Impacted Cheek Pouches

Treat a Hamster with Impacted Cheek Pouches

A hamsters by nature tends to collect and hoard its food. It’s able to do this because of the two lateral cheek pouches on the sides of its mouths. When it goes about collecting food, it does so by stuffing its cheek pouches with seeds and other bits of food. On occasion these pouches can become impacted to the point where a hamster can’t empty its pouch full of food bits.


Food, bedding or some other foreign material. Often with caged hamsters, an impaction of the cheek is caused by a food item that a hamster probably shouldn’t be eating in the first place like sweets. Soft food such as bananas and berries might also be the culprit of this issue.

The Signs and Symptoms

If you notice one or both of your hamster’s cheek pouches appear to be full and have been like that for some time, an impaction may be present. This likely is not the process of routine food collection and storage behavior. With more observation, if you notice your little pet’s head and neck appear swollen, is producing excessive saliva or appears anorexic, it’s most likely to have an impacted cheek pouch.

Acceptable Hamster Food

Options for Treating an Impaction

  1. The natural method for a hamster to clear and empty its pouches is to use its two front paws to push the food forward and out of the mouth. You too can try to massage the impacted cheek(s) to attempt to free the food or debris that is stuck.
  2. If that doesn’t work, you might need to go into the mouth and physically remove the materials. Do this by using a small tool that doesn’t have sharp edges that could lead to cuts inside the mouth.
  3. Another method is to try using a small eye dropper to flush the cheek with a mild salt water saline solution to help break up the materials (a local anesthetic might be needed). You can make a saline solution by taking one teaspoon of uniodized table salt and dissolving it into 8-12 ounces of warm water.

If all of these treatment methods fail or you don’t feel comfortable trying them yourself, a trip to your hamster’s vet is needed. Letting this problem persist for too long can lead to abscesses with is an even more serious problem.

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80 comments on “Impacted Cheek Pouches

  1. I went through the past 3 days of worry! My dwarf hamster (Theodore) stopped eating as well as drinking, he became very boney and lethargic. I looked under sick hamsters, it never gave me a clue until I keyed in impacted pouches. Thanks to this site, I got exact trouble shooting health care for my boy! I managed to relieve the first layer or (yuck) with pressure and massage, scooping it out with a q-tip, (bad smell) which indicated it was clearly infected. I forced a water rinse via his water bottle to try to flush. He was so lethargic he simply accepted his fate, I let him rest, he was able to manipulate the remainder. He just came out for his first drink and a bit of leafy romain. Proportioned seeds from this point. Thank you for your truly helpful insight on this matter, your info did save my Theodore!

    Grateful and relieved!

  2. My daughters Syrian Hamster developed some issue two weeks ago, on her right cheek between the nose and eye. She lost some fur and something light brown looks like thin, long seed sticking out from that impacted area. Did a lot of online search but did not find anything. Does anyone came across similar situation with hamster?
    Thanks in advance,

  3. My hamster is not letting me massage her cheeks and I am to scared to do anything and I am worried about her her name is cookie and I need help ASAP?

  4. I want to say thank u!! Your article helped me put alot. I was worried bout my dwarf hammie. Shes a glutton but stopped touching her food yesterday. I thought since shes old she could be dying but something about her cheeks made me rethink it n that’s when I stumbled onto this. I used a qtip n turned her pouch inside out. There was a pumpkin seed n cashew nut among other small items stuck in there! She started stuffing her face once I put her back in her cage. Needless to say I’ll be keeping big items out of her food from now on.

    • My dwarf hamster has a impaction that lead to it getting a abscess under its eye. The vet popped the abscess and gave be cloraseptic to clean the pouch but left the food in it. I just got all the food out and cleaned the pouch very good. My hamster put up absolutely no fight becuse it’s so sick. I’m really worried he wolnt make it though the night.

  5. I want to say Thank you for all the advice you’ve provided everyone and the 3 steps for impacted jaw among the other topics I looked up on your sight. My son has an older black dwarf hamster, TRex Jr, he was having issues of old age. Thanks to you, I’ve successfully emptied his impacted jaw with the end of a Q-Tip after removing the cotton on one end. I couldn’t believe how much food was in there! I’ve also removed his clogged scent gland and put drops in his cloudy eyes which have cleared up. I will be feeding him yogurt with his fresh veggies from now on. He didn’t like the eggs. I’m hoping he feels much better now and next I will trim his longer tooth ( the other is broken shorter). I would not have known that I could help him on my own without your encouragement of steps to attempt this on my own. THANK YOU!

