Eyeball protrusion is a surprisingly common injury in hamsters and should be treated as an emergency. If not treated promptly, an eyeball protruding from the eye socket could become infected and need to be surgically removed. Any type of surgery can put your hamster's life at risk, as general anaesthetic puts significant pressure on their small heart. This injury can be caused by trauma, such as fighting with another hamster, or as a result of your hamster being held too tightly at the back of the neck. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for eyeball protrusion in hamsters:
In addition to your hamster's eyeball bulging out of the eye socket, they may also experience localised swelling, irritation and a clear discharge from the affected eye. Your hamster will also be in pain, and this may present as loss of appetite, withdrawal from interaction with other hamsters and an unwillingness to be handled.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Your vet will diagnose eyeball protrusion by carrying out a physical exam and asking you a few questions about your hamster's living environment and how you handle them. If your vet is concerned an infection may be present, they will take a swab of the discharge from your hamster's eye for analysis. Blood tests can also be carried out to check for raised inflammatory markers, which can indicate infection or the presence of an underlying condition.
Treatment for eyeball protrusion will include administering antibacterial eyewash to cleanse and remove any impurities. Anti-inflammatories can be used if the eye area is swollen, and if your vet is concerned the protrusion has caused a build-up of pressure behind your hamster's eyeball, they may prescribe a type of drug called a cholinergic agonist to reduce the pressure by increasing the drainage of fluid from the eye.
Your vet will also give you advice on preventing hamsters from fighting with one another, introducing new hamsters to an existing group and creating a safe living environment. Depending on the breed of hamster you have, you may be advised to keep them apart from other hamsters. Your vet can also show you how to handle your hamster safely and answer any questions you have about caring for them.
If your hamster develops an eyeball protrusion, or if you have any concerns about their eye health, schedule an urgent appointment at a vet clinic to prevent unnecessary suffering and minimise the risk of your hamster losing their eye.