctivitis is just the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the eye.
You can tell your hammy’s got pink eye by the redness and swelling around the hamster’s eye – his eyelids, to be exact. In extreme cases the entire half of the face could be swollen.
Pink eye does not usually have any discharge, but don’t be surprised if you find some. Most of the time the discharge is clear in conjunctivitis.
This is a case to be treated by your veterinarian, and he’ll be able to give your hamster a good treatment. The saline solution works here too, you just have to keep cleaning the hamster’s eye.
Whatever was bothering the hammy’s eye will be flushed out this way, but it might not be enough, which is why a vet will be necessary.
This is another case where you should separate the sick hamster from the other hamsters.
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Odd white spots on your hamster’s eyes
Hamsters can get cataracts, which can cause problems when you’re hamster’s trying to see.
However a cataract, as far as I know, is not treatable. My Teddy never had one, so in this particular case it’s best to check with your veterinarian.
Get your hammy in his transport cage, and get him to a check-up so the vet can see if there’s other symptoms that might point to another problem.
You can tell your hamster’s got a possible cataract by the white spot developing on his eye. It could be both eyes, it could be just one, and it could be a larger spot, or just cloudy, blurred eyes.
In most cases, cataracts forms as the hamster ages.
Bulging eye/ one eye looks bigger
There are cases when one eye might look bigger, like it’s about to pop from the hamster’s head. I looks bad, and there’s an explanation for it.
The eyeballs have tissue surrounding them, and especially behind them. This can become inflamed, and push out the eye a bit. It can be painful for the hamster, but is treatable.
Your veterinarian will be able to give the hamster a treatment for this problem, but until then there is not much you can do for your friend.
The vet will need to be able to look behind the hamster’s eye to figure out what the problem is. In some cases it could be a tumor growing behind the eye, since hamsters can develop tumors as well.
Not all bulging eye cases mean a tumor, do no worry. It could just be a severe case of conjunctivitis.
You can track the progress of the eye with photos every few hours, to show to your vet once you get to him.
Hamster eyes are sensitive to light and temperature
When it comes to your hamster’s eyes, you should keep them away from harsh sunlight. Even daylight filtered through the curtains, if placed directly on the hamster’s eyes, can become painful.
Hamster eyes are not meant to be able to see in bright conditions, since they must survive in a dawn/dusk habitat.
So make sure you don’t turn on bright lights in your hamster’s room. And he does not need a nightlight, since he’s got his cage memorized and know where everything is. Even by smell and touch, he can still know where everything is.
Another benefit of keeping your hamster away from any bright sunlight is that cataracts and blindness will come much later. You can delay them by keeping your hamster’s eyes away from UV light.
That being said, make sure you do not keep your hamster in too cold a temperature. Even the Dwarf hammies that come from the cold parts of Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, and so on, will still need a certain temperature.
For hammies a good temperature is a range between 20-23 C/ 68-78 F, all year round. Make sure you keep your hamster in a room that keep this temperature, otherwise he can develop either sticky eye, or a form of conjunctivitis from a cold.
In some extreme cases, the hamster can get a case of hypothermia, and needs your immediate attention to survive. Please keep your hamster warm, but not too warm.
Keeping your hamster’s eyes safe and healthy
Aside from the light and temperature warnings, there are a few general precautions you should take. Your hamster’s eyes, while kind of useless for his navigation and daily life, are still capable of injury and infection.
Hammies are very sensitive animals. They don’t get sick often, but when they do, it’s terrible. Here’s how to keep your hammy’s eyes safe, healthy and clean.
Keep the bedding clean, and change it once per week. You can find out more about the safe kinds of bedding you can get for your hamster here. And also how and when to clean his cage.
Hamsters are very sensitive to dust, so bedding or toys that are dusty should be cleaned. Even if you let your hamster just roam the house in his exercise ball, make sure the floor is clean. Any debris or dust can get stuck inside the exercise ball, and get in your hammy’s ears, nose, or eyes.
Keep any toys or objects inside the hamster’s cage smooth. Especially if you’ve got wood objects in the hamster’s cage, they can get some rough edges that weren’t sanded down properly. Make sure you sand them down if need be.
What if your hammy becomes blind, or loses an eye ?
Hamsters can lose their sight with old age. The cataracts settle in, and they become completely blind. Or, maybe your hamster was born without eyes, or maybe he lost an eye in a terrible happening.
Whatever the case, your hamster can’t see anymore. You’re probably worrying if he’ll be alright, if he’ll manage to navigate his cage and lead a happy life.
Rest assured, hamsters can live their entire life without their eyesight. In a way, they already do – hamsters barely use their eyes, they use their noses and ears much more.
But if a hamster that used to see suddenly can’t see, there will be some changes:
- Always keep his cage the same way, since the hammy will memorize the layout of the cage. Any changes will make him stressed.
- Whenever you clean his cage add back in a bit of his old bedding, and his nesting too so he knows it’s his.
- Remove objects that need him to see. Like see-saws, or bridges, or climbing toys.
- Talk to your hamster much more often, before you get near him so he knows you’re coming
- Let him smell your hand before picking him up, and get in it himself. Otherwise he might panic at being suddenly picked up, even if he was okay before.
Know that your hamster friend might be a bit grumpy, now that he can’t see anymore. He might bit a bit, but no major changes should happen in his personality.
That being said, a blind hamster will not be very handicapped. He was already nearly blind from birth, so being completely blind doesn’t take away much from him.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for here, and know how to help your hammy friend if he ever gets an eye problem. I know us hammies can look like cute, cuddly creatures, but we do have our troubles. We count on you to help us out.
If you want to know more about us hamsters, you can check out the articles below for more info on how to properly care for us and keep us happy.