    • Wow, thank you for the comment of appreciation but a bigger thank you to you for doing your best to care for TRex Jr! We are so glad you found the information you were looking for.

      • I have a winter white dwarf hamster and her right cheek is swollen. She’s still eating and drinking normally but she lays upside down maybe because it hurts her. I don’t know what’s wrong so I don’t know what to do any suggestions?

      • I have a winter white hamster and I notice her right cheek is swollen her eye is almost closed. She eats and drinks normally but now she sleeps on her back which is weird because she would only do that sometimes maybe because her cheek hurts. I don’t know what to do any suggestions ?

  6. I have a Syrian hamster, and I decided to give her a yogurt raisin. She has had around 5 in her cheek for an hour, and I tried the massaging technique, and she moves too much for me to do it correctly, so I’m frecking out about this. does anyone know what to do?

    • I’m freaking out too have my sons Syrian cheerios and I’ve tried massaging she won’t stay still and I. Scared to open her mouth in fear of hurting her vet here we come hope your babies ok

  7. Hello. I have recently brought a hamster home. My hamster has a big cheek now but only one side. I want to know want to do with my hamster to get rid of it xx

  8. Hello. I went to a vacation and I left my hamster for my aunt to watch..when I came back in 3 days, one of his eyes was really small and had sticky stuff around it, also his cheek was swallen. By now 2 days passed and his cheek got even bigger. I tried calling animal hospital and it’s 360$ for an appointment 😭If anyone knows what it can be please reply ASAP he means a lot to me and I really don’t want him to die 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

    • Have just cleaned my Syrian hamsters eye and her nose which had a piece of sawdust in it. Her pouch looks swollen and, though usually greedy, she is not eating. I cant even tempt her to drink….😭

  9. I have a sun fire dj hamster and her name is Georgie. About a week ago I noticed her ear was a little red. Then she developed a large lump around her cheek. After online research I summed it up to the impacted cheek thing. But now her ear is very crusted, hard and almost green and her cheek is still swollen. Can hamsters ears become affected by impacted cheeks? I’ve been massaging and using a saline solution. She’s eating, drinking and overall the same sweet little hammy, I’m just very worried! Also, any recommendations on hamster vets in the LA area? Thanks 😭😭😭

  10. I noticed that my hamster’s left cheek pouch is swollen, and he isn’t eating as much as a result. However, he is still drinking and shows curiosity.

    For the three treatments, is scruffing the hamster necessary? He is super squirmy.

  11. Hi I have a 2 year old hamster that eats and drinks good still and is active when I put his food in the cage, however his bottom lip and tongue are really swollen, this morning he’s wheezing a little while he breaths…not sure what to do since it’s Sunday and the vets are all closed in my area

  12. My hamster had a swollen lump by her cheeks and I didn’t notice much until a seed pomed out of it. She keeps trying to pull it out and now Its bleeding and the tip of the seed is outside of her cheek. What should I do?

    • Try to wash it out using a water dropper or massage it out with you fingers. If that doesn’t work, try tweezers. if all fails, take your hamster to a vet. Hamsters often store food in their checks. Avoid foods with sharp edges from now on.

    • I need help my hamster is barely moving and not eating or drinking and she has like small siesure type things where she starts squeaking and flails around and bites me and I don’t know why this is happening but I’m scared for her life can anyone tell me what to do and how to save her?

  13. Hi my hamster pouch looks full all the time on one side,and he keeps sleeping in a hunch poishen and also goes round and round in one spot and keeps falling to one side.please could you let me know what is wrong with him.thank you

  14. Help! Idk if my hamster is hibernating or gone. He was stiff and I saw one of his paws were whiteish. Yesterday he was laying on one side, which is unusual for him and it looked like he was in pain. He had a swollen cheek pouch.

  15. On my hamster that I just got I’m scared to touch it I don’t wanna break its foot or something PLEASE HELP ME IM ONLY 8years old I’m searching everywhere to find this question but u can’t find eny thing Please help me. 😰😓😫😖😩🙁😞😣a

    • Tell your parents your hammy needs a trip to the vet, it’s too dangerous to attempt anything on your own!

