Posted: August 8, 2013, 2:35 p.m. EDT
It's time to visit the veterinarian if a hamster suddenly stops using his exercise wheel.
Q: My son's hamster is a little more than 2.5 years old. A little more than a month ago, he stopped running on his wheel and has gained quite a bit of weight. His other behaviors seem to be normal around the cage except for not using the wheel and his continuous weight gain. He is now too big for his tubes. He does not appear to be in any discomfort. Is there anything I can do or is this part of old age?
A: It is impossible to know exactly what is wrong with your hamster without seeing him or doing a physical examination, but there are some observations we can make that may help you.
Your hamster has gotten to a ripe old age, which is great. Just like in people, aging issues arise that must be dealt with as hamsters get older. Arthritis is common in older animals and, as you can imagine, if your son’s hamster has arthritis in any of his joints, it can be painful to run on the wheel. And if your hamster was running on the wheel every day and cannot do it any longer but is still eating the same amount of food, just like in people when you take in the same amount of calories but are using less energy, that leads to weight gain.
Although there may be other reasons for the weight gain and decreased activity on the wheel, it could be as simple as arthritis leading to less activity leading to ingestion of too many calories and subsequent weight gain.
Of course, there are other explanations, such as heart disease leading to a decreased activity. Heart disease is common in hamsters.
It is advisable to visit a veterinarian familiar with treating hamsters to determine exactly what is causing the signs you are seeing in your hamster and how best to treat them.
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