Small rodent pets have vulnerable skeletons. Broken limbs, especially hind legs, are common in hamsters.
Broken legs in hamsters come in two forms – open and closed fractures. Open fractures involve a bone sticking out of the leg, and this open wound can lead to bacterial infection, which can be fatal.
Closed fractures can be resolved by treating the hamster’s pain and shock and allowing it to rest.
A hamster with a fractured leg shouldn’t interact with an exercise wheel, and it’s advisable to house them in a glass tank without different levels and bars to climb to prevent falls.
Can Hamsters Break a Leg?
Hamsters have delicate skeletons, so fractures to the bones are quite common. The most common ways for hamsters to break bones include:
- Improper handling, especially when taken out of a cage.
- Falling from height while climbing or off the edge of a table while exploring outside its cage.
- Getting a leg trapped in an exercise wheel or wire mesh of a cage.
A diet that lacks calcium and vitamin D will contribute to fractures or leg breaks, leaving the bones brittle. Along with appropriate nutrition, consider these steps to minimize risk:
- Housing the hamster in a glass tank with a climbing frame.
- Getting an exercise wheel without any wires or holes that could trap the feet.
- Monitoring the hamster carefully during free-roaming and avoiding elevated surfaces.
The hamster may still be at risk of a leg break, so always be aware of the risks.
Hamster Broken Leg Symptoms
You’ll need to recognize the signs and symptoms if a hamster has broken its leg. Don’t wait for them to make the concern obvious, as prey animals like hamsters do their utmost to mask injuries.
Common warning signs that a hamster has broken a leg include:
- Leg bone sticking out of the skin and fur, which is known as an open fracture.
- Can’t walk properly, so it’s limping and dragging its back leg.
- Moving slowly and without conviction.
- Reluctance to exercise, whether on its wheel or outside the cage.
- Excessive chewing of the leg.
- Growing aggressive when you attempt handling.
- Sleeping and lying on the side, attempting to avoid placing pressure on the damaged leg.
A closed fracture is sometimes harder to identify and could be mistaken for a less serious concern. If you’re wondering, “can a hamster sprain its leg?” the answer is yes.
Can a Hamster Recover from a Broken Leg?
Fractures in small animal skeletons may be commonplace, but this doesn’t mean they’re easy to treat.
The answer to the question “can a hamster heal a broken leg?” is sometimes yes, but it depends upon the severity of the leg injury.
A closed fracture will usually heal if the hamster is given enough time and space to rest and recuperate. It’ll also need medication to reduce the pain and shock caused by the injury.
An open fracture should be considered a medical emergency. As per the Journal of Orthopedic Research, an open fracture can invite bacteria into the wound, possibly costing a hamster its life.
Treating a Hamster with a Broken Leg
Hamster broken leg care initially requires veterinary assistance. Assuming a vet can manage the immediate concerns related to the fracture, you can continue the recovery process at home.
Under no circumstances attempt to reset the bones yourself, as this will be painful and could exacerbate the problem. Make a veterinary appointment and take the hamster for a medical examination.
Line a pet carrier with warm and soft bedding so you can safely transport the hamster to the vet and carefully move them into the carrier. You may want to wear gloves due to the risk of defensive biting.
Don’t attempt to self-manage a hamster’s discomfort. Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology explains how paracetamol and similar pain-reducing medication are toxic to hamsters.
Upon arrival at a veterinary clinic, a vet will thoroughly examine the hamster. In the case of an open fracture, some vets recommend amputation or euthanasia if the leg can’t be healed.
If an option, the vet will conduct surgery on an open leg fracture.
This will only be attempted if the vet is confident it can move the bones back into place to heal. The leg may be held in place with a splint, and a tiny cast will be constructed from cotton wool.
Closed fractures will primarily be treated at home through rest. A vet will prescribe hamster-safe painkillers to manage any shock and discomfort.
Antibiotics may be required to prevent bacterial infection if there’s been bleeding.
How Much Will Treatment for a Hamster’s Broken Leg Cost?
The cost of fixing a hamster’s broken leg varies. Expect to be billed for the following:
- An initial consultation with the vet, potentially at a higher emergency rate if you seek emergency assistance outside traditional practice hours.
- Any painkilling medications or antibiotics administered and prescribed.
- Any surgical procedures to save the hamster’s life, including amputation.
Most vets will charge $50–100 to treat a hamster’s broken leg. If the worst happens and you need to euthanize the hamster, this will also accrue a one-off charge.
Homecare for a hamster’s broken leg revolves around rest. Clean the hamster’s cage, removing any soiled or damp bedding. Leave any unsoiled bedding because the hamster will be comforted by its own scent.
Remove anything from the hamster’s tank that’ll agitate or encourage movement.
The most important thing to remove is an exercise wheel and climbing frames because hamsters will be instinctively driven to interact with these items.
If the hamster usually lives in a wire cage, consider switching it to a glass tank or aquarium. A hamster with a broken leg may still be compelled to climb bars.
Keep all food bowls and water bottles on the ground level so the hamster can easily reach them.
A hamster may gnaw and bite at its broken leg, attempting to sever it. If you observe the hamster behaving this way, inform your vet because it likely needs stronger painkillers.
How Long Does a Hamster’s Broken Leg Take to Heal?
If you follow a vet’s advice and the hamster gets sufficient rest, it should recover in about 4 weeks. Severe breaks, especially open wounds that lead to infection, may take longer.
Even if the hamster recovers from a broken leg, it may not regain full limb movement. There’s a risk that the hamster will retain a limp or the bone will reset crooked.
However, the hamster will adapt and learn to live with this mobility limitation over time.
Can a Hamster Die from a Broken Leg?
A broken leg may end a hamster’s life. In older pet hamsters, the shock caused by the injury can lead to cardiac arrest. A vet may also recommend euthanasia if an open fracture can’t be healed.
Open fractures can lead to blood poisoning and staphylococcus infections. If you identify these concerns early enough, and the hamster is otherwise in robust health, you may be able to save its life.