Common Hamster Disorders to Look Out For

A recent study, carried out by the Royal Veterinary College, has revealed the most common disorders in hamsters. Whilst hamsters make lovely pets for both children and adults, their health has been barely researched up until now. Read on to learn the common hamster disorders to look out for when taking on one of these tiny furry friends!


Hamsters are rodents that belong within the subfamily ‘Cricetinae’ which also contains Voles, Lemmings, and Muskrats. Whilst there are over 20 species of hamsters (including, the grey dwarf hamster, winter white dwarf hamster, Roborovski dwarf hamster, and the Gansu hamster), the most common species seen in the UK are Syrian (Golden) hamsters which are also the largest of the species. This study looked at the 20 most common hamster species.


The Results

Results from the study, not only outlined the common disorders, but also the average lifespan of a hamster to be just 21 months (1.75 years) for all species.


Common Disorders:

The study, which was carried out using clinical records of 16,605 hamsters, found that…

  • Wet Tail: Wet tail (diarrhea or liquid discharge) was the prevailing disorder found among hamsters. This also accounted for the most common cause of death within hamsters.

  • Bite Injuries: Bite injuries from other hamsters were the second most common disorder in hamsters. It’s important to remember that not all species of hamsters like being in pairs (for example, Syrian hamsters enjoy solidarity).

  • Overgrown Nails: The third most likely disorder in hamsters, was found to be overgrown nails. Whilst not all hamsters need their nails trimming (as they can do this naturally through grooming, digging, and climbing) if you notice your hamster's nails folding inwards, or curling sideways, it’s best to trim them.

  • Overgrown Teeth: Overgrown teeth were also a problem. Hamster teeth keep growing throughout their life so it’s important to always provide your hamster with lots of toys they can gnaw on. A veterinarian can also trim a hamster's teeth in the case of overgrowing.

  • Traumatic Injury: Lastly, traumatic injuries were found to be a common disorder found in hamsters. As hamsters are small, they are fragile, and can easily fall or be dropped from a height. Where possible, handle your hamster on the floor to avoid a traumatic injury!

Common Deaths:

As well as revealing the most common disorders in hamsters, researchers also found the most common causes of hamster deaths were:

  • Wet tail: Aforementioned earlier, this was the most common cause of death.

  • Abdominal Mass(es): Secondary to this was abdominal masses, which accounted for 6.4% of deaths in the hamsters in this study.

  • Cancer: Cancer was the third most likely cause of death found in the study.

  • Difficulty Breathing: Respiratory issues also amounted to many deaths among hamsters. If you notice that your hamster is breathing fast or breathing heavily, this could be a sign of a respiratory issue - make sure to seek out veterinary help.

Hamsters make wonderful, loving pets for all, despite their short life span and (sometimes) ill health. Use this information to educate yourself on what conditions to look out for when owning a hamster as well as to manage realistic expectations on the lifespan of these tiny furry friends!


Think your hamster has one of the conditions mentioned in this article? Contact us on 020 8459 4729 to book your appointment today.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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