Hamster Illness Can Be a Serious Matter
Although hamsters are pretty easy pets, they are very small, which means that injuries and illness can quickly become a serious matter. They are actually pretty good at hiding their illnesses until it's nearly too late, which is why it is important to keep a close eye on any changes in your pet's regular diet or routine.
If you notice any signs of illness in your hamster, you need to see a veterinarian as quickly as you can.
If you think that your little furry one is sick or injured, try to keep it warm. If you notice that it is not eating on its own, encourage it to take food or water by a dropper, until you can see a veterinarian.
Signs of Illness:
- Loss of appetite
- Huddling in a corner
- Ruffled or unkempt coat
- Discharge from the nose or eyes
- Wetness around the tail
- Hair loss
- Humped back
Common Hamster Illnesses
- Abscesses: These are pockets of infection that can form from minor breaks in the skin. In many cases, abscesses occur in the cheeks from cuts caused by food. If the hamster looks like it constantly has food in its cheek pouches, it may have an abscess, which a vet will need to drain.
- Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections can lead to pneumonia. You should watch for sneezing, discharge from eyes or nose, wheezing, and labored breathing. Don't worry about occasional sneezing, unless there is loss of appetite, decreased activity, wheezing or difficulties breathing accompanying it.
- Wet Tail: A wet tail is one of the more common hamster illnesses, most commonly caused by stress, crowding, and diet changes. Although it can be fatal if not noticed soon enough, it is curable. Watch for signs of diarrhea (causing wetness around the tail), lethargy, loss of appetite, a humped back, and a ruffled coat.
- Diarrhea: Not all hamsters who have diarrhea will have a wet tail. The most common cause of diarrhea in hamsters is the overfeeding of fresh vegetables. Unlike wet tail, there is no loss of appetite or decreased activity. For the most part, the hamster will appear normal. Do not let diarrhea stay for prolonged periods of time, as dehydration becomes a big concern. You will want to withhold fresh foods for a few days and resume only if the diarrhea is completely resolved; you can start giving fresh produce again, but slowly.
- Skin Diseases (including mites, ringworm, allergies, and skin infections): These are the most common skin illnesses associated with hamsters. Watch for flakiness or redness of the skin, hair loss, lesions on the skin, or if the hamster appears to be scratching more. In these cases you will want to see a vet to determine the exact cause of the skin concern. Pine and cedar bedding can cause skin irritation, as well as lung problems, so avoid these beddings.
- Hibernation: Watch the room temperature where the cage is. If the temperatures fall below normal, the hamster may go into a hibernating state, where they can appear very still and breathe more slowly. Your hamster is not dead or dying, in this case, but you will want to rewarm the hamster.
Makenna on June 20, 2020:
My hamster died on June 10th 2020
Phyllis on May 13, 2020:
My hamster is dying
AAMoss on May 03, 2020:
My daughter has a winter white we have had for several months. She is still eating but has more wet poop than usual. She does not appear to have a wet tail and her eyes and skin look good. We gave her new treats with veggies. Could this have caused it? Should I be concerned?
bhus15 on April 20, 2020:
I've been noticing a weird swollen anus on my new Syrian hamster, Tyson. I don't think it's a rectal prolapse because nothings coming out of it. It's just puffy and red. He has also has a bit of a damp tail. Tyson is behaving normally, eating, drinking, sleeping and being his peppy self. I'm just worried. Help, please.
Me on April 09, 2020:
My hamsters penis is larger than normal and is a purple blue color. Kind of like a bruise. He is a tan and white long haired syrian that is two years old. Does anyone know is this is just normal or I need to seek help? Thanks in advance
Hamlet (The Hammy's Name) on January 31, 2020:
hi guys, I have a teddy bear hamster and his fur is matting and his back is kinda hard and he is struggling to walk. it is almost like a scab that spreads. i am using a medicine on him and it seems to be helping but if anyone know what it is that would be great. I have been trying to research this disease for hours. if I know what it is it would really help me research this disease so I can cure this little guy faster. Thank you! I hope all the other hamsters do well also!
Sarah on December 21, 2019:
My hamsters breathing is decreased breaths and his hands are turning yellow
Hi on December 12, 2019:
My hamster has a red spot on its belly and a brown smudge on its but can’t be poo can it? Should I be worried ?
Saskeya on July 13, 2019:
Ive got a syrian hamster that had 5pups. They are 25 days old today & one of the pups still hasn't opened his eye's. Iv bathed them with warm water 5days ago & again today, but still closed. Any suggestions as im getting quite worried for him.
chi the hamster on June 20, 2019:
Chi is a Chinese dwarf hamster. about a week ago I took him out of his home to play and he looked fine. very active, eyes wide and back flat. just today, about a week later, I took him out again and I noticed he looked tired but when I looked closer I realized he had goo around his eyes and he kept them mostly closed although being able to open them. he also had an arched back. he’s rarely active while in his cage, he used to be a lot more, but now he just sleeps and comes out to eat or drink. I’m worried about him. this happened to my friends hamster, except hers had hair loss around the nose. mine doesn’t. I’m going to take him to the vet tomorrow, should I be worried? does anyone know what this is? I’ve had him for about the year and I’m afraid his time is coming but i don’t want it to be because of sickness. help?
Mary on June 08, 2019:
My hamsters tail is hard, and walking with her but in the air, looks like puss coming from her butt. She seems to be eating ok
Kamryn on May 10, 2019:
My hamster (Izzy) all around her eyes are puffy red. She sleeps a lot and she has more energy then normal. When she has all this energy I put her in her ball and she doesn't move. Is there something wrong with her
Bobo McCuddles on April 29, 2019:
my hamster is throwing up and is making a mess
Cloey Miller on April 27, 2019:
My hamster is not moving much she is very cold to the touch and stays in the corner she has not eaten or drank anything for about 3 days when I talk to her or when she try’s to walk on her own she shakes VERY badly and it scared me what should I do?
Annie on April 21, 2019:
my hamster is awake during the day and asleep at night aren't hamsters nocturnl?
