No matter what steps you take to avoid your hamster choking, it can sometimes happen, although it’s rare. It’s scary to think that your hamster might choke, especially when you might not be around to save it. It’s even scarier to witness your hamster choking and not know what to do to help.
Owners can take steps to help prevent their hamsters from choking. Saving a choking hamster is entirely different from saving a choking person, so knowing the correct way to dislodge the lodged object from your hamster’s airway is essential.
When a hamster chokes, it can sometimes expel the object on its own. However, you can attempt to save your choking hamster by flipping it upside down and giving it chest compressions or using a Q-tip to remove the object from its throat. The last resort would be surgical removal by a veterinarian.
Do Hamsters Choke on Bedding?
Hamsters like to fill their mouths and cheek pockets full of just about everything, including their bedding, and sometimes they may accidentally swallow some of the bedding.
When they’re burrowing in their bedding, it’s possible for them to accidentally inhale some of the bedding and choke on it.
Some people mistakenly use the wrong types of bedding for their hamsters, which can pose serious risks to hamsters, such as choking and injuring their mouths or cheek pockets.
However, even some types of bedding designed for hamsters and marketed as safe to use are dangerous, and many hamsters have died from choking on them.
Of all the things you can use for bedding, fluffy bedding is the type you should avoid over all the others. This is usually made with cotton but is also made with other cotton-like materials such as kapok.
The long fibers of the fluffy bedding can get lodged in the hamster’s mouth or throat and cause choking. Some hamsters have even been known to stuff their mouths full of bedding.
Do Hamsters Choke on Food?
Hamsters can choke on food if they’re eating the wrong types or if the food pieces are too large. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a possibility. Hamsters can choke on food if it isn’t chewed properly.
Hamsters can eat various foods, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, insects, and pellet food. However, some foods fall within these categories, posing choking hazards.
While celery is a nutritious vegetable, hamsters should not eat it.
The stringy fibers that make up the stalks of the celery are a choking hazard. They’re difficult for hamsters to chew and can get stuck in their throats, which can block their airway and cause them to choke.
Seeds make up a large part of the recommended diet for hamsters. However, some types of seeds aren’t safe for hamsters to eat. With some types of seeds, you’ll need to use your judgment on whether they’re going to pose a choking hazard to your hamster.
For instance, Syrian hamsters can handle most big and small-sized seeds, but smaller dwarf hamsters won’t be able to handle the large seeds and could choke on them. Watermelon seeds and apple seeds are two types of seeds you should avoid feeding your hamster.
Watermelon seeds are hard for hamsters to eat; if swallowed, they can cause choking or intestinal blockages. According to Food Chemistry, apple seeds are a choking hazard, but they also contain traces of cyanide. While the levels of cyanide contained in the apple seeds aren’t enough to harm people, they are enough to be toxic to hamsters.
How To Tell if Your Hamster Is Choking
It may be difficult to tell if your hamster is choking if you don’t pay close attention to its normal behaviors. Because hamsters can’t alert you that they’re choking as people can by using hand signals, the only way you’re going to be able to tell is if you see your hamster exhibiting odd behaviors.
Hamster Choking Symptoms
Since choking isn’t a common issue with hamsters, there isn’t much information available about the topic. However, there are some signs you can be on the lookout for if you suspect your hamster might be choking, including:
- Deep, heavy breathing
- Pawing at its face or neck
- Lowered chin on chest
- Wiping its mouth on surfaces like cage bars
- Flattened ears
Even if your hamster starts choking on something, keep in mind that its entire airway isn’t necessarily blocked, so it still may be able to breathe a little.
Often, hamsters can expel the object they’re choking on without you intervening.
What To Do if Your Hamster Is Choking
If your hamster is choking on something, check to see if it can still breathe.
If you notice it’s still breathing, you can give the hamster some time to try to work the object loose that it’s choking on. Some hamsters can expel the object, but it could take some time for that to happen.
If your hamster’s breathing becomes more difficult or stops, it’s time to intervene. You can take your hamster to the vet for an emergency visit, but sometimes there isn’t time for that, so you may need to help your hamster on your own.
1/ Flip Hamster Upside Down
The idea behind flipping your hamster upside down is that gravity will take over and help dislodge the object from its mouth or throat. Make sure you have a firm hold on your hamster. The last thing you want is to drop it accidentally.
Press firmly on your hamster’s chest while it’s upside down and start giving it chest compressions. This will hopefully help to push the object out of your hamster’s throat and mouth.
2/ Manually Clear the Airway
If flipping the hamster upside down doesn’t work to clear its airway, you can use a Q-tip to try to clear it.
This works similarly to performing a finger sweep when a person is choking. Get someone to help you hold the hamster still while you insert the Q-tip into its mouth to try to remove the object that’s stuck.
Do this carefully so that you don’t cause additional injuries or push the object further into the airway. Stop and take your hamster to the vet if you notice any bleeding or can’t remove the object.
3/ Surgical Removal
If the other methods of removal don’t work, the last option would be surgical removal, which involves the assistance of a veterinarian.
However, be prepared that your vet may decide against doing the surgery. Some vets won’t perform surgery to remove items stuck in a hamster’s throat because it’s too risky.
Can a Hamster Choke to Death?
If the hamster is choking on something completely blocking its airway so it can’t breathe, its death can happen fast, so you may not have much time to help your hamster.
Suppose your hamster is choking but still able to take breaths, even if it’s difficult. In that case, you have more time to either let your hamster expel the object itself, offer your help in removing the object, or take your hamster to the veterinarian.
However, if your hamster is choking on something like fluffy bedding, removing that from its mouth and throat may be difficult, especially if it’s jammed.