Hamsters are popular small pets known for their cute faces, fluffy bodies, and big cheek pouches. However, sometimes hamsters develop an alarming condition where their eyes appear to bulge or “pop” out of their sockets.
This is understandably concerning for hamster owners! But what causes this eye-popping condition in hamsters?
What Causes Hamsters’ Eyes to Pop Out?
There are a few potential causes for hamsters’ eyes appearing to pop out:
The most common cause is a condition called “proptosis.” Proptosis is when the eye partly or fully pops out of the socket and protrudes outside the eyelids.
This occurs when there is trauma, infection, or inflammation behind the eye that causes swelling and pressure. The swollen tissue pushes the eye forward until it pops out.
Some specific causes of proptosis in hamsters include:
- Injuries – Hamsters can injure their eyes or the bones around their eyes through falls or rough play. This can lead to swelling and proptosis.
- Abscesses or infections – Bacterial or fungal infections behind the eye can cause pus and swelling, pushing the eye outward. Common eye infections in hamsters include conjunctivitis and orbital cellulitis.
- Tumors – Cancerous and noncancerous tumors can grow in the orbit (eye socket), causing pressure and bulging of the eye.
- Dental issues – Abscessed teeth, overgrown teeth, or malocclusion (misaligned teeth) can push against the eye.
- Foreign objects – Things like wood shavings or hay caught behind the eye can set off inflammation and swelling.
Another cause of bulging eyes in hamsters is glaucoma. This is increased pressure within the eyeball itself, often due to inadequate drainage of eye fluid. The high pressure causes the eye to enlarge and bulge outward.
3. Fluid Buildup
Fluid can also build up behind the eye if the hamster has issues with blood flow or vessels around the eye. This is called “retrobulbar edema.” The excess fluid pushes the eye forward.
4. Birth Defects
Some hamsters may simply be born with eyes that bulge more than normal due to developmental abnormalities of the skull or eye socket. This is rare but can cause a popping eye appearance.
See also: Do Hamster Squeak Before They Die?
Symptoms of Popping Eyes in Hamsters
How can you tell if your hamster’s eyes are starting to pop out? Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Eyes that visibly bulge or protrude from the sockets
- Eyes that cannot fully close or blink
- Redness, swelling, or discharge from the eyes
- Squinting, crusty eyes, or pawing at the eyes
- Loss of vision or pupil issues
- Behavior changes like lethargy or loss of balance
- Reluctance to be handled around the face
- Appetite loss
Is This Condition Painful for Hamsters?
A popping eye is likely very uncomfortable and possibly painful for a hamster. The protruding eye is prone to irritation and scratches when the hamster tries to clean itself. Exposed eye tissue may become dry and infected.
The swelling, pressure, and structural issues causing the protrusion also probably cause dull to sharp pain for the hamster. A popped-out eye ruins the hamster’s eye alignment, which can cause headaches and vertigo.
Signs your hamster is in pain include squinting, lethargy, poor appetite, irritability, and avoidance of touching the face. Contact your vet promptly if your hamster shows these distress signs. Relieving pain and treating the underlying problem should be top priorities.
Can a Hamster’s Eyes Pop Back In Normal?
In mild cases of eye protrusion, the condition may resolve on its own if the swelling and inflammation subside. The eye can pop back into a normal position once the pressure behind it decreases.
But in many cases, especially if the proptosis is severe, the eye will not go back to normal without veterinary treatment. Leaving proptosis untreated often results in permanent eye damage, blindness, or loss of the eye completely.
Is a Popped Out Eye in Hamsters an Emergency?
A hamster with a severe case of eye protrusion does require emergency veterinary care. The longer the eye stays popped out, the higher the chances of permanent damage.
Signs this is an emergency include:
- The entire eyeball has popped out, not just a mild bulge
- The eye is hanging by the optic nerve or blood vessels
- Bleeding, discharge, or other injury to the protruding eye
- The eye has ruptured or collapsed
- Your hamster seems to be in severe pain
- Rapid deterioration of the eye or your hamster’s health
In an emergency, limit your hamster’s activity to prevent further injury before rushing to the vet. Gently cover the protruding eye with gauze if needed.
