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If you're considering getting a hamster you may be wondering if you should even budget for veterinary care. After all, they're so small - and who's ever seen a hamster in a vet's waiting room? We've researched this question in depth, getting information from experienced hamster owners - to bring you some answers.
Hamsters absolutely require veterinary care despite the perception of them being “low-maintenance.” After all, these creatures are not toys. They are living, breathing animals with bodies that can become ill or injured.
While hamster care can be quite a bit less demanding than the care required by other species of household pets, that doesn’t mean that veterinary care is unnecessary. Make sure to read the information below to understand just how wildly inaccurate the myths are so that you don’t become one of those owners yourself.
Debunking Myths About Hamster Veterinary Care
Hamsters are known for being fun and low-maintenance pets. They're often considered great “first-time” pets for young children and others who have not had a pet in their lives before. But that doesn’t mean that they require zero maintenance.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation flying around in regard to the kind of care that veterinarians can provide to hamsters. This false information can make hamster owners think that it’s not worth it to bring their small rodent friends to the vet.
Hamsters are Too Small, Vets Only Work with Dogs and Cats
Believe it or not, there is a vet for every type of animal on the planet. From tiny dwarf hamsters to enormous elephants, there are vets that have received the highly specialized type of education necessary to ensure the best care for any animal in your custody.
Of course, there is no vet that understands how to treat every animal that they come across. You will need to seek out a veterinarian that specializes in the care and treatment of exotic mammals, a category which hamsters of all breeds fall under.
Hamsters Can’t Receive a Full Array of Treatment
It is often believed that hamsters are too small to be treated with the same high caliber and variety of treatment that larger animals can receive – this is absolutely false! Hamsters can receive all kinds of tests (like blood and fecal tests), x-rays, ultrasound examinations, and even have surgeries.
Hamster Vet Bills are Too Expensive to be Justified
If caring for your hamster is of a priority to you, then you should have gone into hamster ownership prepared for any possible expenses that may come up. This includes food, shelter, bedding, toys and, yes, veterinary visits.
Vet bills, over the course of any pet’s life, can end up totaling to be more than you paid for the pet itself. This doesn’t make their healthcare any less important just because you might have gotten them for free or cheap.
Read more: How much does a hamster REALLY cost
If a Hamster is Very Sick or Dying, Vet Care Just Isn’t Worth It
If your hamster’s condition has progressed well past the point of being able to survive much longer, that doesn’t mean that vet visits aren’t still important.
Your vet may be able to prescribe medications, like pain medications, to help their quality of life remain more intact in their final days. They may also help put an end to your pet’s life humanely if they are suffering and beyond help.
When Should I Take My Hamster to the Vet?
Hamsters are very small creatures that can get into any number of compromising situations. This means that they can be very susceptible to injuries, such as if they fall, something lands on them or someone steps on them. If you see bleeding, limping, broken or missing limbs, deep wounds, unusual lumps or discharge from any orifice, an emergency vet visit should be scheduled immediately.
You should also schedule an emergency vet appointment if your hamster seems to be struggling to breathe or if they aren’t eating and/or drinking.
These circumstances amount to emergencies, which hamster owners should be able to identify in order to ensure their hamster receives prompt care. Your vet will assess your hamster, treat them, and inform you of their prognosis.
What to do if you Can’t Get Your Hamster to the Vet
Even if you’re fully aware of the importance of proper veterinarian care, sometimes life happens, and it can be difficult to get yourself and your hamster to the vet. Transportation problems, a lack of funds, or the absence of an exotic mammal vet in your area are hurdles that can impede your ability to get your hamster proper care. Fortunately, there are solutions for many of these problems.
Getting out to the vet is half the challenge sometimes. Asking a friend or family member, using rideshare services or public transportation can be the solution that you’re looking for. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
You can call your vet to see about financial aid that they offer to help people pay their vet bills. If their office doesn’t offer such a program directly, they may be aware of a third-party program that can help you out.
No Exotic Pet Vets in the Area
It’s not uncommon for people to have to drive quite far to get to an exotic mammal vet. Unfortunately, this can put quite a hindrance on getting prompt treatment. You can start your online research by searching the AEMV's database. The AEMV is the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians.
You can also use forums to ask other hamster owners that you know about any vets in the area that they use.
Still can't find anything and in a rush? Call up local veterinarians to see if they can see your hamster in the event of an emergency, even if hamsters don’t fall within their specialty. Most vets just want to help animals; they’ll try to help your furry companion as best they can.
What to Look for in a Vet for Your Hamster
You now know to look for an exotic mammal specialist, but that’s not the only criteria that you should take under consideration. As it is with any valued pet member of any family, you want to make sure that the vet that you commit to is capable of delivering the most prompt and high-caliber quality of care possible. So, what are the things that you should be looking for?
Ideally, you should locate an exotic mammal specialist that’s easy enough for you to get to with minimal traveling involved. Unfortunately, the nearest vet to meet your needs might be a town away, especially if you live in a small or rural town yourself.
Most veterinarians will list their qualifications online, so take a look there to see their line of expertise. For hamsters, look for exotic pets specialists. If the veterinarian is a member of the Association of Exotic Mammals Veterinarians, that's a very good sign.
You can also look for accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association (or AAHA). If the vet has been accredited by the AAHA, you know that they know their stuff and you can rest assured that your hamster has been placed into the most trustworthy of hands. If the practice’s website doesn’t reveal this information, call the front desk to ask!
Questions to Ask Prospective Hamster Vets
- “What other pets does your vet practice treat?” If your vet primarily treats other small rodents, especially hamsters, this is a great sign.
- “How many hamsters does your practice see in a month?” Even if they don’t have an exact number on the top of their head to give you, they should be able to give you a rough estimate. Of course, if you live in a rural area or a small town where the practice exists, you shouldn’t expect this number to be very high. Veterinary practices in densely populated urban centers, on the other hand, will likely see many more hamsters in a 30-day span.
- “What testing capabilities does your practice have, onsite?” Some vet clinics will outsource certain procedures or tests to other area practitioners. You should know what you can expect to have conducted at your vet’s practice, as well as what you might have to travel elsewhere to have done.
Other Tips for Finding the Best Vet
- Word of mouth is a great resource. If you have any other hamster owners in your life, ask them where they have taken their hamsters, what they think of the vet practice, and if they would recommend it to friends or family.
- Research online to see reviews of prospective vets.
- When on the phone with a prospective vet practice, ask how often they have availabilities, what their hours are, if they accept walk-ins, as well as the cost of routine services and emergency services.
- You can contact your state’s licensing board to see if there are any complaints lodged against the vet before you commit to taking your pet there.
- When meeting with a new vet for the first time, you should pay attention to how the vet handles your hamster as well as how they address you. If they are kind and courteous and show no negativity when answering your questions, you’re off to a great start. You want to make sure that they handle your hamster with care as to avoid harming it or stressing it out, so carefully assess their behavior with your hamster before deciding that this vet is your for-sure veterinarian.
Hamsters Need Vet Care Just as Much as Any Other Pet
You might think that veterinary care is only for larger species of pets, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the smallest of hamsters deserve the highest caliber quality of care from their owners and their vets, so don’t settle for subpar care.
Even worse, don’t let the myths surrounding hamster care cloud your judgment and make you think that your hamster doesn’t need the same quality of care as a dog or cat. They certainly need it, and they deserve it.
Did this post make you realize the importance of animal health care? Each animal deserve a chance to get proper health care. Check out 7 Hamster Health Issues Every Owner Needs to Know About, this will give ideas on hamster related sickness.