Caring for hamsters in Old age

old hamster

Looking after hamsters in old age

The life of a hamster is very short, 18 months to 2.5 years is the expected averge life span, and not a long time in human terms, upon reaching 12 months old he is considered middle aged, from here he starts to grow old. The signs of old age in a hamster can show in many different ways.
As he does so noticeable changes may be seen. Usually from the age of about 15 months old he begins to slow down, sleep more, eat less and become less active. Old age is now creeping up on him. On reaching 2 years old some really begin to show their age, and others can remain sprightly well into their old age. A hamster that was once so busy around his cage as soon as he awakened now arises more slowly and much later and may sleep more than he used to. His toys and his wheel don't interest him anymore. The food that he used to hoard away is now left where it is and left untouched in his dish. His once clean and shiny coat is now becoming unkempt, matted and starting to thin.
The cage odour usually gets stronger, as the hamster ages the smell of urine may at times become overpowering and the cage may be in need of cleaning more often. His once round head now becoming more pointed, and his movements more unsteady, awkward and more of a leisurely unhurried pace.
Many old age diseases can occur in hamsters over the age of 18 month. Liver and kidney problems are not uncommon in old age. Chronic kidney (renal) failure is one problem seen in old age, and may be accompanied by fur loss this can happen very suddenly when the kidneys start to fail.
Other geriatric conditions that may be encountered are tumors, dental problems and cataracts. These are just some of the symptoms of old age. Most geriatric diseases and ailments are not curable and will eventually result in the death of the hamster. Regrettably, during theses sad times we must come to expect and accept the inevitable. We become so attached to theses little creatures that when end of life is nearing we may find it very hard to let go.
See  Dying hamster.
The teeth will need to be watched closely as he gets older they may become lose, crooked, brittle, broken, or over grown. It is not uncommon for an old hamster to break one or both the front incisors. How to clip hamster’s teeth
As your pet advances into old age it will be noted that more and more of the hard dry food mix will be left where it is and not taken to his usual food store anymore. Introduction of softer foods will be more appreciated by your hamster at this stage. Boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, carrots, cheese, cucumber, wheat biscuits, yogurt, and fresh corn on the cob will be his first choice of the food dish. But always leave some of his usual dried hamster mix.
A hamster can also suffer heart problems in old age this can lead to breathing difficulty and lack of energy. It is generally said that it would be better to slow down the hamster’s life style by removing the wheel and any climbing ability. From experience, I see no logical reason why this should be done, just like humans a hamster will do no more than he is physically capable of doing.

An ageing hamster with bald patches of fur loss
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An old hamster losing fur.
Fur loss usually starts around the hind leg and tummy area first and is just a part of the natural ageing process. There is nothing that can be done to help this type of fur loss.

Hamsters in old age may become thinner emaciated looking and may start to lose their fur or the fur may become sparse, patchy, or bald patches start appearing. Old age related fur loss usually starts around the hind legs and hip area first. Kidney and bladder problems can result in increased thirst and urinary output and are likely to become common with old age.

Dry flaking skin is another condition that may be observed once he starts losing his fur. Dry flaking skin usually affects males more than the female. In some cases with males, this dryness may be so severe that the skin may become thickened, very scaly, and with a white hard eggshell like appearance. This is caused by a reduction in the production of the natural moisturizer (sebum) and a condition seen only in old age. The reason for this is the secretion of sebum is stimulated by hormones (androgens) Testosterone levels decline in the male hamster as he ages and therefore so does the secretion of sebum. This can be helped by giving him a couple of drops of cod liver oil placed on his food. Although the health benefits of cod liver oil are related primarily to omega 3 fatty acids these are essential for the healthy function of the brain, the heart, the joints, the digestive system and many other functions of the body. The other benefits of cod liver oil is related to its vitamin E content; this helps the body to process the fatty acids, and is an essential antioxidant which promotes the health of the skin. I, through experience have also found that fresh corn on the cob is another excellent food to feed any hamster young or old, it is packed with a multitude of vitamins and helps enormously with digestive problems, dehydration, dry skin, and helps in keeping the skin supple.
Constipation is also a common problem in old hamsters this should be closely watched. See constipation.
Fur loss in a young hamster may be indicating other problems such as a dietary issue or the hamster may be in moult. Most mammals can shed their fur once or twice a year depending on the environment, and temperature, this is called moulting. See Fur loss

a hamster in old age
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This is Bruno, he was our oldest ever longest surviving long haired male. He was retired from breeding at 2 years of age and was 3 years and 9 month old when he died on 1st June 2006

an old  hamster
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This is Queenie, one of our ex breeding females in her old age. In memory of Queenie passed away in her sleep 2 years and 2 months old.
27 nov 2005
R.I.P Babe

hamster with fur loss

A 1½ year old male in advanced stages of fur loss.


fur loss in a young hamster

Fur loss in a young hamster may indicate other problems. In this video; the young hamster is in a summer molting.

See fur loss

Old aged hamsters

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