While hamsters are known to have a short lifespan, there’s more to the story than just that. Sudden and unexpected death among these nocturnal animals isn’t an unknown phenomenon.
Compared to most other rodents in the US, hamsters are fragile and have weak bones. However, whether it is due to natural causes or sickness, there are ways to keep your furry friends from dying abruptly.
So why do hamsters die so easily after all? Let’s find out!
Do Hamsters Die Unexpectedly?
Unfortunately, it has become common for hamsters to die for no reason in some instances. In some cases, even if you house two hamsters together, their death seemingly occurs out of nowhere. It’s important to note that while it is common, it isn’t often the owner’s fault.
Are There Any Warning Signs?
Most animals are known to be notorious for concealing their suffering until they’re sick beyond a cure. This is why it’s essential to look out for the warning signs. Sometimes, these signs are incredibly subtle.
They might manifest as small changes in your pet’s behavior. However, consider any of the following symptoms a red flag if you notice them.
- Change in appetite
- Increased lethargy and the need to sleep
- Change in breathing patterns
- Change in defecation
- Increased need to drink water and urinate
- Excessive grooming
- Sudden loss of weight
Why Do Hamsters Die So Easily?
For one, ensuring proper care and a healthy diet is always crucial, no matter what animal you own. After all, there’s nothing more painful than saying goodbye to a pet.
Is there a way to prevent your furry buddy from dying so easily? Probably yes. However, the solution lies in understanding the causes of death. Here are the five most common ones.
The Age Factor
Stress and old age are the primary reasons behind a hamster’s death. While stress can be dealt with, old age is a natural phenomenon.
Even wild hamsters have a lifespan of only about two years. Stress can also cause the immune system to weaken, clearing the passage for fatal infections.
Wet Tail Disease
This deadly disease initially manifests as loss of appetite, water, and eventual diarrhea. However, it can turn lethal in just the first 24 hours.
This is when you may notice your hamster undergoing certain changes. Some of them are hunching down, poor hair quality, sudden weight loss, and extreme lethargy.
Again, stress is often the main culprit here. When young hamsters are transported from vendors to pet stores and then homes, it wears them out. There’s only so much a tiny baby hamster is wired to handle.
When stress levels increase, the bacteria also intensify in the gut. As a result, watery diarrhea disrupts your pet’s health and inflicts suffering upon them.
However, the destruction doesn’t end here. The wet tail disease is highly contagious. This means you may want to keep an eye out on the cage, especially if multiple hamsters are inside it. Even if only a single one of them has the disease, it will spread across the cage like wildfire.
Pneumonia isn’t a common occurrence among hamsters. However, the chances of it occurring are still there. Typically caused by an infection, your little buddy’s lungs experience inflammation in case they have it.
Furthermore, sudden environmental changes make it hard for a hamster to fight diseases. One of those changes is usually the room temperature.
This disease is also super contagious. This is why it’s imperative to separate sick hamsters from healthy ones. Some symptoms you should look out for are:
- Respiratory distress
- Dull appearance
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Coughing and sneezing
- Mucus discharge from the eyes and nose
Congestive Heart Failure
Unfortunately, hamsters are as prone to heart failure as other animals. Congestive heart failure is most commonly detected among older female hamsters.
While there is no cure, a good veterinarian can suggest quick ways to manage it. The general outcome might remain unfavorable.
Hence, keep an eye on your hamster, especially if it’s moving about erratically or experiencing respiratory distress. These are classic early warning signs of heart failure.
You may also notice their pulse rate escalating to extreme levels and their skin turning blue. While old age plays a role, young hamsters also have heart diseases.
While it is a rare occurrence, it often goes unnoticed. It is important to note that sudden death among hamsters is not always a result of known diseases.
The likelihood of cancer among these animals is expected to increase with age. However, it is more common in females than males because it usually commences in the reproductive tract.
Unknown Injuries and Infections
It is easy to keep an eye out for known infections. However, several fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections occur without warning. Some injuries also tend to go sore and cause untimely death.
It is mostly due to genetic disposition that hybrid hamsters die early. Take note that their birth usually takes place in pet mills and from parents who are unselected.
This means they have low immunity from the time of their birth. Their predisposition to infections and diseases is also quite high.
Hamsters born from healthy, selected parents may, in fact, live longer lives. This is because their breeding ensures that there are no hereditary diseases involved.
Falling Is Usually Fatal
Most falls they accidentally experience are without consequences. On the other hand, some can kill them on the spot.
For instance, falling from a great height can cause sudden death due to internal bleeding. The same goes for a hamster that falls on its head and ends up breaking its neck.
Chewing on Toxic Objects
While this should be self-explanatory, most people fail to recognize it as a common cause of sudden death. A hamster’s enclosure is often plagued with things from inappropriate toys to plastic-based toxic objects.
Even paint supplies around them can turn out to be lethal. Your hamster can die in minutes if it chews on acrylic paints etc.
If you’re planning to build them mazes, avoid using ordinary adhesives. Go for child-safe materials instead.
Check out: Can Hamsters Have a Heart Attack?
What Can You Do to Avoid a Hamster’s Sudden Death?
Rely on the Right Breeders
A certified breeder ensures that only ethical practices are put to use. Make sure to find one before getting a pet hamster.
Let Your Hamsters Stay Active
A healthy lifestyle for absolutely any animal requires some form of activity. Hamsters are habitual of running around, digging, and burrowing, whether wild or domesticated.
This means that their cage should not only be big but also have enrichment toys. Some of them should ideally be tunnels, chew toys, running wheels, etc.
Ensure a Good Diet
Make sure to incorporate low sugar, lots of greens, and high proteins in their food. You can also boil relevant vegetables at home and cook healthy treats for them.
Don’t Subject Them to Sudden Changes
Hamsters are quite sensitive to changes around them. You would want to ensure that no abrupt bedding or lighting changes are made inside or around their cages.
Place Them in Cool Temperatures
While it isn’t necessary to have to air-condition their cage or their surroundings, you want to ensure that there’s enough ventilation. The room should be cool but dry and with minimal light and noise.
Warm temperatures aren’t suitable for their health. This is why hamsters are mostly found in cool regions around the world.
Ensure Adequate Hygiene
The principles of hygiene apply to your hamster as much as they apply to you. Before holding them, make sure to wash your hands and dry them properly.
Avoid using scented soap since it has been known to evoke allergies in your hamsters. Clean their cage at least twice or thrice a week. However, make sure not to put any stress on them.
While they’re generally considered clean, it won’t hurt to examine their bodies every once in a while. Keeping your hamsters and their surroundings clean can do wonders to protect them from unwanted illnesses in the long run.
So, why do hamsters die so easily? Well, the answer is pretty straightforward. For the most part, it’s the age unleashing its impact on the body. After all, hamsters have a rather short lifespan.
However, it isn’t to say that no other factors are involved. From terrible breeding practices to a lack of basic knowledge, humans also play a role in the process. Under proper care and ethical practices, hamsters should be able to live as long as their bodies allow them to.
While they are considered fragile and sensitive, hamsters are also super energetic and loving as pets. This is why it’s essential to treat them with the utmost kindness. They’re not accessories to be played with but rather living beings that deserve respect, care, and love.
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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