Hamsters are one of the most popular pets around the world, often given to children because they are cute, low-maintenance, never more welcome, and offer valuable lessons in commitment and responsibility that prepare a family for a larger, more demanding one animal like a puppy or kitten.
These little rodents are perfectly content to spend their days spinning in wheels or navigating elaborate mazes of plastic tubing, and rarely complain provided they are provided with fresh sawdust, drinking water and seed mix.
However, relatively little research has been done on the threats to their health and well-being, meaning their sudden death or being diagnosed with a terminal illness by a veterinarian can leave their impressive young owners with a disturbing shock.
The Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) new VetCompass study, the results of which were published on Thursday, wanted to find out more about what exactly the European hamster is lacking, something the animals themselves usually prefer to hide to avoid revealing their weakness to predators. to better prepare families for the inevitable death of their pet.
Given that the average lifespan of these creatures is only 1.75 years or 21 months, the end is coming sooner rather than later.
The largest of its kind in the world to date, the study required scientists to examine the anonymized clinical records of a random sample of nearly 4,000 hamsters, with the Syrian or golden variety accounting for the majority of cases at 73.5 percent, followed by the Djungarian or white winter dwarf (13.8 percent) and the Roborovski hamster (6.4 percent).
The researchers used the data to pinpoint the leading causes of death in the animals, and the answers were, frankly, pretty disgusting.
The most likely deadly disorder turned out to be an unpleasant-sounding condition known as “wet tail,” a bacterial infection caused by stress often associated with dissatisfaction with their living conditions or treatment, occurring in 7.33 percent of those studied Hamster died from dehydration as a result of diarrhea.
The second most common was probably even worse: death from bite injuries caused by violent territorial fights with other hamsters, which ended fatally in 5.88 percent of the cases.
Maybe these furry little warlords aren’t so cuddly after all.
Rounding out the top five were overgrown nails (4.13 percent), overgrown front teeth (3.98 percent), and traumatic injuries (3.8 percent), all equally uncomfortable trails.
dr Dan O’Neill, associate professor of companion animal epidemiology at RVC and lead author of the paper, said: “Parents can now help their children with realistic expectations of how long their hamster will live and what the most common health conditions are for these adorable little creatures to protect.”
Justine Shotton, President of the British Veterinary Association, added: “Hamsters can make good pets, but it is important that their specific welfare needs, such as their nocturnal activity, are understood and met and that both owners and veterinarians are aware of the common ground Signs are aware of illness so they know when medical intervention is needed.
“It’s wise to speak to a veterinarian before getting a pet to make sure it’s the right animal for everyone who’s responsible for it.”