A hamster’s life expectancy ranges from one to three years. They’re susceptible to multiple illnesses during their short lifespan, including skin diseases, hair loss, digestive issues, and even injuries from falls or mishandling. If a hamster appears to be suffering, owners should know what to do to ensure that it doesn’t continue living in misery.
To put a hamster out of its misery:
- Surrender the hamster to a rescue.
- Secure the funds to have your hamster treated by a vet.
- Let your hamster live out the rest of its natural life.
- Take the hamster to the vet for humane euthanasia.
Ending a hamster’s life at home without the assistance of a skilled veterinarian or vet tech could potentially lead to tremendous suffering — you should first exhaust all options to ensure that your hamster receives the greatest possible care.
Sometimes, however, euthanasia is the best way to end a hamster’s suffering, although it is a difficult choice to make. Read on to learn more about putting a hamster out of its misery.
When a beloved pet appears to be suffering, it’s a normal reaction to want to end that misery. After all, it’s tough to watch an animal suffer.
However, suppose you’re thinking about ending your hamster’s life simply because you don’t have the financial means to have it seen by a veterinarian. In that case, you should seriously consider surrendering the animal to a hamster rescue.
Surrendering your pet is, no doubt, a hard decision to make — but it’s a selfless one, and it gives your suffering hamster the best chance at life (if treatment is possible) or a humane death (once they’ve exhausted all treatment measures).
Most animal rescue organizations and shelters can handle injuries, illness, and even end-of-life situations. They typically work closely with veterinarians and vet techs to help animals in need. In cases where they can save the animals, rescues often adopt the animals out to forever homes.
Call local rescues in your area. Ask if they’re able to take your hamster in and provide it with the care that it needs. If you’re unsure where to begin your search, AnimalShelters.org offers resources to help pet owners find a shelter suitable for their pets.
While your hamster may appear to be suffering, the condition may be treatable. You won’t know until you have the animal seen by a trained veterinarian. So, if you ever suspect that your hamster is unhealthy, rush to the vet.
If you do not have the financial means to take your hamster to a vet and you’re unwilling to surrender the animal, you should reach out to exotic vets, local rescues, and pet sanctuaries.
Some facilities may waive or lower the fees for pet owners in a financial bind. Sometimes a compassionate and caring listening ear is all it takes to secure care for your hamster — it never hurts to ask.
The next best option is to seek out credit options, such as Pet Care Credit Card and Financing through CareCredit. Alternatively, pet insurance plans may be something to consider to lower vet visits and prescription costs.
Fundraisers are another option if you don’t qualify for credit or financing. There are multiple options for raising money online. Crowdfunding websites, such as GoFundMe or GoGetFunding, allow you to create a campaign and request donations from friends and family.
You can share the campaign across social media to increase your reach. However, keep in mind that these platforms take a percentage of the total donations.
Alternatively, you could use the built-in fundraiser services offered on Facebook.
If you find out that your beloved friend has officially reached the end after taking your hamster to the vet, your veterinarian may recommend that you take it home and let it live out the rest of its life. This is often true in the case of cancers or other terminal illnesses.
Veterinarians typically prescribe medications to keep the hamster pain and stress-free if it has a fatal illness. Medications may include painkillers or steroids. Never administer medication to your hamster without a prescription or instruction from a veterinarian — you may make the situation worse and cause even more suffering for your furry friend.
In addition to palliative medications prescribed by the vet, there are things that you can do to ensure that your hamster stays comfortable during this time:
- Keep temperatures comfortable. When a hamster is old or ill, its thermoregulatory system doesn’t function properly. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a warm environment between 70°F to 72°F (21.1°C to 22.2°C). Additionally, add extra bedding to the habitat to keep your hamster cozy and warm.
- Add a hamster hideout. If your hamster doesn’t have a small house to retreat to, grab one online or from your local pet store or use a cardboard box. A safe place to sleep allows your hamster to preserve its energy and move away from noise or light. I recommend the Andwe Coconut Hut Hamster House (available on Amazon.com). It’s eco-friendly and provides a safe place for your hamster to sleep.
- Reduce movement. If your veterinarian recommends keeping your hamster as still as possible to prevent injury, remove any toys, climbing apparatuses, wheels, or tubes. Keep the hamster confined to a single floor.
- Isolate the hamster. By nature, hamsters are solitary. Housing multiple hamsters together can lead to stress. Even if the hamsters have tolerated one another over the years, it’s best to isolate a sick, dying hamster. Isolation prevents unneeded stress and minimizes the risk of spreading any transmissible illness to other hamsters.
- Keep your hamster hydrated. A decrease in appetite or thirst is a sure sign that death is near — but dehydration is not a comfortable way to go. Offer clean, fresh water to your hamster daily. If it refuses to drink, rehydrate it using a clean eye dropper and a diluted electrolyte-enhanced fluid (ask your vet for water amounts and dilution ratios). Do not force the liquid into your hamster’s mouth.
