Here’s an overview of things we have in our hamster first-aid kit. You don’t need everything on this list to have a solid first-aid kit, but I am putting it here anyway so you have some idea of the many things we keep in our first-aid kit here at The Pipsqueakery! Some of the items include clickable links to Amazon.ca, Well.ca or Walmart.ca for your ease.
Your primary veterinarian’s contact info and address
Seriously, write down your veterinarian’s contact info and address and keep it in an easy to find location. In an emergency you might not be thinking straight and scrambling to find your veterinarian’s contact info wastes valuable time. Emergencies may also occur when you have someone petsitting. If that happens you will want them to be able to contact and find your veterinarian. If you don’t already have a veterinarian then you might want to read this: Ontario Vet List File
Your back-up veterinarian’s contact info and address
Yep, now that you have a primary veterinarian you also want to attempt to find a back-up veterinarian. Vets are people too. They go on vacation, they get sick, sometimes they are on maternity leave, or at a conference learning how to better care for your hamster. Seriously, all of these things have happened to us, and when that happens you need a secondary place to go. Sometimes this will be impossible to find, but you should at least call around to see if there is another veterinarian you could see in an emergency.
The closest 24-Hour Emergency Animal Hospital’s contact info and address
Sometimes your primary veterinarian isn’t available, and either you don’t have a secondary veterinarian or you are just unlucky enough that both are unavailable at the same time. If this is the case then you are going to want to know where the closest 24-Hour Emergency Animal Hospital is and how to get ahold of them. You should probably call them ahead of time just to be sure they will see your hamster.
This will probably be the most versatile piece of equipment you have in your first-aid kit. It has so many uses! You can use it to give your hamster water if it is dehydrated or baby food if it isn’t eating. You can use it to administer medication. You can use it to draw up betadine to mix with water for disinfecting a wound. You can use it to clean out a wound. You can feed a baby hamster formula. Seriously, best piece of equipment ever.
Having a good rehydration solution on hand is always a good idea as keeping your hamster well hydrated in an emergency is one of the most important things you can do. Generally you will want to use a 50/50 mix of pedialyte and water. Check out this link for more information: Emergency Care for Your Hamster
Baby food is a good thing to have on hand to feed to an anorexic or dehydrated hamster. You can definitely pick up a good veggie baby food at your local grocery store, Check out this link for more information: Emergency Care for Your Hamster
You will want sterile saline solution on hand to clean up injuries. For example, if your hamster has a cut you may need to clean up the surrounding area to see if the wound is actually bad or if it’s just a scratch that got blood all over their fur. Using sterile saline is much safer than using just regular water as sterile saline should not introduce bacteria into the wound that could cause an infection. You can also use sterile saline to clean up goopy eyes, or even to help temporarily lubricate dry eyes.
Cotton rounds are great for using to clean up a messy hamster, wipe off an injury (but remember cotton rounds are not generally sterile), apply a cream, or clean off a goopy eye. They’re just all around useful to have around.
You’ll want to have some of these on hand for the same reason that you want cotton rounds. These are great for the more precise clean-up or application of medicine needs.
You’ll want to have some gloves on hand to prevent the transmission of infection from you to your hamster or your hamster to you. It’s also a great precaution to help prevent transmission of disease between your sick hamster and other hamsters you may handle afterwards.
If you have a sick or injured hamster one of the first things you will want to do in an emergency is make sure the hamster maintains its body temperature. One way to do this is to use an electric heating pad on low under a portion of your hamster’s cage or while you hold your hamster wrapped in a towel. You should also monitor your hamster while using a heating pad to make sure they do not become overheated.
Here is another exceptionally versatile item you will want to keep in your hamster first-aid kit. A wash cloth can be used to assist in restraining your hamster while hand-feeding it food or water, while administering drugs, or while trimming nails. It can be used to help keep a hamster warm or to clean up a messy hamster. Plus, it’s probably something you already have around your house.
Oh, and as a side-note, I strongly prefer white wash cloths for this purpose. White wash cloths are nice in this instance because you will be able to see what is on the cloth whether that is blood, diarrhea, pus, urine, or some unknown substance. Whatever it is you want to know about it so you can react appropriately.
A scale that can measure weight in grams is something you always want to keep around when you have a hamster. It’s a good idea to weigh your hamster regularly as a sudden increase or decrease in weight can be one of the first indicators of illness. You might also need to get a current weight on your hamster to determine the dosage of a medicine your hamster needs. Overall, it’s just a great tool to have around.
Nail clippers are just a good idea to have on hand. Sometimes hamsters get overgrown nails that need to be clipped. It’s something you can definitely take your hamster to the vet to have done, but it’s also quite easy to do at home with a little practice.
The first part of this list has the things on it that I would consider necessary for a good first-aid kit. The second part is a list of things that would be nice to add to a first-aid kit and I use all of them regularly, but I don’t think they are strictly necessary.
We use these for everything from compounding medications (which you shouldn’t do if you don’t have the experience), to mixing formula for baby hamsters. Overall, we find them incredibly useful even though that are probably not really necessary for the majority of hamster owners.
This is another one of those useful things that you can probably find great substitutes for in any house. We use them primarily when we are diluting betadine with water to clean a wound, or to hold a variety of other liquids and creams for us to use.
In truth, some q-tips will probably work just as well as these sterile cotton swabs for most people. We use them to apply topical medication to wounds, and have been known to use them for cleaning out cheek pouches. Most hamster owners will never have occasion to need to clean out a cheek pouch, but they might be nice to have on hand for applying medication. They do come in handy 2 packs.
