Gerbils & Hamsters/Eye infection?

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One of my dwarf hamster's eyes are closed and I believe it looks crusted around the eyelids.I didn't get a long,detailed look,she kept moving around.The other eye is wide open and normal. I think this is an eye infection,it could be from urine(I don't know which corner she urinates in),newly changed bedding,or some of the blue cloud dust for her dust bath,or she injured herself while moving around.Though I've used the dust for a long time and there was no problem. If it's an eye infection,is it serious? or common and easily treated? If it isn't life threatening how would I treat it at home?Do I just use a cotton swab and water to lightly clean the eye?

I didn't notice any other abnormalities,she can move around,and ate her treat just fine.She isn't sluggish,she quickly ran away from my camera,so she is still alert and still grooms herself correctly.I just changed her bedding on the 23rd,her eyes were fine then.I just noticed the eye today.I used Crittercare hamster bedding from Walmart this time,could it be the new bedding? I noticed she scratched her closed eye a bit with her hind leg,so the eye's probably infected.

I couldn't get a clear photo though,she dislikes the camera and I don't want to scare her.

Answer
Hi Thao

Thanks for your question - apologies for the delay in responding.

As hamsters eyes protrude they can become infected or damaged quite easily.  For many, crusty eyes are quite normal and with these it is a case of gently wiping the eyelid with a clean damp cloth to help them open their eye.  If they don't open their eyes daily they can become infected.

Hamsters have glands that produce a reddish fluid that helps lubricate the eye and this can sometimes be mistaken for blood. If their immune system is compromised for whatever reason they can produce more of this fluid which causes the crusty eyes.  Often you see crusty eyes in the older hamsters.

Hamsters can get eye infections, and if your hamster is scratching it then it suggests that this could either be because they have injured their eye and it has infected, or that she has conjunctivitis which is a very itchy condition. Be careful with handling her incase this is conjunctivitis - make sure you wash your hands after touching her and do not touch your own eyes.  Conjunctivitis is transferable to humans.

I would suggest you try to open her eye - you need to be very careful.  If you boil up some water and add a little salt to this then allow it to cool - soak a clean cloth in this and gently wipe the eye area (you might need to get someone to help you hold her while you do this).  I cannot stress enough how careful you must be with doing this as you don't want to damage her eye or eye lid at all. If you wash away any crustiness see if she can open her eye.  There might be some pus in which case you should carefully clean this.  If you manage to get her to open her eye and it looks normal then I suggest you monitor her for a day or two to see if it improves.  If  the eye doesn't open easily after wiping the area, or her eye doesn't look normal if she does open it, if there is pus, or redness on the eyelid then I would strongly advise that you get a vet to check her out.  Eye ointments that are safe to use on hamsters are:  Tiacil Ophthalmic Solution or Fucithalmic Vet (these treat bacterial infections).  If this is an allergic reaction to something then Maxitrol drops may be required (they are corticosteroid eye drops).

If you find this is an allergy, then it is a case of doing some investigative work and removing various things from her cage for a few days to see if there is any improvement. Make sure there are no perfumes or air fresheners near her cage as these can upset hamsters.

I hope this helps you.

Regards
Sheila

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Sheila Adby

Expertise

Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is www.thehamstersite.com

Experience

I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website: www.thehamstersite.com

Publications
Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Education/Credentials
Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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