The hamster is a curious and adorable tiny creature, but it is also sensitive to injury and illness that can lead to death.
We understand if you’re worried about your hamster or suspect his or her conduct isn’t typical in light of this information.
But don’t worry!
Also, we were wondering about how to maintain our hamster’s health and safety, and we discovered that there are some preventative measures you can take.
While diseases like Wet Tail Disease claim the lives of some hamsters, accidents like a fall from a dangerously high height are also to blame.
At times, hamsters’ behavior can be a bit of a mystery. Is it normal for my pet to burrow?
Maybe they’re ill and need to be taken to the vet for treatment.
Despite the fact that hamsters have a shorter lifespan than other home pets, they can still have a long and healthy life if they are properly cared for and monitored for indications of sickness.
The following instructions will show you how to accomplish this.
- So why do hamsters die?
- When is a hamster considered old?
- Make sure you keep your hamster safe
- Signs of Illness
- A hamster can die from a fatal disease.
- Hamsters often die because of heart disease.
- Cancer is a disease that often kills hamsters.
- Falling can be fatal for a hamster.
- Stress kills hamsters.
- A bad enclosure can kill your hamster.
- Ignorance and poor preparation kill hamsters.
- Cage mates can kill each other
- Heat can also kill a hamster.
- Other pets can kill a hamster
- Boredom can kill a hamster
- Bad food will surely kill your hamster
- Contact with a sick animal could kill a hamster
So why do hamsters die?
Hamsters can die of a variety of causes, but the most common cause of death is an underlying medical issue.
In fact, even extremely old hamsters die of old age because their bodies simply don’t function the way they used to and some key portion of their body has stopped working.
Sadly, hamsters do succumb to infections and injuries that can be avoided in the vast majority of cases.
Not all of them are apparent. Even if you notice, you may not be able to identify the problem until it is too late.
Hamster health concerns and how they seem in old age might help you figure out when to intervene and whether to intervene at all.
When is a hamster considered old?
In most cases, a hamster is old enough to be put down by the time he is two years old.
This threshold is lower in Chinese hamsters, which have an average lifespan of two years. So they can be considered old by the time they reach their first birthday.
Most hamsters live 2-3 years, and as such, you’ll notice the changes happening to them when they get old fairly quickly.
If your hamster has thin fur, brittle legs, cataracts, a wilted appearance, or a prominent neck, he is clearly an older adult.
In part, because they are more likely to occur in old age, a slew of health issues accompany them. Wet-tail is an example of a condition that can be caused by both stress and illness.
So, an old hamster who develops wet-tail has very little chance of survival, and his death could be attributed to both the disease and old age.
The immune system, as well as the body as a whole, weakens with age. It takes longer for bones and wounds to heal.
An aged hamster is more difficult to heal after an injury than a young hamster.
Make sure you keep your hamster safe
There are steps you can take to ensure your hamster’s happiness and health. Now, while what I’ve just said may make you want to keep him under a glass dome but, don’t.
Instead, be a good hamster owner and keep him out of mischief. Let’s take a look at what that means:
- Keep the hamster away from overly curious pets that could bother him, such as cats or puppies, as well as parrots or other rodents. Basically, any pet if it’s capable of moving around the house on its own.
- Always keep an eye on children who are playing with hamsters. Accidents happen, and it is your responsibility to teach the child while also keeping the hamster safe.
- Handle the hamster only close to his cage, and never allow him to fall more than twice his height.
- If you let the hamster out on the floor, make sure there are no gaps where he can get inside, under, or between pieces of furniture and become unable to escape safely.
- Keep your hamster away from any fluffier textiles or materials. Some are sold for nesting purposes. Keep a safe distance from them.
- Overfeeding your hamster will result in obesity, diabetes, and joint problems.
- Take care when feeding your hamster food from your refrigerator or pantry. Some are safe, while others are not.
- Always clean his cage once a week, including a cage wipe-down or actual rinsing in the shower.
- Bring your hamster to the vet, even if it appears to be nothing. It’s better to have him checked and find out he’s fine than to leave it to chance and discover a problem when it’s too late.
These are the fundamentals of keeping your hamster healthy and safe.
Signs of Illness
Even though it may seem like hamsters die out of the blue, many animals are known to hide their illness until they are too sick to hide it anymore.
Most of the time, this is right before they die. This is why it’s important to pay close attention to any change in your pet’s behavior since illness often shows up in very subtle ways.
If your hamster does any of the following, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
- Lethargy. If your hamster isn’t as active as it used to be, especially if it’s still in its prime, this could be a sign that it’s sick.
- Getting more sleep. This is normal for older hamsters, but it can also be a sign of illness.