Oni on April 18, 2019:
My hamster does long deep squeakes in her sleep and i wake her up and get her out because I’m scared she is struggling in her sleep but I got her out today and she was sneezing continuously and clear snot was flying everywhere. And her mouth is all surrounded be saliva. Sometimes she will do a little jump when she sneezes. There aren’t any exotic vets that I know of in my area and I need help
Madelyn on April 15, 2019:
Please help me. I have a male Russian Dwarf, almost a year old. He recently got out of his cage for at most a day and a half while I was at my mothers house and he hasn’t been the same since. His back in hunched, I haven’t seen him touch his food, but he seems to stay in one area, not moving much. He won’t run on his wheel and he usually doesn’t let me pick him up or pet him, but recently hes been limp and doesn’t do anything when I pick him up. When I first found him he was in a corner, shaking, awake but his eyes didn’t open. I gave him food, which he didn’t eat, I set him in front of his water and he sat there and drank for over an hour. His eyes are darely opened now and it’s been a day. He hasn’t been active, hasen’t eaten, and has stayed in the same spot. I plann on bringing him to the vet tomorrow but I’m scared for his health, maybe he ate something while he was out or something else happened?
... on April 15, 2019:
My hamster has been sneezing a lot sorta lately. im kind of scarded that hes gonna die but ya. I think he puked too, so I trying to change up his diet and try to go on a heathier habbit. the good thing is that he is not dehydrated. he is definitally drinking enough water.
Hamster owner on March 22, 2019:
My hamster is laying on its side with his eyes open and breathing heavily. What do I do?
Mr.hammie on January 23, 2019:
My hamster was just squeaking like crazy and was moving around crazy and I think his fur got stuck in the tube but I’m scared
Jovita on January 08, 2019:
So, my hammy recently had diarrhea but I’m pretty sure it’s not a wet tail since her bottom isn’t wet/has poo. Also, my brother has been bothering my hammy a lot. Idk if my hammy did diarrhea because of stress from my brother or something, can someone tell me if my hammy is sick?
ana hamster on January 07, 2019:
my hamster has a red hole close to the eye and i dont know what to do
hamsters?Love? on January 02, 2019:
my hamster has something in his ear but it is not a animal.It seems to me that it looks like when people wake up in the morning. It looks like eye bougers.
frances yozawitz on December 27, 2018:
I love hamsters.
evie on December 15, 2018:
my hamster has a red spot on his tummy and it looks like a scab but it feels weird and wet but my dad act like he don't care and he say just to put on antibiotic ointment
hi on December 05, 2018:
hamster is huddled in corner and not moving and red stuff on cage walls
J_bear301 on December 04, 2018:
My hamster died and after i had clean out the cage, where it died i saw puke! :(
what does it mean??????
Becky Little on December 04, 2018:
My hamster has a sticky eye. I wipe it daily with warm water. She is not eatting. Not active at all. She has a wet tail and lost hair on the underside of her. She is about 2+ yrs old. And I'm worried she may be dying? Any answers in this, please x
Tobster18 on November 21, 2018:
Just an FYI to everyone if you believe that something is wrong with you’re hamster, please get it checked out by the vet. It’s the best thing to do when in doubt. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Brette on November 13, 2018:
Hi my hamster is puking a lot and I don’t know why to do. I am really scared cause I don’t want him to die
Em on November 12, 2018:
my hamster has scabs on her butt and has hair loss she also has a cage to her self what is the cause of this
HamsterAlive3 on October 27, 2018:
My hamster is walking weird. He doesn’t have that much energy. But I’ve seen her eating
HamsterAlive3 on October 27, 2018:
My hamster is walking around weard and he doesn’t have any energy
but she’s eating
(I will try to answer people in the comments)
Jay hinkle on October 06, 2018:
Ight im only a teen so this comment might look a bit like a text but, of ur hamster is biting i could be cuz ur hands smeel like food, or they dont like the smeel of the soup ur useing, it could also be if there in a small cage im useing to preety big bin cages that i made into a double decker bin cage but i big cause in biteing all depends on the hamsters first impression,they say this pets are good for kid i say fuck no they by the little cute colored cages that are way to small and play with them like dolls... gheh have feels and get scared E.Z, i have allway left my hamster alone unless he wants to come out then ill lay my hand flat in the cage if he gets on he want out if not then he doesn't, if there just doing there own thing dont swoop in like a halk and pull him out they'll feel threatened
Anonymous on October 02, 2018:
My hamster is all fine but it keeps biting me no matter what I do
Ellen Seubold on September 30, 2018:
my hamster is biting me he is active and he is shaking. What is wrong with him??????
Ai Lin on September 25, 2018:
My hamster peels his seeds but doesn’t eat what does that mean???
HARRY POTTER on September 25, 2018:
Dear alexis Rodrigues my hamster is doing the same thing I need help
Holly on September 23, 2018:
My hamster has got a lot skinnier and the back of its back fur is going white. She lives in her cage with her sister and her sister is still all good. Does anyone know what this is or how to help
Alexis Rodriguez on September 21, 2018:
My hamster is huddled in a corner a lot. She doesn't want to eat or drink water. She also can not really move and it looks like she is in pain.She has been like this since last night. What is wrong with her? Please help me
katrina maloney on September 17, 2018:
sarahhxox, your hamster needs to be taken to the vet, he or she has "wet tail". You can look it up, but if your hamsters' stool is not solid, he/she is sick.
sarahhxox on September 10, 2018:
My hamster is always sleeping!! Shes in a corner a lot but sometimes in her house. She rarely goes on her wheel and doesnt eat a ton. She has a wet bum a lot and poops a lot and starts to smell a couple days (2-3) after i clean her cage. My hamsters broken whats going on
harry on September 05, 2018:
my hamster has a red almost pimple like thing just above his private part and i don't know what it is please help.
Lolita on August 14, 2018:
I have a question, why my hamster is vomiting all the time (2 times) ??
Enkeo on August 12, 2018:
My hamster has a pink and black dotted thing in his ear Ivegot looked at it many times each Dayan day now it looks like it has dried up,
I don’t know if something got in his ear, or a infection, or it’s part of his ear
Mandy on August 11, 2018:
My robo dwarf hamster seems to have a slightly yellow bum and he also sleeps a lot I don’t know if this is a sign of wet tail or anything pls help!
Hi I’m Linny on August 09, 2018:
HI I came back from vacation and my hamster had this yellow scab on her back I thought it was fine cause scabs go away so I let it be and it just kept growing!? Now her skin is red and she’s loosing a lot of hair she hasn’t been very active either pls help!!
Hi I'm christena on August 08, 2018:
My hambster has brown or orange fur around its butt but it fur was always grey and white i dont know if its a sickness please help
Korona on August 08, 2018:
Hi Um My Hamster Has A Bone Sticking Out Of Her Chest What Does That Mean?
