Exophthalmia in Hamsters: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

Exophthalmia in hamsters is a condition where one or both of the eyes bulges from their natural position. It might be a difficult infection to detect if you do not give your pet close attention since the hamster’s eye sockets are shallow. 

Although exophthalmos is a common illness among hamsters, it should be taken seriously as it can be a sign of a fatal disease.

These are the areas we will focus on;

Causes of exophthalmia in hamsters

Abnormal protrusion of the hamster’s eyes can be due to direct pupil injury or an underlying infection.

These are the common causes of exophthalmia in hamsters;


Exophthalmia in hamsters can occur when allergic reactions take place. Hamster allergies can be caused by eating certain foods, fur, pollen, or dust. The reactions can result in one or both eyes bulging.


Glaucoma is an eye infection that causes one or both eyes to be under abnormal pressure. This results in exophthalmia in hamsters which when not treated early may cause permanent blindness. 


Tumors and cancer in hamsters’ eyes can result in exophthalmia. In this case, cells in the eyes multiply uncontrollably making the eyes become bigger in size.

The most common tumor in hamsters is the cheek pouch which is very painful to the pet. 

Dental diseases

Hamsters suffering from dental problems will in most cases have swollen gums. This will in turn pressure the tissues surrounding the eyes causing exophthalmia in hamsters.

A vet may try to correct dental problems through alignment which is not always a guaranteed success. The hamster may end up losing an eye eventually.

Poor hygiene

Poor environmental hygiene can also cause swelling of hamsters’ eyes. For instance, dirty bedding can be a breeding zone for bacteria which leads to exophthalmos in hamsters. 


There are cases when a pet owner handles a hamster incorrectly leading to exophthalmos. This may include stepping on the hamster or holding the pet tightly by its neck causing its eyes to protrude.

Symptoms of exophthalmia in hamsters

These are the common symptoms of exophthalmia in hamsters;

Protruding eyes

Swollen eyes are the most obvious symptom of exophthalmia in hamsters. When a hamster is suffering from exophthalmos, its eyes will appear to be unusually large.

Discharge from the eyes

You may also notice watery eyes if a hamster has exophthalmos. Oozing of the puss may be caused by eye irritation.


Crusting of the eyes results from discharge from the eyes accumulating at the edges of an eye. The discharge also makes it easy for materials such as dirt to stick to the eye.

Eye color change

Eye color change is a symptom that suggests that your hamster may be suffering from exophthalmia. This may be caused by allergies or bacterial infections in the eye.

Navigation difficulties

A hamster with exophthalmia will have vision problems. You can tell when a hamster has navigation problems as it moves aimlessly and sometimes hits objects on its way.


Exophthalmia in hamsters may cause irritation in the eyes. This will make the pet naturally scratch its face which may cause more damage to the swollen eye.


The diagnosis of exophthalmia in hamsters is mainly done through physical observation.

This includes observing behavior changes in feeding and how active your hamster is.

You can take the pet to a vet to carry out an examination of the eye and check for dental problems.

Prevention of exophthalmia in hamsters

Exopthalmia in hamsters is a painful infection that can cause stress to the pet. Fortunately, this common hamster illness is easy to prevent.

Observing hygiene is a basic measure to prevent exophthalmia in hamsters. When you keep a hamster’s environment clean, you eliminate the chances of bacteria breeding. Efforts such as cleaning the bedding reduce ammonia buildup from the hamster’s urine.

 Another method to reduce the spread of exophthalmia is to quarantine an infected hamster. This measure will ensure that other healthy pets do not contract the illness.

Treatment of exophthalmos in hamsters

There is no permanent cure for bulging eyes in hamsters. However, depending on the results from the diagnosis, the veterinary can recommend the respective medication.

Medications such as antibiotics and painkillers can be administered to reduce the pain and reactions in the eye.

Sometimes the vet will recommend a dental procedure to align the jaws.


What is the home remedy for exophthalmia in hamsters?

A saline solution can be used to clean the eyes of a hamster suffering from exophthalmia.

To create this remedy you will need a teaspoon of salt and a glass of warm water.

Dip a cotton bud into the solution and gently wipe the infected eyes. Both the cotton bud and the solution should be properly disposed of after use.

What is the best antibiotic for eye infections?

I would recommend using Azithromycin ophthalmic solution to treat bacterial infections in hamsters.

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