Have you ever noticed that your hamster twitches and seems to bounce around his cage like a bouncy ball?
This could be caused by hiccups.
Whether hiccups are dangerous for your hamster, why he gets them and what you can do about it, we tell you in this article.
Can hamsters get hiccups?
Yes, hamsters can get hiccups. Most of the time it is a harmless phenomenon, caused by eating too fast, drinking too fast or excitement. However, there may be other causes behind it, such as foreign bodies in the respiratory tract.
Are the hiccups dangerous?
If they are normal hiccups, they are not dangerous.
It occurs, for example, when your hamster has eaten very hastily. The diaphragm receives an impulse and contracts repeatedly, which is expressed in the typical “hick” sound and a jerky movement of the upper body.
If there is a harmless cause behind the hiccups, the involuntary contractions are over within a few minutes and occur only rarely.
The situation is different if hiccups occur constantly, last for a very long time and you can observe other signs of impaired health. It is then possible that it is not hiccups at all or that an organic cause is responsible.
Causes of hiccups in hamsters
If the hiccups are normal and harmless, there are three possible causes.
- fast eating
When your hamster eats a lot of food in a short period of time, the esophagus becomes strained, the stomach rapidly gains girth, and the pressure on the diaphragm abruptly increases.
As a counter-reaction, the diaphragm contracts.
- hasty drinking
Just as with rapid eating, drinking can also trigger hiccups.
The reasons are similar. However, drinking usually involves swallowing even more air, which creates a change in the volume of the stomach.
Whether your hamster can’t wait for feeding time or smells a conspecific, joyful excitement can result in hiccups just like laughter in humans.
The reason for this is the change in breathing that triggers the diaphragm reflex.
In the case of organic causes or diseases, other triggers are also possible. These include, for example, diseases or malformations of the respiratory tract, injuries to the diaphragm or foreign bodies that exert pressure on the diaphragm.
Is there anything I can do about the hiccups?
Startling, holding your breath, sucking a piece of sugar or drinking a glass of water – all these home remedies that people use for hiccups will not work for your hamster.
So, unfortunately, if hiccups are present, there is nothing you can do to help the animal.
However, you should keep a close eye on the rodent: The duration, intensity and timing of the occurrence, as well as the frequency of the hiccups, can be important information to help determine the cause.
For example, if it occurs immediately before or after feeding, it is usually harmless. If it disappears within a short time, there is no reason to worry.
If, on the other hand, you can observe it almost every day when your hamster is otherwise in a calm state, there is most likely another cause behind it. This brings us to an important question: Is it really hiccups?
Hiccups or sneezing?
Hiccups are often mistaken for sneezing in hamsters.
The reason for this is the lack of sound. Since hamsters are tiny and light, they lack a corresponding sound box. They are also quiet and still animals overall so as not to attract attention.
In the wild, this can mean the difference between life and death, as predators could be attracted to the typical sounds of sneezing or hiccups.
Making the distinction even more difficult is the fact that the body movements of hiccups and sneezes hardly differ from each other.
If sneezing occurs so frequently, however, this always indicates a problem.
Comparatively harmless are irritations caused by dust. However, allergies and infections are also possible. Allergies can worsen over time and become dangerous. Respiratory infections are also much more serious than a cold or runny nose in humans.
If the difference between sneezing and hiccups is not immediately obvious, you should pay attention to other factors. This will make it clear when you absolutely need to see a veterinarian.
If the sneezing occurs immediately after changing bedding, while digging or even while sleeping, it is most likely an irritation from dust or an allergy.
Especially dusty wood chips can be responsible for this.
Also possible are pollen, animal feed, and the fumes from cleaning products.
Watery eyes and a runny nose indicate allergies or an infection. As long as it is clear, an allergy is more likely.
Purulent discharge, on the other hand, is associated with bacterial or viral infections.
Reddened mucous membranes are a sign of inflammation. These can occur with both allergies and infections.
Rapid or labored breathing can be attributed to swollen mucous membranes, excessive secretions and other forms of restriction.
This may also include a tumor.
Simple irritation from dust will not trigger this, nor will hiccups. In these cases, a veterinarian or veterinary clinic must be consulted immediately, as this is an emergency.
Other signs of illness:
Loss of appetite, apathy, changes in weight, and shaggy fur, as well as nosebleeds or behavioral changes, indicate that medical attention is imperative.
If you’re not sure what it is or your hamster’s overall health seems compromised, see a veterinarian. This is the only way to treat the cause early and increase the chance of successful therapy.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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