Why Did My Hamster Suddenly Die?

Hamsters can keep you and your kids engaged with their fun activities in the cage. They love to play, mess around with their food, and tease each other while living together. Despite their easy care, hamsters can have bacterial, fungal, and viral interactions, leading to poor health.

In some cases, diseases can also lead to hamster’s death. Many ask, why did my hamster suddenly die? We have all you need to know if you also want to know why.

Hamsters can die for various reasons, including getting sick, catching a viral disease, and aging. Let’s dive into the details to understand the causes of sudden hamster deaths.

Causes of Hamster Deaths

When pet owners fail to give proper attention to their pets, the pets’ health declines. The same is valid for pet hamsters. They can get sick without showing obvious symptoms.

Stressful Environment

Like humans, hamsters can also get stressed. Stressful environments can affect your hamster’s lifespan by weakening its immune system.

Your hamster may not show obvious symptoms of stress when living in a cage. However, poor immunity increases the chances of your hamster getting sick quickly.

Moreover, stressed hamsters are likelier to be affected by the bacterium Clostridium piliforme. The bacterium can compromise the immunity of hamsters, making them weaker.

Stress can add more fuel to the burning fire if your hamster has a preexisting heart condition. In many cases, the reported cause of sudden hamster deaths is sudden heart attack caused by underlying stress.

Aging Problems

Another reason that can cause sudden death in hamsters is the aging problem. Typically, a hamster has a lifespan of eighteen months to up to three years.

Pet hamsters can give sudden death shocks due to their old age. If you got a sixteen or seventeen months old hamster from the pet shop, it might die soon.

If you feed your hamster well and regularly disinfect its cage, you may be able to get a few months more with your hamster.

To avoid sudden deaths, you may want to have a necropsy of your hamster done before getting it to your home. The procedure helps to evaluate the age of hamsters when unknown.

Poor Heart Condition

Did you know hamsters can have heart diseases? Despite their small size and playful nature, hamsters can suffer from several heart conditions that can cause their sudden death.

One of the common causes of sudden deaths in hamsters is congestive heart failure. In such scenarios, older hamsters or those with genetic conditions can have weakened cardiovascular muscles.

The weak heart muscles lead to poor blood pumping and respiratory problems. Hamsters may also show erratic movements, blueish skin color, and abdominal fluid retention.

Another heart condition that can lead to sudden hamster deaths is atrial thrombosis. It is common with older hamsters and is secondary to heart failure. Common symptoms include hyperpnea and cyanosis.

Apart from these conditions, hereditary diseases like polymyopathy can lead to declining heart health in hamsters. The disease transmits by a recessive gene and affects the heart and muscles of the hamster’s body. 


Pneumonia can cause deaths in humans and animals alike. The disease can attack hamsters and infect the lungs, leading to poor breathing conditions.

Pneumonia is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Diplococcus sp, Streptococcus sp, and Pasteurella pneumotropica. It can transfer from other hamsters or disinfected environments.

Pneumonia can also result from the attack of the Sendai virus. The virus can affect the lungs of the hamster, causing it to die.

If you notice your hamster struggling with breathing or becomes weak rapidly, you may take it to your vet for a thorough check-up to avoid sudden death.

Diarrhea (Wet Tail)

Diarrhea is more commonly referred to as “wet tail” in hamsters. It is a spontaneous bacterial disease that can lead to sudden hamster deaths.

Also known as proliferative ileitis or regional enteritis, wet tail results from the overgrowth of intestinal bacteria in hamsters.

The condition can turn worse if combined with other bacterial diseases. Hamsters can show symptoms like anorexia, weakness, weight loss, hunched body, and wetness around the tail.

If your hamster is stressed, it may increase the chance of diarrhea. You must closely monitor your hamster’s condition to avoid sudden deaths when sick.

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Cancer is among the most lethal diseases around the globe. It can cause deaths in humans and animals like hamsters. Hamsters are likelier to develop malignancy in the gastrointestinal tract.

