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…
How to tell when a hamster is sick or in pain: Look for these 4 signs and symptoms
Signs your hamster needs a vet
Beige hamster stands on its back paws

Because they're a species so different from our own, it's not always possible to discern the signs of a sick hamster. They hide pain and distress rather well, though you'll be able to tell when something is off if you know what to look for. Some symptoms are more noticeable, especially if they come on quickly, but others might be nearly invisible. You may have to listen or even smell closely to pick up on something your hamster is trying to tell you, but you'll be glad you did.

Remember that "normal" is different for every pet, and your vet will always be your best resource to diagnose your hamster's illness. However, these are four common ways hamsters show you they're sick or in pain. So keep a look out!

Read more
A simple guide to what to feed tadpoles in your aquarium
A list of everything you should and shouldn't give baby frogs
Small child looks into a jar of tadpoles

Whether you’re taking in rescue tadpoles or planning to keep frogs as pets, you’ll have to adapt continually to their changing bodies. These amphibians undergo a metamorphosis and live as tadpoles for up to 14 weeks, though the last stage of the transition happens in just 24 hours. You’ll put them to bed as a kid and come back to a teenager. Tadpoles are vegetarians, but frogs are carnivorous, so you should prepare for their diet to evolve as they do over the course of a few months.

How to care for tadpoles
Right off the bat, you need to make a couple of big decisions. Are you rescuing and releasing? Will your tadpoles live outdoors in a pond? Or do you intend to keep your animals when they become frogs?

Read more
Disgusted by the idea of adopting a pet rat? 8 facts that could change your mind
Pet rat sits on little girl's shoulder

Not into the idea of a pet rat? Hear us out. While they might not be at the very top of your must-own list, rats can make fantastic pets for the right person. They have great personalities, learn quickly, and bond to humans. One day you think you would never let vermin in your house, and the next you find your place overflowing with rodent treats. If you're willing to put aside your preconceived notions for a minute, take a look through these eight reasons to adopt a cute rat into your home.

Are pet rats just like hamsters?
Well, not exactly, but they do have a lot in common. For starters, they both belong to the rodent family and share many traits, especially those big chompers. However, you will discover a few key differences. One thing that might surprise you is that rats are easier to train and can learn some pretty extensive tricks that might elude your hammie. 
How long will a rat live?
Like a hamster, a rat will live for about two to three years, but it really depends on how well you take care of the little critter. Of course, that's assuming you get a Norway rat, since there are lots of other kinds that are sometimes kept as pets.

Read more