Fractures in Hamsters

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Mar. 6, 2023
Hamster on a pink blanket

In This Article


What Are Fractures in Hamsters?

While any bone can break, the most common fractures in hamsters occur in their back leg bones.  These can be easily injured if their paw or leg gets stuck in the environment or if they are dropped.  A fracture, or a broken bone, can either be the size of a hairline or broken completely through. Breaks can happen entirely internal or potentially with external components. Hamsters are particularly fast moving and rarely enjoy being held for long periods of time—this causes them to be susceptible to falls or injuries while running on their wheels.

Commonly broken bones in hamsters, listed from most to least common, include:

  • Tibia/Fibula

  • Metatarsals

  • Radius/Ulna

  • Carpals

  • Phalanges

  • Cervical Vertebrae

Symptoms of Fractures in Hamsters

Signs of a fracture in hamsters include:

  • Painful swelling, particularly over a part of a limb

  • Abnormal angle of bones in a limb

  • Feeling movement between two parts of the same bone

  • Hearing crackling or popping when touching an area of their body

  • Pet is favoring or not using a limb

  • Known history of recent trauma

  • Visible bone

What To Do If Your Hamster Breaks a Bone

The first thing to do if you think your hamster has a broken bone is to secure them in a safe environment. You want there to be no ledges or wheels and make sure they have a hide box as they will likely be stressed. Handle them as little as possible as picking them up while they are in pain may cause them to bite and you risk dropping them. Make sure the enclosure is perfectly clean, especially if there is an open fracture present (bone sticking out).

Call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian if they don’t have same day availability. Hamsters and other rodents will often chew at areas of their body that hurt and can significantly worsen their wounds, so you don’t want to give them time to do this.

Due to their small size it is hard to do much for a hamster fracture, especially from home. The best thing you can do before going to the vet is placing them in a travel carrier that is smaller so they can move around less. Provide a small hide box in the container and plenty of clean bedding for comfort and transport them like this to your vet where they can take care of them.

How Veterinarians Treat Fractures in Hamsters

Treatment options for fractures in a small pet like a hamster are limited. While interventions like casts and surgical fixation are common in humans or even dogs, these are typically not feasible for hamsters. Depending on the break, a veterinarian might apply a splint or wrap a limb. If the bones already sits well, they may only treat with a strict rest regimen.

It’s common to attempt designing a cone for the hamster head so they can’t chew at the injured body part. These often take some creativity to design with materials around the clinic and can be difficult to keep on the pet.

Costs to treat a fracture can vary widely. Typically the clinic will need to charge for an examination fee, X-rays, medications and potentially bandaging. If there is an open wound or fracture, these are the cases most likely to undergo surgery which can significantly increase cost.

After securing the fracture hamsters are usually sent home with pain medication and potentially antibiotics if there are any wounds.

Recovery and Management of Fractures in Hamsters

Recovery time of fractures depends on the severity of the break and how well the broken bone can be made immovable while it heals. In small, incomplete fractures healing time can be as little as four to six weeks. Bones that are well splinted together may take around six to eight weeks. Fractures that cannot be splinted or wrapped, are in a high motion area, or that suffer complications can take as long as 12 weeks to heal.

What You Will Need for Recovery

  • Recovery cage—no levels, wheels, tunnels, and higher smooth sides if possible, cleaned at least weekly

  • Exercise restriction

  • Minimal handling

  • Balanced diet—if a nutritional deficiency is suspected as associated with your hamster’s injury nutritional supplements might be included

  • Anti-inflammatory pain medication

  • Possible antibiotics

  • Regular rechecks with your veterinarian to monitor healing of the fracture

Due to the difficulty in immobilizing fractures in hamsters your vet may ask you to purchase items to help improve healing times. Red light laser therapy can increase blood flow to the fracture and decrease healing time. Only purchase these under the supervision of your veterinarian and follow their instructions for treatment frequency and duration.

Prevention of Future Fractures

Due to the difficulty in treating fractures in such a small pet, prevention of such injuries is key.

  1. Be sure to never provide your hamster with a wheel or ball that does not have a solid surface.

  2. Wire spacing for enclosure bars should be ¼–½ inch wide.

  3. Hamsters enjoy bedding that is several inches thick for tunneling. This has the added benefit of cushioning them if they climb to the top of their cage and then fall.

  4. Always be careful when picking up hamsters. If you do not feel confident yet you can pick your hamster up within an exercise ball, a travel carrier, and or keep their enclosure on the ground to start with, lowering the risk of a high fall that could lead to an injury for your hamster.

Fractures in Hamsters FAQs

Can a hamster survive a broken leg?

Yes, most hamsters will survive a broken leg. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty in treating fractures in hamsters, they are not always able to survive without an amputation of the limb, but they are almost always able to recover well after a broken leg.

What do you do with an injured hamster?

Always secure your hamster in a safe enclosure if you suspect your hamster is injured, then contact your veterinarian.

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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