A person on August 07, 2018:
Help my robo drawrf hamster has a red butt and its swollen and i dont know what to do help!
bethrushbrook on August 06, 2018:
my russian dwarf hamster called lupin has a big red thing coming out of his penis and i dont know what to do in everything else he is doing normally in his eating habits and his sleeping is normal but i didnt know wether it is something to worry about.
something else he has is a spot thing on the corner of his eye he has had it once before and it went away after a month or so but now he has had it for about a month and a half and its not going away so is it anything i need to worry about
Alli on July 22, 2018:
What happens if your male hamster has his little testicles hot and warm?? Is there a treatment you can give to the hamster?
Syrena on July 16, 2018:
i have A LOT OF GERBILS and I don't know if this also for gerbils
Casey on June 16, 2018:
My Russian dwarf hamster misty has been sqealing really high pitched and he has a small white dot in his eye a hunched back but we have had him for 2 years now I don’t know what to do
Zachary Tanaka on June 07, 2018:
Hello. My hamster (which is a long haired teddy bear which is around 1 year old) has been noticeable drinking large amounts of water and losing her apatite. Although she is active, she will not eat treats or much food and refuses to stay away from her water bottle. I have looked up the symptoms but I have got nothing definitive. Please help!
carlehe on May 28, 2018:
hi my hamster has lost its apppetite and is huddling in a corner and barely moves anymore could this be a sighn of death
Kate on May 27, 2018:
Hello, My hamster has been around for about a year now, but I'm not sure if it is getting old or something else. Behind it's ear, it is red and has red marks we are not sure how it got that. And it's eyes have been closed for a few days, and it keep rolling around in it's hay and it keeps squeaking.
Kayleigh F on May 26, 2018:
Hey, my boyfriend bought a beautiful creamy grey Russian Dwarf hamster who we've had for over 6 months now, therefore, she's very loved and will be dearly missed if she dies. Sadly we recently noticed a lump on the side of her stomach near her rear leg. We took her to the vets and the vets claimed it was a tumor and had given my boyfriend a painkiller (Metacam) and an antibiotic (Baytril) we've been giving it to her as the vet recommended us to do and it has been helping to make the tumor smaller. However new serious symptoms have popped up and is, therefore, looking for opinions and ideas on what to. We are in the process of getting surgery for the tumor to be removed but the cost has made us have to wait longer and the symptoms will cause an issue for us and the vets.
Currently, at the moment, she is unable to eat and visible signs of weight loss are seen. Her eyes are almost always close as if unable to open. She is bleeding from her vagina area which is a worrying us. Shes also drinking a LOT of water and doesn't go far. She's shaking and seems unable to move to places where she usually can. This is causing me and my boyfriend and his family a lot of concern. At the moment we believe its either her teeth are too long or its possible sides effects of the medicines, however, we aren't vets nor had hamsters long enough to be considered professional hamster handlers. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated thank you!!
Luke on May 21, 2018:
My hamster has a green spot right next to her privet parts. She is a dwarf hamster.
Lola on May 19, 2018:
My hamster has become very skinny. She doesn’t eat or poop. She is about a year old. I’m very concerned please help.
Pleasent on May 11, 2018:
My hamster Cashmier was fine yesterday but the day before that he hand the biggest lump I ever seen and it smelled likes death and i couldn't take it so i thew in the wilderness
Jessica on April 29, 2018:
I need help. I think my hamster is sick because he has a weird eye, he has loss of hair on his chest and lots of parts of his body. He is really skinny and he sleeps a lot I don't see him eat a lot he barely eats he barely drinks any water idk if this is bad or not but I try to make him at least nibble of his food. He is really aggressive when I try to touch him. Help my hamster plz :(
Julia on April 19, 2018:
My youngest baby hamster his or her fur is t
Mary Helen Mena on April 17, 2018:
I have a female hamster; she is about 1 year and a couple months old. She was fine a couple days ago, but yesterday I noticed she was very thin (even though she always has a lot food and water),and her eyes were closed with a sticky discharge. I took her to the vet and he told me she has parasites and infection because of the parasites. He dewormed her and gave me antibiotics to treat the infection. She doesn’t want to eat or drink water and is walking funny.I checked her pouches to see if there was something wrong in her mouth, and everything was fine. No wet tail, no visible trauma, no ear discharge, no visible diarrhea (her bottom is clean), no visible skin problem. I need help, there’s no small animal vets around and I don’t want my hamster to die.
Thanks in advance.
Jenaeha on February 26, 2018:
my black bear hamster had a big bump under her skin and she had a scar on the bump but today when she scratched it the scar came off the bump disappeared but black liquid started to come from her cheek please help me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
gabe on February 19, 2018:
my hamster has suddenly slowed down in eating and does not want to play and is huddled in a corner it has been cold lately but I'm worried what is wrong with my hamster
kake on February 17, 2018:
my hamster has two lumps under his armpits inside his skin. I recently find them and pus is coming out. I cant afford a vet. What should I do?
Brent on January 21, 2018:
My Hamster has a lot of poop lodged in it bum and sleeps all the time her fur is not like satin anymore and her urine stinks even though I wash her and her cage regular. Please help what could be the cause?
Leigh on December 31, 2017:
My hamster Butterscotch is very sick, I can tell. She isn't her normal self. She had diarrhea and her bottom area was wet and poop around her tail. Gave her a Luke warm bath on her bottom only, yesterday and gave her fresh water and change her cage, since she and her cage smelled. Today she is hardly moving and keeping her eyes shut. She is in a warm blanket right now, just sleeping, not moving at all. She would normally crawl all over the place when she was happy. That why I can tell somethings wrong. Please help!!!
g.f. on December 07, 2017:
charlie. for his ear infection try rubbing the visible part gently with a cotton swab until it comes out
g.f. on December 07, 2017:
nevermind he died
Charlie on December 05, 2017:
My hamster Oreo is sick and I can't afford a vet right now. He has scabs on him, smells weird, his food looks weird sometimes and he is a lil flaky. He also has a very bad ear infection. What medicine can I give him?
g.f. on November 25, 2017:
i woke up recently to see my hamsters back hunched and him walking sluggishly. other than that he seemed fine but the next day he was standing in the corner not moving, when i tried to pick him up he squealed at me and proceeded to lie on his back. during this he peed and i noticed it was extremely dark, meaning he was dehydrated. after he calmed down i tried to give him some water but he refused. he seems like he's in a lot of pain and constantly squeals without anyone touching him.
i dont know whats wrong and im worried. there aren't any vets less than an hour away and even if there were, i couldnt afford it.
if you have any answers or a similar experience please tell me.
