As is the case with most pets, Syrian hamsters can suffer from many diseases, and while most only affect them, some can carry to humans. The good thing is that this furry companion is very clean and chances of you getting a disease from it are very slim. Even so, it is very important to know what to expect from your new pet, and we believe that this article will prove itself useful.
Below you will find a list of the more severe diseases that hamsters can have and which can be transmitted to humans in certain conditions. You’ll also find a list of common illnesses that will only affect your pet, and some of the steps that you can take to keep yourself protected and your hamster healthy. Take a quick look below and see for yourself.
Diseases that can be transmitted to humans
Syrian hamsters do an excellent job at keeping themselves clean, but there is a small chance, especially for young children, to get infected with salmonella after playing with the pet without washing their hands afterward. While salmonella is a bacteria best known as a food contaminant, it can also be present in certain live animals, not only in the meat you eat.
A hamster that carries this bacteria will likely appear to be completely healthy, and you cannot identify if the salmonella bacteria is present in its feces by merely looking at it. It is in the feces of the hamster that the bacteria is shed and this allows it to wind up in the cage and on the fur of the hamster.
While hamsters do groom themselves by licking their paws and combing through their fur, this process alone cannot kill the dangerous bacteria. You should not bathe hamsters as that can make them ill and strip the fur of all the oils that hold in warmth. To avoid infection, you should never touch your mouth while playing with your hamster and wash your hands immediately after.
We recommend taking the time to supervise your children and teach them to have good hygiene while handling hamsters. Since the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and children under the age of five can suffer severe complications if they contact salmonella, it is advised to keep hamsters away from this high-risk group of people.
Another illness that hamsters have and can be transmitted to humans is known as ringworm. This fungal infection is characterized by bald patches which generally start from the head and move on to the eyes, ear, and nose. The infection can also spread to the back.
Some hamsters may not exhibit external symptoms but if you notice bald patches on the fur of your pet, you should immediately contact your vet. Ringworm is highly contagious to humans, but also to other animals, so you should be very careful when handling an infected animal.
Tyzzer’s disease is a bacterial infection common to Syrian hamsters, and it can be found mostly in young or stressed pets. The bacteria attacks the digestive system and can cause severe abdominal pain as well as watery diarrhea.
The disease is transmitted by spores that spread through the environment, meaning that it can be difficult to shield your pet against it since the spores can easily get on the bedding material and the water and food containers. The bacteria may also spread through contaminated feces.
The symptoms you can expect your pet to experience are depression, dehydration, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, watery diarrhea, a hunched posture, and rough body coat. It is worth mentioning that some hamsters may not exhibit any symptoms at all.
If you do notice any of the symptoms above, you should try to contact your veterinarian since the disease can be treated by administering broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs together with mineral and vitamin supplement to strengthen the immunity. Thankfully, there are no reports of Tyzzer’s disease infection in humans.
The common cold
It’s not just unhealthy hamsters that can pass illnesses to humans, but also the other way around. Hamsters can catch a cold just as we can, and there are cases where the illness is passed from a human to the pet. Thus, if you are not feeling well, it would be a good idea to keep away from your pet until you begin to feel better.
The symptoms of a cold in hamsters are very similar to those you’d expect with humans, namely sneezing, coughing, difficulty in breathing, and a wet nose. Since the symptoms of a cold are very similar to those of an allergy or infection, if you notice that your pet has those symptoms for extended periods, you should take it to a vet for a proper diagnosis.
How to prevent infection and illnesses
If our article left you feeling a bit scared, you should know that there is nothing for you to fear since hamsters are generally clean and healthy animals, and chances of you catching any disease from your Syrian hamster are very low, especially if you are careful about what it eats and clean its cage regularly.
With that said, even if hamsters are low-risk pets, prolonged close contact such as allowing the pet to sleep in the bed with a child should not be allowed. If you have children, it is essential to teach them how to handle the hamster correctly and safely.
Hand hygiene is important for both healthy adults as well as children who might pose a higher risk of infection seeing as they like to put their hands in their mouth. Make sure to wash the hands thoroughly with soap and running water before and after you handle the pet.
To prevent illnesses, you should clean the cage at least once per week and do it while wearing gloves, making sure you wash your hands afterward. Cleaning the cage should involve disinfecting it with concentrated household bleach and replacing the bedding with a clean one.
The diet of your hamster is crucial as well since a healthy lifestyle and nutrition will help your pet develop a robust immune system capable of fighting diseases. If you are not sure which food to get for your hamster, we recommend that you take a glance at some of the top choices we found.