Although people love their hamsters, they die within 2-3 years after they are born, unfortunately, and they can get sick within that time. This means that all hamster owners have to watch out for signs that their beloved pet hamster is sick or dying so they can take them to the vet or prepare themselves for the inevitable loss. The following are signs that your hamster is sick or dying.
Lack of Appetite
Hamsters love to eat and eat slowly throughout the day. If your hamster isn’t eating as much as it normally does, it is sick or dying. When hamsters get sick, they don’t feel like eating or have the energy to do so. They can develop anorexia or have impacted cheeks, which are illnesses that will make them either not want to eat or unable to eat because of extremely swollen cheeks.
If your hamster is dying, it will refuse to eat because its body isn’t processing food like it normally does. They also won’t drink any water, so keep an eye on their water intake as they get older.
Rapid Weight Loss
If your hamster loses weight extremely fast, they are sick and likely dying if they have lost a lot of weight. Hamsters are supposed to be slightly chubby, but they can be overweight. If they lose weight quickly, it means they have stopped eating, which is a sign of illness and approaching death.
If your hamster is losing weight quickly even though you haven’t changed their diet or feeding habits, take them to the vet immediately. They will be able to determine if they are sick or dying.
If your hamster has stopped moving or is lethargic, they are dying. If they have an illness and have stopped moving, the illness is severe and they will likely die because of it. They may be just sick and need to sleep it off, but it is more likely that they will die soon. Lethargy is a common sign that a beloved pet will die, but it is especially apparent in hamsters because they are typically energetic creatures that seem to always be moving in some way.
If your hamster does move but is moving slowly, they are sick. If the illness is severe and isn’t treated in time, they will die.
Shows Signs of Pain
If your hamster shows signs that they are in pain, they are sick and might be dying. If they squeak in pain or avoid you when you try to pick them up, and they typically love it or react in a different way when you pick them up, there is something wrong with them.
When hamsters are sick, their systems often go into overdrive so they can get better. This sometimes means they are more sensitive to touch. Sometimes, their skin has sores or bumps on it that cause them pain when touched.
If your hamster seems to be in pain when they are not hurt or sick, they are dying. Their body is slowly shutting down, which is causing them to feel like they are in pain, even though nothing has hurt them recently.
Change in Behavior
If your hamster’s behavior suddenly changes, it is dying. It will stop running on its hamster wheel and act fearful or aggressive when you approach its cage or enclosure. They will also stop wanting to interact with people or become extremely cuddly, although cuddly behavior is rare because when your hamster is dying, they don’t feel well and don’t want to be touched too much. (Source)
If your hamster doesn’t want to be touched or seems to fear you, avoid going near it. It is in pain and just wants to be alone. However, you can stay near the cage if your hamster doesn’t seem to tense up in fear as you approach it. That way, you can be near them and be a semi-comforting presence for a few days as they die.
If your hamster is sleeping more than normal and seems to not sleep as deeply as they normally do, they are sick. If the illness progresses, they can die. Make sure their enclosure is kept at a warm temperature and take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Hamsters can hibernate in the winter. If winter is approaching and your hamster eats more than normal, but then curls up in a ball and sleeps deeply, it is just hibernating. It is not sick or dying, they will wake up when they are ready.
If you are worried about your hamster and think it may be hibernating, check its temperature and make sure there are signs of life. Its temperature will be slightly lower than normal, but it will still be warm. It will still have a heartbeat and be breathing, albeit slower than normal.
Change in Vital Signs
If your hamster’s vital signs change, they are dying. When their heartbeat slows, their temperature is much lower than normal, and their breathing is slow and shallow, this means that their body is shutting down and they will die within the next few days to weeks.
The only thing that you can do for them at this point is keep them company and prepare yourself for the loss of your pet. If you want to, you can take them to the vet. However, they won’t be able to do much. The car ride will likely be traumatic for your hamster, and they may die on the trip to the vet.
Lack of Grooming
If your hamster has stopped grooming themselves, they are sick and possibly dying. If your hamster isn’t grooming themselves because they have a skin disease, lumps, bumps, or a rash, they are not grooming themselves because they are sick and don’t want to make it worse, even though hamsters like grooming themselves. (Source)
However, if your hamster is dying and it isn’t grooming itself, it is dying and no longer has the energy or wants to put in the effort to groom itself. If your hamster has greasy, ruffled, unkempt, or matted fur, it has stopped grooming itself. There is nothing you can do but if your hamster will let you, you can try and brush out and maintain their fur for them.