ME on November 17, 2017:
my hamster started looking sick yesterday, he/she has his/her eyes are almost closed, she/he doesn't sleeps for 3 seconds then wakes up, I don't know wats going on with him/her. right now he/she is sleeing in a blanket wraped around with a hand knit "scarf" I'm afraid she/he is going to die!!!
Noelle on November 07, 2017:
My hamster sometimes is very still and cold but still alive, then in a couple hours he will be back to normal! What’s going on?? Is this hibernation?
hamstercareperson on October 18, 2017:
please someone help my hamster is sneezing and is ahving hard time breathing
Alex on October 15, 2017:
I'm scared my hamster is huddling in her bed 24-7 and highly aggerasave when I was checking on her and she's limping
Nathan on October 12, 2017:
My hamster could barely open eyes leading up to his passing.
When you check on your hamster daily , check to see if their eyes are clean. If the can't see they will stop eating.
amy on October 10, 2017:
My hamster has a red eye and it's sticky, the red eye issue has been going on for about 2 weeks and now she doesn't open that eye (rarely)
Plz help me, i can find much information
Megan on September 28, 2017:
My hampster looks like it's loosing hair underneath and on it's butt and it looks kinda like its real dry but I don't see him itch tht much and he sleeps a lot
Christian on September 06, 2017:
I have a hamster,
And What I had noticed to her that she's not comfortable, and her skin looks dry, she always scratch her body. I think that makes her uncomfortable. What should i do?
I think She's Sick.
Isha on September 01, 2017:
My hamster was about 18 months, Last few days, I noticed him not running on his wheel, he just sit on the side of the cage. Lately, he peed on his favorite area (where there's few sands) and I suddenly saw him laying there, his hands and foot are shaking but the right foot and body are stiff, I think it's stroke or what, he's eyes won't close after I cleaned it with cotton buds because it was teary that almost close his eyes. His bottom is dirty and wet, but I think it's because he peed lately. He is stiff and can't move his body but he is trying to stand, to move! What is happening to my hamster? Please help!
Summer on August 04, 2017:
My hamster has black balls and I do not know what to do
Alexa on August 04, 2017:
My hamster keeps clawing the top of his cage then falling down what should I do? I opened his cage and he just looks out then trys to escape! Then i put him back in and close it but he goes down his cage then goes back up and does it again!
lui on July 28, 2017:
Hello what if my hamster keeps on spinning her body and cant stand up and walk properly she also cant move her body on the other side i think her neck is broken or something else. What should i do i cant afford a vet
Hey guys on July 25, 2017:
Taz is breathing rapidly. What should I do now? Here in Kuwait I don't have access to any of vets here.
Just Curious on July 17, 2017:
My hamster is scratching a lot but isn't losing any fur or anything else
kim on July 16, 2017:
my hamster is not eating and its hart is to fast and i am sad?
Sarah on July 11, 2017:
My hamster is not showing ANY signs of illness apart from sneezing alot, is this normal?
Cameo on June 27, 2017:
I sometimes get bothered by some things that say, if your hamster has so and so, take them to the vet. I get bothered because there are not a lot of vets that take hamster, and if they do, they probably only have a tiny bit more experience then you, so your paying all that money when you can just go look up how to do it on the internet, and buy some medicines yourself. So for all the people who say, go to the vet, you are not useful at all. This is a useful website, but what would make it better is if you add how you can prevent these, and some remedies.
Hannah on June 04, 2017:
For all those people who are saying that their pets appear to be ill, then take your hamster to the vet IMMEDIATELY! It may not be anything serious, but get it checked out by a medical professional to help your hamster have a better quality of life
Katie on June 01, 2017:
hello my hamster is losing its hair and is so much pain that she hisses at me and falls over if you touch her and her stomach looks like her skin is been breaking and starting to bleed what could be the cause of this i'm at a loss
Sai on May 23, 2017:
My hamster is bleeding from his main part it seems like he is got a cut . Secondly it seems like something has happen to his eye cuz he doesn't blink at all ( both eyes) . The left eye seems like it will just come out . Please help
Racie on May 08, 2017:
Hello my hamster has been losing his fur and has a hunched back walks like it hurts to walk. Walks like he is in pain and has a knot like in his mouth and neck and cheek area. He is skinny and I am not sure what to do? He sleeps a lot and seems like he is ills can you give me some advice.
tamzin on May 05, 2017:
Hi my hamster is going on like he wants 2 thow up or is chucking what do I do
Lillian on May 01, 2017:
My hamster hasnt been active for 3 days she seems fater then usual what can i do
Rebecca on April 19, 2017:
Hi my hamster took a turn yesterday he seems to be breathing really heavy and lifeless what can I do if anything
Kimberley on April 18, 2017:
Hi I have a hamster and he keeps going to climb and looses his balance and keeps doing it any one had this before
karina on April 10, 2017:
In the morning my hamster will act drunk,and not watch out for herself.She will run around like crazy and bight anything she sees... any suggestions?
Sally on April 07, 2017:
My hamster all of a sudden started looking really weak when he was trying to get water. He was wobbling and looked as if his legs wernt working as well as usual. any suggestions?
Health & Illness
A chinchilla can live a long healthy life when you supply it a well balanced diet, nice home, and lots of love and attention. Making sure a chinchilla is well cared for is the best preventative medicine. Unfortunately, even if you give your pet everything he needs, injury or illness may occur.
Common symptoms of illness include a poor coat, diarrhea, constipation, unusual fecal matter, not eating or drinking, trouble breathing, and lethargy. If you suspect illness or injury, seeking veterinary advice is always recommended. Below are some of the more common health problems that affect chinchillas.
If chinchillas do not get along a fight may occur. These fights can lead to bites and if a bite is deep enough it can become infected. Clean the wounds with an antiseptic and keep it clean and dry. If you see signs of infection, contact a veterinarian.
Bloat is caused by an excessive gas build up in the gastrointestinal tract. Causes of bloat are a rapid change in diet, feeding gas producing foods, infections or obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms are severe pain, gurgling in the stomach, laying down, rolling, and a reluctance to move.
The long bone of the hind leg is the most common broken bone in chinchillas. It is very thin and will break easily. Breaks can happen from rough play, improper handling, a limb getting caught in a cage, or any other accident. A broken bones requires veterinary treatment.
Chinchillas can not vomit or regurgitate so if food gets caught in a chinchilla’s wind pipe he can quickly suffocate and die. Symptoms are drooling, retching, difficulty breathing and refusal to eat.
Constipation is usually caused by a lack of roughage in the diet. Increasing fiber and roughage will relieve the symptoms. Symptoms are straining to defecate and passing feces that are hard and dry and may have blood in them.
