All creatures great and small have a reproductive cycle and your tiny hamster is no different. A hamster's cycles are very quick, regular and usually marked by healthy vaginal discharge. However, not all excretions are normal; some may be a sign of illness.
Your precocious pet may reach sexual maturity as early as 4 to 6 weeks old, but probably won't go into heat until she is 6 to 8 weeks old. She will be ready for pregnancy at about 8 weeks. Hamsters don't have a menstrual period in the same way women do, but you may notice a discharge during your pet's predictable, four-day reproductive cycle. On the second day of her cycle or estrus, when ovulation ends, she may excrete a whitish, vaginal discharge followed on the third day by a more solid, wax-like substance, according to the book "Laboratory Hamster." Some hamsters also will display a drop of blood at this time. Her cycle will repeat and she will go into heat every four days.
Mating, Birth and Discharge
If you breed your hamster, you also will notice a viscous, white discharge about five days after mating. This discharge is completely normal. If breeding is successful and your mother hamster is expecting, you should notice her tummy swell within about 10 days of mating. Her litter should arrive about 15 to 22 days after breeding. You may notice a bloody discharge just before the hamster pups appear.
Pyometra and Discharge
Discharge from your hamster's vagina or rectal area is not always part of her normal cycle and may be sign of illness. If her discharge carries an unpleasant odor and is more yellowish than white, she may have a condition called pyometra. The smelly, yellow discharge may actually be pus caused by an infection in the uterus. Lethargy and a swollen belly are also signs of pyometra. Consult your vet regarding treatment options for this condition.
Wet Tail and Discharge
Moisture around your hamster's tail and belly may be a sign of wet tail, a disease most commonly seen in young hamsters. Diarrhea is a primary symptom of this deadly illness and can be fatal, causing death within a week. If you suspect your hamster has wet tail, call your vet immediately.
While discharging a spot of blood during estrus is normal for some hamsters, some bloody secretions may be a sign of internal bleeding. Internal bleeding can be caused by an accident, such as dropping your pet, or from disease. Certain antibiotics also can cause intestinal bleeding in hamsters. Check with your vet for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
- Dwarf Hamsters: Everything About Purchase, Care, Feeding, and Housing; Sharon L. Vanderlip, D.V.M.
- Laboratory Hamsters; G. L. Van Hoosier and Charles W. McPherson
- The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents; Mark A. Suckow
- Laboratory Animal Medicine; James G. Fox
- The Merck Manual for Pet Health: Breeding and Reproduction of Hamsters
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Hamster Health Center
- Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets; Simon J. Girling
hamster russe perle image by Eric IsselÃ©e from Fotolia.com
Based in Los Angeles, Mary Helen Berg has been writing about pets, travel, families and parenting since 1989. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The Los Angeles Times" and "Newsweek." Berg holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.