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Hamster Heart Attack

Q: Hamster Heart Attack PetPlanet Vets PPAdmin pettalk@petplanet.co.uk Hi, this is about my hamster who recently passed away. He seemed in excellent health prior to his death and when he died, it seemed to happen unbelievably fast. What happened with him was his heartbeat accelerated to the point his whole body reverberated from it. When I held him, he seemed to calm down and close his eyes. Thinking he was ok and wanting to sleep, I put him back in his cage, whereupon he started acting erratic, his heartbeat accelerated again, his whole body shook and he had a strange look in his eyes. So I took him out of the cage and put him on the bed and he acted dizzy, he collapsed, and I picked him up and held him and he went limp and he had pink stuff foaming out of his nose and tiny bits of blood on the sides of his mouth and his little body just gave up and died. Can you give me any ideas of what could have happened? I am really puzzled and feel guilty that I couldn't have done more. I wish that when he was in my hand trying to sleep, that I would have just kept him there for a while.
Thanks, Karen

A:Hamster Heart Attack PetPlanet Vets PPAdmin pettalk@petplanet.co.uk Dear Karen,

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your hamster. It must have been a great shock to lose him so suddenly, especially when he seemed in good health. You did not say how old he was - it is a sad fact that they live such a short life and often die suddenly - not giving their owners time to prepare.

From what you have told me, it sounds as if he had a heart attack. You cannot normally feel a hamsters heartbeat that easily and certainly for his whole body to be reverberating, his heart must have been really pounding. I am glad that you were there with him and he obviously felt safe in your hands. The heart and lungs are closely linked and when an animal goes into heart failure, they often get fluid in their lungs, which can come out their nose or mouth when they die. The blood would be from little blood vessels bursting in his chest at the end. Then his little heart stopped and he died.

I'm afraid that there is nothing that you could have done to save him, and it happened so fast there was no time to get him to a vets {although there would have been nothing they could have done either in this case}. It would not have made any difference if you had not put him back in his cage - his little heart was giving up. Many hamsters die alone in their cages - at least that did not happen to him - you took him out and held him till he went. Please do not feel at all guilty, you obviously cared a lot for him and it was not your fault in any way.

If I can be of any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me,

Maeve Moorcroft MVB MRCVS
(PetPlanet Vet)

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