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Hamster: Sudden Weight Gain & Purple Stomach?
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Hamster: Sudden Weight Gain & Purple Stomach?

I've noticed that within the last week my hamster has gotten quite a bit larger. Also through the skin on her belly I can see dark purple. I'm worried something might be going on inside...

She seems to be acting okay, not sickly, eating and moving around (though doesn't seem as energetic as she used to).

Over the last two or three weeks I'd noticed she seemed pretty skinny and I worried she hadn't been eating, except her food always disappeared from the bowl quickly (and lots of it!). Last week I had a scare where I found her in her cage cold, weak, and nearly unresponsive, but she came back to normal after I made her drink some fruit juice and warmed her up with a heating pad. I'd experienced the same thing with a previous hamster due to lack of food, but she had been given a LOT of food over the week before, enough for her to not have run out and been starving. And the food I gave her all the previous week always disappeared very fast, which was odd. Once she had something in her stomach again she was right back to normal. A few days later is when I noticed she had gotten (overly) big, and the dark purple tinged stomach.

I also noticed around the time I found her weak and cold that her back legs looked odd... they were very red/purple in parts but I could see the bone/tendon as very white through the skin. I don't recall her legs looking like that before, and I thought it might be related to her weakness but they still look like that now.

I live in San Francisco but when I google I can't seem to find any small animal vets in the area to take her in. I was hoping to get some advice here about how serious it could be. Thanks.
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Avatar_n_tn
I should add she's a long haired hamster, about a year and a half old, always been in good health.

I'd love a recommendation on a small animal vet in the San Francisco area if that's what she needs.
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187666_tn?1331176945
She should be seen. It could be some kind of hemangioma. That's like a tumor made of tangled, overgrown blood vessels. I had a cat that had hemangio-sarcoma which is similar but a type of cancer. The only way to know is to find a vet. You could call a couple of the vets near you and they surely know the vets in their area. They would know best who would be able to help you.
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Avatar_n_tn
What do you know about the survival percentage for hamsters going under the knife? My last hamster had cancer that may have started in the liver and spread to the uterus and a day or two after a hysterectomy she died. I absolutely regretted the decision to let them cut her open since I had a feeling from the start that she wouldn't make it through. I hate to be faced with that decision again, but I'd also hate to avoid surgery that could actually WORK the second time around, just because I'm worried about it going wrong like last time.
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187666_tn?1331176945
I can't imagine doing major surgery (like removing a tumor) from such a small animal. We don't do surgery on small birds or mammals where I work because the stress is too much for them. If their injury is that severe, we euthanize if there's no hope for recovery.

You don't know if there's a malignancy or just a benign tumor but either way, surgery would be a major event for her. A trip to the vet would give you some idea of what's going on (something that could be aspirated) or if she should live out her life at home.
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228686_tn?1211558307
From what I've heard surgery is usually successful if you catch these sort of things VERY early on. Even then the survival rate isn't incredibly high.

Which doesn't mean you shouldn't try. You do never know. Frankly, it's a good sign the wee one has survived so long in such a good state. Usually a hammy that develops tumours doesn't last more than a week or two before the situation turns fatal.
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Avatar_n_tn
Well, I took her to the vet today and the vet feld nothing abnormal in her belly, no masses or enlarged organs or anything! She said the color was strange, and that I should keep an eye on her (make sure she's eating and pooping and all that good stuff) for the next week or two, but that she seemed perfectly healthy. I came home today and cleaned her cage and laid out newspaper so I could easily tell if she's eating and pooping and already she's peed and pooped just like normal, so I'm very relieved. She also said that the decrease in activity could just be due to age, since she is starting to get older, and could be naturally slowing down.

I think I wouldn't select surgery as an option again, I regretted it so much the first time I did it, and I wish I had just let her go without putting her through that. But it's still good to know what I'm dealing with even if I don't want to do the extreme route. For now, it seems I'm dealing with nothing. Phew!
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187666_tn?1331176945
No explanation for the weakness and discoloration, huh? Well, let's hope it doesn't happen again and I'm happy to hear there aren't any palpable tumors or blockages. Here's to many more months of fun together.
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1128632_tn?1259962956
My hamster, Dover, is about 2 1/2 years old and he has the same symptoms. He's never been terribly energetic, but over the last month I noticed he was getting less and less active. He started gaining weight but at first I didn't think anything of it. Now he's HUGE. He barely moves around anymore and he's gotten too fat to get up into the little attic room or wheel of his cage, so he just stays on the ground floor. The skin on his stomach is purple/black as well. Last night he also had his eyes matted shut. One opened very easily but I had to get a warm paper towel and wipe at his eye before the other one would open. Has anyone found any further information as to what would cause this? I love this little guy and I would hate to lose him. His brother, Jack, is in a seperate cage (males fight) and eats the same food as Dov, but Jack is still very energetic and the regular size that a hamster should be. I don't know what to do to make Dover feel better. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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187666_tn?1331176945
If hamsters are anything like rats then I'd say Dover is nearing the end of his life. 2 1/2 years is pretty old. He may have a tumor (very common in rodents). Not necessarily cancer but they can still grow quite large, press on internal organs and generally make the animal miserable. When my last 2 rats developed tumors I waited until they slowed way down in activity and eating. Then I made the decision to euthanize them. Never a pleasant thing to do but I didn't want either of them to slowly starve to death.

Can you afford a trip to the vet for a checkup? That would be the best person to ask.

irene
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Avatar_m_tn
My hamster had exactly the same thing -- a very swollen tummy with dark purple discoloration and it was hemangioma (the gross tumor that presses on internal organs). His tummy was bruised and he was in so much pain when i picked him up.

My vet, who was wonderful, operated, but the mass was way too large and the pain would have been immense had he woken up from surgery, so I euthanized him. It really broke my heart, but these tumors are a very painful way to go and i did not want him to be in more pain. If your hamster has similar symptoms, please take him to a vet (it is not nearly as expensive as you think -- most vets charge less for small pets) and please don't let him or her suffer.

As for eye problems, I took this same hamster to an animal ophthalmologist because he had had repeated eye infections - where his eyes matted shut and then he got very ill. In addition to standard antibiotics, the eye doctor said that hamsters can have severe dry eye, so severe that their eyelids turn inward and the eyelashes rub against their eyeballs.

This is a major cause of eye problems and infections for them, but it is easily solved with some regular eyedrops (NOT the kind for red-eye, but just plain saline, or those little eyedrops in the individual packets for sensitive eyes). When i put them in his eyes, i could actually see his eyelashes unroll from his eyes. Putting the eye drops in was a bit of a problem, but if i could get just one drop in each eye, twice a day, his eye problems were so much better. Try it!
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Avatar_m_tn
One more thing, All Pets Hospital in the Mission district of San Francisco is OUTSTANDING. I highly recommend them for all small pets!!
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