How to Know If Your Hamster Is Dying? 7 Signs and Symptoms

How to comfort a dying hamster signs your hamster is dying.jpg

Owning a hamster is not always sunshine and rainbows because we know that we’ll eventually need to say our goodbyes when they die.

If you are a hamster owner, you are probably aware that the inevitable bidding of farewell happens sooner compared to other pets. 

Aside from their short lifespan, they are also susceptible to illnesses and stresses which can cause their sudden death. 

If your hamster is on its deathbed, the least you can do is to comfort it and provide the affection it deserves until its last breath.

In this guide, I will be sharing with you the signs that your hamster is dying and the ways on how you can comfort it. Let’s get to it.

Contents show

Is Your Hamster Dying? Signs and Symptoms Your Hamster Is Dying

Signs and symptoms your hamster Is dying

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a dying hamster could save the life of your pet.

While hamsters can die from various causes, there are common behaviors and signs which you can observe to see if your hamster is sick or dying. 

Here are the seven common signs and symptoms that you should watch out to know if your hamster is dying:

1. Your hamster shows changes in its activity

Hamsters show significant changes in their behavior and activity levels when they are dying or sick.

That’s why you must spend at least a few minutes a day observing the behavior and activities of your hamster.

If you notice that something is off about its sleeping pattern, daily routines, and the way it interacts with other hamsters, it might be suffering from an illness or worse, dying. 

Dying and sick hamsters tend to become inactive and lethargic. However, you should keep in mind that hamsters are more active at night and tend to sleep in daylight because they are nocturnal animals.

The only time you should be alarmed is when your hamster becomes inactive, exhausted, or sleepy the whole day.

Hamsters also stop playing on their wheels and interacting with other hamsters when they are dying.

They prefer staying in a single spot or corner of their cage. They become disinterested in the routines and activities which they loved doing before.

When your hamster shows all of these signs, you should immediately take it to the vet for consultation and checkup. 

2. Your hamster is not eating or drinking

The eating habits of your hamster could also tell you if it is dying or sick. When hamsters do not feel well, they lose their appetite and stop eating just like humans do.

Observe if your pet hamster is eating less than it used to eat before. If this behavior continues for several days, it might be ill or dying. In severe cases, dying hamsters may even stop eating at all.

Drinking is as important as eating. One of the red flags that your hamster is dying or sick is when it does not drink at all.

If your hamster lacks the necessary fluid in the body, it might even suffer dehydration.

3. Your hamster seems to be in pain or suffering

When hamsters are in pain, they either become inactive or exhibit aggressive and nervous behavior.

If your hamster is showing discomfort and refuses to be touched or pet, it might be experiencing pain.

Dying hamsters tend to become aggressive towards other pets due to the pain and stress they are experiencing.

Others might also exhibit severe nervousness and hypersensitivity to their surroundings. 

If this is the case, you should isolate your hamster from other pets to give it a comfortable space to recover.

If its discomfort and aggressive behavior persist for days, you should immediately take it to the nearest animal clinic.

4. Your hamster has diarrhea or wet tail

Diarrhea or wet tail is pretty common for dying hamsters. One of the primary causes of this illness is believed to be stress. Of course, dying hamsters can become too “stressed.”

When hamsters are in distress, the normal gut flora or bacteria in their stomachs overpopulate, resulting in diarrhea.

The term “wet tail” literally refers to the soaked tail of a hamster that suffers diarrhea. This disease results in foul-smelling watery fecal waste, dehydration, and discomfort.

According to studies, this illness is very contagious and fatal which is why immediate medical attention should be given.

It can only be cured through antibiotics that are prescribed by a veterinarian. 

5. Your hamster changes in appearance

Dying hamsters also experience alterations in their physical appearances. You should monitor and observe your hamster’s weight, skin condition, fur, nose, mouth, and eyes for apparent changes.

Most of the changes in their appearances are a result of deteriorating health.

Here are the common changes in your hamster’s appearance that you should monitor to know if it is dying or sick:

  • Weight Loss: When a hamster is dying, it stops eating regularly which leads to a drastic weight loss. Underweight hamsters acquire weaker immune systems which make them vulnerable to more diseases. You should check the weight of your hamster regularly to see if there are significant changes in its growth.
  • Skin Changes: Swelling, redness of the skin, and the presence of abscesses can indicate far worse health problems for hamsters. Dying hamsters become more susceptible to skin diseases due to their weaker stamina and immune system. You should carefully examine your hamster’s skin condition as these infections can result in discomfort and excruciating pain.
  • Fur: Just like with skin, the changes or loss of hair can signal that something is not right with your hamster. Allergies, stress, nutrient deficiency, and infection are the leading causes of fur loss in sick or dying hamsters.
  • Face: Abnormalities in the facial area including the mouth, eyes, and nose should also be monitored. Swelling and mucus-filled eyes, runny nose, and infections in the mouth could mean more serious health issues. If your hamster exhibits such conditions, you should take it to the vet to avoid further complications or, worse, death.

