Sick Hamster - Signs and Treatment of Upper Respiratory Illness in Hamsters

Updated on February 16, 2010

Hamster Breathing Problems

Probably the most common illness in hamsters besides wettail is going to be a respiratory infection. It's very common among hamsters that come from pet stores, as in most cases they're stressed so their immune system is weakened, making them more susceptible to developing the disorder.

If you notice that your hamster is having breathing problems that aren't going away, then you want to see a veterinarian that is knowledgeable in small animals so that you can either rule out or diagnose the illness.

You don't want to sit and wait to hope that it just goes away, as a simple infection can case pneumonia which can be fatal if not treated.

Cause of Respiratory Infection

Respiratory illnesses are very contagious hamster to hamster. If your hamster came from a pet store that had other sick hamsters- whether they showed signs while you were there or not, more than likely you're hamster will catch it if he doesn't already have the illness.

Otherwise, hamsters can become ill from people. If you're sick, you can actually get your hamster sick, so if you have a cold or other respiratory condition, stay away from close contact with your hamster.

Other basic causes can include:

  • The hamster being located in a cold or drafty room
  • If he gets wet and isn't able to dry himself properly
  • If there is a leaking water bowl in the cage

Signs of Respiratory Infection

Basic signs are those that are respiratory related- sneezing, wheezing, and labored breathing. But, you may also see discharge from the eyes and/or nose, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If you notice that your hamster is in a stretched out position or gasping for air, these are signs of a more severe case of a respiratory infection, and you need to see a veterinarian soon.

Your hamster may also collapse in exhaustion after just light or mild exercise.

A sneeze here and there typically won't be that big of a deal, but when it's is accompanied by the other signs, you'll definitely want to seek veterinarian assistance.

A respiratory infection can lead to pneumonia, which is why it is important that it is diagnosed and treated as soon as you think something is wrong with your hamster.

Hamster Respiratory Illness Treatment

A veterinarian should diagnose the illness. In most cases, the vet will prescribe an oral antibiotic. This will help treat the infection so that your hamster will make an easier and quicker recovery.

It is very important that you separate the sick hamster from any other hamsters, as the illness is very contagious to other hamsters.

If you're looking for a natural treatment, you may want to consider 'Carbo veg' or 'Arsenicum album,' but check with your vet first as to proper dosage. If your vet isn't familiar with homeopathic remedies, you may have to call around to find an all-natural, homeopathic vet.

You may also want to consider removing the exercise wheel and reducing the amount of exercise and play that your hamster gets. Also, remove any dusty bedding. You may want to use a paper towel bedding until the hamster has overcome the illness.

Disclaimer: 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 reptile veterinarian.


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    • profile image

      :c 3 weeks ago

      my hamster keeps squeaking day & night he would not stop squeaking.When im about to take it out for an exercise it doesnt let me touch it and bites me

    • profile image

      7 months ago

      My roborovski hamster continuousley squeaks whenever he is awake or moving around. He squeaks as he breaths so I suspected he has some sort of respitory problem?? Any suggestions??

    • profile image

      Alison 2 years ago

      My panda hamster is still poorly . I took her to the vet 12 days ago now she's got a cold that turned into a respiratory infection . And a eye infection . I ve now finshed her antibiotics and still treating her eye . Shes not very active .and i can still hear shes got a cold . Any advice please . As im worried

    • profile image

      ben 3 years ago

      Take your hamster to yhe vets


    • profile image

      no name 3 years ago

      my hamster is in the advance stages of pnoiname

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      Savonnah 4 years ago

      To Sonia my hamster did that too but they said something burst in his side and had to be put to sleep

    • profile image

      abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 6 years ago

      My hampster just died .I don't know what happened I went to feed her and she did not move skared me she was 3-4 yeas old

      February 20 love you morgen

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      Guest 6 years ago

      I,hopefully,am getting a teddy bear hamster but i have a drafty bedroom.Also,my bedroom is the only place i can keep a hamster.I want another one REALLY BAD.So what do i do to keep my coming hamster from being sick?Should i put a blanket over the cage?PLEASE ANSWER QUICK.

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      hayley 6 years ago

      my dwarf hamster has a swollen eye what can i do to treat it?

    • profile image

      Lily 6 years ago

      My European black bear hamster died and He wad drooling a lot and it almost looked like he had the hiccups and was laying on his side, was it from a respiratory infection?

    • profile image

      Danielle 6 years ago

      i think my hamster is dieing, she has got a scabby nose , struggling to breath, wont eat, struggles to walk anywere and just lies in da corner of her cage. and round her bum its all wet and smells horrible. Do u no what i can do because i don't want her to die :(. Please help. thanks

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      sonia 7 years ago

      I Am Comforting my sick hampster now, his eyes are weeping, his stomach us larger than usual he's not pooing regulary, he's refusing to eat and drink water, all he dose is rest in his bed and cuddle when i hold him, which is unusual for my hampster, he is also squeeking and making wiered noises like he is having trouble to breath, i haven't got a close vet to where i am near, and wondering if there is anything i can do or give my hampster to ease off the pain he may be in ?

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      Alyssa 7 years ago

      I just adopted/rescued a teddybear, he's sneezing and weezing a lot but i'm not sure how old he is. After reading what you have posted on here it seems he has a respriatary infection. Im not sure if its from stress or not he's also go a bald patch on his right shoulder. any opinions?

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      Natasha 7 years ago

      My Hamster has just got back from the vet, had respriatary problems which lead to phumonia and severe dehydratiion, we was told more and likely he wouldn't make it but little fighter pulled through!

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      Sherri Hope 7 years ago

      My hamster was also very poorly,I took him to the local vet who said he could have a lung infection.He was still very active just really wheezing.The antibiotics cost £24..

      I have found getting him to take them hard..Tried injecting it into a grape the best way.Also suggested Cranberry juice in his water.It is a week now and he is on the mend..I would not leave a hamster that is wheezing.I really thought I would lose him...

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      A vet would be your best option to have the hamster properly diagnosed and treated. It sounds a little like an upper respiratory infection, which the hamster may or may not overcome on its own. In a way, it's like a cold in a human, where we take medicines to help with the symptoms while our body fights off the virus. Watch for labored breathing and wheezing.

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      Please Help 7 years ago

      My hamster is sneezing at least a lot, I did have a tiny bit of water accidentally come on his nose but he is eating an more or less energetic. He was in a stretched out position but was fine breathing. I can't afford a vet right now. Is my baby going to be okay, or should I be panicking!! PLEASE HELP!!!!!

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      Kitten71 7 years ago

      the hair is growing back now but now he is being really pissy wont let you pick him up and he was a very cuddle hamster before

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      Mites is a concern that will cause them to lose hair.

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      Kitten71 7 years ago

      i have a dwarf hamster and i woke up the other morning i noticed the one side of his face by his nose was missing fur what could it be and just to let you know he dosent really chew on the bars

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      No currently, but I have had hamsters in the past

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 8 years ago from south Florida

      Whitney - you're so knowledgeable about hamsters. Just wondered - do you have a pet hamster yourself?