  16. My hamster (Alan) is a Syrian long haired hamster and I have had him for almost 2 years now . He is screeching quite frequently and keeps opening his mouth really wide. I think he may have something stuck and is trying to get it out but has anyone got anything to help. Pls help me I’m only 13 and I’m getting very worried. Please help me

    • try by giving your hamster more food and if he really wants that food, he will empty his cheek pouches. If that does not work, just take him to a vet (like me)

  17. My hamster (Alan) is a Syrian long haired hamster and I have had him for almost 2 years now . He is screeching quite frequently and keeps opening his mouth really wide. I think he may have something stuck and is trying to get it out but has anyone got anything to help. Pls help me I’m only 13 and I’m getting very worried

  18. My hamster had this and I was so scared I starting have a sorta panic attack. I went to my mom crying because she was looking like she was choking on all the food she had. She told me to try to help her get it out. So we massaged it out but there was more on the other cheek. Unfortunately we couldn’t get that out so we left her alone because she kept squeaking and biting us. So I prayed to god because I thought she was really sick. Later that night she got some out her self because her cheeks were a little smaller. Then she wasnt biting me no more. The next day it was all gone! She’s all better now and she’s not acting weird no more. I’m so happy! Thanks to this site it helped me so much! 😀

    • Jazmin I want you to know my hampster Syri had swollen cheeks, nose and butt. My kids were scared I was crying cause we love our hampster. After read what you wrote I call PetSmart and said take him to vet but he wasn’t breathing rite and wasn’t going to make it threw night. I prayed to God just like you did, within 20 minutes all the swelling was gone and he was back to normal. I want to thank you for your testimony cause it saved my hampster life. His name Syri he is 1years old💟💟

  19. hi! my boyfriend got me a Syrian hamster yesterday and I brought him home tonight from his house. I’ve had a small albino hamster before that was mean and not really active. this one is super active and can’t sit still which is really cute. I have a critter trail cage that has the huge ball at top and I’m also using a smaller critter trail cage with one tunnel connecting them together and he seems to like the separate homes. I have carefresh ultra bedding and I saw him put it in his mouth and then drink water. I’m worried he’s eating it? idk why he wants to store bedding for somewhere else when its already everywhere. anywho, I had tunnels for my albino hamster and my Syrian hamster can’t comfortably fit in it so I can’t use those. I have card board box huts, toilet paper rolls, jenga blocks, and a chew toy thing in his cages.I’m just worried he’s going to get bored and eat alot of bedding. all i have right now is a bag of mixtured seeds and nuts and I’m also feeding him lettuce and spinach leaves. I’m gonna put him in his actual ball around the house soon, I’m just scared he’s gonna bite me he’s so different than my old hamster

  20. HI
    i am very worried about my hamster please reply now if you seeing it
    My hamter left.cheek where.he stores food.drops out of.his.mouth it is seen out.of the mouth and my hamstets back but he.cannot.PLEAZE HELP 🙁

  21. my hamster Derek is running so fast on his wheel that it either spin or throws him off and lately he has not been moving he tries to but end up on his back and his neck is floppy im not sure if its broken or sprung

  22. Hi,

    My girlfriend has a hamster that isn’t acting like himself. For the last 2 days he has pretty much boarded himself up in his house. He doesn’t want to come out, despite our best abilities. It sounded like, for a little while, he would squeak in his breathes. His heart raced. He would bury his snout in fluff. His eyes would be half closed. We finally got him out and he was sluggish. Tired. Had to stop after moving and start again. He is hunched over, a little thin, big cheeks, walks on his toes (normally on his feet and tummy). I also snapped a picture of some sticky stuff that came out of his mouth.

    But now as I’m writing this, he’s electrified. Running everywhere, climbing on everything – even jumping. He’s never done that before. He’s constantly doing this too. He’s falling and not caring if he falls on his back or his side. I can’t get a read on him right now.

    I thought of him having an impaction, but now I’m not so sure. What do you think??


    • It sounds like he has/had a cold or respiratory infection. If he is falling over from balance issues, it is likely related to the illness. Sometime an ear infection can throw off a hamster’s balance. I’m not saying that’s case because it could be from any number of issues. As long as the hamster is eating and drinking again, and the falls are in to soft bedding, it should be okay. continue to monitor him and if other issue occur, let us know or better yet, consult a vet and ask for their opinion.

