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Why Is My Hamster Sneezing? Signs of the Common Cold in a Hamster

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Whitney is a hamster parent. She hates to see her furry friends suffer and enjoys educating others of best husbandry practices.

Learn the symptoms of a hamster cold and find out how to treat them.

Learn the symptoms of a hamster cold and find out how to treat them.

Does Your Hamster Have a Cold?

Does your hamster have the sniffles, or is he sneezing?

Sneezing and sniffling typically signal some sort of respiratory condition. Most assume those are symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, but it could be a common cold or even pneumonia.

Most mammals can develop a cold, hamsters included. So if you're not careful during the winter months, you not only have to worry about getting sick yourself, but you should be keeping a close eye out on your pets as well.

In this article, learn about the causes, signs, remedies, and prevention for a hamster cold.

A sick hamster is a sad hamster! Learn how to treat your little buddy so they can recover faster.

A sick hamster is a sad hamster! Learn how to treat your little buddy so they can recover faster.

Causes of Colds in Hamsters

Like a human cold, hamster colds are contagious. This means that your hamster can catch a cold from you. Further, hamster colds are similar symptomatically to human colds. The term "cold" might be slightly misleading here, as hamsters really develop respiratory tract infections that are symptomatically similar to the human cold. For the purposes of this article, however, I will refer to them as "colds."

If you're sick, you'll want to make sure that you take your medication so that you can heal. But while you're battling a cold, it's best to stay distant from your pet so that he doesn't get sick too.

Other causes include:

  • If the cage is in a cold or drafty room.
  • If you've given him a bath, but you don't dry him fully.
  • If he likes to sleep underneath his water bottle.
  • If you don't use a water bottle and he drinks from a water bowl, this can be a cause as well, as the water may spill.

Signs of Colds in Hamsters

Although the signs and symptoms may vary, here are some more common ones:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sniffling
  • Half-closed, watery eyes
  • A warm body temperature
  • Thirst
  • The ears are laid back
  • Lack of activity
  • Fatigue
  • Discharge from the eyes and the nose
  • Matted or un-groomed fur
  • He's curled up in a ball, most often in the corner of the cage

If the cold is severe because it has gone unnoticed for a while, you may see the following signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Noticeable sneezing and sniffling
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Shivers
  • Weight loss
  • Very matted and unkempt fur


Once you've discovered your hamster is sick, you'll want to get him treated as soon as possible, or it can develop into pneumonia or even bronchitis. The latter are not nearly as easy to treat.

A vet can best diagnose and come up with a treatment plan, so you should seek veterinary assistance. Most will prescribe an antibiotic to help aid the symptoms. However, much like how it is in humans, there's no cure for the common cold in hamsters. You'll need to primarily focus on managing your hamster's symptoms.

The following suggestions are simply ways to manage your hamster's cold:

  • Keep the hamster warm. You may want to consider putting a heating pad under the enclosure. It's best to find one that is chew-proof in the case that there's a spurt of energy and the cord or pad is being gnawed on.
  • Make sure that the cage is in a warm, dry, and drought-free area.
  • Disinfect the cage, water bottle, food dish, and any toys in the cage.
  • Change the bedding to new, clean bedding.
  • Consider preparing a drink of warm milk, water, and a teaspoon of honey. If he won't drink from the bottle, get a small syringe or eyedropper and drop a few drops in the mouth. Try this for a few days.
  • Set up a Vicks humidifier in the same room. Keep it out of reach from the hamster, but close enough so that he can breathe in the Vicks. This will help with breathing and aid any congestion.

If your hamster has a severe cold, it is essential that you go see a vet for antibiotics.


  • If you're sick, take your medication and avoid close contact with your hamster until you are better.
  • Avoid putting the cage in a cold room or one that is drafty or has a lot of moisture in the air. For example, it's probably not the best idea to put it in an unfinished basement.
  • Don't place the cage near a window or door. In most cases, it's recommended that you don't even put the cage on an exterior wall.
  • Avoid bathing him. Hamsters don't need to get baths. They are pretty good at keeping themselves clean.

See a Vet

Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized veterinarian.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2010 Whitney


Maria on April 16, 2016:

Thank you Claudia for the information, i bought the herbs and received it days ago

my on March 30, 2016:

My hamster is 1 1/2 years old. She is always very active but over night she became sick. Her eyes look different and she won't come out of her house and she is walking very slowly . This is NOT common of her. Please help

Ashley on June 28, 2015:

I got vicks and she still has a cold when is it going to stop!

Vicki on July 09, 2014:

My hamster is about 3 years old her tail isn't wet she hasn't had diaorea but she has a very dirty bottom. She scratches a lot we haven't changed her diet and her cage smells a day after changing it in which I do probably weekly. Any advice?

kighlie100 on March 12, 2012:

my hamster is shaking and her eyes are half open put i have had her for about 2 years plz help what should i do or is she just old plz comment back im really upset and she wont sleep

natalie on January 17, 2012:

my dwarf hamster has 3 symptoms of the cold should i be worried does it have a cold or not

hamsters4eva on November 22, 2011:

what is wrong with my dwarf hamster if it is always wet around its crouch? im really worried should i be?

Taylor on October 28, 2011:

What is wrong with my hamster if he makes weird noises

jr125 on August 15, 2011:

my hamster died from a cold so do this.

Gab4Animals on May 03, 2010:

Thanks for the tips, I had forgotten some of the basics. And never thought of the milk/honey solution. I have a 5 year old handicapped chipmunk which I've had since being mauled at it's youth, and this is the first time I've noticed any illness. I might have to put a small hot water bottleI put him on Baytral, and Gentamicin eye drops as nose drop. Though suggested to use Doxicycline, mine had expired. Leaving him a buffet of food to select from (Raw greens, fresh & dehydrated fruit, shelled sunflower, Pine & peanuts, and Yogurt drops), I hope that with what I'm doing and your suggestions will not only prevent this from getting worse, but have him well soon. Thanks Again!!!

lady lady on March 13, 2010:

oh, thanks for the help i was worried about my dwarf hamster getting a cold,(cause i do)