- Unkempt coat
- Anorexia or a change in how much they eat
- Any change in how they poop
- Changing the way they breathe
- Increasing how much they drink or urinate
- Lose weight. Getting your older hamster weighed once a week can be a great way to keep track of any changes in weight.
- Too much grooming
Now let’s move on to the reasons that can cause a hamster to suddenly early.
A hamster can die from a fatal disease.
There are a number of diseases and infections that hamsters can get. If they aren’t caught or treated in time, most of them can get worse and kill the hamster.
Some diseases are more deadly than others, like Wet Tail, which is a spontaneous disease (proliferative ileitis), heart problems like Congestive Heart Failure or an Atrial thrombosis, and hepatic or biliary cysts, which you can’t treat, for example, if they get to the liver of a hamster.
Small mammal pet insurance could always be helpful, especially if your vet recommends internal surgery to save your hamster.
Consider paying a few dollars per month (usually less than $20) to be ready for any sudden conditions or illnesses that may affect your hamsters.
Hamsters often die because of heart disease.
Some hamsters are born with heart diseases like polymyopathy and cardiomyopathy that are passed down through their genes.
These diseases make the hamster’s heart weak. If a hamster has this disease, it may suddenly die from heart failure if it is under a lot of stress all the time.
Heart failure in hamsters older than a year is often caused by congestive cardiomyopathy, a heart disease that is passed down from parent to child.
Older hamsters can also die suddenly of thrombosis.
In this case, the heart becomes weak, and you’ll notice that your hamster is breathing quickly, has a swollen abdomen, and that blood isn’t getting to the extremities of its body (the feet and skin look blue).
Death usually happens a few days after these symptoms show up.
Cardiomyopathic hamsters (CM hamsters) often only live for about a year.
To avoid these hereditary diseases, which are common in hamsters sold in malls and pet stores, it is often best to buy your hamster from a passionate breeder.
Cancer is a disease that often kills hamsters.
Hamsters can suddenly lose their appetite and die of skin cancer (Melanomas), cancer of the GI tract, or cancer of the hematopoietic system (which makes blood cells) (Lymphoma).
Cancer of the digestive system or skin, which kills more winter white dwarf hamsters, and pneumonia, or pulmonary infections, come in second place when it comes to diseases that kill hamsters.
There are other diseases that can kill a hamster, but LMCV and HaPV are the ones that kill the most.
Lastly, we have diabetes, which affects and may kill more dwarf hamsters like the Chinese breed.
If your dwarf hamster has diabetes, you may notice that it is thirstier and pees more (strong-smelling pee).
Kidney failure and heart failure are also fatal if they are not found and treated quickly.
Degenerative kidney disease usually kills older hamsters, especially female hamsters, but it can also kill hamsters that get too many fatty treats.
Other diseases that affect hamsters, like the flu, skin or eye infections, or simple diarrhea, are easy to treat and almost never kill the animal.
Polycystic disease can also kill hamsters who are older than a year. This disease mostly affects the hamster’s internal organs, like the liver, esophagus, and pancreas.
In this case, the hamster usually won’t show any signs or symptoms before it dies.
Falling can be fatal for a hamster.
Some falls can also kill a hamster on the spot. Most falls don’t hurt hamsters, but some can kill them right away.
If a hamster falls from a high place with nothing to break its fall, it is likely to die from internal bleeding.
The same is true for a hamster that falls on its head or on a hard object. It may break its neck and go to hamster heaven.
Stress kills hamsters.
Stress is the indirect cause that kills most hamsters.
Stress doesn’t kill the hamster directly, but it weakens its immune system and makes it more likely to get deadly diseases like wet tail (a hamster with a wet tail may still die after 48 hours, even if it is cared for, because of an obstruction of the ileum, so watch your hamster) and heart problems.
Stress can also make existing health problems worse, especially heart problems.
Stress can kill your hamster in less than a week. The most common signs of stress are excessive salivation, hyperactivity, constipation, and a refusal to eat.
A bad enclosure can kill your hamster.
The hamster’s cage should have a floor space of at least 1000 square inches. Hamsters are very active at night and need a lot of room to run around and a lot of things to play with to help them do this.
A small cage and not giving your hamster enough to do can cause stress, obesity, and other heart problems that can kill your hamster quickly.
Your hamster can get lung infections and die if you use the wrong bedding or wait too long to change it. The sand in the sand bath can also kill your hamster.
Lastly, poor hygiene of the cage and its parts, noise pollution, olfactory pollution (smells and perfumes, etc.), and long-term exposure to artificial light can all be indirect causes that will quickly cause your hamster to get diseases that can’t be cured and will kill it.
Ignorance and poor preparation kill hamsters.
Hamsters are prey, so it’s normal for them to hide their illnesses. If you hadn’t learned to recognize the signs of these diseases and the changes in your hamster’s behavior when it’s sick, you may have helped it die.