  23. My hamster has a huge left cheek. She seems just as livley and jumpy as ever. She appears to bea eating and drinking normally. It is, however, starting to smell. Please help! She is too small to open up her mouth, and too fidgety to even push on it. She is very old. I am starting to get scared, could you please help me in any way? Thank you so much!

    • If she is eating and drinking that is good. You might want to take a trip to the vet to have them look at it. It’s hard to say what it is. It may require a minor surgery or some medication.

  24. Hi,

    My hamster Luna (who is actually a guy) has one cheek thats enlarged although it just feels grainy inside it when you feel it. He still eats and drinks and play normally so do you think it is just food in its mouth?

    • It’s probably nothing to worry about. Hamsters like to collect food in their pouches. As long as it continues to eat and drink or look in pain, it won’t be an issue. He just a hamster being a hamster.

  25. Hey, my hamster has a swollen pouch, his eyes are dry and one keeps getting stuck closed. He isn’t drinking, eating and sleeps more and less active. When he is out he stays in one corner of his cage when I call him he ignores me and goes back to bed. I don’t know if it is his age or there is something wrong.

    Ps: I only saw him drink once and that because I had to hold the bottle for him to drink it.

    Hope you can help me.

    Kind regards,

    • It’s not easy to tell what the issue might be but to help the eye issue out you might want to try adding a drop or saline solution into the stuck eye. This should help add moisture and clean it of any crusty material. Swollen cheek pouches can also be the cause of the eye issue. Together these two symptoms might be a result of any number of things including a impacted cheek, a respiratory infection, bacterial infection behind the eye or even an abscess. A trip to the vet is of course recommended. Are there any other symptoms? does it look like there is food or debris stuck in its pouches, is it sneezing or are the eyes discolored? See this post on some general care

      • Hi, I checked for trapped food no sign of any. He keeps making this noise like a belly rumble? At first I thought it was me until I heard it coming from the other side of the room. He stopped sleeping in his bed. Other than that no other symptoms.

      • He might be having a breathing issues due to the swollen cheeks and that’s the reason for the rumbling sound, but I’m not certain. I recommend looking up a small animal vet and explaining the symptoms. Perhaps they can help you with the diagnosis.

  26. So I’m watching my friends hamster, and she gave me these treats to give her. They’re these big balls of just food and gross looking stuff and also these little yellow chocolate chip looking things. She didn’t eat any of the treats that I put in her bowl for the past couple of days, so I just looked at her again and her cheeks are huge and you can definitely feel lumps and it’s just a nasty feeling when you touch her cheeks. I tried massaging her cheeks but she seemed like she was in pain. Idk what to do, and I really don’t want her hamster to die when it’s in my care.

  27. Hey my hamster has a small swollen cheek pouch what do I do that’s not to see the vet he eats and drinks fine but It hurts him and I’s losing hair there and round his eye what do I do

  28. Hey my hamster cheek pouch is swollen and its circular and he wont let me touch it ,because I think it hurts him he eats but there us hair loss so is there anything we can do that doesn’t involve the vet

  29. I have a Syrian hamster with a swollen cheek pouch. It feels like sort of a soft lump. I tried massaging it and pushing the contents out, but I don’t see any food. I just see pink hamster flesh. Maybe I’m not pushing it properly, or maybe it is some other sort of lump? Any advice on exactly how to massage the lump?

    She otherwise appears to be behaving normally, eating and drinking and exercising.

  30. Ok so I have a Chinese dwarf hamster and I’m not sure what’s wrong with his pouch, but at the top of it, it is like a round ball that is filled with some kind of liquid. It has been getting bigger over the past few days. The good thing though, is that has been eating and drinking regularly. The only weird thing is that he has been sleeping more. Anyways, today I was touching the thing in his puch and i felt a lot of pressure, and liquid get released and the thing in his puch got smaller and emptier, sort of like a half inflated moon bounce. I’m not sure where the fluids went, but I worry for my hamster. Do you recommend anything that a try to do? Btw my parents don’t want to bring him to the vet becuase they say they don’t want to spend 50$ on an animal they bought for 2$.

