Salmonellosis in Hamsters
Salmonellosis is an infection caused by the Salmonella bacteria. Although rare in pet hamsters, salmonellosis can lead to complications such as spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), diarrhea, and septicemia. It is usually spread due to ingestion of food and water contaminated with infected feces or urine of wild rodents. Infected bedding material can also act as a potential source of transmission.
Salmonella is highly contagious to humans and other animals; therefore, use utmost caution when handling a hamster suspected of being infected with the bacteria.
The severity of the disease will often determine the signs and symptoms that are overtly present. Symptoms commonly seen in hamsters with salmonellosis include:
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Distended stomach
- Rough body coat
- Abnormal vaginal discharge (in females)
- Miscarriage (spontaneous abortion)
There are more than 2,000 different types of Salmonella, a Gram-negative enterobacteria. The infection is often associated with food, water, or bedding contaminated by insects or wild rodents, though risk factors such as age can may make a hamster more susceptible the bacteria, especially younger and older animals that have underdeveloped and/or compromised immune systems. Similarly, hamsters with weak immune systems or immature gastrointestinal tracts are at risk of developing salmonellosis.
The diagnosis of salmonellosis is initially made by observing the physical symptoms presented by the hamster. However, this can only be confirmed by collecting fecal samples and culturing them to identify the type of bacteria.
Treatment is not an effective option for salmonellosis. Broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs and supportive therapy with fluids and electrolyte supplements may be used, but only in mild cases.
Living and Management
A hamster recovering from salmonella infection will be weak and require your extra care. Consult your veterinarian regarding the hamster's diet and medication regimen. However, use extreme caution while handling infected hamsters, as there is a chance you may contract the Salmonella infection from your pet.
Salmonella infection is highly contagious and is mainly transmitted in hamsters through ingestion of food and water contaminated with infected feces, urine and bedding material. Therefore, regularly cleaning the cages and removing feces, urine, and soiled bedding material is essential. In addition, remove any hamster suspected of being infected to avoid an outbreak.