The Hamster Community
Life is just too short! The summer brought the deaths of our two senior hamsters,
Both Pestis and Bonno lived to old age - "old age" being about 19-20 months for a female and around 24-26 for a male. Pestis, born the 26th of October 2009, was just a few days short of 21 months. Bonno, born almost a year earlier, on the 28th of November, 2008, made it past his 32-month birthday, which is unusually old, especially if you consider that we nearly lost him in infancy. His mother, Zero, was unable to produce milk after the first week of motherhood, leaving two survivors, Bonno and brother Gabe,
Bonno and Pestis were fortunate - and proud - to see the 13 May birth of five grandchildren, the offspring of son Fuzzy-Sozo and his wife, Jetta. Those infants, now grown, include a daughter Sage and sons Einstein and Spencer, all of Denver, and two more daughters, Bonnie and Skosh, who live at the Hamster For President National Capital Area headquarters in Virginia.
Hamsters in Old Age
Caring for very old hamsters requires common sense and a little information. Sometimes elderly hamsters are like Pestis, who never appeared to have aged at all except for the fact that she slept more and more. Her appearance remained youthful to the end. Despite the fact that a sister of hers had died just days before, Pestis's death was not expected.
Other hamsters, like Bonno, will show their age as they mature. Bonno exhibited all the classic signs. His spine started to feel bony. He became visibly smaller. His fur got pale and thin. And most of all, his eyes had that tired look to them, eventually getting to the point that they were slow to open at all.
Many hamster seniors lose their appetites. It's common for them to start needing more water. And their bodies can't regulate temperatures quite as well as they did when they were younger. They need to be well cooled in summer with extra heat in winter.
Sometimes hamsters don't age as well as Bonno did. When a hamster seems to be nearing the end of his or her life, no matter the age, there are things that should be checked to detect some common illnesses. Are there open sores anywhere? Are the teeth normal or overgrown and turned inward? Do the feet have lesions or scabs or bleeding? Does the hamster limp or fall or appear to have trouble breathing? Are there any lumps? Does there seem to be swelling of the abdomen or sides? Is the hamster unable to clean himself or herself? Does the hamster have a bad (or "sick") odor? Is there anything else that would suggest the hamster is ailing or injured or suffering?
Having a hamster put down can be extremely difficult to do. It can be the kindest thing that can be done in many situations, even the only decent thing to do. Drugs like oxycodone, demerol and morphine, unfortunately, do not come in little hamster-sized doses.
Should euthanasia be needed, many vets will do the job free. And rest assured that, as he or she draws that last breath, your hamster is grateful that you set aside your own feelings to ease the difficult trip to the other side.
Most of the time, hamsters are going to die of organ failure. They may grow lethargic or feeble or just disinterested. And their lives gently slip away while they sleep. When you look back in the years to come, the thing that will give you most comfort is that you made a hamster's last days as comfortable and happy as you possibly could.
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