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can hamsters survive a stroke?

Can Hamsters Recover from A Stroke?

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2022)

The likelihood of a hamster experiencing a stroke increases exponentially as it gets older, making it more difficult for them to return to full health.

Hamsters can recover from a stroke after 2-3 weeks, but their long-term prognosis depends on the cause.

While some hamsters recover without debilitating side effects, others develop a permanent head tilt of incoordination that affects their lives. If so, it’s kinder to put the hamster to sleep.

While many hamsters can recover from a stroke, they often return and get worse with each one, eventually killing them. A vet can do nothing except administer oxygen to prevent brain damage.

What Causes Hamsters To Have a Stroke?

Hamsters have strokes when the brain’s blood supply becomes restricted or reduced.

Specifically, this happens when an artery supplying nutrients and blood to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked by a clot. Partial brain damage then occurs, and brain cells start to die. 

Delving into strokes further, there are two different types:

  • Ischemic. A blood clot blocks the brain’s blood flow.
  • Hemorrhagic. A weak blood vessel bursts, bleeding into the inside or surface of the brain.

Is It Common for Hamsters To Have Strokes?

It’s more common for older hamsters to experience strokes than young hamsters, but hamsters of any age can be affected.

Several factors make strokes more likely to occur in hamsters, such as:

That being said, even healthy hamsters can suffer from a stroke without prior warning.

As explained by Companion Animal, hamsters instinctively hide signs of illness, meaning they could have a stroke-related health condition without their owners knowing.

can hamsters die from strokes?

Stroke Symptoms in Hamsters

Before a stroke, hamsters exhibit extreme exhaustion and collapse after periods of activity. They also enter into a trance-like state, becoming unresponsive to their surroundings while staring into the distance.

Once a stroke has occurred, hamsters develop the following symptoms:

  • Head tilt, which usually becomes permanent
  • Neurological damage, such as running in circles
  • Limping on one side
  • Paralysis, which may or not be permanent
  • Incoordination and instability
  • Seizures
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Irregular breathing
  • Unequal pupil size

Some owners report their hamsters acting strangely before or during a stroke.

Can Hamsters Survive a Stroke?

There are no specific treatments for strokes, but hamsters that survive often recover within weeks.

By investigating and treating the underlying cause of the stroke, a vet can prevent further strokes and maintain your hamster’s quality of life.

However, while hamsters can survive a stroke, it’s rare for them to only experience one. Many hamsters suffer from multiple strokes until they eventually die, with each one getting progressively worse.

Unfortunately, vets have limited options in treating hamsters following a stroke. The only thing they can do is provide oxygen to prevent brain damage. Even then, the hamster’s quality of life is often reduced, and euthanasia is the kindest option to prevent further suffering.

That being said, strokes aren’t always a death sentence for hamsters. Some make a full recovery, displaying no obvious debilitating symptoms, while others may develop permanent incoordination and experience difficulties moving around.

Where that’s the case, it’s up to their owners to make their enclosure as safe and comfortable as possible to prevent accidents and injuries.

The more strokes, the worse its long-term prognosis.

Can Hamsters Die From Strokes?

Once a hamster has a stroke, there’s no cure or treatment for any brain damage. This doesn’t always kill it, but it’s unkind to let hamsters suffer.

Hamsters are more likely to survive a stroke if their owners seek veterinary attention as soon as they spot any symptoms. However, many owners don’t notice them in time, increasing the risk of a stroke being fatal. Strokes cause damage quickly, so there’s never any time to waste.

Strokes can become complicated by infections, which makes them more deadly. There’s also the cause of the stroke to consider, as hamsters cannot always recover from the underlying health condition.

For example, heart disease and tumors kill hamsters more commonly than not and cause much discomfort in the advanced stages before they become fatal.

How Long Does It Take for a Hamster To Recover From a Stroke?

The time for hamster stroke recovery varies depending on the cause and age of the hamster.

Most hamsters recover within 2-3 weeks, but recovery isn’t possible where brain damage occurs. The long-term outlook depends on what has caused the stroke and whether it can be treated.

How To Help a Hamster Recover From a Stroke

While we’ve established that hamsters can recover from a stroke, the few weeks immediately after the event are the most critical.

Most hamsters need time to recover, but you can help the process with the following steps:

Remove the Exercise Wheel

Hamsters must get exercise, but it can do more harm than good while recovering from a stroke.

Your hamster is likely to get injured if it attempts to use the wheel during its recovery period, so the risk and danger of an accident outweigh its need to be physically active.

Alongside the wheel, remove any hides and accessories your hamster is likely to climb. You don’t want your hamster becoming bored, though, so ensure it has plenty of safe forms of enrichment to play with.

Excellent playthings include:

After a few weeks, you can reinstate the exercise wheel and other accessories you removed.

Keep the Enclosure Flat

As your hamster recovers from its stroke, you’ll need to get rid of any high points in the enclosure to stop your hamster from falling and hurting itself.

Hamsters with long-term head tilt or incoordination are likely to struggle with ledges and raised sections, so keep the inside of the cage as flat as possible to help your hamster move around.

how long does it take for a hamster to recover from a stroke?

Provide Warmth

Hamsters mustn’t be allowed to get too cold during their recovery.

Their bodies can’t cope with extreme temperatures either way, but prolonged exposure to the cold causes their bodies to go into a temporary hibernation called torpor. Hamsters rarely wake from this condition.

To prevent torpor or any issues associated with the cold, provide a deep layer of bedding measuring at least 6 inches that your hamster can burrow into to keep itself warm.

You must also keep the room temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal temperature range.

Hand Feed

Depending on the severity of your hamster’s stroke, you may need to hand feed it while it recovers, particularly if it can’t move around very well. If your hamster is tame enough, you can provide pellets and a healthy seed mix by hand.

You can use a syringe to provide water into the side of its mouth. Dehydration will hinder the recovery, so keep doing this until your hamster is strong enough to eat and drink by itself.

Move the Cage to a Quiet Area

Another essential step in your hamster’s recovery is to move its cage to the quietest spot in the house. Your hamster will need plenty of rest, so it needs to live somewhere it will not be disturbed.

Continue to emulate natural conditions by turning off the light at night and ensuring the enclosure has access to indirect sunlight during the day. This will help your hamster get enough sleep.

Strokes are serious. While hamsters can recover, they’re likely to have some side effects due to the trauma. They may not be severe enough to warrant putting your hamster to sleep, but you’ll need to provide tailored care to ensure your hamster lives a healthy, pain-free life.