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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 18291
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My son's Syrian hamster has just died aged only 6 months. He

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My son's Syrian hamster has just died aged only 6 months. He was very happy and healthy and this has been quite a shock for my son. We cleaned his cage every week with pet disinfectant and I cleaned out the area he did poos/pees more regularly. He ate a mix of hamster food and fresh vegetables etc as a treat. We never let the vegetables lie uneaten in his cage or bed. He was quite sleepy in the last few days but we didn't notice much at the time - mostly because he always slept all day and got up as we went to bed, unless my son got him up in the evening. He had suddenly started drinking more than usual too. A couple of days ago he suddenly seemed lethargic and didn't eat or move around much. His breathing was also quite fast. He felt colder so we kept him warm and wondered if he was going into hibernation. He seemed to perk up a bit but the next day he went downhill fast and then passed away in our arms whilst we we trying to warm him up and get him to take some water. I am now racked with guilt about whether we did anything wrong or didn't spot an illness quickly enough. We cleaned his cage thoroughly on a weekly basis but last week we had to leave it for a week and half as we had both been ill. Could he have caught something from his cage, or could he even have caught the bug that my son and I had? We had a habitrail ovo cage with various tubes and in the last couple of days he seemed to struggle to get through the tubes. Now I am also worried that the cage as wasn't right for him. I had several hamsters when I was younger and they all lived to 2 years or older. This is the first time this has happened and my son is crushed. Although it won't change the sadness for him (and all of us) I wish I knew what had happened.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today.
Now please know that as a prey species, hamsters do not give their owners many clues when they are unwell. This is because instinct tells them that letting the world know you are unwell will make you a target for predation. Therefore, by the time we see signs, they are usually already in an advanced state and require us to be proactive in getting them cared for.
Based on everything you have noted, you didn't cause him any harm. He'd have not caught this from a dirty cage and it is rare for them to catch illness from people (since the infectious agents that cause them disease tend to be hamster specific).
Now in regards ***** ***** signs and common reasons for rapid deterioration of this species, I'd be most concerned that this little lad had a respiratory tract infection. We can see this caused by a range of agents but most commonly it will be due to mycoplasma (which naturally occurs in the lungs) overgrowing. When they do, we can see elevated respiration, weakness, and lethargy. This quickly can compromise the lungs leading to pneumonia. They go off food because they cannot spare breath to eat and this is also likely why he struggled in the tubes at the end. And as I noted unless you had had him see urgently (and even then his prognosis was guarded), the chance of his survival was small.
Overall, it sounds like you did practice good husbandry for this little lad and did try to help him once you were aware that he was poorly. Its just that he gave you very little warning and by the time he did show signs he was in an advanced state with a precarious prognosis.
Please take care,
Dr. B.
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your answer. This would make sense. Is there anything we can do to stop this happening again if we get another hamster? Could a cold room have caused it? I have also read that some bedding is not really suitable for hamsters? Thanks
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.
You are very welcome,
Unfortunately, we cannot prevent these kinds of infections, but keeping them eating balanced diets, avoiding drafts, and keeping them out of cold environments (they need temperatures warmer then 18*C) can help reduce the risk of this. Otherwise, in regards ***** ***** we do need to avoid scented or cedar based wood shavings but generally speaking most available in our larger pet stores are safe for them.
Please take care,
Dr. B.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need as this is how I am credited for assisting you today. Thank you! : )
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 18291
Experience: General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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