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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22459
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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There, I have a Syrian hamster who is about a year old.

Customer Question

Hi there,
I have a Syrian hamster who is about a year old. Not old for a Syrian.. I'm extremely worried about him as a few months back rigamortis seemed to be setting in whilst he was still alive. He has always been skinny and is also a very cold hamster, the time he was very poorly we wrapped him up and gave him warm porridge and milk, the heat seemed to be enough and he was fine. Tonight he has started to go the exact same way but nothing seems to be working. We have fed him, gave him warmed milk in a syringe and i have had him wrapped up in cosy blankets to try get some heat into him. None of it seems to be working. He is now in his house comfy and warm but I worry that I'm going to wake up in the morning and he will have passed away. I have wrapped a winter sock around the outside of his house - ensuring the entrance is still open - I have left warmed porridge in his cage with him and he has water close by too. Out of concern I weighed him tonight and he is a very low 74g. I don't know what more I can do to help him gain weight. Please help
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your wee one’s situation, and wanted to help.
Again I do apologize that my colleagues could not aid you sooner, but can you tell me:
You noted that he was always skinny, has he had any issues with having a poor appetite? Or diarrhea?
Does he drink alot? Pass lots of watery urine?
Has he every circled compulsively? Had a head tilt?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for answering :). He eats little but often, no less than any other Syrian I have owned in the past. He has never had Diarrhea but I noticed the last time he was very poorly it looked as though he had been sick which I've never experienced with having hamsters in the past. It was a white watery liquid. He drinks plenty throughout the day and evening and the only problems with his urine that I've noticed is it can be very strong smelling at times. This doesn't happen often though. He's also never had a head tilt or circled at any point
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
You are very welcome,
If you did see suspect sick, it was likely diarrhea or saliva/mucus since this is not a species that can vomit (usually when people think they are seeing vomiting, its emptying of the cheek pouches).
Now that aside, rigor mortis isn't something we can actually see in living tissues. When it happens, its actually due to muscle cells running out of calcium. So, to see similar signs in a living animal is more suggestive of an atypical seizure. And in his case, it is possible that he could have one if he has an ongoing brain based issue (ie brain bleeds, swelling, cysts, tumors, or infection) or if he has blood sugar crashes (which can be related to diabetes or pancreatic tumors --and a concern if he does drink a lot and never seems to put on weight), or secondary to systemic disease (ie kidney, liver, heart, etc).
In this case, I would suggest considering having at least a urine sample tested at this point. This can be submitted to your vet and checked for glucose/ketones (a sign of diabetes), as well any hints of decreased urine concentration (which can be related to kidney disease).
Further to this, we do want to provide some supportive care. To try and get some weight on him, the porridge is fine (avoid milk as that can cause diarrhea) but otherwise try to get him eating more pellet/muesli type feed, nuts/seeds (as they are rich in calories/fat), and you can even tempt him with baby food (avoid those with garlic/onions). And if we did have a poor appetite, then there are some hamster critical care diets that your vet should be able to provide over the counter.
As well, it would be ideal to keep some sugary syrup on hand. This can be honey, glucose or pancake syrup. That way if he has one of these episodes, we can treat (ie rub it on his gums, give a small bit to eat with care) for low blood sugar and see if we can get him settled.
Finally, since we do see inappropriate "hibernation" in hamsters (though this doesn't quite fit), we do want to make sure that his cage is kept somewhere warm +/- with access to a heating pad under half if he is chilly.
Overall, we do have some serious concerns for his signs. As this stage, I would tread with care with him. You have done well but do try a glucose syrup if he has any more of these episodes. But otherwise, we'd want to think about having a urine sample checked +/- having the local vet do a neurological exam to determine if we have a systemic issue or one based in the brain. Once that is narrowed down, treatment can be tried to minimize this for your wee lad.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
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! : )
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I definitely shall be taking him to the vets at some point soon. Thank you for all your help. At the moment I'm coaxing him out of his house with porridge mixed with some honey to see how he does with that. He seems to be enjoying it more now. I've noticed today that his tail is raised pointing towards the ceiling this is something I've never seen before now. What could this mean?
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
You are very welcome,
I am glad to hear that he is more keen to eat now, as he does look quite poorly in your photo. In regards ***** ***** tail position, has be been straining to pass stool?
Are you seeing the same volume of stool in his cage as usual?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No he's not really been to the toilet at all today.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Ok, I would keep an eye on that. The tail positioning may be due to a bit of constipation lurking. So, monitor his stool output for the next 12-24 hours. As well, do keep an eye on his drinking, as we may need to syringe feed fluids if that is poor (since that will worsen constipation). If you do need to, you can water down his porridge or tempt him to drink by flavoring his water with fruit juice. Or if need be, we can syringe pediatric rehydration solution or even diluted Gatorade (but dilute that 50% with water). In regards ***** ***** much to give, his daily fluid intake will be about 4.8ml per 100 grams of his weight per day. So, that would be our goal for him to have on his own or with aid.
All the best,
Dr. B.