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Hamster Breathing Fast and Heavy? Causes and Treatment of Respiratory Illnesses

Author:

Whitney has extensive domestic animal husbandry experience and has cared for various species.

Hamster Breathing Problems

Probably the most common illness in hamsters besides wettail is a respiratory infection. It's most common among hamsters that come from pet stores the stressful environment can weaken their immune system, making them more susceptible to infections.

If you notice that your hamster has breathing problems (they're breathing fast or breathing heavy), and their condition doesn't improve, see a veterinarian that is knowledgeable about small animals so that you can either rule out or diagnose the illness. You don't want to sit and wait hoping that it will just goes away. A simple infection can potentially lead to pneumonia, which can be fatal if not treated.

upper-respiratory-illness-hamsters

Cause of Respiratory Infection

Respiratory illnesses are very contagious and can spread easily from hamster to hamster. If your hamster came from a pet store that had other sick hamsters—whether they showed symptoms while you were there or not—more than likely, your hamster will also be sick.

Hamsters can also catch some diseases from humans. 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 common causes 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.

Treatment for Hamster Respiratory Infection

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, consider HomeoPet Nose Relief. I've also used HomeoPet Nose Relief to ease congestion and runny nose often caused by respiratory infections.

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.

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.

Comments

Christina on June 13, 2020:

Thyme tea (look it up on how to give it to hamsters. Its made with fresh thyme. And u let it cool down before giving it to them!!) might help for a mild case.but please, take your hamster to a vet asap. U wouldnt just let a dog die, ur hamster is no different it feels pain too! If u cant afford vet at all or ur parents wont let u maybe ask the vet if u can pay the bill in smaller payments until its payed off.

Shreya Dinesh on May 18, 2020:

my hamster died yesterday. RIP MINNIE.

Danielle romero on April 29, 2020:

My hamster is breathing heavily and he’s laying on the wheel and not moving at all and his bottom smells like pee

Avi G. on April 22, 2020:

My lil sisters dwarf hamster snowball has pneumonia I think. I have tried homeopathic stuff last night and today. My parents love snowball, hes more of a family pet really! They are think of taking him to the vet but the dog needs a $1000 surgery for a mass :( . Any ideas fro making him feel better? oh, and he is like 17+ months old! Average is 12. he has been healthy till 2 weeks ago :(

Sonny Cole on October 15, 2019:

My hamster is lying down, not getting up, she has her eyes closed and is breathing rapidly. What should i do?

Animal Advocate on July 09, 2019:

Another thing that causes respiratory problems is wood shavings and they should not be used ( such as pine, cedar, or Aspen shavings) this makes me mad that people sell such a product; they just want our money! Greedy!

Hazyre on December 21, 2018:

My hamster just died today from pneumonia December 22 2018 Love you Oreo

kira on October 13, 2018:

my hamster had been barely moving and he keeps looking as though he's about to throw up.Also when i usually pick him up he bites me,but when i picked him up he didn't even want to bite me.He just remains in a crouched position and i'm able to see him breathing very hard.What should i do?

alexie on September 22, 2018:

my hamsters has a purple or brown dot on his left hip what should i do??

...... on June 23, 2018:

My hamster is speaking and breathing strange, it seems he has a cold or the flu? Is it likely he will die :((((( ?

None on May 03, 2018:

If your hamster us squeaking it's because it is scared or cold or stressed.

:and if your hamster bites you she or he is scared of you but never take your hamster outside.

I hope this helped

:c on February 24, 2018:

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

J on August 19, 2017:

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??

Alison on December 28, 2015:

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

ben on February 18, 2015:

Take your hamster to yhe vets

Aww

no name on July 29, 2014:

my hamster is in the advance stages of pnoiname

Savonnah on November 24, 2013:

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

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz on February 20, 2012:

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

Guest on February 19, 2012:

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.

hayley on December 13, 2011:

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

Lily on July 01, 2011:

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?

Danielle on March 26, 2011:

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

sonia on January 28, 2011:

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 ?

Alyssa on October 11, 2010:

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?

Natasha on August 24, 2010:

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!

Sherri Hope on July 11, 2010:

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...

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 30, 2010:

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.

Please Help on June 29, 2010:

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!!!!!

Kitten71 on June 10, 2010:

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

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 09, 2010:

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

Kitten71 on June 08, 2010:

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

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 18, 2010:

No currently, but I have had hamsters in the past

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 17, 2010:

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