What Is an Eye Infection in Hamsters?
Infection of the eye in hamsters involves an inflammation of the outermost layer of the eye and is also referred to as conjunctivitis or pink eye. If you notice your hamster’s eye is inflamed, seek veterinary care within 24 hours. Any delay could allow for progression of disease symptoms if not treated and may result in a system infection or permanent eye damage.
Symptoms of Eye Infection in Hamsters
In addition to inflammation around the eye, you may notice your hamster is showing one or more of the following signs:
Watery eye discharge that appears to be oozing or dripping
Prolonged discharge that may become creamy white, green, or yellow
Sticky eyelids due to dried discharge
Swollen eye (or face in severe cases)
Redness around the edge of the eyelids
Hamster constantly scratching or rubbing at the affected eye
Causes of Eye Infection in Hamsters
Eye infections in hamsters can be due to any of the following underlying health conditions:
Irritation from dust or oils found in cedar or pine bedding
How Veterinarians Diagnose Eye Infection in Hamsters
Your veterinarian will start with a physical exam of your hamster and will want a detailed history of any events that may have triggered the infection, including when you first noticed symptoms and for how long you believe the issue has been present.
Your veterinarian may ask you questions such as:
How long have the symptoms been present?
Are there any changes to appetite?
What is the general energy and attitude of the hamster?
The physical examination will also help to evaluate for any abnormalities such as:
Swollen eye or face
Shrinkage or bulging of the eye
Discharge from the eye
Eye cloudiness or redness
Drooling, difficulty eating, and bite misalignment
A corneal stain may be performed to check for a corneal scratch and a pressure check of the eye may be recommended to evaluate for glaucoma. A sample of the eye tissue or discharge may also be taken for analysis and possible culture to determine what infection is present so treatment can be determined effectively. In addition, dilation of the pupil may be needed to view the inside structures of the eye.
Hamsters may require anesthesia to perform these tests if they prove to be extremely stressful for the animal. Most tests are completed quickly and without issue, however a particularly squirmy or stressed hamster may benefit from sedation.
Treatment of Eye Infection in Hamsters
Cleaning and lubrication of the eye may be performed on your hamster while at the vet office. Certain cases may require anesthesia for treatment and further diagnostics, including X-rays of the skull, dental treatments including teeth trimming, removal of affected teeth, removal of foreign objects, tumors, or removal of a damaged eye. Depending on the underlying causes, a prescription oral antibiotic (doxycycline, enrofloxacin, or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole), oral pain medication (meloxicam), topical pain medication (diclofenac or flurbiprofen) or topical antibiotic eye medication (ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, erythromycin, or terramycin) may be prescribed.
Your vet may recommend an eye wash for your hamster to remove discharge and foreign material that may be present. Most eye flushes are used before treatment to remove any discharge or foreign material on the eye. The best eye wash/ophthalmic gel for pink eye in hamsters include Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Ophthalmic Pet Gel and Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Eye Wash for Dogs, Cats, Horses, & Small Pets.
How to Apply Eye Drops to Hamsters
It’s best to have a friend or family remember help when applying eye drops to your hamster. Always follow directions included on the product label and by your veterinarian before administering any eye drop to your hamster. In general, eye drops can be applied by following these steps:
1. Wipe away any discharge with a clean, wet, warm eye wash pad, cotton ball, or saline eye wash taking care to avoid scratching the cornea.
2. Have one person gently restrain the hamster using a small hand towel or wash cloth. Be careful to position the affected eye so the eye is facing upwards. Avoid holding the hamster tightly so that breathing is not restricted and keep your fingers away from the mouth to prevent getting bitten.
3. Have the second person gently hold the affected eyelids open with their hand.
4. Using the other hand, center the eye drop bottle just above the eye and gently squeeze to allow a drop to fall with gravity onto the eye. Be sure to avoid touching the bottle tip to the eye itself.
Recovery and Management of Eye Infection in Hamsters
The duration of treatment and time for symptoms to resolve will vary depending on the cause and severity of the eye condition in your hamster. A typical course of treatment is 7 days but may extend for up to 10 days as needed. Never stop medication without first consulting with your veterinarian and make sure to complete a full round of medication that is prescribed to your hamster. If you stop treatment too early or don’t finish the recommended dosage from your veterinarian, the infection is likely remain or reappear.
Eye Infection in Hamsters FAQs
Can an eye infection kill a hamster?
Yes, if an eye infection is not treated then the eye infection may progress to a systemic infection as well as compromise the hamster’s vision permanently.
How to treat hamster eye infection at home?
To treat a hamster’s eye infection at home, you may help dislodge any eye discharge using a sterile saline eye wash or clean eye wipes. This will not successfully treat the underlying cause or prevent recurrence. Prescription medications may be needed for complete resolution of the infection.
Can a hamster die from an eye infection?
An uncomplicated eye infection that has not spread into deeper tissues or other areas of the body and is treated early will not likely kill a hamster. However, if the underlying cause persists and is not corrected, then this may progress to a systemic infection that could lead to death.
How to clean a hamster infected eye?
A sterile saline wash is preferred to rinse away eye discharge and moisten any dried debris so that it can be removed. If using a specific product to clean the eye, always follow directions on the product label as directed by your veterinarian. If you have any questions on how to clean your hamster’s eye, contact your veterinarian for guidance.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Alex Milan
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