CHA Health Check Procedure
Although hamsters are generally very healthy pets, they can and do get sick.  Our goal is to minimize the health risks to any hamsters coming to a CHA show.  Thus, we perform health checks on all hamsters which come to our shows.  Our goal is to ensure that all hamsters are healthy enough to be shown and that they will not infect any other hamsters.

Each animal will be picked up and examined in turn.  The fur, skin, eyes, ears, etc. will be examined by the designated health checker.  If any problems are found, the health checker determines the significance of the problem to both that hamster and to the other hamsters entered in the show.  Health checkers use a disinfectant on their hands before handling animals in each cage.  (The judge will also a disinfectant between each animal judged.)

All decisions are solely at the discretion of the health checker, but the health checker will typically ask for a second opinion before removing a hamster from the dayís judging.  Note that the judge may also remove any hamster during the judging process if a problem is found.

Letís take a few examples of things we look for and how we might deal with them at a CHA show.

1. Wounds. If the wound is open, that hamster will typically be removed from judging, but there will be no impact to cagemates or other animals since it would not be contagious.

2. Scabs. Again, since a scab is not contagious, there will be no impact to cagemates or other animals at the show.  Depending on the judgement of the health checker, though, this hamster may or may not be allowed to remain in the judging.  Factors will typically include the size and location of the scab, the apparent newness of the wound, etc.  If the health checker feels the stress will negatively impact the hamster, he will be removed from judging.  This is entirely at the discretion of the health checker.  Note that if such a hamster is allowed to be judged, it may also lose points during the judging for the scab.

3. Mites.
Some mites are visible to the naked eye.  Although rarely found at shows, one of these mites is common in California.  Itís the tropical rat mite, and it likes hamsters.  If this mite is found on a hamster, that hamster and any cagemates will be disqualified.  Since these mites are very mobile, any such hamsters and cagemates will be removed entirely from the judging area and be isolated.

4. Tumors.
Periodically a tumor will be found on a hamster at a show.  This would not be contagious, so the cagemates and other hamsters at the show would not be at risk.  The hamster would most likely be removed from judging, however.

5. Wet tail (syrians only). This is a contagious disease which affects syrians and typically leads to death if not treated.  Luckily, we have never seen this at a show nor do I know of any members who have had this in recent years.  In our area, it is most common to contract this disease when obtaining a hamster from a pet store.  (This reinforces the need to quarantine all new animals Ė meaning that they are maintained entirely separately from your other hamsters and should never be brought to shows within 30 days of purchase.)  If this disease were found in a hamster at a show, it would certainly be removed and serious discussions would ensue with the owner to discover the actions needed both to treat his/her hamsters and to understand what might need to be done to other syrians at the show.

What can you do to help prevent bringing a sick hamster?  The most important single thing is to quarantine all hamsters you receive from any source.  If you purchase a new hamster from a pet store, accept a rescue, or even if you buy from a breeder, quarantine the new animal(s) from your other animals.  Since the incubation for most diseases is under two weeks, follow this process for at least two weeks.  Do all feedings and cage cleanings on the new hamsters last.  Watch and observe them carefully.  And donít take them to a show unless you have had them for at least two weeks and observed no signs of any problems whatsoever.  If you even suspect that there may possibly be a problem, do not bring your animals to the show and donít touch anyone elseís animals at that show.

After the show, you should again quarantine any animals that you had at the show for two weeks.  Although we do our best to detect and isolate any potential problems at the shows, we cannot ensure the health of all animals which people bring.  Thus, it is in your best interest to quarantine all animals youíve brought to the show to prevent any potential disease from infecting your other animals.
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