    • It could have been that your hamster was storing food in its pouch and it got stuck. The cheek would appear to swollen. When you pushed it, it might have forced the food out. If that is the case, problem solved. Another issue that is could have been is a cyst or some sort of fluid build up. A vet would usually use a tiny syringe to drain these. We don’t recommend you do this on your own though since you could make things worse. Let us know if the issue comes back.

      • Ok so I have been monotoring my hamster, and the lump. It feels and looks like the lump is two thirds of the way full again. It looks like to me that my hamster has been eating less, sleeping more, drinking less, and has not been running on his wheel very much.

      • It’s difficult to diagnose what the issue is. You should find a small pet vet and give them a call. Perhaps they can help you diagnose the issue and if they are nice, give you advice on treating it yourself if at all possible.

      • I need help my hamster is barely moving and is not eating or drinking and she is breathing shallowly and I don’t know what to do! Please help!


  31. hi! My hamster had an impactedpouch for theast few days and he became very small and skinny and couldn’t eat properly. I decided to try and massage the food out of his cheeks because obviously he wasn’t able to get it out himself. But the thing is, the wad of food that was stuck in there was so big that when it came out, his pouch became everted. He quickly put it back into place but im worried because that seems pretty strange. He’s not acting weirdly and it hasn’t come out again since. Do you think there’s anything to worry about? (There’s no vets that deal with hamsters anywhere near me because we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere)

    • Good job on carefully removing the impacted food from his pouch. He is probably going to be okay. The skin inside a hamster’s mouth is pretty stretchy and should bounce back from an issue like this. Continue to monitor his progress and make sure he is able to eat and drink again.

    • We just updated the treatment section. Try performing the three methods we have listed. Start with the first one since it is the least invasive and will cause the least amount of stress on your pet.

  32. Hi, my hamster has managed to store a small magnet in her cheek. I know this because I found the poor thing stuck to the bars of her cage. My question is, do you think she will be able to remove it herself? It’s bank holiday weekend, so our vets are closed until Tuesday.

  33. My hamster had swollen cheekpouch, the 1st day, both his cheek pouch was swollen. later i fed him with natural unsweetened yogurt, his cheekpouch shrink a little, the next day, only right cheekpouch was swollen, then his right eye was sticky and has white liquid around it. later on, his eye was swollen and it cannot close its eye. the eye is dry and its popping out. and his cheek pouch is still swollen. i don’t know what to do. he doesn’t allowed me to take a look in his mouth.and he is smelly. it’s white fur are turning yellow. i’m staying very far from the vet. is there anything i can do to help him,instead of going to the vet?

  34. My Grandson’s Black Bear Hamster has had a swollen cheek pouch for about 2 weeks. I have been feeding him baby carrots and baby applesauce with crushed hamster food from a small dropper. The pouch was hard at first but is softer and not as large now. He eats like he is starved and has lost weight and sleeps more. I also trimmed his teeth. And he lets me hold a piece of ice on his jaw 3 times a day. The Vet. is closed until Tues. Morning. Is there anything I can do to help him get better.

    • First off, it sounds like you have done a good job of caring for the little guy by making sure it is still eating. Are saying it had impacted cheek pouches but now it’s getting better? If you think its cheek pouch is still impacted, you can try to massage the food out or use a salt water solution to to try and flush it out. Trimming the teeth was a good idea to since overgrown teeth can cause mouth problems if they get overgrown. Your hamster could have abscess in it cheek pouch which a vet can help drain. In the mean time, keep feeding the hamster and make sure it’s food that won’t be painful to eat; like shells from seeds. If you think it’s not getting enough vitamins and minerals, you can get some vitamin supplements. Some owners feed their sick hamsters natural unsweetened yogurt to help with digestive tract and help keep them hydrated. In terms of the pain, I think ice is the way to go. A vet could prescribe pain medicine but since hamsters are so small, it’s not wise to try and medicate them using pain relievers meant for people or even other pets like dogs or cats. For more help on this issue, you might try a hamster forum to get some opinions from those that have experience with this type of ailment. Best of Luck and let us know how it all turns out.

  35. Thanks this information was very helpful. My hamster is getting on a bit so I was very worried. And BTW I love the banner 🙂

    • We are glad you found this site useful. feel free to ask any questions you might have. Even if we don’t have an answer, we will do our best to locate it for you. oh and I made the banner so thank you! 🙂

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