Salmonella is a highly contagious bacterial infection that hamsters can contract when they come into contact with contaminated water, food or bedding material. Salmonella can make your hamster seriously ill, and it can even be fatal if your hamster does not receive prompt treatment. If your hamster has salmonella they can pass it to you and to other pets they come into contact with, so they should be handled as little as possible. It's best practice to wear gloves when handling a sick hamster and you should wash your hands immediately after handling them or their food and water bowls.
Symptoms Of Salmonella Infection
Symptoms of salmonella develop quickly and include vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of appetite. Your hamster will quickly become dehydrated from fluid loss and this will make them lethargic, which may present as them withdrawing from social interaction and not wanting to be handled. Dehydration can lead to organ damage, which can be fatal, so immediate care is required to restore your hamster's electrolyte levels. Abdominal distension and pain are also common symptoms of salmonella, and hamsters with a distended abdomen should be handled extremely gently to avoid the risk of internal damage.
Treating Salmonella Infection
Diagnosing a hamster with salmonella involves collecting a stool sample to identify the strain of bacteria causing the infection. Your vet will also ask you to explain the symptoms you've observed in your hamster, and it may be necessary to obtain a blood sample to check the health of your hamster's organs and determine whether they are dehydrated.
Your hamster will be prescribed antibiotics and may have to stay at the veterinary surgery for a day or two for observation. Fluids and electrolyte supplements will be given if your hamster is dehydrated, and they may also be given medication to stop them from being sick. Fighting off a salmonella infection can leave your hamster with depleted energy reserves, and when they are recovering at home they will need a quiet, calm place to rest that's separate from other pets and young children. Your vet will arrange a follow-up appointment to confirm the infection has been eradicated and they will give you the go-ahead to reintegrate your hamster with other pets and people.
Salmonella infection is a serious health concern for a small hamster, and if you think your hamster could have contracted this type of infection, you should arrange veterinary care for them right away. If your hamster starts displaying symptoms of salmonella infection outside of normal working hours, don't wait until your veterinary practice reopens to get them checked over. Instead, contact your local out-of-hours veterinary practice for support.
Contact an after-hours animal care service for more information.