Polycystic Disease in Hamsters
Polycystic disease causes fluid-filled sacs, called cysts, to develop in a hamster's internal organs. The hamster may develop one or more cyst -- usually in its liver -- each of which is 3 centimeters in diameter. Other internal organs that can develop these cysts include the pancreas, adrenal glands, accessory sex glands (in males), and/or ovaries or tissue lining the womb (in females).
If left untreated, the cysts may continue to grow and could potentially burst, placing the hamster's life in danger. However, treating polycystic disease can be quite difficult. The only effective treatment for hamsters which develop cysts in the ovaries and uterus, for example, is spaying. Therefore, polycystic disease requires immediate veterinary care.
- Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
- Abdominal pain; so much so, in fact, the hamster will avoid your touch
- Hair loss, especially on or around the abdomen
Polycystic disease is caused by a disturbance in the production of hormones. Typically, it affects hamsters that are 1-year-old or older.
In addition to palpating the abdomen for cysts, a veterinarian can confirm polycystic disease by conducting X-rays and/or ultrasound scans on the hamster.
Unfortunately, the general outcome for hamsters affected with polycystic disease in internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands or pancreas is generally poor. Female hamsters with cysts in their ovaries and/uterus may undergo surgery (spaying) to remove the affected areas.
Living and Management
Allow the hamster to rest and relax, and to prevent possible infections from arising, carefully clean the cage. Then, based on your veterinarian's recommendations, formulate a follow-up schedule and diet. If it has undergone surgery, you may also need to restrain the hamster so that it does not groom the surgical site and interfere with the healing process.
Even though polycystic disease is not preventable in hamsters, it does not need to become a life-threatening situation. An early diagnosis and surgery can help prevent the cysts from bursting.