Hamsters, especially older females, can be prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The most common signs of UTIs in hamsters are a reluctance to urinate or incontinence and regular urination, frequently accompanied by squeaking, whining, crying, and yelping to denote pain.
If a hamster has a UTI, its urine will likely be discolored and smell foul due to the bacteria.
If the hamster has a UTI, it’ll spend more time sleeping than usual. It won’t feel inclined to exercise or groom itself and will drink more water to flush the bacteria causing the infection from its body.
Prescription antibiotics will fight the infection, alongside ample rest. Minimize the risk of future UTIs by keeping their living area clean, as this will reduce the likelihood of bacteria entering the urethra.
Can Hamsters Get Urine Infections?
Hamsters of any age or sex can develop urinary tract infections. However, this condition is most common in older females, especially those who’ve given birth to several litters.
UTIs are comparatively common in hamsters, but this doesn’t mean they can be ignored.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infections in Hamsters?
Unsanitary living conditions are the most common reason a hamster develops a UTI.
Hamsters like to keep their feet on the ground and spend a lot of time burrowed in substrate and bedding. This can make it easy for bacteria to enter the urethra.
Bacteria can move from the rectum, bladder, or kidneys into the urethra. Bacteria can also enter through contact with contaminated objects, like food, water, or another animal’s fur or skin.
The most common bacterial infection that causes UTIs in hamsters is Escherichia coli (E. coli.) Hamsters will have harmless E.coli in their gut, but cage cleaning reduces the risk of UTIs.
Be mindful of hamsters hoarding perishable food or drinking stagnant water, which can also cause UTIs.
Not breeding a hamster will reduce the risk of developing urinary tract infections until it reaches senior status. Monitor moisture levels in the hamster’s cage, as excessive humidity leads to bacterial growth.
Can a UTI Kill a Hamster?
A urinary tract infection is rarely fatal to hamsters. However, left untreated, a UTI can cause more serious health problems, including renal failure.
Common Signs of UTIs in Hamsters
An owner must recognize hamster urinary tract infection symptoms, so action should be taken. While a UTI may clear up without treatment, the condition will grow increasingly distressing.
Here are the most common warning signs that a hamster has a urinary tract infection:
1/ Excessive Thirst
If a hamster is drinking more than usual, it may be attempting to flush bacteria from its body. Any change to the hamster’s food and water habits should be considered a key symptom.
A UTI isn’t the only potential explanation for a hamster drinking more than usual. A hamster could be dehydrated due to high temperatures or an illness like diabetes.
2/ Reluctance To Urinate
An average hamster will pee at least 7 times per day.
If a hamster has a UTI, elimination will be painful and cause a burning sensation. Unsurprisingly, this can make hamsters reluctant to urinate.
Note how the hamster reacts during urination. Emptying the bladder should be conducted silently and efficiently so something is amiss if a hamster displays signs of pain.
Discomfort is usually expressed through verbalizations, like squeaking, yelping, and screaming.
3/ Constant Urination (Polyuria)
At the other end of the spectrum, we have polyuria, which is a constant need to urinate. If a hamster has a UTI, it’ll likely pee in tiny amounts but more often than usual.
One sign that a hamster has polyuria is emerging during daylight hours to relieve itself. According to Biology Letters, captive hamsters are crepuscular and are rarely seen before the sun goes down.
4/ Leaky Urine and Wet Bottom
A hamster with a UTI may have incontinence, regularly leaking urine. This will gather around the hamster’s bottom, giving a distinct scent, staining the fur, and making it damp.
Some owners mistake a UTI for wet tail disease (proliferative ileitis), but a UTI isn’t as severe. A vet should still investigate any dampness around the hamster’s rear.
Even if the hamster doesn’t have a UTI, there will be a reason for incontinence. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice link a leaky bladder to diabetes in Chinese hamsters, so don’t ignore the symptom.
5/ Smelly Urine
Hamster urine will never smell appealing, usually carrying a distinct aroma of ammonia. Hamsters aren’t smelly pets if you keep on top of hygiene, but a dirty cage can create quite an odor.
If a hamster has a UTI, its urine will smell even stronger. You’ll likely detect a strong, fishy smell in the hamster’s potty area or bed.
You may detect a metallic smell from the urine, suggesting it’s passing blood while eliminating it.
6/ Discolored Urine
Healthy hamster urine is a milky shade of white. If a hamster has a UTI, its urine may be sludgy and discolored due to the presence of bacteria.
Be mindful of hamster urine that is brown, orange, pink, yellow, or red. Blood in the urine is always concerning, but it could be any shade, including bright pink or deep brown.
Note that certain foods, like beetroot and blackberries, can change urine color.
7/ Lethargy and Lack of Grooming
There are many reasons why a hamster may become lethargic and sleepy or cease grooming. For example, older hamsters naturally start to slow down.
A UTI will leave a hamster drained and sleepy, so look for other symptoms if its behavior changes.
How To Treat Urinary Tract Infection in Hamsters
A urinary tract infection in hamsters may pass without treatment, but this will take a long time.
Left untreated, the hamster will be in significant pain, and the infection can spread to other parts of the anatomy. If you believe the hamster has a UTI, make a vet appointment.
Ensure the hamster has fresh water, and try offering small servings of plain Greek yogurt or sugar-free cranberry juice. These will go some way to balancing the bacteria in your hamster’s body.
A vet will test a urine sample from the hamster to confirm the presence of bacteria. If a UTI is diagnosed, the hamster will be prescribed oral antibiotics, like Baytril.
Antibiotics kill the bacteria behind the infection or stop them from multiplying and spreading. A hamster must finish the full course of antibiotics prescribed by a vet.
Your hamster will need to take these antibiotics daily for 2-3 weeks and get enough rest. That means you’ll need to remove exercise wheels and distractions from the hamster’s cage while it recovers.
A hamster can recover from a UTI with antibiotics and aftercare. Be vigilant about keeping a hamster’s cage clean and check for symptoms of urinary tract infections, especially if you have a female.