Abscesses in Hamsters: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hamsters are tiny pets prone to many health complications, including abscesses. It is one of the common infections in hamsters but can be prevented if a pet owner takes the right measures.

There are primarily two types of abscesses in hamsters – skin abscesses and cheek abscesses. Skin abscesses are mainly located around the head and neck while cheek abscesses occur in the hamsters’ cheek pouches.

Abscesses are treatable and manageable, but ignoring the infection is also life-threatening for the hamster. You need to take immediate action if you suspect your hamster has an abscess.

In this article we will highlight the following:

Abscesses in Hamsters

What are abscesses in hamsters?

Abscesses are infected pockets of pus that form under the skin at the site of an injury. The wounds, often from cage fights and injuries caused by sharp objects, become infected with bacteria and pus form. The infected pockets swell and form lumps as more pus is formed.

Skin abscesses in hamsters are mainly located around the head and neck while cheek abscesses form in the cheek pouches when a hamster gets injuries from eating abrasive food.

Symptoms of abscesses in hamsters

Common symptoms of abscesses in hamsters include:

  • Tender red swelling beneath the fur
  • Pus and blood on the fur when the abscess ruptures
  • A foul smell from the lump
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in severe cases
  • Swollen cheek pouches (without food)
  • Lethargy
  • Decrease in appetite

Abscesses on the skin and cheeks are very soft and sensitive to the touch. It can easily rupture when pressed releasing puss and in some cases even blood. If an abscess ruptures, there will be a noticeably foul smell from the site of the infection. The hamster will also show disinterest in food and become lethargic if the abscess causes systemic infection.

Causes of abscesses in hamsters

Abscesses in hamsters are a result of bacterial infection of wounds sustained during cage fights, eating abrasive food, or from sharp objects in the cage such as wood shavings. Abrasive food can cause injuries to the soft lining of the cheek pouch, which paves way for bacteria to cause an infection. 

An infected cheek pouch will fill with pus and start to swell making you think your hamster has food in its mouth. Make sure to check if your hamster’s cheek seems swollen for several hours because it might be a cheek abscess.

Diagnosis of abscesses in hamsters

The veterinarian will conduct a physical examination to identify the content of the lumps and rule out other skin conditions such as hematomas and cysts. To do so, the vet will draw the contents of the lump with a syringe and observe under a microscope for bacteria.

They can also make a slight cut on the lump to see if the pus drains out, and if it does then they can rule out tumors and cysts. They can then proceed to identify the type of bacteria causing the infection so that antibiotics can be administered.

Treatment for abscesses in hamsters

The most effective treatment for abscesses is the use of antibiotics and surgery. If the bump is still intact, the vet may inject the antibiotics under the skin. In case it bursts, the vet will make sure all of the contents have drained before flushing the wound.  

If the diagnosis indicates that flank glands have been infected, the vet will most likely shave the area around the glands, clean it, and then apply ointment with antibiotics and steroids.

Preventing abscesses in hamsters

Effective ways to protect your hamsters again abscesses include:

  • Separating fighting hamsters (keep them in separate cages)
  • Avoid bedding with wood shavings
  • Make sure the hamster’s cage has no sharp edges
  • Do not feed your hamster with abrasive foods

FAQs about abscesses in hamsters

Let’s now have a look at a few questions most pet owners ask about abscesses and hamsters.

a). Can an abscess kill a hamster?

Yes, abscesses can kill a hamster if left untreated and they spread to other parts of the body. The abscesses can also burst increasing the chances of blood poisoning, which can turn severe really fast.

b). Can a hamster recover from an abscess?

Hamsters can fully recover from abscesses, especially if treated in time. Skin abscesses removed surgically often heal better compared to those that are lanced, drained, and flushed.

c). How much does hamster abscess treatment cost?

Treatment for abscesses in hamsters is not expensive. However, you’ll pay for consultation and treatment, which could be surgery, antibiotics, or lancing, draining & flushing. It is cheaper if the infection is not advanced and the type of antibiotics will also determine the cost.

Final thoughts

Abscess in hamsters is a manageable and treatable infection. However, you need to be quick to respond and take your hamster to the vet if you suspect it has abscesses. Besides, it’s not expensive to treat the infection and your hamster can recover fully within weeks.