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Exophthalmos, Proptosis in Hamsters

Also known as exophthalmos or proptosis, the bulging of one or both eyeballs from the socket is common in hamsters. Typically it occurs due to an infection of the eye or a trauma, though it may also happen if the hamster is restrained too tightly from the back of the neck.

Exophthalmos should be considered an emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. In fact, the sooner the hamster is treated, the more likely it is that the eye can be saved. If the condition worsens, surgical removal of the eye is the only solution.


A hamster with exophthalmos will exhibit excruciating pain in either one or both eyes. Other common signs include:

  • Protrusion or bulging of the eyeball
  • Slight enlargement of the eyeball
  • Watery discharge from the eye, which may also appear red or irritated


Eye infections or traumas to the orbital region are often the cause of exophthalmos, though it also can occur when the hamster is restrained too tightly from the back of the neck.


The abnormal appearance of the eye is the best indicator of exophthalmos. However, your veterinarian will depend on a medical history and your answers to a series of questions to identify the underlying cause of the eye protrusion. Laboratory tests may also be necessary to rule out infections.


It is important that you and your veterinarian react quickly in order to try and save the hamster's eye(s). Eyewash will first be used to remove any impurities; your veterinarian may then administer agents such as pilocarpine to reduce the pressure buildup in the eyeball. Other medications commonly used for exophthalmos include anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids -- and when the eye protrusion is due to an infection, antibiotics. Unfortunately if the condition worsens, the eye(s) will require surgical removal.

Living and Management

Place your pet in a calm, dark environment -- and away from others pets -- during the recovery process to reduce its activity. If the eye has been removed, a patch may be used to cover the exposed wound. A post-operative care schedule and regimen will be given by your veterinarian.


Promptly separating fighting hamsters and learning the proper way of handling such small animals can reduce the risk of exophtalmos due to trauma and improper handling. Eye infections should also be treated quickly to prevent it from further worsening.

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