What to do if your hamster can’t open its eye – hamster pink eye

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hamster pink eye

Pink eye in hamsters

Last week we were abruptly awoken from slumber by a cry from our eldest daughter that poor Oscar couldn’t open his left eye. As dramatic as she made it sound, conjunctivitis or pink eye in hamsters is quite common and is caused by injury, overgrown or diseased teeth or, as in Oscar’s case, dust from his bedding.

Conjunctivitis in hamsters is often referred to as “pink eye” and occurs when the eye’s outermost layer becomes inflamed. When hamsters nod off, their eyes secrete fluid to keep their eyeballs moist. Occasionally this fluid drips out and dries in a crust around their eyelids, preventing them from opening. This is generally not a veterinary emergency and something that can easily be treated at home with some warm water and cotton wool.

Signs that your hamster may have pink eye

If your hamster wakes and you notice that their eye is watery, oozing or dripping discharge, or in our case, sticky and unable to be opened, then chances are they are suffering from pink eye. You will need to assist them in cleaning the eye thoroughly and I will talk you through the best way to do this below.

In some more severe cases, you may even notice that the eye, and even part of the face, is swollen and that there is significant redness around the edge of the eyelids. If you do discover this, then I would suggest you take them straight to the vets so that it can be treated with antibiotics.

hamster conjunctivitis
Oscar the hamster with his poorly ‘pink eye’

Reasons why your hamster may have pink eye

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why your hamster may develop pink eye. Although it is quite common in older hamsters who may be suffering from dental disorders such as overgrown teeth; in younger hamsters, it tends to either be a bacterial infection caused by a foreign object in the eye or irritation to dust from their bedding.

Our hamster particularly likes to cocoon himself in his tube, all cossetted in his pet bedding. Unfortunately, after a couple of days of sleeping and playing, this area tends to become quite dirty.

How to treat a hamster with pink eye

Although conjunctivitis in hamsters is not considered a serious condition, a hamster with pink eye should be treated promptly to prevent any further complications. If it does not look too serious, then there are a number of things you can do yourself at home. If, however, the swelling and infection persist once cleaned, I strongly recommend that you seek advice from a vet.

If it is a simple case that your hamster has a sticky eye, then here are some tips on how to treat pink eye:-

  • Get a member of your family who is well trusted by your pet to hold them gently but firmly. Take a minute to stroke and soothe your hamster once they are in your hands so as to relax them.
  • Take a small cup of cooled boiled water and wet a cotton swab, ball or washcloth. Wring it out well, so that it is damp but not dripping.
  • Place the cotton wool over the irritated eye in order to break down the built-up crust. If the water alone does not ease it, as gently as you can wipe the crust to loosen it. This may take a couple of minutes after which your hamster should be able to open their eye on their own without any further assistance.
  • If you are having difficulty removing the crust or your hamster is still unable to open their eyes despite repeating the process a number of times, resist the urge to pull at it. Instead, stop the procedure and contact your vet.

How to prevent your hamster from getting pink eye

There are things that you can do to try and help your hamster to avoid getting pink eye.

If your hamster likes to nest in a particular area of their cage, make sure you sanitize and clean it out regularly. If you suspect that the bedding may be the cause of the irritation, then it is well worth trying a different brand. Ask your local pet store or vets for recommendations.

If your hamster seems prone to sticky eyes, then washing them on a regular basis will help to prevent any fluid build-up. If you have hamsters that live together, you should separate them until the pink eye has been treated as it is considered to be a contagious infection.

Finally, if your hamster is older, it may be worth getting it checked out, as they can suffer from a number of health problems that may not be visible to us, but which present themselves in other ways – such as pink eye.

Related questions:

How to remove a foreign object from your hamsters’ eye

Hamsters often get dust and sand in their eyes which can cause them to close over. If this is the case, I would suggest that you treat it for pink eye as detailed above.

If, however, you suspect that a foreign object might have punctured or scratched the eye, I would suggest leaving it well alone and taking your hamster to the vets as soon as possible to prevent further damage being done.

What happens if my hamsters’ eye bulges?

Another common occurrence in hamsters is protruding eyes. This is when one or both of the eyes start to bulge as a result of a serious infection, trauma or from being squeezed too tightly.

If you notice that your hamster is suffering from swollen eyes, then you should take them immediately to the vets for treatment, as the sooner they are treated the better the chances of saving the eyes.

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