Skip to main content

Lethargy, weight loss, and other signs of a sick hamster

Hamsters normally are happy little creatures brimming with energy. Their eyes are shiny, and their coats are full and bright. When healthy, they eat well, play well, and keep themselves groomed.

However, if their care or environment is off, hamsters can become sick quickly. Sometimes fatally. It’s essential, then, that you can recognize the signs of an ill hamster so that you can get them the help they need.

You’ll need to pay careful attention to exactly how your hamster behaves as well as how she appears, since these little rodents try to hide illness.

In this article, we’ll go over the signs of a sick hamster to look for and add some tips to nurse her back to health.

Holding Small Hamsters in Hands
Photo by Lucas Pezeta/Pexels

Pay attention to signs and symptoms

First things first. Watch your hamster’s behavior. If she’s not behaving as she usually does, something may be off. Look to see how she interacts with you or with other hamsters. You should also observe her little body to see if there are obvious signs of illness or injury. If your hamster is losing weight and lethargic, something serious may be going on.

 Look for changes in behavior

When looking at your hamster’s behavior, pay attention to her morning routine. Is your hamster keeping up her everyday habits, like stretching and yawning? Is she eating and drinking as much as usual? If the answer is no, then your hamster might be sick or injured.

Also, pay attention to how your hamster interacts with you. A sick hamster might act afraid and cower, or she might be a bit aggressive. The only time this might not signal illness is when she’s new to your home and doesn’t know you yet.

Pay attention to her appearance

A healthy hamster’s coat is usually sleek and shiny. If it looks dull, dried out, or wet, it could be a sign that your hamster isn’t feeling well.

Your hamster’s eyes

When it comes to the rodent’s eyes, they shouldn’t have any redness. One caveat here is that some hamsters have a natural, reddish tone to their eyes, but a pronounced redness may be cause for concern.

Your pet’s eyes should be bright and alert, with no crustiness or discharge surrounding them.

Your hamster’s nose

Take a close look at your hamster’s nose. It shouldn’t be runny. If it is, your hamster might have a cold.

Your hamster’s mouth

Hamsters can have issues with their teeth. Check whether your hamster’s teeth are getting too long or if she’s having trouble eating and drinking. She might have an impacted cheek pouch, which can occur when debris or food gets caught there. If this goes unresolved, it can become a serious issue for your hamster’s health and comfort.

Your hamster’s tail

Your hamster’s tail ought to be dry. If it isn’t, then the wetness there might be urine or fecal matter. (Gross; she won’t like it either.) Moreover, if your hamster lies next to or near where she’s gone to the bathroom, these are clear sick hamster symptoms, and she needs your help.

Hamster Sitting in Bedding
Photo by Ellie Burgin/Pexels

Keep your hamster comfortable

If your hamster shows signs of sickness, it’s essential to keep the little creature comfortable. At the same time, continue to observe her behavior and appearance over a day or two.

Make sure to feed your hamster

If you notice that your hamster isn’t eating well, you can still try to get her to eat. Not eating, especially when she’s sick, might worsen her condition. Therefore, you may need to prod your hamster into eating a bit. One thing you can try is to move her food dish closer. (It’s not that your hamster is lazy; she just might be too weak to move over to her dish on her own.)

Give your hamster water

As with food, not drinking water isn’t an option for your hamster. If you can’t get her to drink from her water bottle, you might want to use an eyedropper to get her to drink.

Make your hamster feel snug

To help her relax, think about giving your hamster some extra bedding so that she can nest down and get cozy. She may need to rest. You might want to remove her exercise wheel if she has one. Many hamsters continue to work out (funny as that might sound) even when sick. However, that’s not good for their health.

If your little furry friend continues to display sick hamster symptoms, then it’s probably time to take her to the veterinarian. Your animal doctor will be able to give your hamster an accurate diagnosis and probably can prescribe something to help improve her condition.

Editors' Recommendations

Will Blesch
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Blesch is a copywriter, content writer, and someone passionate about anything that lets him discover more about this…
Is my rabbit pregnant? 5 telltale signs you should know
Look for these signs to confirm your rabbit will soon have babies
Baby rabbit being held by owner

What's better than one pet rabbit? An entire litter of bunnies (as long as you're prepared for them, of course). If you've been wondering, "Is my rabbit pregnant?" now is the time to find out for sure. After all, you don't want to be caught unaware and suddenly have a whole new colony of animals in your hutch.

Sometimes, lady bunnies can take on the behaviors of expectant mamas, but it's actually a false pregnancy. The best way to find out if your rabbit is pregnant is to take her to the vet and have them confirm it. However, when you're figuring it out yourself, you should look for the signs that a rabbit is pregnant. If you spot these behaviors, be sure to call your animal doctor.

Read more
What you need to know about sugar gliders before you get an exotic pet
Follow these steps to set your sugar glider up for success
Sugar glider clings to their owner's thumb

Choosing a small pet involves almost as much deliberation as selecting a breed of dog. While there are a lot of factors to take into account, a sugar glider might turn out to be the perfect fit with their curious personality, attachment to your family, and fondness for pockets.

Like any exotic pet, gliders require expert care plus some dedicated research to choose the right breeder or pet store. But with the right prep, your new mammal will fit in perfectly and bond with the whole family. Keep reading to find out if sugar gliders are good pets.
What are sugar gliders?
Unlike most little pets, sugar gliders aren't rodents but marsupials. This gives you a few distinct advantages, as they behave differently from hamsters, guinea pigs, or gerbils. For starters, these are highly social creatures and they will bond with every member of the family and even other pets in the house. Because gliders don't smell like the animals your cats and dogs like to chase — rats, gophers, and bunnies, to name a few — many bigger pets can get along with your new friend. You'll need to introduce them carefully, but they can form lifelong attachments to each other.

Read more
3 reasons not to give pet rabbits, baby chicks, or ducks this Easter
Things to consider before getting or gifting small animals this holiday
A baby chick sits in the grass next to a broken egg

Peter Cottontail isn't the only one hopping down the bunny trail this April. Tons of baby animals are opening their eyes to the world for the very first time, and it's oh-so-hard to resist the cuteness. From bunnies to chicks and even ducks, these animals are the perfect symbols of spring.
Sometimes, these animals make great pets, too. But is a holiday the right time to gift a pet? We think all potential pet owners should consider some important, realistic facts, especially if they're considering owning or gifting a baby animal for Easter. This is a big decision, after all! Here's what to know first.

Pet ownership is for their whole life, not just the baby phase
As precious as baby chicks and ducklings can be, they'll grow up into chickens and ducks one day. You'll only get a few months of babyhood to enjoy, though even those early months will be filled with chores and messes of all kinds. Remember, caring for a baby animal is still caring for an animal!

Read more