If you have noticed, most of the physical changes that dying hamsters experience are caused by changes in their eating habits and physical inactivity.

The signs that indicate a hamster is sick or dying exists in a chain reaction. 

6. Your hamster has blood discharges

It’s not normal for the urine or fecal waste of hamsters to have blood discharges.

If this is the case with your hamster, you must immediately take it to a veterinarian as it may indicate an infection or a fatal condition.

You should also watch out for bleeding ears, nose, eyes, and anus as they could be a sign that your hamster is severely ill. 

7. Your hamster finds it difficult to breathe

Expect that a dying hamster will have unusual vital signs. As they suffer pain and become more nervous and stressed, their pulse rate might increase which leads to difficulty breathing.

A slower heart rate, on the other hand, may indicate that your hamster is getting weaker and is dying. 

Coughing, sneezing, and wheezing can mean that your hamster suffers from respiratory distress and infections.

Taking your hamster to the vet is the best course of action if you see that it has difficulty breathing.

Seeing your lovely furry friend gasping for air and slowly losing its vitality is depressing.

Here is a video of what a dying hamster looks like:

Syrian Golden Hamster, hypothermia or hibernation then seizures and sadly passing. Educational only

Is Your Hamster Dead or Just Hibernating?

To avoid having a mini heart attack after seeing your pet hamster lying flat on its cage, inactive and seemingly lifeless, you should know the signs when a hamster is dead and when it’s just sleeping deep and tight.

Hamsters do fall in a state of deep sleep when the temperature changes below a point — usually below 20 degrees celsius.

When this happens, the body slows down the metabolic process to conserve energy, causing the hamster to be inactive for a period of time.

Most people refer to this condition as ‘hibernation’ although hamsters actually experience “torpor.” While both hibernation and torpor happen in response to low temperature, hibernation lasts for a longer time than torpor.

Torpor usually happens for three days maximum. Nevertheless, the two terms are mostly used interchangeably.

A longer period of torpor is dangerous for hamsters. Unlike true hibernators, hamsters cannot store enough food and nutrients that could last for long periods of sleep.

Hence, if your hamster is experiencing a deep sleep longer than three days, something might be wrong with it.

To know if your hamster is just hibernating and not dead, you can watch out for these signs:

  • A hibernating hamster still breathes. Although breathing becomes slower while they are in torpor or hibernation state, you can still observe the breathing pattern if you keenly look at your hamsters.
  • You can also try checking the heartbeat of your hamster by placing your finger on the chest of your pet while pressing it gently. 
  • The hamster’s body and limbs should not be stiff when held up.
  • You should occasionally observe twitching and slight movement from time to time.
  • The hamster starts to gain consciousness when moved to a warmer area. 

On the other hand, a dead hamster will lose all the signs of life. However, there are signs you should watch out for to prevent yourself from mourning unnecessarily and mistakenly taking your pet as dead.

Here are the things you can check to know if your hamster has already crossed the bridge to the afterlife: 

  • Your hamster doesn’t breathe at all.
  • The body and the limbs of your hamster are too stiff and rigid. This physical and chemical reaction that occurs after death is called rigor mortis.
  • You feel no heartbeat when you gently press against the chest of your hamster.
  • If you pet or touch your hamster’s nose or whiskers, it should show some reaction like twitching or moving. If no signs of movement are seen after touching your pet, it is probably dead.
  • A dead hamster will remain unresponsive even after placing it in a warm area.

It is important to know the difference between a hibernating hamster and a dead one.

You would not want to bury your beloved pets just to end up knowing that they might have just gone hibernating. Also, when your hamster’s awake, make sure they have food and water in their cage.

How to Comfort a Dying Hamster?

Although we don’t even want the thought of losing our pets to cross our minds, we should prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Just like humans and other pets, hamsters also die; the only difference is how they meet their final moments.

If there is anything that all hamster owners would like to give to their pet until their last moments, it would be love, happiness, and comfort.

