Even when a hamster is well-cared-for, these animals usually only live between two and three years. Although there are some diseases such as wet tail that can be fatal to hamsters, most of these animals tend to die of old age. The symptoms of old age and the onset of geriatric diseases often appear as the hamster nears the end of its life.
Ageing and Death in Hamsters
According to Hammysworld.com, an ageing hamster will show signs that it is nearing the end of its life. It may lose interest in activities that it once enjoyed, stop eating its food, or only show an interest in soft foods. Hamsters that are nearing death often stop grooming themselves and their hair becomes matted or tangled. Many hamsters also experience hair loss as they grow older. The animal's urine may also become more odorous. All of these are symptoms of old age. As the hamster's body ages, its organs begin to malfunction or shut down, and several different terminal diseases can develop.
Amyloidosis is a terminal illness in ageing hamsters. In this disease, the body produces sheets of a protein called amyloid and deposits the sheets throughout the organs in the body. This makes it impossible for the organs to function. According to Petmd.com, several of the symptoms of amyloidosis are cloudy urine, a lack of appetite, and depression. A veterinarian can diagnosis the disease by performing a blood test that checks for increased levels of protein in the bloodstream. The website recommends trying to make the animal more comfortable by offering it fluids. Eventually the kidneys will shut down, causing death.
Congestive Heart Failure
According to Petmd.com, ageing hamsters often develop congestive heart failure. This disease is characterised by a weakening of the heart muscles. The heart is unable to pump blood through the body, so blood collects in the veins and fluid begins to build up in the body's tissues. Toward the end, the animal may have difficulty breathing or look bloated from the oedema.
Cancer is more frequent in older hamsters than in young animals. Hamsters with cancer often have noticeable lumps or growths on their bodies. Sometimes the cancerous growth is inside the body, however, and usually by the time the animal begins to demonstrate symptoms of illness it is too late to treat the disease. In addition to growths, some other symptoms are a loss of appetite or frequent licking of a particular spot on the body. Vetbase.co.uk indicates that because of the hamster's small size and the possibility of an unsuccessful surgery, the kindest option may be to euthanize the pet.