Hamster Health Checklist
When chosing your hamster you will likely want the healthiest one you can find so here is a checklist you can use to help you.
The hamster should not be overweight or underweight. Being too large is just as damaging to a hamsters health as being too thin. You should not be able to see the rib cage or spine. When holding the hamster you will be able to feel the bones but they should not be sharp, you will be able to feel a layer of flesh between the fur and skeleton.
The hamster should not be missing any hair or have any bald patches. The exception being Syrian hamsters who will have a small bald patch on each hip around a dark patch of skin, these are their scent glads and perfectly normal.
The hamster should not have any dry, flaky or red patches of skin. Watch out for excessive itching.
The hamsters bottom should be clean and free of discharge, blood and wet faeces. The testicles of male hamsters will protrude when they are warm, in Chinese hamsters the testicles are almost always noticeable this is normal and they look like large hairless lumps under the tail of the hamster.
Eyes should be clear and bright with no discharge. They should not be sealed shut. The eye should not look "milky" or have a white or hazy circle. Hamsters can have red eyes which is normal.
The ears will be clean and clear of discharge or blood. They should not look red or flaky.
You can make a clicking sound with your fingers or a squeaking sound with your mouth to check hearing, the ears should twitch a little when you make an unusual sound.
If you are able to check the teeth there should be four visible at the front of the mouth, two at the top and two at the bottom. They will be long and yellow or orange. Teeth should not be white, broken or missing.
Breathing should be quiet and steady. It should not be deep or fast unless the hamster has recently been very active. The hamster should not be squeaking, wheezing or clicking.
The Hamster Should Be...
Confident, it should not be terrified by the other hamsters or by the presence of people.
Curious, hamsters that are curious about what you are and show less fear are often easier to tame.
Calm, the hamster should not be aggressive towards you.
The Hamster Should Not...
Be lethargic (sleepy) when fully awake.
Be holding it's head on one side (head tilt)
Be displaying repetitive behaviour such as spinning in circles or backflipping.
When choosing a dwarf pair pick two that interact well together. They should be friendly towards each other and should not be fighting, chasing, nipping or squeaking at each other.
The hamsters habitat has an effect on their health and well being. Hamsters living in dirty or overcrowded cage are likely to suffer from higher levels of stress and more likely to become ill.
The other hamsters in the cage should also look healthy. If you chose a healthy hamster from a cage with unhealthy hamsters your hamster could still become unwell once you bring it home.
The hamsters in the cage should all be the same sex, all male or all female not mixed.
If you are in doubt pick a male hamster so as to avoid taking a pregnant female. If you do not know how to tell the sex of a hamster then go to somewhere that keeps their hamsters separate.