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Why Do Hamsters Die So Fast? (Causes & How To Avoid Them)

Why do hamsters die so fast? As a pet parent, you know how distressing it is to know that our furry friends are with us for only a short period.

Statistics show that the average lifespan of a hamster is two years. [1] They are also very fragile and easily get diseases like colds and wet tail disease.

You can do several things to ensure they have a prolonged happy life, and some hamster dying signs you should look out for.

Here’s how to do just that.

Key Takeaways

  • Hamsters have a lifespan of 1-2 years
  • The top causes of death in hamsters are genetics, health issues, environment, and diet.
  • It’s vital to keep your cavies healthy in order to prolong their lives.

CHECK: How to Look After a Hamster?

Top Reasons Why Hamsters Die So Fast?

Generally, hamsters have a short life expectancy of 18-24 months.

Why do hamsters die so fast

But there are many reasons hamsters die quickly, some that you can prevent and others that you can’t. It is usually due to genetics, health issues, the environment they are living in, and the food being fed to them. These are the four common reasons for their sudden death.

Hamsters are susceptible to wet tail disease, colds, diabetes, and heart problems.

Another condition that primarily affects female hamsters is degenerative renal disease. It also affects Chinese hamsters that eat fatty treats in excess.

Besides health issues, their environment and diet are the most significant contributors to their short lifespans. 

The last one is genetic, which there’s nothing you can do about it. Once they are born, if they have bad genetics, the hamsters will likely not live very long.

Some other diseases like eye infections, fungal infections, diarrhea, and flu are common with hamsters but are rarely fatal.

Cancer is fatal but not so common in hamsters. The hammys can suddenly die of spontaneous malignancy, like skin cancer and lymphoma.

Let’s take a look at some lethal diseases.

Do Hamsters Get Heart Disease?

Heart failure in hamsters is very common. This usually occurs in older hamsters, but young ones are also likely to have heart disease.

The white winter hamster is five times more susceptible to heart disease than the Syrian hamster.

The most common problem contributing to heart disease in hamsters is overbreeding. [2] This is more common with commercial animal supplies.

Reputable breeders and pet stores know the issue and will be more careful with pairing their breeding stock.

Below are heart conditions that are a common occurrence in hamsters:

1-Atrial Thrombosis

This disease is common among older hamsters. Roughly 70% of older hamsters will get this disease. Once they get this disease, actual heart failure will follow.

Hamsters that have atrial thrombosis will experience constant rapid breathing and blue feet. Once these symptoms appear, they will typically die within one week.

2-Cardiomyopathy or Polymyopathy

This is a recessive gene that causes the weakening of the muscles. It will usually start to weaken gradually until it fails.

Polymyopathy, which is the most common, affects all muscles in the body.

Cardiomyopathy, on the other hand, only affects the heart muscles. It will cause the heart muscles to weaken over time and will eventually lead to heart failure.

Symptoms will include poor muscle coordination, weakness in the body, and fatigue.

3-Congestive Heart Failure

This is common among young hamsters. They will die for no apparent reason. If that’s the cause, it is often due to congestive heart failure.

What is happening here is the muscles in the hamster’s heart are no longer pumping blood through the body efficiently. The heart will gradually weaken until it stops beating completely.

Warning signs usually include a bluish tint to the skin, trouble breathing, and abdomen swelling due to water retention. Also, the most noticeable sign will be unexpected movements for no apparent reason.

What is Wet Tail Disease?

It’s a description that is a reference to diarrhea. Veterinarians have many terms, such as ‘terminal ileitis,’ ‘regional enteritis,’ or even ‘enzootic intestinal adenocarcinoma.’

It’s also called proliferative ileitis and is very contagious, especially for newly-weaned hamsters. [3]

Whichever terminology you prefer, this is a very dangerous, spontaneous disease that will kill the hamsters quickly.

It occurs when the hamster is less than 10 weeks old. It is usually involved with the strains of Lawsonia intracellularis. Below are the four bacteria that cause the disease:

  • Clostridium difficile
  • Clostridium pilliforde
  • Escherichia coli
  • Proteus morganii

There are many different causes of infections, but the warning sign is all the same.

