Jump to content






Photo

Sick looking hamster, but nothing seemingly wrong


This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
12 replies to this topic

#1 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 17 March 2012 - 08:50 AM

Hi there,

I have an old Syrian who looks unwell, but seems perfectly fine.

My hamster is 2 years old, so he's certainly in the latter stages of his life. He looks tired all of the time - his ears are constantly down and his eyes half shut. Other than this, however, he seems totally healthy. I have to wake him up at night, but other than that, he shows no sign of discomfort or slowing down. Once wakened, he is almost immediately out and running around in some large boxes which I connect to his house. These are filled with toys, sawdust and buried food/treats. He is happy to be lifted and stroked; however, he looks so unwell! He gathers lots of food, but to be honest, I haven't seen him eat a lot of it. I've seen him nibbling at things in his cage, but that's about it. I will confirm this after i've observed him a little longer.

In the space of a few nights, he went from looking very perky to this constantly tired state - He looks ratty and has lost wieght. This transformation took place roughly a month ago. His urine also smelled very strongly.

We took him to the vet last week, who checked him all over, but said she couldn't find anything wrong. She said he seemed very healthy for his age, but gave us Betryl for a possible urine infection. He's been on this for 4 days and while his ears are still down and his eyes practically closed, the urine smell doesn't seem to be as strong anymore, which is good.

I'm just wondering what people think. I've put this down to old age, but I can't help feeling concerned. I had another hamster that lived to 2 and he was perky and awake looking until his dying day.



Notes:

* Eyes half closed and ears down, even when running around.

* Taking drinks for around 45 seconds at a time.

* Was fine when I tried the "tent" test.

* He is quite skinny - APPEARS to be eating, although from what I've seen, not too much.

* Has to be physically woken up each night - would quite possibly sleep through the evening.



Here is a photo of him a number of months back, before this change. This is followed by a picture of him now. Apologies for the quality - the first was taken with a really good camera.

A few months ago:

Posted Image

Now:

Posted Image

Thanks,
Michael

Edited by mwhlr, 18 March 2012 - 06:49 AM.





#2 malloria

malloria

    Hamster Clone

  • Members
  • 1,539 posts

Posted 17 March 2012 - 11:39 AM

Welcome to HH, Michael.

Awww--he's a cutie!

Hmmm. I can understand your concern. Despite the vet's examination and pronouncement of health it bugs me that your boy's ears are down and eyes mostly closed. I can't help thinking that he's in pain. You say he shows no signs of slowing or discomfort, though. Are his ears and eyes down/closed when he runs? Does he behave in an alert manner when you are near the cage--if he used to respond to your voice/presence, beg to be taken out, etc. does he still do these things? In my experience hams that appear as you describe lack energy and are relatively unresponsive. When you pet him is he animated or does he just sit in one place and continue to look miserable?

Elder hams can look sick too if they lose weight and/or if their fur thins. I've had a few take on that aging look despite still being active. But you say he has an appetite--same as usual? Is he eating all the different types of foods in his mix, or is he ignoring items that would be harder to chew? Did the vet check his teeth? Sometimes it's necessary to move to smaller pieces or softer foods as the ham ages. I've had to do that with my nearly two-year-old Roborovski, even though his teeth look fine. But you don't indicate that his nutrition is inadequate.

Presumably that's an antibiotic you're giving him (Baytril?), and so he should be receiving a probiotic like Bene-Bac powder or unflavored yogurt to protect his GI tract. Hamsters' guts can be very strongly perturbed by the action of antibiotics. I would think that after four days of a (10-day?) regimen he might be perking up some if the infection was weighing him down, but if he's had this infection for a month more time could be needed for him to feel truly better.

I'll check out your pic tomorrow; meanwhile others may have more to add.

#3 missPixy

missPixy

    Angelic Ham

  • Advisor
  • 12,963 posts

Posted 17 March 2012 - 01:14 PM

have you also checked to see if he's dehydrated, using the
"tent" test? gently pull the skin on his shoulders and back,
then let go. the skin should go right down and not hang or
"tent." dehydration can definitely cause fatigue, unwell feelings
and strong urine smell.

#4 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 18 March 2012 - 06:36 AM

Hmmm. I can understand your concern. Despite the vet's examination and pronouncement of health it bugs me that your boy's ears are down and eyes mostly closed. I can't help thinking that he's in pain. You say he shows no signs of slowing or discomfort, though. Are his ears and eyes down/closed when he runs? Does he behave in an alert manner when you are near the cage--if he used to respond to your voice/presence, beg to be taken out, etc. does he still do these things? In my experience hams that appear as you describe lack energy and are relatively unresponsive. When you pet him is he animated or does he just sit in one place and continue to look miserable?

Elder hams can look sick too if they lose weight and/or if their fur thins. I've had a few take on that aging look despite still being active. But you say he has an appetite--same as usual? Is he eating all the different types of foods in his mix, or is he ignoring items that would be harder to chew? Did the vet check his teeth? Sometimes it's necessary to move to smaller pieces or softer foods as the ham ages. I've had to do that with my nearly two-year-old Roborovski, even though his teeth look fine. But you don't indicate that his nutrition is inadequate.

