Sendai Virus Infection in Hamsters

PetMD Editorial
Jul 22, 2010
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Parainfluenza Infection in Hamsters

An infection with the highly contagious Sendai (SeV) virus results in pneumonia-like symptoms and even death in the case of some hamsters. However, there are also some hamsters that have the contagion but do not display any ill effects; these are called carriers.

Also known also as the parainfluenza virus, treating this type of viral infection can be very costly and impractical. In addition, bacterial infection can occur concurrently with the SeV infection. Therefore, your veterinarian might administer antibiotics as well as initiate fluid therapy to help the hamster recover.

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sudden death (in some instances)

Causes

This infection is caused by the Sendai (parainfluenza type 1) virus; it is spread from one hamster to another by sneezing or coughing. Although some hamsters may only be carriers of the virus and show no ill effects, stress and/or the administration of anesthesia may initiate adverse reactions. This occurs more often in young hamsters or those with weak immune systems.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian might suspect a SeV infection by observing the symptoms exhibited by the infected hamster. To confirm the diagnosis, however, a veterinarian must conduct several laboratory tests on the hamster, including blood analysis.

Treatment

Treating a hamster with the SeV infection can be costly and impractical; typically, a veterinarian will only recommend alleviating its symptoms. He or she may also recommend the use of antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections, which are common in these cases.

Living and Management

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting the hamster's cage, you should separate the animal from other hamsters to prevent spreading the infection. And take precaution when handling a hamster infected with SeV, as the virus is also contagious to humans.

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