Change in Fur
When a hamster is dying, not only will they stop grooming themselves, but their fur will change. Typically, hamsters have sleek and fluffy fur, which is one of the things that makes them so adorable. However, when a hamster is sick or dying, its fur will look wet and dull rather than dry, shiny, and fluffy. (Source)
If your hamster starts hiding in the corner of their cage or enclosure, they are dying. They are trying to find a safe place to die, away from people and other animals. They may cover themselves with the bark on the bottom of their cage, but you will still likely be able to see them. (Source)
Your hamster knows that it is going to die soon, so it will try to hide. Although there aren’t any places they can hide while in a cage or enclosure, they adapt and cover themselves with the bark on the bottom of their cage. However, keep in mind that hamsters are most active at night and will hide when sleeping. Don’t worry if you see that your hamster is hiding in the corner of its cage unless its behavior has recently changed. (Source)
Make Odd Sounds
A dying hamster will make weird sounds and make more noise than normal, especially if they are dying because of an illness. Many hamster owners who have heard their hamsters make noise before they die have described it as crying. The odd sounds will only occur sporadically and will be paired with an increase in sleep and lack of eating and drinking.
Change in Eye Appearance
If your hamster’s eyes have discharge or are crusty around the edges, they are sick. Their eyes will also be dull, sunken, red, and be runny, although their symptoms will vary depending on the illness and its severity. (Source)
The severity of their illness will vary. If they look sick, sniffle, and sneeze often, they likely have a cold or the flu. Old hamsters can die from a cold or flu, but young hamsters often fully recover.
If your hamster has a runny nose, they are sick. A hamster’s nose is typically dry, not runny. If you notice that your hamster has a runny nose, take them to the vet as soon as possible. They will diagnose your hamster and prescribe medication for your hamster so it can get better soon. If you wait, the illness and its symptoms will likely get more severe, and your hamster will die.
Extremely Long Teeth
If your hamster’s teeth are abnormally long, it means they aren’t eating normally. As hamsters eat, their teeth wear down and then grow, so they aren’t left with extremely short teeth at the end of their life. If your hamster isn’t eating, it means that they are very sick. If long teeth are paired with excessive weight loss, it means your hamster is dying.
Food Stuck in Cheek Pouches
If your hamster has food and debris stuck in its cheek pouches, it is very sick. Take them to the vet as soon as possible so the vet can safely remove the debris so your hamster can heal quickly.
If food is stuck in your hamster’s cheeks, it means they are impacted and your hamster can’t eat properly. Their cheeks are sore and can easily get infected, especially because there is food stuck in them. If you notice that your hamster isn’t eating normally, see if their cheeks are swollen or seem to hurt when you touch them.
Tail is Wet
If your hamster’s tail is wet, it means they aren’t grooming or cleaning themselves after they go to the bathroom. It also may mean that they are sitting where they went to the bathroom for a while, which means they don’t have much energy. Clean off your hamster’s tail and see if it gets better or use wet tail drops.
If your hamster isn’t grooming themselves or moving away from where they went to the bathroom, it means they are extremely sick or dying, as they no longer care to or have the energy to move and groom themselves.
If your hamster has diarrhea, it means they are sick. If you recently added a new item to their diet, remove the item and give them foods filled with fiber. If the diarrhea continues, take them to the vet as they are extremely sick and need medication.
Diarrhea can be a sign that your hamster is dying because its body has stopped absorbing nutrients and wants to get rid of everything as soon as possible.
If your hamster is drooling excessively, it is sick. Luckily, it is not a sign that your hamster is dying, unlike many things on this list. Excessive drooling is a sign of teeth malocclusion and impacted cheeks. Take them to the vet, as they will be able to diagnose your hamster and give them medication to resolve the issue.
If your hamster has issues with its skin, it is sick. It may mean that they haven’t been grooming themselves recently, but it mainly means that their skin is extremely irritated. If your hamster seems like it isn’t grooming itself, is extremely itchy, or is picking at its skin, carefully pick them up and part their fur in various places. If you notice red spots, flaky skin, red bumps, or redness, take them to the vet as soon as possible. They will give you a medicated skin cream or ointment to apply to your hamster’s skin.
Eventually, the skin issues will go away, especially if you determine the root cause. However, it is sometimes difficult to determine what causes skin issues for a hamster.
Overall, many things tell you if your hamster is sick or dying. The best way to determine if they are just sick or if they will soon die is by taking them to the vet.