So, watch how your hamster acts and learn how to spot signs of illness so you can treat it before it gets worse and kills it or can’t be cured.
You should also get a first aid kit. It will have everything you need not only to treat small wounds and rehydrate your hamster but also to save his life if he has a serious illness while you wait to take him to the vet.
Using a syringe to give your hamster a few drops of water or keeping his temperature stable on the way to the vet could save his life.
Cage mates can kill each other
Hamsters are solitary animals and should be kept in separate cages by the time they are 6 weeks old.
If they are kept together, a fight over territory will start, and the weaker hamster will eventually die from the injuries caused by its stronger cage mates.
When you put two adult hamsters in the same cage, you should know that the weaker or more submissive one will not get enough food and will be stressed out all the time.
It probably won’t last long in this situation and will die quickly from injuries, lack of food, anorexia, or a wet tail caused by the stress of being mistreated by its cage mate.
After mating, female hamsters can also kill the male. She will try to chase him out of the cage, and if he stays, she will kill him for sure.
Heat can also kill a hamster.
You’ve probably heard of heat stroke. The best temperature for a hamster is between 75°F and 80°F (24°-27°C).
If your hamster’s cage is too hot, its blood will thicken and its internal organs won’t get enough water, which will quickly lead to organ failure and death if you don’t act quickly.
Most of the time, cold doesn’t kill hamsters, but it can make them go into hibernation.
If you don’t know how to get your hamster out of this state, you can kill it by slowly warming it up and giving it something to eat or drink that will give it energy.
Other pets can kill a hamster
The cat won’t miss a hamster. It might not eat it, but it will play with it like a ball. Even if your hamster doesn’t die right away, it will definitely die from the stress of meeting your cat or dog.
So lock up your hamster’s cage so that your cat can’t get in or even close to it. This is especially important so that your hamster can’t get out during the night and get hurt or die.
Also, a hamster that gets out of its cage and finds a way out of your house is in serious danger if you don’t find it right away.
It will definitely be killed by hunger, cold, stray cats and dogs, cars, and other animals that eat it.
Boredom can kill a hamster
A hamster should be free to run around in the wild, not stuck in a cage. In the wild, hamsters travel an average of 5.5 miles every night.
Your hamster will get bored, stressed, and stop eating if you don’t get him some enrichment and give him something to do at night, like a wheel made for his size, toys to chew on, puzzles, things to climb on, a good thickness of bedding to dig in, tunnels, hideouts, seeds hidden in the enclosure, a big enough sandbox for sand bathing, etc.
If you don’t want your hamster to live less long, you should never let it get bored.
Playpens and trips outside the cage are also important, so tame your hamster and set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes a day, preferably at night, to play and interact with him.
Set up a playpen or a room that your cat can’t get into, and let your hamster play and hang out there.
Bad food will surely kill your hamster
As I said before, stress and a bad diet are usually the two things that make a hamster live less long.
As far as food goes, the hamster will not last long if it only eats pellets.
This is ridiculous because a hamster needs seeds, dry and fresh vegetables, herbs, flowers, and protein-rich foods like mealworms and crickets,…
A hamster that doesn’t get enough food will either get malnourished, which will lead to anorexia or digestive problems that will kill it quickly, or it will get fat quickly, which will lead to heart disease or diabetes, which will also kill it quickly.
So, if you want your hamster to live a long life and be in good health, you should feed it well.
Don’t give your hamster dangerous foods like chocolate, milk, peanut butter, honey, garlic, onion, and citrus fruits like lemon, parsley, celery, onion, basil, curly lettuce, beans, and all frozen vegetables.
Also, don’t eat too sweet or too much fruit—no more than a piece the size of your pinky nail, and no more than twice or three times a week.
Do not poison your hamster with fat and raw meat. It won’t eat them right away and will take them back to its nest.
The cleaning process will do the rest and contaminate all of its food, which could make it sick or even kill it.
Contact with a sick animal could kill a hamster
Most of the time, hamsters don’t die right away after being around sick pets or animals.
I’ve heard that a rat or even a wild mouse will come to a hamster’s cage at night because the smell of food coming from the cage draws them in.
Don’t be surprised if the hamster’s food draws in people you didn’t even know.
For example, a cockroach can carry bacteria, pathogens, or microbes that can easily kill your hamster.
If you take good care of your hamster, it probably won’t ever need to see a vet.
It’s good to want your hamster to live a long life without too many trips to the vet, but you should know that death is a part of life.
You should always be ready to say goodbye to your hamster since you never know when it will die.
Not only do old hamsters die, but even young ones can die from diseases inside that you or a vet would never guess.
If the vet says there is nothing more that can be done to save your hamster and he is in pain, you should let him go to hamster heaven in peace.
You could even help him get there by putting him to sleep.