Dehydration is a lack of water in a chinchilla’s body. It can be caused by diarrhea, excessive heat, and illness. Dehydration can be a life threatening condition.
Chinchillas with diarrhea can quickly become dehydrated. Symptoms are loose, watery stool, lethargy, dull coat, and dehydration.
The most common problems with a chinchilla’s ears is from infection. Symptoms are pain, rubbing the ears, loss of balance, and head tilt.
Eye problems can result from a variety of things including dust, injury, infection, irritation or a vitamin A deficiency. Symptoms can be eye discharge, dull cloudy eyes, and squinting.
A chinchilla can get sore feet from wire cage flooring, wire exercise wheels, or coarse bedding. Solid floors, solid exercise wheels, and paper based bedding is the easiest way to prevent the condition.
Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is often caused by bad food or a change in diet. Symptoms are diarrhea, pain, loss of weight, and dehydration.
Chinchillas swallow hair while grooming. These hairs can stick to each other in the stomach and may eventually form a hairball. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, depression, lethargy and pain.
Chinchillas handle cold weather better than hot weather due to their heavy coat. When temperatures get too high they can overheat creating a life threatening situation. Symptoms of heatstroke include drooling, lying stretched out, rapid breathing, reddened eyes and ears. The chinchilla can become weak and comatose. To cool him down, submerge him from the neck down in cool, not cold, water.
A twisting of the intestines is usually caused by long term constipation or gastroenteritis. The intestinal twisting is very painful and life threatening.
When a chinchilla has bad diarrhea or constipation its rectum may become red, swollen, and protrude. If left untreated, the protrusion can lead to the death of your pet.
Respiratory infection is often caused by overcrowding, poor ventilation, drafts, high humidity or excess moisture in the cage. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, eye discharge, nasal discharge, fever, sneezing, and shivering. A treatment of antibiotics may be necessary to combat the illness.
Ringworm is a fungus that can cause hair loss. It is contagious to humans and other pets. Symptoms are hair loss, scaly skin patches and scabs.
Chinchillas can have excessive shedding as a response to stress. Large amounts of fur can be lost from stress.
A chinchilla’s teeth grow continuously throughout its life. If your chinchillas teeth become overgrown, are not straight, or wear unevenly they can grow into the soft tissues of the mouth. This can be very painful and symptoms include drooling, trouble swallowing, weight loss, not eating, bad breath, or protruding teeth. It is possible for a chinchilla to starve to death without treatment. Providing safe chew toys for your chinchilla is the best way to keep his teeth in check.
If a chinchilla eats bad, moldy or rough hay, he can develop a stomach ulcer. bad hay, moldy hay or coarse hay they can develop stomach ulcers. Ulcers can be difficult to detect and the only symptom may be a poor appetite.
When a chinchilla’s fur becomes wavy and weak it is usually a result of too much protein in the diet. Over time, a healthy balanced diet can restore the fur to its normal appearance.
Symptoms of Poor Hamster Health or Illness - pets
Recognizing Common Signs of Illness in Pet Rodents
Shawn P. Messonnier, DVM
Paws and Claws Animal Hospital 2145 W. Park Blvd. Plane, TX 75075
- Diagnosing diseases in pet rodents (rats, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils) is essentially the same as in dogs and cats. The differential diagnoses are based on the patient's history and clinical signs as well as conditions common to each species. In this article, I describe common clinical signs in pet rodents and how to diagnose and treat the conditions that usually cause them.
How to administer fluid therapy: Fluid therapy can be vital in treating sick rodents. Fluids can be given subcutaneously, intraperitoneally, or intraosseously. Vascular access in small pet rodents makes intravenous therapy impractical. Intraosseous access is easily accomplished in anesthetized patients (use general anesthesia or local anesthesia in depressed pets) by inserting a spinal needle or a 20- to 22-ga needle into the femur through the trochanteric fossa. Fluids can be given subcutaneously or intraperitoneally at a loading dose before discharging a patient for home care. Any balanced electrolyte solution is practical lactated Ringer's solution can be administered at 10 ml/100 g of body weight/day for maintenance.
Collecting blood samples: Blood collection is not routinely performed in pet rodents because it is difficult to access peripheral veins in these species and because only a small quantity of blood can be safely removed from a sick rodent. Blood samples can be taken from the nail, tip of the tail, ventral tail artery, ear vein (in guinea pigs), orbital sinus (in anesthetized patients), dorsal vein of the penis (in anesthetized guinea pigs), jugular vein (in guinea pigs), cranial vena cave (in guinea pigs), or saphenous vein (in anesthetized guinea pigs a cut-down may be needed). Orbital sinus collection has potential complications, and clipping the tail is usually unnecessary. The ventral tail artery is the vessel of choice. In pet rodents, total blood volume is about 6% to 7% of body weight (e.g. 3 to 4 ml in a 60-g gerbil). Up to 25% of this amount can be safely collected every two weeks (ea. 0.9 ml in a 60-g gerbil). Replace blood volume subcutaneously or intraperitoneally with an equal amount of a balanced electrolyte solution.
When a pet rodent dies: Most pet rodent owners are amazed that an animal that seemed healthy the night before can be semicomatose and near death the next day. When a pet rodent dies (or an owner chooses euthanasia), offer a necropsy to ascertain the cause of death and to determine whether a zoonotic disease (e.g. salmonellosis, hymenolepiasis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis), although rare, was involved. Necropsy findings can not only comfort many owners but provide useful information for practitioners.
Differential diagnoses are based on history, clinical signs, and knowledge of conditions common to species.
Handling and physical examination
Pet rodents need special handling and restraint. Lift guinea pigs with one hand under the trunk, and one under the hindquarters. Pick up hamsters by cupping the hamster, holding loose skin at nape, or by gripping over the back. (Hamsters can turn and bite even when held by nape.) To restrain/pick up rats, mice, and gerbils, hold them either at the base of the tail or the nape. Large rats can be held by putting one hand over the back and ribcage and supporting the trunk with the other hand. Immediately release any rodent that struggles. Get an accurate weight, check teeth, and auscult with a pediatric stethoscope.
Common clinical signs
Obtain a history, perform a complete physical examination, and obtain a skin scraping/fungal culture (especially if pruritus present). Skin biopsies (use isoflurane anesthesia) may be more cost effective and diagnostic than skin scraping/fungal culture.
