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Dragging back legs

Species: hamster | Category: medical-surgical | Submitted: 24 March 2007 12:34PM | viewed 23982 times
Q Christine asks:

My hamster is 15 months old and was hardly able to walk for last day or two, dragging back legs, didn't appear injured. Was breathing rapidly, didn't eat, slept anywhere slumped on ground and looked very unwell. Seems better now, but this is second time it's happened. Vet couldn't diagnose first time so didn't take hamster again. Can you suggest what to do to prevent/care for? Thank you.

Q Our vet says: I am sorry to hear that your hamster has been unwell like this. It can be very difficult to make an accurate diagnosis in this type of situation. There are many things which can cause this type of problem, including infections, metabolic disease, trauma, and tumours. It is often extremely difficult (and can be costly) to find out exactly what is causing problems such as these.

Sometimes hamsters can get a condition known as "cage paralysis" which may cause them to have signs of paresis such as you describe. "Cage paralysis" is often secondary to trauma but can also occur due to lack of exercise or nutritional problems.

Lack of exercise should be easy to correct by supplying wheels and tunnels etc for your hamster to climb through and play on. (Take care with wheels though - I have seen some very nasty injuries from wheels when they have not been correctly fitted and hamster's legs have become caught up in them).

Nutritional deficiencies are uncommon if hamsters eat a good balanced diet, but it is worth discussing this with your vet because vitamin supplements are thought to sometimes help.

There can also be genetic factors involved in this problem and unfortunately males do appear to be more susceptible than females.

In summary, it would be a good idea to provide more toys and exploratory activities for your hamster; then take a look at the diet and get a good reliable brand of food for him.

I would also strongly urge you to take your hamster back to your vet. There are several possible causes for the signs you describe and it is obviously impossible for me to make a diagnosis or suggest specific treatment over the internet. Also some conditions can be quite serious and or painful (such as tumours). Your vet will be able to help if he or she thinks further investigation of this problem is required.

I hope your hamster gets better.

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