Here, I listed the ways and tips on how you can comfort your dying hamster until its final moments. You can follow these tips to comfort your dying hamster:

Tip #1: Provide a clean and comfortable space/cage

Hamsters are naturally clean pets. Dirty bedding or environment could cause a dying hamster to be in distress.

It could also worsen the condition of your hamster if it has an illness. Cleaning and sanitizing the cage could provide relief to your hamster.

Changing the beddings to new and neat ones will also help provide the comfortable rest that your pet needs.

Tip #2: Put your dying hamster in a separate cage if you have many pets

If you have multiple hamsters in a cage, you should isolate the sick or dying hamster.

You should put them in a separate cage or habitat so they can have a deserving rest — away from the stress and movement of their cage mates. Isolation also reduces the risk of disease transmission to other pets.

Tip #3: Keep them at an optimal temperature 

Sick and dying hamsters, especially the old ones, have difficulties in regulating their body temperature.

When the temperature in their environment is too cold, they might fall into hibernation which is dangerous for them.

An extremely warm habitat can also pose risks to their health such as heat stress and heat stroke. The desired room temperature for hamsters ranges from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dried grass, hay, or wood shavings could also provide the warmth your dying hamster needs.

Tip #4: Provide nutritious food and sufficient water

Dying and sick hamsters eventually lose their appetite and become lethargic. It is important that they eat and drink regularly to gain the energy they need for recovery.

Make sure to place the food and water bowls near your hamster for ease of accessibility.

You can also try feeding and hydrating your hamster through a syringe if they don’t have the energy to eat or drink. 

Another option is providing them with a healthy diet and delicious treats to encourage them to eat.

Slices of fruits such as watermelons, cucumbers, and apples can help in hydrating your hamster.

Protein-rich food such as tofu, bits of chicken, and eggs (scrambled or boiled) are also recommended for ill and dying hamster pets.

However, all of these should be provided in moderation. 

Tip #5: Give them affection and attention 

During their last moments, make sure to always look after them. Read their behavior and body cues if they will allow you to pet them or handle them.

If yes, gently holding your hamster in between your palms or letting it rest on your lap could provide the warmth that will comfort them. Make them feel secure and safe around you. 

Tip #6: Visit the vet regularly

Death could be a painful or a calm and quiet process depending on the cause.

Some fatal illnesses could cause stressful experiences for hamsters. In cases like this, you should visit a veterinarian for possible remedies and medication to ease the suffering of your hamster.

If you don’t want your hamster to experience prolonged agony and suffering, you can also opt for euthanization. Although it is a difficult decision to make, it is sometimes the right thing to do.

This matter should be discussed with your family members together with the veterinarian who will administer the procedure.

Losing a pet is a tragic and inevitable part of our lives as pet owners. With all the happy memories our pet has given us, the last thing we can do for them is to ensure that they are comfortable and happy until their final hours.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of a Hamster? Do Hamsters Die Easily?

These cute little critters have a shorter lifespan compared to other domesticated animals.

Most hamsters have a life expectancy of two to three years. They typically mature at the age of 12 weeks; however, this could vary from the type of hamster breed you have.

Their senior years begin once they reach the age of 12 to 14 months. Unfortunately, these adorable little furballs are fragile and can easily die from various reasons aside from old age.

Their tiny bodies make them susceptible to injuries. There are also common health issues on hamsters that can be fatal if not given the proper medical care.

Hamsters are also hypersensitive to their environment. Changes in their surroundings or routine can cause them to feel discomfort and stress which could cause their sudden death.

This might surprise you but hamsters can also have a heart attack when they are frightened or shocked.

Nevertheless, you can make sure that your hamster will live a long and happy life by providing it the best nutrition and environment to thrive in.

Regularly taking it to a veterinarian can also help in ensuring the health of your hamster.

What Are the Common Causes of Death in Hamsters?

Dying hamster in the cage

Most of the common causes of a hamster’s death are health and environment-related.

Some hamster health issues are curable and preventable. If you own a hamster, you should make yourself aware of these common illnesses and conditions to avoid the sudden death of your hamster.

Here are the common causes of hamster’s death:

Wet Tail

Wet tail (proliferative ileitis) is a bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and worse, death.

This condition is characterized by watery fecal discharge, extreme dehydration, inappetence, and weight loss as a result of the inflammation of the small intestine.

This illness could be treated with antibiotics which should be administered by a veterinarian.

