Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast?

Hamsters are active, energetic pets and don’t usually breathe fast. If you notice your hamster’s breathing pattern has changed, you may be wondering what’s causing it. Be sure to keep an eye on your hamster and call a vet if the condition doesn’t improve.

The most common cause of fast breathing in hamsters is an illness, such as pneumonia or any other respiratory infection. Other things that can cause your hamster to breathe fast may include heat, being scared, or being injured. If the condition doesn’t improve, consult with a vet.

This article will explain the different things that could be causing your hamster’s fast breathing in greater detail. It’ll also present other symptoms to look out for, so be sure to keep reading to learn more.

Is It Normal for Hamsters To Breathe Fast?

Generally, it isn’t normal for hamsters to breathe fast. Breathing fast is a sign of illness in many cases, so you should call your vet as soon as possible if the condition doesn’t improve. Hamsters are small and delicate, so infection can be fatal if not treated promptly.

If you notice your hamster breathing fast for a few moments, but then it starts breathing normally, there’s likely nothing wrong. It might have simply been scared or confused.

You should, however, keep an eye on it for a while to make sure it’s okay.

Read How To Empty Hamster Cheek Pouch?

The Main Things That Cause Hamsters To Breathe Fast

Although respiratory illnesses are the most likely cause of your hamster’s fast breathing, other things could be causing it as well. These things include being too hot, being too cold, being scared, or having an injury.

Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast
Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast

Below, I’ll talk about all the main things that might be causing your hamster to breathe fast in more detail.

Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illnesses are one of the most common problems that hamsters experience. In most cases, your hamster will contract a respiratory infection if it’s in a cold room. Alternatively, it may have come into contact with another sick animal or human.

Like humans, respiratory illnesses in hamsters can also lead to more severe conditions like pneumonia. To prevent this, take your hamster to the vet as soon as possible. If the infection is bacterial, the vet will prescribe antibiotics in most cases.

Other than fast breathing, other symptoms of a respiratory infection include:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Mucous in the nose and eyes
  • Sluggishness and tiredness
  • Shaking
  • Loss of appetite

Also, read, How To Clean Hamster Cage


If your hamster gets overheated, it may start breathing heavily. Try to leave your hamster in a cool room if you live in a warm country and make sure it has plenty of water.

Leave windows open and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation for your hamster. If it gets too hot, your hamster may be susceptible to heatstroke, which is potentially fatal.

Other than breathing fast, other symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Fast, heavy breathing
  • Drooling
  • Change of color in gums and mouth
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Dehydration

If you suspect your hamster has heatstroke, you should consult with a vet immediately.


Just like being too hot, being too cold can also affect your hamster’s breathing. If its cage is in a drafty, cold room, your hamster may get sick.

Ensure your hamster is in a room with an appropriate temperature. The most suitable temperature is between 75-85 °F (23.89-29.44 °C) for most domestic hamsters. Additionally, the ideal level of humidity for hamsters is between 40%-60%.

If your hamster lives in chilly conditions, it’ll likely catch a cold or other infection. It could eventually lead to severe diseases like pneumonia, so it’s essential to care for your hamster and ensure it’s living in a room with the correct temperature.

Read Why Is My Hamster Squeaking?

Being Scared or Stressed

Hamsters that are stressed or scared are prone to fast breathing. The main thing that causes your hamster to get scared is if you frighten it, so make sure you’re gentle around it.

If your hamster is sleeping, don’t wake it up; this is a common reason hamsters get scared. When they get startled, it can cause them to breathe fast. However, this shouldn’t last for more than a few minutes.

Your hamster may be experiencing stress if it’s in a new environment or still in its typical environment, but certain things have changed, i.e., it’s in a new cage, or there’s a new pet in the home.

Along with fast breathing, other signs of a scared or stressed hamster include:

  • Moving around more than usual
  • Shaking
  • More reactive and alert than usual
  • It might try to bite you

If your hamster has been breathing fast for more than a few minutes, it’s likely due to something else other than being scared, so you should consult a vet.

Read How Long Does a Hamster Live


Your hamster may be injured, which can cause fast, heavy breathing. One common cause of a hamster injury is improper handling. Since hamsters are so small and delicate, you must ensure you’re handling yours with care.

Another way your hamster may get injured is if it gets caught in a wheel or a part of the cage; this may even cause broken bones, which can be difficult to treat on such small pets.

Panting and heavy breathing is common when there’s an injury because it’s a coping mechanism. Other than heavy breathing, other signs of a hamster injury include:

  • Bleeding
  • Crying, squealing, or whelping
  • Agitation
  • Limping
  • Swelling
why is my hamster breathing fast while sleeping
why is my hamster breathing fast while sleeping

Check out, Difference Between a Hamster and a Gerbil

Continuous Fast Breathing In Hamsters Should Always Be a Cause for Concern

In general, it’s safe to assume that fast breathing in a hamster should always be a cause for concern. If your hamster is breathing fast for an extended period and isn’t showing signs of improvement, it’s essential to call a vet.

Catching a respiratory illness or other infection as soon as possible is vital for the best outcome, so act as quickly as you can.

Read Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies

Does Fast Breathing Mean My Hamster Is Sick?

In most cases, fast breathing indicates that your hamster is sick. Rapid breathing is likely accompanied by other symptoms such as lack of appetite, sluggishness, wet tail, sneezing or wheezing, and diarrhea. A behavior change is also a sign that your hamster is sick.

If your hamster is experiencing any of the above symptoms, or if it’s behaving differently, it’s best to assume that it’s ill. Calling a vet is the smartest thing to do in this instance.

What Does a Sick Hamster Look Like?

A hamster’s appearance is a tell-tale sign as to whether it’s sick or not.

If your hamster is experiencing fast breathing, some physical things to look out for include:

  • A wet tail
  • Fur loss
  • Bumps on the fur and skin
  • Grayish or dull-colored fur
  • Dirty, matted fur
  • Odd posture
  • Mucous and discharge

Will My Hamster’s Fast Breathing Slow Down by Itself?

Your hamster’s fast breathing won’t slow down by itself in most cases. The most common cause of rapid breathing in hamsters is an infection, so it won’t get better without medical attention. However, if worry or stress causes fast breathing, it should slow down by itself.

Since infections cause most cases of fast breathing, medication is usually needed to help make a hamster better. Without medicines and the proper medical attention, your hamster will suffer.

If you choose to wait and see if the fast breathing will subside by itself, you may be risking your hamster’s health.

Read Why Did My Hamster Die?

Why Does My Hamster Breathe Fast When Sleeping?

It’s common for hamsters to breathe fast while sleeping. If your hamster breathes fast when it sleeps but breathes normally when awake, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if fast breathing occurs during the day and the night, it can indicate a deeper issue.

Much like how some humans breathe deeper and faster when sleeping, hamsters are the same. However, if you feel like your hamster may be in distress or if you notice wheezing of any kind, you should consult a vet.


Several things could be causing your hamster’s rapid breathing, but the most common cause is a respiratory infection. Other things that may be causing fast breathing may include:

  • Being scared, worried, or stressed
  • Being cold
  • Being too warm (heat stroke)
  • An injury

Once a hamster is ill, it can get even sicker quite quickly. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with a vet (available all around the United States of America) if your hamster has difficulty breathing for an extended period. If you get your hamster treated early, there’s a higher chance of a full recovery.

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