While hamsters aren’t likely to develop health issues with proper care and attentive owners, a few conditions may still show up occasionally. Now, eye issues are among the most likely conditions to show up.
We believe that the best way to help you take better care of your hamster is to provide relevant information. So here’s all that you need to know about hamster eye health!
Do Hamsters Have Good Vision?
Yes, hamsters have good vision. While it isn’t the best out there, it’s still better than most people give them credit for.
These little critters are nocturnal, which means that their eyes are adapted to see well in the dark. They do have some color vision, but mostly at certain wavelengths.
In addition, hamsters have some of the tightest eyes among all small pets. These can’t move around much, and this is good for depth perception since their eyes are located on the sides of their heads.
How Far Can Hamsters See?
Researchers aren’t entirely sure how far hamsters can see, but it’s presumed that they’re capable of seeing objects up to about 1.5 meters (5 feet) away. It should be noted that this is for both species – Syrian and dwarf hamsters!
Sure, that’s quite close, but they tend to make up for it by having very sharp senses of hearing and smell. Actually, hamsters rely on these senses quite a lot to avoid predators and stay safe.
Do Hamsters Have Color Vision?
Hamsters don’t have great color vision, but they can tell the differences between red, green, and blue. The differences aren’t very distinct though – it’s more likely that they’re capable of distinguishing between “warmer” and “cooler” colors.
Now, a hamster’s color vision isn’t very useful for identifying plants and other sources of food. This is why they rely on their senses of hearing and smell so much!
In addition, it’s worth noting that hamsters are born with poor vision, but their eyesight improves greatly within a few weeks or so. For instance, they may not respond to danger at first, and only after a month or so would they do everything in their power to avoid it.
What is the Eye Color of Hamsters?
There are three different kinds of hamster eye color you should be aware of; black, blue, and gold.
The most common of these is the black eye color, which is mostly found in Syrian hamsters. Dwarf varieties have two others – blue or gold.
Both types are pretty similar in that they have a white iris surrounding the pupil. Sure, there are some differences between them, but nothing worth mentioning.
Now, hamster eyes can actually change color too! This is mostly observed in Syrian hamsters, and it usually occurs when they’re feeling nervous or frightened. In such cases, their eyes tend to turn bright red!
In addition, some hamsters have a different eye structure from others – these are known as “albino” hamsters, and they lack melanin. This causes their eyes to be pinkish in color, and more prone to infection!
Common Eye Problems In Hamsters
While hamsters aren’t likely to develop health issues with proper care and attentive owners, a few conditions may still show up occasionally.
Now, eye issues are among the most likely conditions to show up. These include:
Also known as “pink-eye,” conjunctivitis is a very common eye problem in hamsters. It’s usually caused by a bacterial infection, and when it happens, the membrane that lines the inner part of the eyelids becomes inflamed!
Signs of conjunctivitis in hamsters include;
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eye
- Sticky eyelids
- Redness around the edge of the eyelids
- Pus in the corners of their eyes.
At the first sign of conjunctivitis, you should consult a veterinarian! This condition is very easy to treat, but seeing a doctor first can help save your pet from further pain and stress.
Failure to seek timely healthcare, conjunctivitis can be extremely severe. The eyelid may become so swollen that it shuts completely! But before that happens, you first notice other mild signs.
Another common eye problem in hamsters is a corneal ulcer, which can happen when something gets stuck on the surface of the cornea.
It’s also caused by a bacterial infection, but there are additional things that may trigger this condition. One of these is injury, like if your pet somehow scratches its own eye. Another is congenital problems, which are very rare but they do exist!
Signs of corneal ulcers in hamsters include;
- Cornea cloudiness or opacity
- Redness on the surface of the cornea
- Production of pus near the eye
- Cloudy eyes with a white pupil looking like there’s a chunk of cloudiness near it.
Same to conjunctivitis, it’s good you seek a veterinarian for this condition as well. Corneal ulcers are also easy to treat, but it’s a whole another story if the infection spreads throughout the eye and causes more severe problems.
This is another very common eye problem in hamsters, except it’s more likely to affect older pets. This condition is caused by a gradual thickening of the lens, which eventually leads to blindness.