Common causes are mange, ringworm, bacterial dermatitis, cervical lymphadenitis, pododermatitis, lice infestation, nasal dermatitis, and skin cancer
Demodectic mange in older pet rodents usually signifies underlying internal disorder
|Type of skin lesion||Animals affected||Diagnosis/Treatment|
|Alopecia||Hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs||Skin scraping, fungal culture, skin biopsy treat for subsequent diagnosis|
|Scaling without pruritis||Hamsters gerbils, guinea pigs||Skin scraping, fungal culture, skin biopsy treat for subsequent diagnosis|
|Scaling with pruritis||Hamsters gerbils, guinea pigs||Bathe with an antipruritic or mild antiseborrheic shampoo labeled for cats and/or give ivermectin (200 400 m g/kg SC in two treatments 10 14 days apart). Ivermectin treatment may be diagnostic for mange if the lesions resolve.|
|Abscesses (submandibular or cervical lymphadenitis)||Guinea pigs||Caused by Streptococcus zooepidemicus.|
Gerbils (Demodex spp.)
*Demodectic mange: Amitraz (Mitaban Т ) (250 ppm as a whole body dip, once a week, continuing for 4 weeks after a negative skin scraping).
Whole body treatment: 2% lime-sulfur or 1% chlorhexidine, topical application
Local lesions: use topical creams (Tresaderm Т or Conofite Т )
Bite wounds primary skin infections possible.
Enlarged, edematous, and erythematous food pads, with crusting, hemorrhage, or ulceration. Advanced cases have a poor prognosis due to difficult treatment and occurrence of systemic amyloidosis from chronic infection.
Treatment: topical antibiotic rinses (diluted chlorhexidine or diluted povidone-iodine), systemic antibiotics (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or trimethoprim-sulfadiazine at 30 mg/kg PO BID or enrofloxacin 10 mg/kg PO BID), and soft, frequently-changed bedding.
Alopecia on the nose and muzzle and no other lesions. Caused by rubbing the cage or burrowing or excess secretion or accumulation of the harderian gland secretions.
Treatment: place pet in a smooth sided cage with soft bedding (shredded newspaper), decrease humidity (normal is 40 - 50%).
Staphylococcus spp. infection
Alopecia with erythema, oozing, crusting, scaling, abscessation, fistulation, or ulceration.
Tumors are common. Rats develop tumors more often than do mice or other pet rodents.
Rats: mammary gland fibroadenomas
Mice: mammary adenocarcinomas
Guinea pigs: trichofolliculomas (a solitary lesion in the dorsal lumbar region with alopecic and crusted skin overlying the tumor keratinous material or hemorrhagic exudate may come from a central pore) neoplasms of the lungs, reproductive tract, mammary glands, & hematopoietic system
Hamsters: nodal lymphosarcomas, adrenal cortical tumors, and uterine adenocarcinomas rarely, cheek pouch neoplasia
Gerbils: squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas, and female reproductive tract neoplasms
Diagnosis of solid tumors: fine-needle aspiration & cytologic exam excisional biopsy/surgical removal & histopathologic exam
Other diagnostic aids: blood tests, radiographic and/or sonogram examinations, biopsies, and post mortem examinations
Tumor removal is usually curative, but depends on the tumor type.
Respiratory problems are commonly noted by owners. Clinical symptoms range from mild nasal or ocular discharge to anorexia, lethargy, dyspnea, and increased respiratory sounds upon auscultation (dry or moist rales, wheezing).
Guinea pigs: Bordetella spp. and Streptococcus spp.
Rats and mice: Mycoplasma spp.
Other rodents: Streptococcus spp., Pasteurella spp., and Corynebacterium spp.
Other causes: viruses, heat stress, allergies, pregnancy toxemia (guinea pigs only), and irritation from bedding material
Diagnosis: history, clinical signs, and radiographic exam
Systemic antibiotics - Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or trimethoprim-sulfadiazine at 30 mg/kg PO BID
Ophthalmic drops/ointments - Tetracycline, chloramphenicol, gentamicin
Added treatments for more severe cases (dyspnea, anorexia, lethargy):
Fluid therapy - Give a balanced electrolyte solution (lactated Ringers solution) at 10 ml/100g body weight/day for maintenance use subcutaneous, intraperitoneal, or intraosseous (anesthetized patients only) routes.
Warm patient in incubator warming ( ° F)
Give parenteral antibiotics: enrofloxacin 10 mg/kg SC BID
Supply oxygen therapy
Give supplemental vitamin C (50 100 mg/pet IM BID) to all sick guinea pigs
Advise owner that prognosis is guarded to poor with severe disease.
Chromodacryorrhea (red or bronze tears from pigment in lacrimal secretions) is commonly seen in respiratory disease.
Usually seen in rats may be seen in mice and gerbils
Caused by illness, stress, or sialodacryoadenitis virus.
Signs: red/bronze tearing, squinting, blinking, eye rubbing, sneezing
Treatment: Antibiotic (tetracycline) ophthalmic ointment
Mycoplasma spp. ocular infections
Treatment: Antibiotic (tetracycline) ophthalmic ointment
Gerbils: ocular disorder associated with inflammation, enlargement, or prolapse of the harderian gland
Treatment: surgical removal of the gland
Caused by overgrown incisors (all rodents) and/or premolars or molars (guinea pigs only)
Malocclusion of cheek teeth can be caused by hereditary factors, tooth injury, infection of the oral cavity, and severe malnutrition.
Dx: otoscopic exam radiographic exam
Treatment: trim every 4 6 weeks using a dental drill, rotary tool, or rongeurs on a sedated or anesthetized patient
Chew sticks or wood pieces may help prevent overgrow incisors, but the wood may splinter and injure the oral mucosa
Prognosis is poor if malocclusion of cheek teeth is present
Seen in anorexic, lethargic, and moribund patients that are terminally ill also seen in young pet rodents, especially hamsters..
Caused by: viruses, inappropriate administration of antibiotics, intestinal parasites (usually coccidia rarely tapeworms), Cryptosporidia spp., bacteria (Escherichia coli Campylobacter spp. Clostridium piliformis & other Cl. spp.).
May cause rectal prolapse, especially in hamsters and mice, and is difficult to cure.
Complete history should include whether or not pet store antibiotics have been given ("diarrhea treatments" such as tetracycline and neomycin).
Treatment: Fluid therapy (SC or IP), as needed oral electrolytes oral kaolin-pectin products increased dietary fiber (hay and vegetables) cease pellet feeding oral antibiotics (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, or doxycycline).
Lactobacillus (yogurt) supplements may help but the benefits are unproven.
