As your pet hamster gets older, they may develop age-related disorders like atrial thrombosis. Atrial thrombosis is a cardiovascular condition characterized by the development of a blood clot in one of the atriums (chambers) of the heart. Here are three things hamster owners need to know about atrial thrombosis.
What are the signs of atrial thrombosis?
Atrial thrombosis can affect both male and female hamsters. The main signs of the condition are tachypnea, tachycardia, and cyanosis.
Tachypnea refers to abnormally fast breathing; healthy hamsters should take between 40 and 110 breaths per minute. Tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rate, occurs when your pet's heart beats faster than the average of 310 to 480 beats per minute. Cyanosis occurs when the tissues don't get adequate oxygen and manifests as blue or purple discoloration on the skin. Your pet's fur will conceal most of their discolored skin, but check their feet, ears, and nose for signs.
Why do hamsters develop this condition?
Most of the time, thromboses (clots) form secondary to heart failure. When your hamster's heart fails, blood is able to pool within the heart, where it coagulates, forming clots.
Post-mortem studies of hamsters with atrial thrombosis have also revealed bilateral ventricular hypertrophy. This condition is characterized by the thickening of the walls of both heart chambers. The walls thicken in response to needing to work harder to pump blood. Hamsters with atrial thrombosis also have lesions on their heart valves, though researchers aren't sure if this is a cause.
There is also evidence that androgen levels play a role in the development of atrial thrombosis.: male hamsters that have been castrated develop this condition at a higher rate, according to the Merck Vet Manual.
Can vets treat atrial thrombosis?
Atrial thrombosis, like other types of cardiac disease in hamsters, is managed with supportive therapies. These supportive therapies include oxygen therapy and putting your hamster in a warm incubator. Your vet may also give your hamster food and water through a syringe if they haven't been eating or drinking due to their illness.
Medications can also be used to treat cardiac disease, though these drugs aren't specific to hamsters. Furosemide and enalapril, drugs that are used to treat both high blood pressure and heart failure in humans, can be used, though your vet will need to estimate a hamster-appropriate dose. These medications can be used long-term to control your pet's condition, though sudden death may still occur.
For more information, contact Bramalea Animal Hospital or a similar location.