Presumably that's an antibiotic you're giving him (Baytril?), and so he should be receiving a probiotic like Bene-Bac powder or unflavored yogurt to protect his GI tract. Hamsters' guts can be very strongly perturbed by the action of antibiotics. I would think that after four days of a (10-day?) regimen he might be perking up some if the infection was weighing him down, but if he's had this infection for a month more time could be needed for him to feel truly better.


Hi there!

I've added the new picture. I will also update my post with the information below.

Yes, his ears are down and eyes half closed all of the time. He seems fairly alert, although not as much as he used to be. Now that I think about it, I've had to physically wake him up each night by opening up his house - whether he'd stay in bed and not come out if I didn't do this, I'm not sure. I can't test as I have to give him the antibiotic.

His fur is quite patchy and he has lost weight - he looks quite ratty. I've seen him eating, but admittedly not much - a nibble of the various types of food. I don't actually know how much of a nut or piece of corn a hamster should eat in one go. He did have a hanging treat which he used to eat quite a lot, but recently he hasn't touched it. I would have thought the vet would have checked his teeth, but I can't actually comment on that.

The antibiotic is indeed Baytril, but I wasn't told to give him a probiotic - Is this something the vet should have mentioned?

He still comes out once woken and digs around. He has plastic tubes connecting his house and other areas, which he moves through very quickly. He also still gets nervy if held for too long.

have you also checked to see if he's dehydrated, using the
"tent" test? gently pull the skin on his shoulders and back,
then let go. the skin should go right down and not hang or
"tent." dehydration can definitely cause fatigue, unwell feelings
and strong urine smell.


Hi there, thanks for the suggestion. I tried this, but his skin didn't hang. He drank for a solid 45 seconds out of his bottle when I saw him.

Edited by mwhlr, 18 March 2012 - 06:44 AM.


#5 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:09 PM

Hi there - just thought I'd give an update.

After the 7 day course of antibiotics, I'd say my hamster has improved a bit. He doesn't seem quite as sleep when he comes out and his eyes are a bit wider. There also isn't a strong urine smell coming from his house anymore. That said, however, it's noticeable that he has lost weight - this could just be his age. His ears are also still down and that concerns me. It was put down to age by the vet, but I've never had a hamster whose ears drooped when they hit 2 years old. He's been like that for a month now, so it's not as if he was on his way out at the time. I'd love to see them up again, but I don't think I will - There is nothing obviously wrong with him.

He did seem to perk up on the Baytril, but now his course is finished. Should I take him to the vet again and see if he should get more or is it dangerous to keep hamsters on it for prolonged periods of time? I've never had a hamster on antibiotics, so I know very little about them.

My main question is whether anyone has had a hamster that has had a similar change when they've been older? Could his ears just be a sign of age which isn't seen too often? Any help would be great!

#6 missPixy

missPixy

    Angelic Ham

  • Advisor
  • 12,963 posts

Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:29 PM

continuous antibiotic therapy isn't recommended for hamsters
because of their unique gastro-digestive tract. did you give
him any probiotic with this?

if you decide to try more antibiotic, I'd first wait a week and
see if he stays the same. since you have no real diagnosis,
this is actually not a very good use of antibiotic.

also, does he have more bedding in his house than is shown
in those pix? does he have bedding deep enough to dig in?
does he have a sandbox?

does his activity level seem compromised now? rather than
an antibiotic, I'd ask the vet about diluted Metacam, which
is an anti-inflammatory drug. elder hams often suffer from
arthritis, and the Metacam can help relieve this discomfort.

#7 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 22 March 2012 - 12:12 AM

continuous antibiotic therapy isn't recommended for hamsters
because of their unique gastro-digestive tract. did you give
him any probiotic with this?

if you decide to try more antibiotic, I'd first wait a week and
see if he stays the same. since you have no real diagnosis,
this is actually not a very good use of antibiotic.

also, does he have more bedding in his house than is shown
in those pix? does he have bedding deep enough to dig in?
does he have a sandbox?

does his activity level seem compromised now? rather than
an antibiotic, I'd ask the vet about diluted Metacam, which
is an anti-inflammatory drug. elder hams often suffer from
arthritis, and the Metacam can help relieve this discomfort.



Hi there! Thanks for the response.

The vet never mentioned a pro-biotic, but after reading several suggestions on the forums I started giving him 1/4 of a teaspoon full yesterday. I'll give him a 1/4 every 2 or 3 days.

Yes, he has lots of bedding. He has a fully kitted out cage and connected to this, a large box with lid, deeply filled with bedding and sawdust, in which he has built himself a large nest. The pictures were taken in a "play box" - he has two large boxes, one filled with sawdust, that we connect to his house at night. There's plenty of room for him to run around in them. When we got him at first, he chewed up the carpet. There were also a lot of places in the room where we could lose him, hence why he gets the boxes.

