9 causes of sudden death of a hamster (and prevention)
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for hamsters to die suddenly and abruptly. You can not prepare for this tragedy.
In this article we tell you 9 common reasons for hamster death.
In addition, you will find at the end relatively safe signs that can indicate an imminent demise.
9 Causes of sudden hamster death.
The causes for the sudden death of a hamster can be different. Besides age and stress, typical diseases such as pneumonia, cancer or diabetes are often the trigger.
We have collected nine common causes of death for you here.
The life expectancy of a hamster is with two to a maximum of three years rather low.
If you adopt an already adult animal for which you have no information about its exact age, this may be the reason for its sudden death: The hamster has reached the end of its natural life span and has simply died of old age.
Sometimes age is put forward as a reason for sudden death, but some undetected pre-existing conditions also come into consideration.
If your hamster is permanently exposed to this condition, it will promote many diseases. This is because ongoing stress weakens his immune system and opens the door to pathogens, bacteria and germs.
Likewise, stress aggravates existing pre-existing conditions. Heart attacks and strokes are also mostly attributable to a stressful environment, but these can also be caused by the natural aging process.
3: Heart disease
This includes heart failure and its sequelae, such as atrial thrombosis, which occurs regularly in older hamsters.
As cardiomyopathy weakens the heart muscle, it also affects other organs, causing them to eventually fail or form life-threatening blood clots.
According to one study, this also affects younger animals!
Pneumonia is the second leading cause of death in hamsters. An untreated and mild cold can quickly turn into life-threatening pneumonia in your little patient.
Shortness of breath with rattling/whistling/cracking sounds, apathy and refusal to eat are the advanced symptoms along with the classic cold signs (nasal discharge, sneezing/coughing, shaggy fur, reluctance to move).
5: Wet tail disease
A mostly fatal and quite common spontaneous disease in hamsters, which however only affects young animals up to the age of 10 weeks, is the so-called “wet tail disease” or also called “wet tail”.
The animals suffer from diarrhea, which is caused by special bacteria (Lawsonia intracellularis). The mortality rate is very high at 90%. Many hamsters die from dehydration in this case.
Malignant (malignant) tumors develop spontaneously and rather rapidly in most cases in the digestive organs or hormone-producing glands and can spread from there to other parts of the body.
There is an assumption that both the genetic condition and the environment of the affected hamster play a role as triggering factors of malignant tumor formation.
Fortunately, only about four percent of hamsters suffer from malignant cancer; most are “only” benign growths.
Two types of this disease exist: a very rapid and fatal course is taken by the diabetes type 1 variant.
This incurable autoimmune disease usually breaks out in young animals and causes a disturbed insulin supply.
If the regulation of blood sugar no longer functions, the body cells can no longer be supplied with sufficient energy.
The animals lose a lot of weight and usually die before they reach the age of one.
The type 2 diabetes variant tends to affect older and overweight hamsters that do not exercise much. The high blood glucose level associated with the disease results from lack of exercise, poor diet or predisposition.
Both types of diabetes have in common that the animals have an increased need to drink.
8: Other infections
Your hamster can become infected with various viruses, bacteria or parasites and die as a result.
The lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LMCV) is very dangerous and can even be transmitted to humans. Your hamster will suffer from cramps, weight loss, lethargy, blepharitis and a stooped posture.
This rather rare disease is caused by deposits of amyloid, a protein, in the various organs.
It thus prevents their smooth functioning. When amyloid reaches the kidneys, their failure is imminent, ultimately leading to death.
Can diseases in a hamster be successfully treated?
Treatment options in veterinary medicine are limited, especially for very small animals like hamsters, rabbits and co. many interventions are anatomically not feasible.
This means that some diseases that can easily be surgically removed in dogs and cats are incurable for the small rodent.
Diseases in hamsters often go unnoticed
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a disease is quite difficult with your furry rodent.
Would you like to know why that is?
The answer will surprise you: Your hamster pretends that everything is fine and hides his illness. This behavior is purely instinctive, because the hamster is a prey animal in nature, which has many predators.
Therefore, in order not to give the impression of being defenseless and an easy victim, the small rodent hardly shows any signals indicating its health problem.
In view of this, an illness often goes unnoticed until just before death occurs.
How to recognize the signs of an illness in your hamster
Observe your hamster carefully every day, paying close attention to the following criteria. Because these can give you information that something is wrong with your animal.
- Look for the slightest changes in behavior and warning signs such as lethargy, matted fur, changes in breathing, weight loss or sudden aggression.
- Don’t subject your hamster to stress, it’s poison to them and their health.
- While an increased need for sleep is also to be expected in older hamsters, it may be a serious medical condition.
- Changes in feces often indicate a health problem.
- If your hamster suddenly drinks a lot more or you notice increased urination and constantly wet bedding, this is not a good sign.
- Because of the thick fur, weight loss due to illness is difficult to detect visually, so you should weigh your older hamster every week.
- A tip that we suggest you already when buying a hamster is to choose the right seller. Already here a lot can go wrong, because not everyone puts the welfare of the animals in the first place. So the risk of getting a sick hamster is rather high in pet shops. Therefore, it is better to look for a good private breeder, where you can also examine the parent animals and check the housing conditions.
4 final tips for a healthy hamster
1: Species-appropriate nutrition
A balanced and species-appropriate diet also plays a very important role in preventing life-threatening diseases.
In addition to fresh hay, offer your animal favorite nutrient-rich cereals such as spelt and oats. In addition, vitamin-rich vegetables and fruit (in moderation, because of the high sugar content!) should not be missing.
A large part of human food is taboo for the sensitive stomach of the hamster, especially processed, spicy, sugary or salty foods damage his organism immensely and drastically shorten his already short life expectancy.
Remember to remove and replace uneaten food to prevent harmful germs from forming. Contaminated food causes severe digestive distress.
2: Cage Location
Place the cage in a quiet, not too bright, but well ventilated area. Under no circumstances should it be in full sun, your little rodent can’t stand heat!
A location directly next to the heater is also unsuitable, because strong temperature fluctuations make the cute fur bearer sick.
The hamster’s respiratory tract is vulnerable, so make sure the air quality around the cage is good.
Did you know that the bedding you use is another element, which can have a negative impact on your furry friend’s health?
According to this, cedar is said to be harmful for him and also the phenolic content should not be too high.
Clean the cage thoroughly every few days, because hygiene plays an extremely important role in the hamster’s life.
If too much toxic ammonia (a component of hamster urine) accumulates in the cage and bedding, your animal friend can quickly catch an infection.
4: The right temperature
If you keep your hamster in a cool place during the cold season, he may suddenly appear to be dead.
However, this is a type of cold torpor that the small rodent then goes into, similar to hibernation.
Some wild hamster species do hibernate for periods of three to six months, but the pet hamster is not accustomed to this type of shutdown of all bodily functions and cannot withstand this stress for an extended period of time.
Therefore, provide consistent warmth and avoid drafts in the cage area.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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