Every life comes to its end at a certain point. Hamsters are no exception. Unlike many other pet species, hamsters have a pretty short lifespan so you might think how did time spent with your furry pal has passed quickly.
Hamsters are usually starting to show signs of aging when they are 12- 18 months old. Any of these signs can be symptoms of some illness as well.
How to recognize that your pet is getting old? What are the most common causes of death in hamsters? How does a dying hamster look? Is there anything you can do in his last moments? Do vets euthanize hamsters and how they do that? What to do with your pet’s remains?
I hope you will find the answers to those and some other questions if you keep reading our text.
What Are the Signs That Your Hamster Is Getting Old?
The first signs of aging may appear after your hammy turns 12 months. It does not have to be then, and signs of aging may come later but around 18 months you should be able to notice at least some of them.
Some hamsters will show more signs that they are getting older, others may show less. In a certain number of hamsters aging symptoms may last several months but in some others may last for several weeks.
All aging symptoms may indicate some illness that is why it is important to check any sign you notice. taking into consideration the age of your hamster and how fast that particular symptom has developed.
For example – if you notice that your 6-month-old hamster is losing fur, you cannot say ”Ok, he is getting old, no big deal”. Another example- you have 18 months old hammy which started to lose weight suddenly. It appears that he lost significant weight in a short period of time.
Again, you cannot assign that weight loss to its age. Most probably he suffers from some illness.
The most common signs of hamster getting old:
- Fur Loss
- Weight Loss
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Sleep more
- Duller eyes
- Less chewing and play
A hamster that is getting older will start losing fur. It will not happen over the night nor should be a significant loss but you will be able to notice that your pet’s coat is not shiny anymore.
Your hamster’s fur will become thinner. Some holes and patches would be noticeable, maybe some small parts will be bald, totally without hair. If your hammy starts to lose a significant amount of fur in a shorter period of time, do consult your vet.
Older hamster eats less so it is quite normal for them to lose some weight. The same as with hair loss, weight loss shouldn’t happen at once but gradually.
The young and healthy hamster usually has a fluffy and reasonably ( healthy ) chubby looking body. The hamster that is getting older loses that fluffiness and looks skinnier.
Lack of Appetite
Older hamsters simply eat less. They are less active so they don’t need food as before. This is quite normal but if you can, track how much your pet really eats, as lack of appetite may indicate some illnesses or problems with teeth.
Lack of Energy
Hamsters that are getting older don’t have that high level of energy they had in their younger days. They spend most of their days and nights sleeping and they are active for just a couple of hours in the evening.
So they tend to sleep much more then they used to. They like to be tucked in the bedding. If you notice a lack of energy and signs of lethargy in younger hamsters, call the vet as this is not a normal state for them.
Same as with coat, once bright and shiny eyes, become rather dull.It is hard to describe but owners are able to see the diference / change in hammys eyes.
Less Chewing and Play
As a result of the fact they don’t have that amount of energy they used to have, they play much less. They are not interested in toys, wheels anymore.
They are tired of chewing so this is the time when your pet certainly will need your help in keeping his teeth short. Same as with claws. Keep an eye on both teeth and claws as if they overgrow can make a problem to your furry ball.
What Are The Most Common Causes of Death in Hamsters?
Hamsters are prone to several lethal diseases such as Wet Tail or some untreated tumors. If you want to know more about illnesses that affect hamsters you can read our article ‘‘ What Are the Signs of Sick Hamster?”
Dehydration for any reason is very dangerous for hamsters and can lead to death very quickly that is why any diarrhea is an alarm for you, seek for vet’s help.
No matter what caused watery stool ( either Wet Tail or simply a lot of green veggies in your pet’s diet) the hamster most likely needs vet attention. Chronic stress will surely lead to some health issues that may end up with death.
Older hamsters usually die from classical geriatric diseases such as kidney or heart failure, cancers, adrenal gland disorder.
Of course, the hamsters can have some genetic problem, die from the disease their predecessors had. It is recommended to do the small research before you buy a hamster but the problem is that many breeders, mate hamsters that have cancers and other issues and sell their pups without giving you any information that his/her mother has cancer or some other serious health problem( such as Cardiomyopathy ).
That is why it is important to adopt the hamster from a reputable breeder and not from people who accidentally ended up with a bunch of pups and they want to get rid of them.
The are several reasons for that. You don’t know if mother or father carry some genetic disease. Another thing is you don’t know if the mother was fed properly during her pregnancy as if not, pups may experience many health issues, even premature death.
There is a lot of situations that can be deadly for your hamster and here are few that you should be aware of. For example, avoid cotton fleece bedding as it can strangle your pet. If you put any scented bedding or bedding made of pine or cedar, you can cause respiratory problems in your pet.
Hamster’s bones are really fragile so if your pet falls from the top of the cage he may end up seriously injured and die shortly afterward.