That's a good suggestion about arthritis, although he still seems quite energetic. He runs up and down plastic tubes with little difficulty and his always stand up on his hind legs, looking up at us. The main thing I've noticed is that he no longer touches his wheel, at least when I am around.

I believe there is a small animals specialist about 40 minutes from where I live. While I don't like dragging him all the way down there, if he has not improved by Monday, I'll maybe book an appointment. I think a second opinion would be good - He's a much loved family pet.

#8 missPixy

missPixy

    Angelic Ham

  • Advisor
  • 12,963 posts

Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:12 AM

one way to detect arthritis in the hips is when the hind legs splay out to
either side. but he may have arthritis in other areas of his body... does he
still seem able to groom himself in hard-to-reach places?

if he's still energetic, that's a sign that part of him feels well enough to
be active, which is HUGE. just remember that continuous antibiotic therapy
also suppresses the natural immune system... not the best thing to do in
an aging hamster.

the observation about his high activity level but not on the wheel anymore
is a very good point to bring up with the vet, to help pinpoint where on
his body he's feeling discomfort. his spine, maybe? there are so many
internal pains with no external markers that can make mammals feel
lousy. without verbal communication, you see how difficult diagnosis
becomes. that's what I think is going on here.

Edited by missPixy, 22 March 2012 - 01:14 AM.


#9 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 22 March 2012 - 06:00 AM

one way to detect arthritis in the hips is when the hind legs splay out to
either side. but he may have arthritis in other areas of his body... does he
still seem able to groom himself in hard-to-reach places?

if he's still energetic, that's a sign that part of him feels well enough to
be active, which is HUGE. just remember that continuous antibiotic therapy
also suppresses the natural immune system... not the best thing to do in
an aging hamster.

the observation about his high activity level but not on the wheel anymore
is a very good point to bring up with the vet, to help pinpoint where on
his body he's feeling discomfort. his spine, maybe? there are so many
internal pains with no external markers that can make mammals feel
lousy. without verbal communication, you see how difficult diagnosis
becomes. that's what I think is going on here.


Thank you!

I will double check tonight, but I actually think I've seen his legs splayed slightly when walking around at times. I'll be getting him to the vet with arthritis in mind and seeing if we can sort him. I'll report back soon!

#10 missPixy

missPixy

    Angelic Ham

  • Advisor
  • 12,963 posts

Posted 22 March 2012 - 06:22 AM

good luck! keep us updated. I hope it's something as simple as
arthritis and that with medication he gets a lot of relief.

#11 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 23 March 2012 - 11:01 PM

So he's been to the vet again and this was the outcome.

He was given a good checking over by the vet, who said he couldn't see anything wrong with him. He said that he could very well be arthritic, but that he seemed pretty happy and active. Because of this, he didn't want to give us any medicine. He said that there was no official medicine for small animals and that the weakest available (I assume Metacam) was for cats.

So that's that. While I still don't feel entirely satisfied, I think I'll just have to leave it for now. My hamster does seem pretty happy, except that he doesn't touch his wheel and his ears are down. The minute he starts acting like something is wrong however, I'll make sure he gets seen to immediately.

If he is arthritic, are there any other things we can do to help him out? I've already bought pumpkin seeds and walnuts, as I believe these have oils that are good for the joints of small animals. Is there anything else?

#12 malloria

malloria

    Hamster Clone

  • Members
  • 1,539 posts

Posted 24 March 2012 - 05:44 AM

You've probably already thought of this, but what an arthritic hamster needs is to have the activities of everyday life be as easy as possible. From your description his cage space is on a single level, which is good. Are his water bottle and food easily accessible without him having to reach or climb? One reason he may not use the wheel is that it's too difficult to get into and out of. Is the wheel stand dug into the bedding so that the height of his jump into/out of it is minimized? I've had to make sure that this is the case with my elder Roborovski Ping.

Glad he's still checking out as ok despite the ongoing symptoms. :thumbsup:

#13 mwhlr

mwhlr

    Baby Hamster

  • Member
  • 7 posts

Posted 28 March 2012 - 06:47 PM

You've probably already thought of this, but what an arthritic hamster needs is to have the activities of everyday life be as easy as possible. From your description his cage space is on a single level, which is good. Are his water bottle and food easily accessible without him having to reach or climb? One reason he may not use the wheel is that it's too difficult to get into and out of. Is the wheel stand dug into the bedding so that the height of his jump into/out of it is minimized? I've had to make sure that this is the case with my elder Roborovski Ping.

Glad he's still checking out as ok despite the ongoing symptoms. :thumbsup:



Hey there! Yes, all of his things are pretty easy for him to get to, including the wheel. He does go into the wheel, but immediately comes back out of it. Overall, he seems pretty happy, despite the symptoms, as you said.

Thanks for all of the help I got here. I very much appreciate it. If there are any sudden changes to his behavior I'll be sure to let you all know!