Signs of cataracts in hamsters include;
- Cloudy eyes
- Watery eyes or “crying” that comes and goes at times
- Irritation when something gets closer to the eyes.
- Redness on the white part of their eyes
- Blurry vision.
- Loss of vision
Unfortunately, unlike conjunctivitis, there’s no cure for cataracts. But there’s also no reason to worry because your pet can still lead a perfectly normal life with cataracts! They will just need lots of your love and patience, and maybe a bit of help from you.
Retinal dysplasia is the condition that affects the retina, which is the layer at the back of the eye. This condition is caused by genetic mutations, and that makes it very likely to happen within the same litter. However, it may also be caused by viral infections and toxins.
This rare disorder results to malformations in cells somewhere toward the center part of this layer. It’s also known as “retina holes,” and it may lead to detachment between certain parts of your pet’s retina.
Signs of retinal dysplasia in hamsters include;
- “Picking” at the eyes, like if something’s stuck on them
- Poor vision or blindness (most cases)
- Redness around the eye.
While it’s also not curable, retinal dysplasia is barely noticeable once it’s completely developed! Your hamster will have an even life with proper care and a lot of love from you.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
Also known as “dry eye,” this condition is caused by insufficient tear production, which can happen when your pet’s lacrimal glands are damaged.
When that happens, the liquid in tears decreases or it may even disappear altogether. This problem causes inflammation in your hamster’s eyes and makes the surface of the cornea dry.
Signs of KCS in hamsters include;
- Redness on the white part of their eyes
- Swelling around the eyelids
- Itchy eyes
- Production of thick liquid right before they sleep (may be bloody)
- Blurry vision.
Dry eyes will also cause your pet to rub or scratch its eyes. Treatment involves lubricating your pet’s eyes with eye drops in order to ease the symptoms. You can also opt for surgery, but it’s very expensive.
The five are the most common hamster eye problems. Others not covered include; hemeralopia, cancer, glaucoma, blepharitis, dacryocystitis.
How To Keep Your Hamster’s Eyes Healthy
So, now you know what actually happens when your hamster has an eye problem. But there are also other things that you can do to avoid these conditions from happening in the first place;
- Give your pet a balanced diet. This means feeding them with high-quality and well-balanced pellets (and not just any kind of pellets ), water, and clean fruits and vegetables. Fruits rich in Vitamin A are very essential for your pet’s eye health.
- Keep their cages clean. By cleaning the cage regularly will make sure that your pet stays healthy in general. You also get rid of all kinds of harmful bacteria before they can even settle in your hamster’s environment, which helps them stay away from infections and disease.
- Regular vet checkup. You should also take your pet to the vet for a regular checkup and to make sure that everything is alright. Most of the serious conditions your hamster can suffer are easy to treat when caught early enough.
- Avoid toxins. This means that you should remove every harmful household chemicals away from your hamster. That way, you reduce the risk of toxic poisoning and prevent further eye problems from happening.
- Proper Housing. Protect your pet from injury by covering sharp edges in their cage with plastic or wooden boards. Remove any objects that can cause injuries on their playpen.
How To Take Care Of A Hamster With Eye Problems
If your hamster friend is already suffering from an eye problem, here are some things you can do;
- Take them to the vet right away for proper medication and treatment. The vet will treat the condition, or at least advise on the way forward if the condition isn’t curable.
- Keep their environment clean and hygienic to prevent further infections and disease. Use a separate water bottle and change their bedding more often.
- Always wash your hands with soap and running water right before touching them. Again, ensure that the water you use is mild to avoid irritating your pet’s eyes. Actually, it’s best you wear clean gloves when touching your sick pet.
- Feed them with healthy food to help build their strength and increase their immunity. You can also give Vitamin A supplements or even natural remedies like carrots to boost your hamster’s vision quickly.
- Eye drops may be necessary, but make sure you check with the vet first before using them on your pet.
While they don’t have the sharpest eyesight, these adorable rodents still rely on their eyes to navigate and survive in the world. However, like other pets, hamsters are likely to face eye problems in their lifetime.
Fortunately, you can do a whole lot to avoid these conditions from happening and treat your pet when they occur. The important thing is that you know how to recognize the symptoms of each condition so you can act right away.