We use these to test for glucose and ketones in our hamsters’ urine. They’re particularly useful for identifying diabetes, but if you find out your hamster has glucose in its urine you should definitely head to a vet as there are multiple reasons this could occur.
These are sorta like the sterile cotton swabs in that a cotton round will work just as well as sterile gauze dressing. However, it’s nice to have some sterile gauze at home to stop bleeding without introducing bacteria that could cause infection.
This can be useful for helping to hold the gauze on while you are heading to the vet. Since it only sticks to itself you won’t end up with tape stuck to your hamster’s hair. Of course, unless your hamster is badly injured and lethargic there is certainly a possibility your hamster will want nothing to do with being wrapped in gauze and vetrap. It’s probably better to just have a second person holding the gauze on to stop the bleeding while you drive to the vet.
These are very useful for disinfecting equipment you use between hamsters. You can use them to wipe off your gram scale, clean your tweezers, or wipe off your nail clippers. They can also sometimes be useful for disinfecting a wound, but alcohol is not really a preferred disinfectant since it dries out the skin.
I know a bottle of saline solution was already on the list, but these little bullets of saline can be super useful. For one, you know each one is sterile because it has never been opened before unlike a big bottle of saline. They’re also useful because they are easy to carry around and because you can just use it to squirt saline right onto the area you need to clean. These are one of those things that aren’t necessary, but are nice to have.
Whatever scissors you have around the house will probably work just as well, but trauma shears can be nice because you know they will cut through whatever you need them to cut through. Whether that is a piece of string wrapped tightly around a hamster limb, or a piece of fleece to keep the hamster warm you can usually count on your trauma shears to take care of it for you.
So, I very rarely end up using tweezers. I don’t know why. They seem like they would be useful for all sorts of things and other people use them but I almost never do. That said, they can be used to get foreign objects out of a wound, or for all kinds of other things. I suppose it’s probably worth having a pair on hand in case you run into a situation where you need them.
Betadine is actually our preferred disinfectant for wounds. It’s a good disinfectant that doesn’t damage the surrounding skin. Plus, it’s pretty darn safe if your hamster decides to lick it up. To use it you will generally want to water it down until it looks like a light tea and then apply it with a cotton swab.
These are one of the more common things we end up using for our elderly hamsters. I’m sure most of you have experienced a hamster with goopy eyes or maybe some crust when they first wake up. Lubricated eye drops are useful for helping with dry eye issues and can make elderly hamsters quite a bit more comfortable. Plus they can help soothe an irritated eye.
Having probiotics on hand for a minor upset stomach or irregular stools can be really great. Of course, they aren’t a cure for an actual infection but they can certainly help keep your hamster’s digestive system healthy. Lots of people also like to use them during stressful times to help prevent diarrhea.
Critical Care is often recommended as the supplement you will want to use to hand-feed an anorexic hamster. It is really great for that (and smells really good when you mix it up) but we have found that most of our hamsters don’t really like it. That might be because it is primarily made of hay which isn’t something hamsters usually eat. Of course, we still use it when necessary and I think it’s a good thing to have on hand.
These can work really well as a heating pad in a pinch. They are nice to have on hand in case your power goes out. You’ll want to make sure your hamster can’t reach them if you use them to keep your hamster warm. Taping them to the outside of the cage can be a good way to use them.
This is another good option for use as a heating pad. It’s particularly useful during transport where you probably won’t have access to an electrical outlet to run an electric heating pad. Of course, it’s also not particularly useful if the power goes out since you need a microwave to get it started. We used one of these when we transported Marvel to us.
Sorta like the heating pads, there may also be instances where your hamster gets overheated or even has a heatstroke. In some of those instances it might be necessary to cool your hamster down. This should probably be used with caution but it’s nice to have on hand just in case.
So, it’s always a good idea to have a hospital cage for your hamster. You want something that is easy to transport and can also hold all the things necessary to your hamster (food, water bottle, something to hide in). The first link there would make an excellent hospital cage for a hamster that needs to have its movement restricted. It is tall enough to hold all the necessities but shouldn’t allow the hamster too much room to move around. We use small cages like this for transport and sometimes for critically ill hamsters.
Don’t forget to put lots of ventilation in these when you turn them into hospital cages!
When we have a sick hamster this is usually our bedding of choice. It’s white so I can easily see if the hamster is peeing and pooping. It’s also nice because you can easily see if there is any blood or other discharge that shouldn’t be there. It’s also pretty dust-free and very soft and comfy for your hamster.
This is another thing that is just nice to have around. Sometimes you need a piece of fleece to help keep your hamster warm and comfortable, and having an all white one is useful for the reasons already mentioned.
You probably have these at home, but they are useful to include in your first-aid kit too. You can use them to store things that might spill, keep q-tips together, or pretty much a million other things. They’re also useful because if you have to leave your hamster at the vet it’s a good idea to take some of their usual food and treats with you. Plus, sometimes you find something like a weird bug, weird scab, or just something plain weird in your hamster cage. If that happens in conjunction with a need for veterinary care it can be useful to save that stuff to show the veterinarian exactly what is going on.
Again, something you probably have at home but they can be useful for so many things. Whether it’s wiping up blood, drying your own eyes, making a fluffy nest for your hamsters, or cleaning up that baby food you spilled all over everything having tissues on hand it pretty nice.
Yep, paper towels are basically the same as kleenex. They’re not quite as good for making a fluffy nest, but they are vastly superior when it comes to cleaning up that baby food you spilled everywhere!
Please note that nothing on this list is a substitute for veterinary care.
Thank you to The Pipsqueakery for sharing your well written article with the OHC.