Supplemental feeding will also help in the recovery of your hamster. This is an extremely contagious disease; that’s why isolation of the sick hamster should be done. 

Old Age

Most beginner hamster owners are not aware that hamsters have a short lifespan and they are shocked when their pet dies after two or three years.

Old hamsters will show a change in their activities and behavior. They will most likely look lethargic and will also eat less than they used to. If your old hamster shows these signs, it is probably near death’s door.

We can’t fight the aging of our pets. We all know that all living things will certainly leave this life when the time comes.

The only thing that we can do for our old hamsters when they are about to die is to make sure that they don’t suffer and will feel comfortable until their last breath.

You can follow the tips I mentioned in this article on how you can comfort your dying hamster.

Stress

Hamsters are not very good at managing stress. Too much noise, changes in their surroundings, unclean habitat, and alteration in their routines can cause stress and discomfort to them.

Their immune system will be compromised and they can become exposed to various illnesses and infections when they suffer extreme anxiety and discomfort.

A stressed hamster will show severe nervousness, alertness, changes in behavior, aggressiveness, as well as hair loss, and unusual shrieking and grunting.

If this is the case, you should observe your hamster and find out the root cause of its stress. You should also take it to the veterinarian for consultation.

Heart Problems

Heart problems are one of the main culprits for the sudden death of hamsters. Atrial thrombosis is the leading heart problem of hamsters which results in a fatality.

This condition occurs when the blood clots on one of the chambers of the heart resulting in the blockage of the flow of blood. When this happens, the hamster could suffer a heart attack. 

Congestive heart failure is also a heart-related problem common to hamsters — especially the old ones.

This is characterized by the weakening of the heart’s muscles resulting in the inefficient pumping and distribution of blood throughout the body.

The signs and symptoms of this condition include the bluish color of the skin, rapid breathing, and escalating heart and pulse rate.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this condition. Your vet can only recommend supplements and dietary plans to help your hamster improve its health.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia occurs when the lungs become inflamed due to infection. This respiratory infection can be lethal to hamsters.

Some of the common symptoms that your hamster has pneumonia include secretion of pus in the nose and eyes, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Usually, antibiotics administered by a vet will suffice for mild cases of pneumonia.

Injuries

The bones and body structure of hamsters are fragile. They could easily get injured when they fall or when someone handles them roughly.

They can also get an injury while playing in their cage. Small injuries like shallow cuts and scrapes can be easily treated at home.

However, if your hamster suffered from major ones like broken limbs, deep wounds, and a broken spine, you should immediately take it to the nearest clinic as these could be fatal.

Kidney and Urinary Tract Diseases

Kidney diseases are more common for old female hamsters. These conditions can be caused by viral infections, compromised immune systems, and high blood pressure in the kidney.

Hamsters with this condition urinate more frequently (often with blood discharge in the urine), become extremely thirsty, and gradually lose weight.

Kidney infections and urinary tract diseases can cause extremely painful experiences to affected hamsters.

Aside from regular hydration, your hamster will need immediate medical attention from a veterinarian. 

Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is the abnormal production of protein in the body called amyloids.

When these proteins are distributed throughout the body, they interrupt the normal functions of the organs which leads to various diseases.

Amyloids usually build up in the liver, spleen, kidneys, and adrenal glands. When amyloids accumulate in the kidney, infections may develop. 

Hamsters with this condition do not appear to be sick not until the affected organ’s functions start to deteriorate.

The common signs and symptoms monitored to diagnose this disease include depression, anorexia, rough coat, cloudy urine, and difficulty in breathing.

As a responsible owner, you should always take your pet to the veterinarian for consultation and examination. Always remember that prevention is better than cure. 

What to Do When Your Hamster Suddenly Dies?

Once you confirm that your hamster is dead, you should think of how you would like its remains to be taken care of.

Losing a pet could take all of your wills to do anything. However, the body of your hamster should be appropriately handled immediately after it dies to avoid the spread of pathogens.

Although I bet no loving owner would do this, I will still mention this for emphasis. The remains of a dead hamster should not be disposed of in trash cans or anywhere in the street.

Diseases, bacterias, and pathogens can spread if the carcass is irresponsibly handled. 

There are two ways you can appropriately lay the remains of your dead hamster into its final resting place:

Burial

In burial, the remains of your furry friend are buried under the ground. It is advised that the remains of your hamster should be contained in a wooden casket so it can decompose along with it.

Just like with humans, you can set up a tomb for your hamster that you can visit whenever you miss it. However, you should be mindful that not all states allow backyard burials.