Even more shocking – hamsters may drop dead while running on their wheel or simply you can find a dead pet in the cage one morning. Not all hamsters will announce that their end is approaching.
However, if you follow the basic rules of good care including a high-quality diet, a stimulating environment, good hygiene and visit to vet on regular basis your hamster will most probably die of old age, I hope peacefully and without great pains.
How Does Dying Hamster Look Like?
Well, depends on the cause of death. Some hamsters will just fall asleep and never wake up. Some others will stop eating, drinking water, just sit in a corner of their cage, and in one moment will go peacefully.
Hamsters that have tumors may end up very swollen with breathing difficulties so it can be rather hard to watch all that suffer and not being able to help.
A hamster that is dying may have trouble to breathe, it might sound like sigh or moan.
Hamsters are very active animals and those that are dying are not going to be active at all, more like slow motion.
The dying hamster will sleep a lot, hardly ever play, seek for strange places in its cage to hide. He will not be grooming himself like he used to do that in the past. Some hamsters will make a noise before they leave for good. It may sound like ”crying” and can be rather disturbing for the owner ( especially for kids).
Bottom line – dying hamster is not active anymore, sleeps a lot, doesn’t eat or drink much or at all, hides in a corner on the cage so he /she can go peacefully.
Is There Anything I can Do In My Hamster’s Last Moments?
If you did your homework and provided good care to your hamster including the vet’s visit if he suffered from some disease there is not much you can do when your pet is dying. But here are some small things you could do:
- If your hamster lives in a group, separate him from others.
- Provide other cage and don’t put wheels and other toys in it as your dying hamster cannot play as earlier. That doesn’t mean that you can put him in some small cage, he still needs some room to move around.
- Place the cage far from noise and direct light.
- If your hamster doesn’t eat or drink he might get cold so put extra bedding to warm him up a bit.
- Some owners prefer to hold their pet and share those last moments and maybe some hamsters like that but bear in mind that for hamsters which is a solitary animal is more natural to hide somewhere and die alone.
Do Vets Euthanize Hamsters?
Yes, vets specialized in exotic animals can euthanize hamsters. The decision about this can only be made by you but your vet can explain to you everything you need to know about euthanize process.
When is the right moment for euthanasia?
If your pet suffers from one of the geriatric diseases such as liver or kidney failure or cancers which always end up fatal maybe you should consider euthanasia in order to prevent your pet from further pain and suffering.
If you are not sure if it is the time or maybe your pet could live a little bit longer, think about his favorite activities. Maybe he adored his wheel or running through tubes or chewing on his favorite wooden sticks etc.
Does he do that now? No? If he cannot do anything he liked to do, that means that his life became a misery. You are able to stop that misery. Do speak with your family and your vet and make a decision but don’t prolong your pet’s life because you don’t know how to cope with the loss.
Ask your vet for the Pet Loss support group in your vicinity. Maybe it will help you talk to someone who went through the same pain you are going through.
If you notice that your older hammy has stopped eating and drinking that means that he is seriously ill and that his end very close. Do think about euthanasia if he hasn’t eaten or drunk anything for 24 h.
However, do seek advice from your vet. He can help you to make a decision by providing you with full information about the actual health of your pet, a possibility for recovery ( which are slim to none in most of the cases when you have older hamster), euthanasia process.
How does the Hamster Euthanasia Process Look like?
After you spoke with your vet, maybe with your partner or family including kids ( it is a good idea to explain to your kids the euthanasia process and help them understand how this procedure shortens the pain of their pet) you made a decision.
First, you need to schedule an appointment. Right after that, it is advisable to decide what you will do with the remains of your pet. Ask you vet also about local regulation, maybe the law will not allow you to burry your hammy in your backyard.
If so, further consult your vet about remains issue as maybe he/she has some contact with local pet burial or cremation service. Regarding cremation, you most probably have the choice of communal cremation and a private one which will be more expensive.
OK, the sad day has come. If you have trouble dealing with grief, it is advisable not to come alone. Most probably your vet will offer you either to stay in the room where he will perform euthanasia or to wait outside.
First, you will sign some papers, authorizing your vet to perform euthanasia and then the procedure will be made. Hamsters are usually euthanized with a lethal dose of anesthetic. After injection, your furry pal will peacefully fall asleep for good. Your tiny friend dies in a couple of minutes and the overdose of anesthetic stops his heart.
You can also ask your vet if it is possible to perform euthanasia at your home ( some vets do this), if you find this more comfortable then going to the hospital.
Final Thought or What happens after?
Sooner or later the idea of getting a new pet may cross your mind. This is actually a good idea as long as you don’t see a new pet as a replacement for the deceased. Allow yourself to grieve, contact a Pet loss support group if you think that this will help you, talk to your friends and family and in time you will be able to accept that your furry pal is on the better place.
I am sure you will feel when is the right moment for another hamster. It is the moment when you start to feel that you are capable give your heart and time to another furry ball. Good luck!