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Gerbils & Hamsters/Syrian Baby Hamster passed suddenly.

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Lets start with the back story. I work at a pet store and a male syrian hamster snuck into a cage with two females and had a little rendezvous. Well surprise, the hamsters got pregnant and each had 10 babies. Long store short, out of 20 babies, there was one runt. We thought she wasn't going to make it because she was so small but Mama left her alone and she started walking the habitat and eating.

At 25 days old, we weened the little ones, and sexed them. The manager thought the runt would be better left with the mama. I was worried she would pick on her and eat her so I offered to adopt her at 30 days and bring her home to help her grow. Once in her new set up, she walked around the cage for about a minute, had a little snack, then went and laid down in her new house. I closed the door and turned the light off. Later when I went to check on her, she was having diarrhea, and I was concerned it was wet tail. I started to spoon her some water as I didnt have a syringe and she was breathing very slowly. I could tell she was drinking the water because she would make these little clicking noises like she was swallowing. I wiped her butt softly, and laid her back down in her house. I decided to leave her alone for a couple hours as to lower her stress.

An hour passed and she had gone with it. I lifted her house and she just laid there, hunched over. I nudged her and she didn't move, I picked her up, and she was pretty stiff.

Is this something that I did? Should we have left her with her mom?

Answer
Hi Kayla

I'm sorry to hear your story.  First of all, don't beat yourself up over this. Something things just happen.  All you can do is your best and make a decision at that moment in time.  With hindsight you might have done things differently, but the outcome might have been the same.

Some runts are fine - they are just small, but they are fully formed apart from that.  These usually survive and go onto live a full life.  However, some runts don't develop normally for various reasons and it could be that yours had some issue that you weren't aware of.  

Also, stress can cause wet tail and separating the hamsters might have caused this.  Did any of the other hamsters get wet tail?  It is very important that you fully disinfect the cage that the little hamster was in just in case it was wet tail as this is very contagious and could be passed onto another hamster.  Some people dispose of cages where there's been wet tail just to be on the safe side.

I've dealt with many litters over the years and whilst most of them are fine I've had a few that haven't been.  One of my mums started to be aggressive to her babies and was manic - I decided to leave well alone as I knew the babies wouldn't survive without her and just hoped she would calm down and go back to the nest to look after them.  She did eventually, but two ended up dead.

Whilst I tend to leave a runt with the mum for an extra week when I've separated the rest of the litter, I would only do this if I was convinced she would be ok with it. Some mums aren't very maternal and as soon as the babies are around 25 days old they get aggressive and pick on the babies. That is a sure sign that the litter would be better off without the mum and I always get the mum out and let her live on her own.

There is no right or wrong answer with regard to what happened to your hamster, and there's no way of knowing exactly why the runt died.  

The fact that you're questioning if you did the right thing shows that you really care about the hamsters, and as I said before, all you can do is your best and make the decision based on the situation at that moment in time.

I hope this helps you.

Regards
Sheila

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Sheila Adby

Expertise

Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is www.thehamstersite.com

Experience

I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website: www.thehamstersite.com

Publications
Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Education/Credentials
Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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