See also: Do Hamsters Sleep With Their Eyes Open
How Do Veterinarians Treat Popping Eye Conditions in Hamsters?
There are a few approaches vets may use to treat proptosis and return the eye to the socket:
- Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling behind the eye
- Antibiotics if an infection is causing the protrusion
- Lubricant eye drops to soothe and protect the protruded eye
- Careful manual replacement of the eye back into the proper position
- Sutures to hold a severely protruded eyeball in place while it heals
- Drainage of any abscesses or fluid buildup behind the eye
- Eye removal surgery (enucleation), if the eye is ruptured or unlikely to recover
- Tumor removal, if cancer is compressing the eye
- Other surgery to correct skull/eye socket bone issues
- Pain medication as needed to keep the hamster comfortable
With rapid treatment, most hamsters will retain partial or full vision after eye proptosis. But the outlook is worse if the eye protrusion is chronic or becomes severely damaged before being treated.
Can Proptosis in Hamsters Be Prevented?
While some cases are unpredictable accidents, you can take a few precautions to limit your hamster’s odds of getting proptosis:
- Avoid falls and trauma by not holding hamsters over hard surfaces.
- Don’t let young hamsters play with much larger adult hamsters that may harm them.
- Remove small objects like substrate from the habitat that could get behind the eyes.
- Feed a balanced diet to avoid vitamin deficiencies.
- Watch for signs of injury, infection, or tooth issues and get prompt veterinary care.
- Select hamsters from responsible breeders to reduce congenital issues.
- Consider not breeding hamsters prone to eye or dental abnormalities.
With good care and quick treatment, if eye issues arise, you and your hamster can hopefully avoid the trauma and difficulty of severe eye protrusion. But if your pet’s eyes do show any troubling signs, contact your exotic vet right away for advice and care. With the right approach, many hamsters recover well and retain their vision after their eyes have popped out.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What causes a hamster’s eyes to bulge out?
The most common cause is proptosis, where swelling and pressure behind the eye pushes the eyeball forward until it pops out of the socket. Injuries, infections, tumors, glaucoma, and fluid buildup can all create this swelling effect.
2. Is it painful if a hamster’s eye pops out?
Yes, eye proptosis is most likely painful due to the pressure, swelling, scratches to the eye, and disrupted vision. Signs of pain include lethargy, poor appetite, irritability, and reluctance to be handled around the head.
3. Can a popped-out hamster eye go back to normal?
Mild cases may resolve on their own as the swelling goes down. But severe proptosis requires veterinary treatment to avoid permanent damage or loss of the eye. The longer it protrudes, the worse the prognosis.
4. Is a proposed (popped-out) eye in a hamster an emergency?
Yes, severe proptosis where the whole eye has popped out is a veterinary emergency requiring immediate care. The eye can quickly become damaged or rupture, risking blindness or loss of the eyeball.
5. How do vets treat popped-out eyes in hamsters?
Treatment options include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, replacing the eye into the socket, suturing the eye, draining fluid from behind the eye, tumor removal, eye surgery, pain medication, and eye removal if necessary.
Key Takeaways on Hamsters’ Eyes Popping Out
- Proptosis, where the eye bulges or pops out, has several potential causes, like trauma, infection, glaucoma, and tumors behind the eye.
- Symptoms include visible protrusion, eye redness, and discharge, squinting, and vision trouble.
- The condition is very uncomfortable and probably painful for hamsters.
- Severe cases won’t resolve without veterinary treatment and can result in permanent damage.
- Seek emergency care if the whole eye has popped out or the hamster seems in severe distress.
- Vets may treat proptosis with medication, surgery, eye replacement, sutures, or eye removal if needed.
- While not always preventable, good care and prompt treatment aid recovery. Monitor hamsters’ eyes closely and contact an exotic vet at the first signs of any protrusion.
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