Diarrhea prevention (using antibiotics correctly, treating intestinal parasites, and avoiding dietary indiscretion) is preferred to treatment.
Cystitis and urolithiasis are occasionally seen they are more common in guinea pigs than in other rodents.
Clinical signs: hematuria, wet perineum, bloody discharge from genitalia, blood in the cage
Diagnosis: palpable urinary calculi, radiographic exam, urinalysis, and/or urine culture
Cystitis treatment: appropriate antibiotics
Urolithiasis treatment: surgical removal of calculi
Signs of vitamin C deficiency (scurvy)
Guinea pigs require exogenous vitamin C
Clinical signs: subcutaneous and joint hemorrhages, anorexia, poor hair coat, weight loss, lethargy, arthralgia, and nasal discharge. Always suspect hypovitaminosis C in any sick guinea pig.
Treatment: Vitamin C, 100 mg/guinea pig, IM or SC, daily (in hospital)
Prevention: Feed fresh pellets (guinea pig formula) and supplement the water with vitamin C
"Acute" anorexia and lethargy
"Acute" is a misnomer. Pet rodents have a well-developed preservation response and will mask signs of illness until compensation no longer is possible.
Geriatric conditions are common causes. Normal life spans are:
Guinea pig: 4 8 years
Gerbils: 2 4 years
Rats, mice, & hamsters: 1 3 years
Complete history, physical examination, and subsequent laboratory/clinical tests are essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Prognosis is grave, if pet is moribund upon presentation.
vinid = JA013008, date1298
Journal info: ISSN 8750-7943 VM
All rights reserved, copyright, Veterinary Information Network, Inc., 1998
Parasitic Worms (Tape, Round, Gape)
Symptoms include sluggish, weight loss, breathing issues, anal irritation, vomiting, whiteness in the dropping (extreme case), changes in appetite, pale comb, less egg production.
A trip to the vet might be in order for medication or you can try a safe and cheap alternative first. Feed your sick chickens, pumpkin and cucumber seeds. These will help cleanse the intestines naturally and rid the chicken of worms. Also provide some garlic water (add garlic cloves into water) or apple cider vinegar water (1 TBS per gallon in a plastic container) into the coop. You will need to remove any other water and food sources so they have to consume these.
Signs and Symptoms
Once you spot all the behaviors and symptoms that are out of the norm, go to the next section below to help determine the ailment that most closely resembles your hamster’s problem.
Within the following articles we provide additional information on specific problems including signs, causes and treatment approaches of the given ailment. Some of the treatment solutions we provide might include things you can do yourself or medications you can get from the pet store.
If you ever have to ask yourself the question, “is my hamster dying?” or if your hamster looks sick to the point that it needs immediate attention, we always recommend consulting a professional vet. A vet can conduct medical procedures and or prescribe medications and antibiotics.
For diagnoses and treatment of specific illnesses & injuries, see:
16 Things You Can Catch From Your Pet
We all love our furry friends, but they can put you at risk for certain contagious diseases.
Dogs, cats, parrots, hamsters, and, for some people, even snakes and rats are often our best friends–and for good reason. Pet owners have lower blood pressure and less stress, and they exercise more, among other benefits. Kids who grow up with pets are actually less likely to end up with allergies.
But pets can sometimes also pass on diseases. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often–and taking good care of your pet will help prevent the spread.
“Keeping your pet healthy helps keep you healthy,” says doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) Casey Barton Behravesh, DrPH, director of the One Health Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here are some diseases we hope your pet will never get and never pass on to you, along with some tips on how to make sure it stays that way.
Ringworm is actually not a worm but a fungus.
Dogs and cats (especially kittens) are among the animals most often affected. The fungus may cause small areas of hair loss in your pet (or it may not cause any symptoms at all), but it can cause red, itchy spots with a scaly ring around them on your scalp, feet, groin, and other parts of your body.
“[Ringworm] is literally in a hair shaft so if [the animal] rubs against your skin, you can get little bumps or rings,” says Christine Petersen, DVM, PhD, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health.
Ringworm is typically treated with common antifungal medicines. The best prevention is making sure your pets get regular veterinary care.
“The main types of worms that people worry about [in pets] are roundworms and hookworms,” says Liz Vanwormer, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
They can be transmitted when you come in contact with pet feces and then touch your eyes or mouth, or when you walk barefoot on soil that’s been contaminated by your pet’s poop. Dogs and cats might have diarrhea or dark, bloody stool. In humans, roundworms and hookworms can cause symptoms like coughing, abdominal pain, or an itchy rash.
“Wash your hands after handling animals, gardening, or coming into contact with soil, and make sure you pick up poop and put it in the trash,” says Vanwormer. And don’t pick up the poop with your bare hands.
Of course, washing your hands frequently in general is one of the best ways to stave off the spread of all sorts of diseases, adds Behravesh.
Rabies is rare in the U.S., but when it happens, it's devastating. Around the world, more than 59,000 people die each year after being infected with the virus, usually from a dog. “It’s completely preventable by [pet] vaccination,” says Petersen.
Rabies symptoms in pets can vary, but often include behavioral changes and paralysis.
If you do get bitten by a rabid animal, there is treatment. “You get a series of vaccines yourself,” says Petersen. “Instead of being preventive, it mounts a quicker response, and it almost always works.” Symptoms in humans include headache, fever, and weakness.
Rabies is actually more common in cats than dogs, says Bruno Chomel, DVM, PhD, professor of zoonosis at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “People are less likely to get their cats vaccinated, and cats are more likely to be active at night and encounter wildlife, especially raccoons and skunks,” he says.
Keep your pet's rabies and other vaccinations up to date.
Cat scratch fever
Cat scratch fever or cat scratch disease is caused by a bacterium called Bartonella henselae that can lurk in cat saliva and in fleas that live on cats. (A related bacterium, Bartonella chomelii, is named after Bruno Chomel but is found in cattle and is not passed to humans.) Not surprisingly, cat scratch fever spreads from felines to humans by scratches, as well as from bites or if a cat licks an open wound on a human.
Cat scratch disease often causes vague symptoms including exhaustion, joint aches, and fever and has been mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome, says Petersen. Some people also get a blister where they were scratched or bitten.
Don’t play rough with your cat and cover any open wounds you may have.
Yes, there is such a thing. The official name of this bacterial disease is psittacosis and it can be passed on by not only parrots, but other birds too, like turkeys and pigeons.
Parrot fever is caused by a species of the chlamydia bacteria, but this one isn’t related to the sexually transmitted infection in people, says Petersen.