Other body regions include skin, appendages, and the hematopoietic system. Hamsters may not show obvious signs of the disease. However, malignancy can lead to sudden death.

Melanomas is a cancer type that occurs on the hamster’s skin. The disease primarily targets male hamsters, declining their physical and organ health.

Lymphoma attacks the hematopoietic system in hamsters. When sick, hamsters can show anorexic symptoms followed by alopecia and weight loss.

Although cancer is less common among hamsters than in other animals, it is one of the common causes of unnoticed sudden deaths in hamsters.

Kidney Problems

Healthy kidneys can promote healthy organ function in the human and animal bodies. However, poor condition of kidneys can prove fatal if left unchecked.

Hamsters can develop degenerative renal diseases. These diseases can cause adverse effects on hamsters’ health. Although renal diseases are more common in female hamsters, males can bear the impact.

Poor kidney health can result from excessive protein consumption in hamsters. If you fed your pet hamster too much protein for extensive periods, you might consult a vet to analyze its kidney’s condition.

Protein may not be the only cause of renal diseases in hamsters. In some cases, other illnesses can weaken the renal function in the body. Hamsters may die suddenly if the condition gets worse.

Polycystic Disease

Hamsters living in the wild can suffer from many diseases. Some of these diseases are not known to human beings. They may not notice any changes to the hamster’s condition unless aware of the problem.

Such is the case of polycystic disease. Hamsters may develop fluid-filled thin-walled sacs around their organs. These sacs of cysts can affect the organ’s health and lead to sudden deaths in rare cases.

The polycystic disease is most common in hamster livers. Hamsters may develop more than one fluid sac in the liver, affecting the digestive and other functions. 

Other regions that can develop cysts include the epididymis, pancreas, esophagus, and kidneys. You may consult your hamster’s vet if you notice any symptoms.


Diabetes is one of the common hamster diseases that can lead to declining health. It is particularly common in dwarf hamsters.

Dwarf hamsters can suffer from diabetes due to poor insulin production. You may not be able to notice the occurrence of the disease in the early stages.

Hamsters typically show symptoms like increased thirst, excessive peeing, excessive liquid intake, weight loss, sluggish behavior, and strong urine smells.

Early diagnosis of diabetes in hamsters can extend their lives up to a few months with a customized diet. However, a poor diet can lead to drastic weight loss and death.


Amyloidosis is a common hamster disease that can lead to sudden hamster death. Most common in older hamsters, the disease develops by forming a substance (amyloids) in organs.

Typically, amyloidosis occurs in hamsters’ organs, including the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, and spleen. It can be challenging to identify the presence of amyloidosis due to its common symptoms with other diseases.

Typical disease symptoms include weight loss, passive behavior, and poor diet. Weight loss is more common with hepatic and renal amyloidosis.

Amyloidosis typically occurs in female hamsters. However, pet hamsters living alone for extended periods are less likely to develop the disease.

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How to Avoid Sudden Hamster Deaths?

Hamsters are small creatures. They can have a tough time when they fall sick. If you want to save them from sudden deaths, you can try a few things at home.

Regular cage cleaning and disinfection can minimize the chances of hamsters catching diseases. Since most hamster diseases are viral, fungal, or bacterial, disinfection can kill harmful microorganisms effectively.

Taking your pet hamster to the vet every few weeks can help you stay clear of your hamster’s health. You can initiate treatment at the right time if the pet develops unusual symptoms.

Keeping hamster cages in an isolated place can reduce the chances of viral infections. Hamsters can quickly catch and transfer harmful viruses and bacteria to humans.

When getting a pet hamster, you may want to take it to the pet clinic first for a thorough check. If your hamster shows disease symptoms, you may avoid keeping it in the house.

Wrapping Up

If you wonder why your hamster suddenly died, the above list of causes and diseases can help you identify the problems with your pet hamster.

You can consult vets in your area for proper guidance on how to look after hamsters with illnesses. Many online resources can help you study the various hamster diseases leading to sudden death.

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