How To Comfort A Dying Hamster

Hamsters are not just mere animals. For some, they are their family members that are taken care of and loved. They make excellent pets and unlike other animals, they do not cause any destruction of furniture and house arrangements. 

However, as cute and small as they are, they also have a short lifespan of two to three years. It is an inevitable and difficult time that every owner should be prepared for before your pet crosses the rainbow bridge. 

Knowing the signs that your hamster is dying as well as the things to are a must. Below are the practical tips that you can follow to comfort your dying hamster. 

1. Keep Him Comfortable

It is important to keep your buddy comfortable and give him the best place to lie down during his last days. And as it gets more sick, hamsters have the tendency to struggle in adapting their body temperature. 

Chances are, they may go into a state of hibernation if their area gets too cold. It will eventually result in hypothermia. On the other hand, if your hamster will feel too hot, it may suffer from heatstroke or stress that will, later on, result in a painful death. 

Here's how to keep your hamster from getting comfortable in a cold area:

  • Put a lot of unscented torn toilet paper in the cage or where your hamster is. It will definitely provide him a comfortable bed to rest in and keep him warm. 
  • Set the room temperature between 69 °F to 72 °F. As much as possible, never go beyond that temperature, or else you will worsen their situation and lead them to a state of hibernation. 
  • Heating pads can also be a good substitute. Just make sure that your hamster will not chew on the pad to prevent further uncomfortably. You can also get those heating pads that are made from rice grains or flax seeds. 
  • Place a heat lamp on the cage to provide a better place to sleep. Make sure that the heat will not be too hot for your pet and provide shelter in case they want to escape the heat or light. 
  • Wrap your hamster in a small dry face towel and put him on your body to regulate heat. A sign that they like it is by curling up and sleep. However, make sure that he is not too tired for this. If he resists being on your body, then place him back on the cage. You wouldn't want your pet to be stressed out.

Here's how to keep your hamster from getting comfortable in a hot area:

  • Place your hamster in a wire cage instead of a wooden or glass cage. The latter options tend to give a cooler area, hence it can enable the hamster's temperature to rise above 72°F. 
  • Avoid placing him beside a window or door. Direct sunlight might trigger their condition. Instead, place them in a well-shaded and well-ventilated area, just enough to keep him warm. 

2. Place Him In a Quiet and Clean Area

No one wants to rest in a messy and chaotic place, right? Your favorite pet also wants to do the same with us. So, separate or isolate the dying hamster from the others to get him away from any stress and reserve his energy. It also minimizes the transmission of possible sickness. 

You can also place beside the favorite toys and activities that your hamster used to have. It helps him feel good for a short period of time. 

What Could Cause a Hamster to Die
What Could Cause a Hamster to Die

3. Prevent dehydration and hunger

If your hamster gets up from a long hibernation, make sure that there is prepared water and food for him. It does not have to be much since they only need small amounts, especially the food. 

If your hamster shows a lack of appetite and thirst, that is a sign that he is really not fine. A loss of sensation of hunger and thirst the obvious reason for an animal that is dying. 

Food is not essential for hamsters, unlike water. With that, he should be able to drink at least two teaspoons per 100g of his body weight. So if your hamster has 400g in weight, he has to drink at least 8 teaspoons of water daily.

The best way to rehydrate your hamster is to get him to the vet immediately. Antibiotics and IV fluids will be used as the most effective treatments. 

Here are the things that you can do to check if your hamster is dehydrated:

  • Droopy, dry, and sunken eyes.
  • Dry and stubborn skin. Try to pick the scruff of your hamster. If it goes back to normal, then he is fine. If it moves back to its normal position very slowly, then it needs immediate rehydration.
  • Swollen and dry tongue.
  • If your hamster has not emptied the water bowl throughout the day, he is probably dehydrated and needs IV fluids.
  • Deep or difficulty in breathing.
  • No signs of urination or wet patches. 
  • Dark-colored, strong-odored urine.

Prevent dehydration by:

  • Give high moisture content foods like a small number of fruits. 
  • Place a drinking tube to allow him to drink in small amounts. Place a treat to lurk him into the tube. 
  • Contact your vet and provide IV fluids to your hamster.