Humans can contract the disease by inhaling spores from the dander of an infected bird or from bird droppings. Symptoms are like a “really bad pneumonia,” says Petersen. Birds may have symptoms like diarrhea or poor appetite, but they can still spread the disease even if they have no symptoms.
Lyme disease may be the most famous (or infamous) tick-borne disease and one that is largely confined to Northeastern states, but there are plenty of others that present risks all over the country.
Pets can’t spread these diseases to humans themselves, but they can bring ticks into the house and increase your risk, says Petersen. Cats are the more common culprits, she adds. “Because cats go out and hunt things, they’re more likely to get ticks that have disease on them.”
“The best way to prevent it is to protect the animal,” says Petersen. “There are ticks everywhere in the United States.”
Perform regular tick checks and talk to your vet about the best way to safeguard your pet.
Salmonella bacteria are usually associated with food-poisoning outbreaks from contaminated eggs or meat, but pets can also pose a threat.
“People who have reptiles, amphibians, or rodents are at risk,” says Behravesh. “Many animals can appear perfectly healthy and happy, but they’re shedding bacteria. Little children under 5, people with weakened immune systems, and senior citizens are most at risk.”
The most common symptoms are the same as those of food poisoning: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramping.
Small turtles are a particular problem. “They’re shedding salmonella all the time,” says Petersen. Some areas have banned their sale as pets for this reason.
Wash your hands after handling your reptilian and amphibian pets, says Chomel, and “don’t put the reptile in your sink and then clean your veggies.”
Reptiles may not be the best pets for you if you are immunocompromised or have young children, who may not be diligent about hygiene. “They’re going to touch the animals and the ground and put their fingers in their mouth and get infected,” says Chomel.
Hedgehogs can also pass on salmonella (and ringworm), he adds. It’s also possible to contract salmonella poisoning from the feces of dogs and cats.
Toxoplasmosis can be spread through cat feces and is particularly dangerous for pregnant women as well as for people who have suppressed immune systems. Cats rarely show any signs of toxoplasmosis, but symptoms in people can mimic the flu, including muscle aches, fever, and headache.
“When a mom is infected with Toxoplasma gondii for the first time during her pregnancy, the parasite has the potential to be passed to the developing baby, which can lead to severe consequences including birth defects and eye problems after birth,” says Vanwormer. “That’s why pregnant women are warned not to change cat litter boxes.”
Cover children’s sandboxes to prevent cats and other animals from using them like a litter box.
Birds and pigs can sometimes pass on the flu to humans, but it’s not common.
“One of the concerns are with backyard poultry,” says Chomel. “Those poultry can get infected with avian influenza viruses.”
You’d have to be in very close contact with the animals, and the virus, once passed to a human, is not easily passed to another person. Avian flu has moved from poultry to humans in China, where people sell them live at markets, but, so far, there have been no severe illnesses in the U.S., says Behravesh.
Swine also carry flu, as do dogs and cats, but the risk of transmission is extremely low.
The plague can be transmitted by prairie dogs kept as pets, as well as dogs and cats.
“Cats are very susceptible and will develop the same type of plague that humans develop,” says Chomel. Symptoms can include headache, fever, and chills. “The big concern with cats having the plague is that they can transmit it by direct contact and breathing, but you have to be very, very close to the cat–less than three feet,” he says.
Cats and dogs can also bring home fleas that carry the plague.
Hantavirus is usually transmitted by rodents, generally wild ones. “The classic scenario is where somebody is cleaning out an area with rodent feces,” says Petersen. “As they’re cleaning, the virus gets aerosolized, and they breathe it in.
A recent U.S. outbreak of a type of hantavirus called Seoul virus was traced to pet rats but didn’t spread too far before it was stopped. “That was the first time we saw such an outbreak in the United States,” says Behravesh.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, muscle aches, and feeling tired. As it progresses, you can have shortness of breath, coughing, and fluid filling the lungs. About 38% of people with hantavirus die of it.
Pasteurella is a bacterium commonly found in the mouths of dogs and cats that can be passed on through bites and scratches. As many as half of infected dog bite wounds contain the bacteria.
“A few hours after the bite, it gets really painful, very swollen,” says Chomel. It can lead to a skin infection known as cellulitis.
“Pasteurellosis responds well to antibiotics,” he says. If you are bitten or scratched by a cat or dog, wash the wound thoroughly and contact your doctor. You may need a tetanus shot or he or she may want to rule out rabies.
There are different strains of hepatitis, and most are not transmitted by animals. But hepatitis E, though more commonly picked up through contaminated drinking water and food, has also been spread by pet pigs.
In one case documented in France, a 41-year-old patient developed fatigue about two months after being given a baby pet pig. The patient would pet the pig, who came in and out of the house, and also change its litter. Lab tests revealed that both pig and owner were infected with hepatitis E.
“It has to be very close contact,” says Chomel. “Don’t sleep with your pet pig.”
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This is bacteria transmitted by dog or cat bites. “It’s not very common, but when it occurs, it [can be] really bad,” says Chomel.
It’s more likely to be severe in people who have weakened immune systems. “The first reported case was in the 1970s and was a veterinarian bitten by a dog,” he says. “The veterinarian had been in a car accident and had had his spleen removed.”
Capnocytophaga won't make a pet sick–but it can cause fever, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, and other symptoms in people. The infection can progress to blood poisoning, Chomel says, and about 30% of people who get infected die.
Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the world. Infection with the bacteria usually comes through contaminated food or water, but you can also get it from coming into contact with pet feces.
That was the source of an outbreak that infected 113 people in 17 states recently. The common link? Petland stores. All of the people were employees, customers, or had visited a home with a new puppy from Petland.
Generally, campylobacteriosis is not life-threatening, but it can cause severe illness if you’re very young, very old, or have a weakened immune system. Pet-store pets have a higher likelihood of carrying campylobacter simply because they are around other animals. Wash your hands after playing with one–and make sure your own pet is healthy and happy so as to reduce its risk of getting infected.
More common in Africa, there was one monkeypox outbreak in humans in the U.S. in 2003. There were 37 confirmed and 10 probable cases in six states in the Midwest.
The disease, which causes fever and a rash in animals and humans, was traced to a shipment of rodents from Ghana that had been housed near a group of prairie dogs. The prairie dogs were then sold as pets, and several owners contracted the pox either through being bitten or scratched, touching the animal or its bedding, or cleaning out a cage.
There is no current treatment for monkeypox instead, outbreaks are controlled using the smallpox vaccine and antiviral medicines.