Mastitis in Hamsters
Mastitis is a condition in which a female's mammary glands become inflammed. Often due to infectious agents like bacteria of the Streptococcus species, the mammary gland infection usually becomes obvious 7 to 10 days after the female gives birth. Infectious bacteria gain entry into the hamster’s body through cuts on the mammary gland, which may be caused by the teeth of the suckling young pups.
Mastitis is a painful and serious infection and without prompt treatment, the infection may spread to the hamster's bloodstream and cause other complications. Your veterinarian may treat mastitis with appropriate antibiotics. To prevent mastitis, keep your hamster's living quarters clean and only buy bedding that does not cause irritation.
Some affected hamsters may get a fever and refuse to eat if the infection spreads to other parts of the body. However, it is more common to observe the following symptoms:
- Enlarged mammary gland(s)
- Mammary gland(s) are warm, firm to touch
- Hamster exhibits pain when the gland is touched
- Mammary gland(s) may appear bluish in color
- Milk discharge may be thick or bloody and clotted
- Mammary gland(s) may also discharge pus or mucus
Mastitis is typically caused by a bacterial infection with the Streptococcus species, which gains entry into the hamster's body through cuts on the mammary gland(s) that are sucked on by feeding young. Thus, the infection is usually only seen 7 to 10 days after a female gives birth.
After physically examining the hamster, a preliminary diagnosis will be determined by a combination of medical history and symptoms observed, which are both provided by you. However, blood tests may be necessary to identify the infectious agent and devise an appropriate course of treatment.
Antibiotics are typically administered by a veterinarian to help control the infection. Anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic agents are also provided to help reduce the inflammation. If the wounds are severe, they may require cleaning, dressing, and the application of antibiotic and/or antiseptic ointments.
Living and Management
If your hamster is nursing, frequently check her mammary glands for injuries caused by the suckling young pups. Once mastitis is confirmed, the mother hamster should not be allowed to nurse. Instead, the pups can be nursed by another nursing female or hand fed. Additionally, follow the antibiotic and wound dressing regimen, as directed by your veterinarian.
To help prevent mastitis, maintain clean living quarters for your hamster and only buy bedding that will not cause irritation.