October 5, 2012

Do Hamsters Hibernate?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster hibernation,hamster nutrition — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:20 pm

Imagine hibernation.

You might be thinking of a large mammal, like a bear, being drowsy and inactive in cold months to conserve its body fuel.

This is the definition of true hibernation.

But, when people talk about hamsters hibernating, they are actually describing a temporary state called “torpor.” When this happens, a hamster’s body temperature drops and it seems to lose consciousness. Some species of hamsters might fall into torpor if the animal becomes too cold (typically under 40 degrees Fahrenheit) or does not have enough food and water.

Hamsters hibernate for the same reason bears do—to conserve body fuel and survive hard times. But, bear hibernation is a cycle that happens every year.

Torpor in a hamster happens as a last resort under emergency conditions. If a hamster stays in the torpor state for too long, it may die of hypothermia or starvation.

What to Do if Your Hamster ‘Torpor’ Hibernates

If your pet hamster falls into a torpor state, it may look dead at first glance. Its body will be limp (but not stiff) and unresponsive. Its breathing may be very slow. However, the hamster’s whiskers may still twitch in response to a touch.

In most cases, if the hamster is still breathing, it can be safely brought back from torpor. The easiest way to help your hamster come back is with your hands. Warm the hamster with the heat of your hands, gently rubbing its fur for a few minutes, or up to an hour, until the hamster begins to come back.

Using your hands works, but results depend on your own hand warmth. If you’re a cooler-handed person, you might try a different way.

Place the hamster on a towel over a warm heating pad. Don’t make it too hot. Go for hand-warmth.

When the hamster first regains awareness, it may be trembling or attempt to walk unsteadily. Offer the hamster water to help rehydrate it. You might consider offering the hamster an electrolyte drink.

When the hamster has begun to recover, place it in the cage in a warm room with plenty of water and food. Check on the hamster frequently for a few hours, but let it recover on its own.

Most of the time, hamsters can recover from torpor within a few hours.

September 25, 2012

Are Hamsters Nocturnal?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster nutrition,nocturnal hamster — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:20 am

Some of the most commonly asked questions about pet hamsters are about the hamster sleep cycle.

“Are hamsters nocturnal?”

“Will a hamster keep me up at night?”

“Do hamsters sleep only during the day?”

These are important questions to ask when thinking about buying a hamster.

Hamsters are Nocturnal

Nocturnal. Active at night.

Hamsters are indeed nocturnal creatures. In the wild, hamsters forage for food at night and sleep during the day.

They do this for better protection from predators. Although your pet hamster does not have to worry about predators (unless you own an ambitious cat), it will still follow its natural instincts and go about its hamster business all night.

Your hamster’s individual sleep cycle may vary, but most domestic hamsters have a brief active period during the day. Usually this happens right around mid-day. After that, most hamsters will sleep until the late evening.

Anyone who has placed a hamster cage too close to their own beds knows first-hand that night time is a pet hamster’s favorite time to eat, dig, and run on its wheel.

Take care to protect your own natural sleep cycle! Try not to put your hamster’s cage in the same room you sleep in. It’s tempting to put a hamster in a bedroom, but a better place would be somewhere uninhabited at night. For example, the living room or a spare room.

Can Hamsters Be Trained Out of Day Sleeping?

Some owners claim that they can train their hamsters out of their nocturnal ways. In reality, however, this goes against a hamster’s wild nature. It may be harmful to your hamster’s health.

Think about it this way. Human beings can shift their sleep cycles to be nocturnal. People who work consistent night shifts do this regularly. However, people also tend to suffer health concerns when they don’t see the sun for long periods. A person may suffer a vitamin D deficiency or depression.

People are built to be active during the day. Hamsters are built for the night.

Instead of trying to make a hamster sleep cycle conform to your own, hamster owners should take advantage of a hamster’s natural daytime wake periods for play and companionship.

This way, you still get to interact with your hamster, but you won’t be kept up all night.

August 23, 2010

Common Hamster Health Problems

Filed under: Hamster Health,Overview — Dr. Amber Reed @ 1:27 pm

Hamsters are tough little pets but because they’re so small they’re illnesses tend to become more seriously more quickly.  Some of the most common signs of hamster illness include loss of appetite, lethargy, huddling in a corner, sneezing, wheezing, and diarrhea.  Whenever you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit your veterinarian immediately to avoid further complications.  The following are some of the most common hamster health problems.

- Respiratory Infections.  Infections of the respiratory system in hamsters can quickly lead to pneumonia which can be fatal.  Symptoms of respiratory infections include sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. 

- Regional enteritis is a highly contagious hamster disease that most commonly affects very young hamsters.  Characterized by a wet tail, the causes of regional enteritis are unknown but the disease has been associated with environmental issues that cause stress like overcrowding and diet changes.  Hamsters suffering from regional enteritis sometimes die very quickly but the typical symptoms include diarrhea (leading to the wet tail), reduced activity, loss of appetite, and a ruffled coat.

- Diarrhea may be a symptom of another infection or disease, but feeding your hamster too many vegetables or other fresh foods may also lead to diarrhea.  Determining whether diarrhea is a symptom of a more serious illness or if it’s caused by diet can be tricky.  Nevertheless, watch for other symptoms in addition to the diarrhea such as loss of appetite or lethargy.  Also, if your hamster is suffering from diarrhea be sure to provide him with plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

- Skin diseases are also fairly common in hamsters and they are normally caused by mites.  Ringworm and allergies also lead to skin problems which may subsequently cause hair loss along with typical signs of skin problem.  Rash, redness or flakiness of the skin, and lesions on the skin are all significant signs that your hamster is suffering a skin disease.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.