4. Give Them Attention

Hamsters need daily attention and need to be taken care of regularly. If your pet is weak enough, he will surely need a human companion to help them get through it. A simple sleep on your lap is already a good idea. 

Be mindful of your pet's situation. If you feel like he is in pain or distress, just leave him and never touch any part of his body; you might be hurting him. Just regularly check on him and make sure he is well-provided for. 

5. Give Pain Management Medication

If your veterinarian prescribed the medication for your pet, make sure to religiously follow it. If it means giving your hamster the most comfortable way to cross that colorful rainbow, then give it to him. Never self-prescribed and make the situation worse for your dying hamster. 

6. Consider Euthanization

Euthanizing a pet might sound very wicked for an owner but there are some things that needed to be done for a pet to end his pain. 

This step is usually done for animals that are on the brink of death. It is also selfish for you to put yourself first and see your pet in so much pain. If you consider doing this, make sure to call a veterinarian and let him put your buddy to its final rest. 

What Are the Signs That a Hamster Is Dying

A change in a hamster's daily routine and activities is already an indicator that something is wrong aside from being physically weak. Know that a normal daily routine of a hamster is having cleaning its self, nesting, and exercising. This kind of animal is very active and is nocturnal. However, if your hamster sleeps too much, all day and all night, it can be a sign of some health issue. Furthermore, watch out for these signs of a dying hamster:

  • Eating less
  • Wet tail or diarrhea
  • Change in appearance especially in the skin, fur, eyes, and weight
  • Huddling in a corner
  • Less active
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unkept coat caused by failing to groom itself
  • Discharge on the nose and eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Wheezing or sneezing
  • Unusual temper (biting or nipping)
  • Blood discharge

In addition, the gastrointestinal disease is a common thing for hamsters. Most of them experience extreme pain in the stomach area, making them eat lesser than usual. It may not be a sign of impending death but if symptoms like vomiting, growling stomach, and diarrhea, then you have to bring it to the veterinarian for proper medication and assistance. 

Is Your Hamster Dying Or Hibernating

Hamsters normally hibernate for 24 hours. Yes, that's how long they need to do. In some situations, they can also play dead as their defense mechanism against possible predators. However, playing dead also shows signs of extreme anxiety, fear, stress, and depressions. So just observe until it feels like they are fine and normal. 

If your hamster is in a state of hibernation, it is important to provide him food and water. Unlike other animals that hibernate, hamsters are not built to provide for their needs during this situation. Hence, it can possibly go through hunger and extreme dehydration that will eventually result in death. 

In situations like this, you need to remember these things:

  • Prepare a tube of water.
  • Place a heater in the area that can bring the room temperature to 69 °F – 72 °F.
  • Immediately offer food once your hamsters start to come around. 

Saying Goodbye to Your Hamster

Losing your beloved pet is not an easy thing to handle. Some find it hard to accept, thus, it pushes them to create memorialization to the hamster. As small as it is, it has the ability to leave a huge impact on everyone's life. Here are the ways to do it:

  • Create a photo journal
  • Write an obituary
  • Create a little memorial garden in the backyard

What Could Cause a Hamster to Die

As previously mentioned, hamsters have a very short life span of two to three years. So, aside from old age, they can die from these reasons:

  • Stress
  • Wet Tail or Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Kidney Infections
  • Cancer

Grieving For A Pet

Handling a loss of a pet can lead to extreme emotions like anger, grief, depression, or guilt. Know that it is fine to go through these things. You have to be patient with yourself and take some time, especially if there are strong attachments involved with your buddy. 

What are the best plants to use as a pet memorial?

Make sure to release anything that you feel; write them out, talk to a loved one, go out and spend some time with friends, and enjoy what you have. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so let yourself go through it. If you feel like you need professional help, the ASPCA has a Pet Loss Hotline (1-877-474-3310) to help you with your situation.  

If you are in the stage of getting ready to move on, you can adopt another buddy at a local shelter. Make sure to go back to your normal routine and enjoy your life. 

Nick is a Dog Trainer extraordinaire. He loves to help people understand dog behaviour and enjoys writing about it.