The states where it is allowed also provide rules and regulations that should be followed to ensure the safety of the other wildlife and the community. 

If backyard burial is not allowed in your area, you can try availing of the services of a pet cemetery.

The price of burying your hamster in a pet cemetery will vary depending on the type of casket, tombstone, and other memorial services which typically range from $500 to $5,000.

Cremation

When a hamster is cremated, its remains are reduced to ashes by exposing it to extremely high temperatures.

The ashes are then collected and are either scattered by the pet owner in a special place (oceans, sea, forest) to return their pet to nature or kept in an urn to commemorate. 

Cremation is deemed to be the best option of handling remains as it reduces the risk of spreading infections. The price of cremation varies depending on its type. 

If you opt for a private cremation, your hamster will be cremated separately from other pets and you can retrieve its ashes.

On the other hand, communal cremation means your hamster will be cremated along with other people’s pets.

Hence, you cannot retrieve its remains as they will be collectively scattered or disposed of by the cremating management. 

On average, pirate cremation costs around $150 while communal cremation costs about $50.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About Dying Hamsters

Comforting a hamster in the hands

Why Did My Hamster Die So Quickly After Brought Home?

Hamsters that die quickly after transferring to a new home or environment usually suffer either an infection or stress.

Hamsters can easily develop an infection when exposed to an unclean environment. Infections can be fatal to hamsters when not given immediate care.

A stressed hamster develops a compromised immune system which makes it vulnerable to illnesses.

Changes in the environment, traveling, and unhygienic cages can cause tremendous stress to hamsters which could lead to death.

How Do You Revive a Dying Hamster?

If your hamster exhibits signs that it is sick or dying, you should immediately take it to a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and medication.

You should never diagnose or treat your hamster by yourself unless you are a vet or a medical professional. 

Do Hamsters Die Peacefully?

Whether or not your hamster dies peacefully depends upon the cause of death. Most hamsters that die due to old age have it easy compared to hamsters that died due to illnesses.

The signs and symptoms of certain illnesses can cause extreme discomfort and excruciating pain to dying hamsters.

What you can do as a loving owner is to comfort your hamster until its last moments. 

Can Rat Poison Kill a Hamster?

Rat poisons are extremely deadly for hamsters. Rat poison will kill a hamster in a similar way it kills a rat and other rodents.

If you suspect that your hamster has ingested rat poison, you should immediately take it to a vet clinic.

Can Camera Flash Kill a Hamster?

While a flash can’t directly kill a hamster, it can cause your hamster to be shocked or frightened which most of the time, leads to a heart attack.

Heart attack or atrial thrombosis is one of the common causes of death of hamsters. 

Can Stress Kill a Hamster?

Stress is one of the common factors that contribute to the death of hamsters.

When hammies are stressed, their immune system becomes compromised and weakens which makes them vulnerable to more serious illnesses such as infections and heart problems. 

Can Loud Music Kill a Hamster?

Loud music or noises can cause a hamster to be extremely stressed. The ears of hamsters are hypersensitive; hence, loud music becomes distressing and uncomfortable for them.

A stressed hamster will more likely develop deadly illnesses such as wet tail, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure.

Do Hamsters Smell When They Die?

Yes, hamsters smell when they die just like other animals do. You should expect your dead hamster to produce a foul and unpleasant smell a day after it dies.

Nevertheless, it is advised that you bury the remains of your pet within 48 hours.

Do Hamsters Bury Themselves Before They Die?

Burying (themselves) is not a clear sign or indicator that a hamster will die. Hamsters have the natural instinct to bury themselves so they can hide from their predators. They also enjoy it as it serves as their substrate home.

Can You Euthanize a Hamster at Home?

Euthanizing your hamster at home is possible; however, this is not the best course of action as advised.

To euthanize a pet means to put it at rest peacefully. That’s why veterinarians use chemicals that can provide a painless death. These injectables are only legally available for vets. 

Although there are many DIY euthanasia blogs on the internet, there is no guarantee that your pet will suffer no pain if you do the euthanasia yourself.

Still, it is best to let the professionals handle your pet’s final moments.

Final Thoughts

Losing a pet hamster is never easy; hence, we always want to make sure that they are healthy and that they live a happy life. 

If your hamster shows signs that it is dying or sick, you should immediately take it to a veterinarian to have it examined and treated.

Nevertheless, we should always ready ourselves for the inevitable bidding of goodbyes. 

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

Recent Posts