- Spend time with your beloved pet. Saying goodbye is never easy, and although hamsters are solitary creatures, they enjoy interaction with humans. If your hamster allows it, let it sit in your palm or sleep in your lap. However, be mindful of its cues. If it attempts to escape or bites you, it likely wants to be left alone — but don’t take it personally. Pain and discomfort cause animals to behave in different ways.
After seeking medical care for your hamster, you might have discovered that the condition is too far gone — no treatment options are available.
Or, maybe you’ve taken the hamster home to live out its natural life, but it still appears to suffer. Either way, the best way to put the hamster out of its misery is by seeking out humane euthanasia.
It’s important to note that none of the at-home euthanasia methods listed on the Internet are humane. They may prolong the suffering of your pet. Do not rely on pet owners’ advice on the Internet, and certainly do not attempt these “at-home euthanasia” methods.
Additionally, you should not attempt to release your hamster into nature. According to the University of Florida, you should never release your pet into the wild. Not only do you risk losing your pet to the elements or predators, but you could also face a hefty fine.
To reiterate, the only way to safely and comfortably end a pet’s suffering is through AVMA-consistent euthanasia techniques overseen by a veterinarian. They will ensure that the animal remains as comfortable as possible during the procedure. At-home methods leave too much room for error.
All euthanasia techniques in the United States must align with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s guidelines. These guidelines minimize pain and distress in animals, ensuring a death that’s as comfortable as possible — that’s what you should want for your beloved hamster.
There are multiple acceptable methods of euthanasia for rodents. According to Boston University, the two most common ways are:
- Medication Injections – Veterinarians inject the hamster with an overdose of drugs, including barbiturates, dissociative agents, or benzodiazepines. Injections are typically given intraperitoneally (through the abdomen). Death generally is quick, and the procedure is considered painless and stress-free for the animal.
- Carbon Dioxide – Exposure to carbon dioxide in a controlled environment is another commonly used euthanasia method for rodents. This method uses a pressurized tank or chamber. However, because this method takes up to 50 minutes, it’s not used as a sole method for euthanasia but may be used in combination with other methods.
Once respiration ceases, death is verified by a veterinarian.
Most veterinarian offices allow the pet owner to be present for euthanasia. In some cases, the veterinarian may allow you to hold your hamster as it takes its last breaths.
You can bury your dead hamster. Once a hamster is euthanized, some veterinarian offices allow you to take your hamster’s body home for burial. Others offer cremation services for deceased pets.
There is typically a charge for cremation (in addition to euthanasia services). Once the veterinarians cremate the pet, they’ll call you to pick up the animal’s remains, usually in a small box. Some offices may offer urns for an additional fee.
Some veterinary offices offer a foot or paw print of your pet and a lock of the animal’s fur. Talk to your veterinarian about what options are available.
Unfortunately, a hamster’s small size often works against it, making it prone to injury, stress, and illness, which may cause a rapid decline in its overall health and well-being.
Even a healthy hamster begins rapidly approaching the end of its lifespan between two and three years old.
Over time, you’ll notice different signs indicating that something is wrong with your furry friend. Some symptoms that a hamster is dying (and should be immediately seen by a veterinarian) include:
- Appetite changes
- Changes in drinking
- Less frequent urination
- Reduction in activity
- Behavioral changes
- Wetness around the tail
- Sneezing, wheezing, or labored breathing
- Failure to groom or hair loss
- Refusing to leave its hideout
Before assuming that one or more of these signs mean that your hamster’s death is imminent, it’s critical to ensure that the hamster isn’t simply hibernating — and if it is, you must intervene immediately. Hamsters cannot hibernate safely for long periods, unlike other wild animals.
When your hamster’s environment becomes too cold (below 60°F or 15.5°C), it enters hibernation. Unfortunately, hamsters aren’t equipped to hibernate due to their inability to store water or food for long periods. Prolonged hibernation may lead to starvation or dehydration in hamsters.
Signs that your hamster is hibernating include:
- Slow respiration
- Appears to be sleeping
- Cold to the touch
If your hamster shows any of the above signs, immediately warm the room to 70°F to 72°F (21.1°C to 22.2°C). Take a clean, soft towel and wrap the hamster in it. Hold the hamster against your body, using your body heat to warm it.
As the hamster’s body temperature rises, it should begin to move around. Offer the hamster a few drops of tepid electrolyte-enhanced water or moisture-rich food, and contact your veterinarian.
If you suspect your hamster is suffering, do not attempt to put it out of its misery at home. Subjecting a hamster to uncertain euthanasia measures could lead to immense pain and suffering, which is traumatic for you and your pet.
Letting a beloved pet go is a difficult task, but it’s essential to give your furry friend the best possible care and, if necessary, the most humane passing. If your hamster could talk beyond the rainbow bridge, it’d undoubtedly thank you for your courage, kindness, and compassion.
You may like the following hamsters articles:
- How To Tell If Your Hamster Is Sick?
- Why Does My Hamster Stink?
- Where Do Hamsters Live in the Wild?
- How to Find an Escaped Hamster
- Can You Get Rabies From a Hamster Bite?
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more