The most common symptom of this disease is diarrhea. If your hamster has diarrhea, it must be taken care of quickly. This disease will manifest quickly, usually within 24 to 48 hours. The wet tail disease has about a 90% fatality rate in hamsters, so you should take them to the veterinarian immediately.

The other less common signs include severe lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, fur falling off, or an unkempt coat. If you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll need to take them for veterinary care immediately.

Can Hamsters Catch Colds From Humans?

why do hamsters die so fast

Yes, hamsters can catch a cold from humans. Not only can they catch a cold, but hamsters are also susceptible to human flu strains.

While a cold is generally not life-threatening for humans, it could be for them. This is due to the small size of the hamsters, and their immune system isn’t as strong as a human’s.

If you have a cold or flu, it’s best to stay away from your pet hamsters until you feel well. It’s best to let someone else care for your hamsters while you’re sick.

5 Ways To Prolong Your Hamster’s Life

Many things can cause sudden hamster death. Food, environment, and genetics play an essential role in how long hamsters live.

Below are some of the things you can do to help these fragile animals live longer:

1-Hamster Heart Issues

Heart disease is genetic, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. However, you can help keep them from getting worse. This includes lowering their salt intake and providing them with a stress-free environment and many healthy foods.

2-Dealing With Wet Tail Disease

The wet tail disease is very deadly and has a high fatality rate. If you notice this disease, immediately take them to the veterinary for treatment.

3-Prevent Transmission of the Common Cold

Humans can catch a cold. For that reason, if you’re feeling under the weather, you shouldn’t go near them until your cold disappears. Another fatal disease that can lead to hamsters death associated with the lungs is pneumonia. Hamsters that get sick will weaken their immune system. If they get sick too often, this is a sure sign that it will shorten their life.

4-Avoid Stress

Stress can be fatal for hamsters. This includes their environment, other pets in the house, and food. A small cage and lack of a play area can cause your hamster stress.

As for the environment, the hamster cage should be kept clean with a lot of fresh air. The cage should be at least 1000 square inches. The best place to keep them is close to a window, but avoid them being in direct sunlight.

Avoid other pets, such as cats and dogs, from getting close to the hamsters. Hamsters see these other animals as predators. The hamsters will become stressed if the other pets keep coming around their cage.

The food and water bottle should be replaced with fresh food every day. It’s also a good idea to rotate their food each day. Hamsters eating the same food each day could get stressed from insufficient nutrition in their bodies.

Stress may also exacerbate preexisting conditions.

5-Provide a Balanced Diet

Ensure you feed your pet plenty of proteins, high fiber, greens, and low sugar. This healthy diet will keep your hamsters healthy by improving their immunity to contagious diseases. [4]

FAQs

What is the most common cause of death for hamsters?

Wet tail disease, pneumonia, and neoplasia are the significant causes of death in hamsters.

Do hamsters die peacefully?

This depends on the cause of death. Hamsters die peacefully when they die of old age.

What do you do with a dead hamster?

You can bury your pet at home or cremate it at the vet’s office.

Conclusion

So why do hamsters die so fast? Hamsters have a shorter lifespan due to many reasons. Some of those you can prevent, and some you can. Something like genetics is something you can’t control.

For that reason, it’s best to buy hamsters from a reputable seller that knows a great deal about them.

Also, keeping their environment stress-free and clean also helps extend their life. The food they eat helps them live a longer life as well.

why do hamsters die so fast

So, how long do your hamsters live? Let us know in the comments section!

Resources

  • 1. Asdell SA, Joshi SR. Reproduction and Longevity in the Hamster and Rat. Biology of Reproduction. 1976;14(4):478-480. doi:10.1095/biolreprod14.4.478
  • 2. Schmidt RE, Reavill DR. Cardiovascular Disease in Hamsters: Review and Retrospective Study. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. 2007;16(1):49-51. doi:10.1053/j.jepm.2006.11.009
  • 3. How to access research remotely. www.cabdirect.org. Accessed October 28, 2022. https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/20133283913
  • 4. Birt DF, Higginbotham SM, Patil K, Pour P. Nutritional effects on the lifespan of Syrian hamsters. AGE. 1982;5(1):11-19. doi:10.1007/bf02431718
Alina Hartley
Alina Hartley

Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
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