A skin abscess is basically an infected pocket of pus beneath the skin, and it is also called an inflammatory lesion. Any animal can develop this type of infection, but for hamsters, skin abscesses are typically caused by a bacterial infection from injuries the animal received during a fight with a cage mate or from wounds caused by pointed objects in its cage, such as a piece of broken plastic or wood shavings. When pet owners discover their hamster has a skin abscess, they should assess the lesion immediately and have a veterinarian treat it to keep it from spreading all over the hamster’s tiny body.
When identifying skin abscesses in hamsters, it’s important to note these infections are often found near or on the rodent’s head, but they can take root on the hamster’s body anywhere. Swelling can often be seen or felt under the hair, with the area appearing red and being sensitive to the touch. If the abscess has ripened, it will pit when you apply pressure to it. The hamster’s lymph nodes and cheeks may be swollen as well should the infection be severe enough. As well, pus could ooze out of the abscess and into the hamster’s hair if the abscess ruptures.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To give the animal a proper diagnosis, a vet uses a physical exam to differentiate the abscess from other skin irritations, such as hematomas or cysts. The exam includes piercing the abscess and then collecting pus and/or blood samples for identifying the kind of bacteria that are triggering the infection.
Before the vet ruptures the skin abscess and then drains and flushes it using an antiseptic, he or she assesses the abscess before deciding between surgically removing it or applying heat-generating ointments to ripen the abscess (suitable antibiotic creams and Manuka honey can be applied when necessary). Abscesses that are surgically removed usually heal better compared to ones that are drained, flushed, or lanced. Also, if the hamster’s flank glands, located in males above the hips, are infected, the vet might shave the area, clean it, and then apply ointment that has steroids and antibiotics.
Management and Living
If pet owners have chosen surgery for removing their hamster’s abscess, they should closely follow the postoperative procedures their vet recommends. They should also restrain their hamster, so it doesn’t groom its affected area and disrupt the healing process. As well, pet owners should consult their vet about everyday dressing changes.
To prevent a skin abscess from forming on your hamster’s body, make sure its cage does not have any sharp edges or any objects that might cause injury, such as broken or jagged wood shavings. Also, separating hamsters known for fighting each other or in general could decrease the likelihood of abscess-prone wounds from happening.
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