Tuesday, September 09, 2014

What to Do If Your Hamster Gives Birth and Then Dies

My daughter with 4 of the baby hamsters we had.

One of the sweetest things you will ever see is a mother hamster and her newborn babies (pups). Hamster pups are born hairless, vulnerable and with their eyes closed. They rely on their mother for everything, including warmth, food, and safety. If the mother hamster dies suddenly before the pups are weaned, there is a chance they will die too.

If the pups are at least 10 days old they have a better chance of making it, but if they are only a day or two old they might not make it no matter how much you try or what you do. If you have another hamster (of the same breed) who has recently given birth, you can try to introduce the pups to the surrogate mother. Before putting the pups into the new mother's cage you must first wash the smell of their birth mother off of them. You have to be extra careful when doing this while making sure all the original scent is gone. First thing you need to do is gather a handful of the surrogate mothers bedding, close to her own pups nest and set it aside in a shoe box. You want the bedding material to smell like her babies.

Wet a paper towel with warm water and sponge the pups off one by one. When they are cleaned of their original scent, gently place them into the surrogate mothers bedding you gathered up. Because you stimulated them while bathing, they should be wriggling around when you set them into the bedding. This will help get the new scent on them and aid in the new mother accepting them into her nest.

Place the surrogate mothers cage in a quiet place and tempt her out of her nest with her favorite treat. Try to keep the mother busy at one end of the cage, if she starts to run right back to her nest with her treat, gently block her way unless she starts getting upset. If she is easily handled and lets you take her out of the cage while she eats her treat, that would be best.

While mom is eating her treat, gently scoop up the pups and bedding and place the pups and bedding into the surrogate mothers nest and let the new pups wriggle around with the other babies. Try not to get your human smell on the pups or the bedding if you can help it, wearing gloves can help with this. The goal is for the new babies to end up smelling just like the babies that were originally in the nest.

Place the mother back into the cage and let her go to her nest. Do not bother her or the cage again for at least a day. If this works, the next time you look into the cage all the babies will be squirming around the mother. If she rejects the orphans, she may wind up eating them. This is normal hamster behavior and is to be expected even with her own brood of babies if she detects they are sick or she gets upset or nervous.

Things are quite different if you find yourself having to hand raise the orphaned pups yourself. If the mother has died, you need to remove her from the cage and dispose of the body. Most hamster lovers find that burying their beloved pets helps with the grieving process.

The pups will be cold since they no longer have their mothers' warmth. You will need to get them warm as soon as possible by placing them in a warm room in a shoe box or something similar, filled with shredded toilet paper or paper towels, until you clean out their cage.

Clean and dry their cage really well and then place them back inside along with the shredded bedding. Get a heating pad and place a towel on top of it, now sit the cage on top of that and set the heating pad to the lowest setting. This will help keep the pups warm without allowing them to get overheated from the heating pad.

Newborn pups need to be fed every hour for the first 10 days. Then every two hours until they are 15 days old and every three hours until they are approximately 20 days old. There are several types of milk you can feed to hamsters. You can get kitten formula from a veterinarian or pet store, baby formula or even a mix of equal parts evaporated milk and warm water.

Newborn pups need between two and three drops of formula every hour. Feeding the pups with an eye dropper is the easiest, but while you want them to drink the formula you also have to make sure they don't inhale it into their lungs. Do not force the formula into their mouths; let them slowly lick it off the eye dropper. After each feeding you will need to stimulate each pup to urinate and defecate the same way the mother would do if she were around. The easiest way to do this is to rub the genital and anal area with a soft, warm, moist cloth or you can also use a wet Q-tip. If you don't do this the pups are likely to urinary and bowel problems or obstructions and die.

When they are walking around a little you can fill the water bottle up with a mixture of one half children's pedialyte and one half water. The pedialyte will help them from getting dehydrated. Make sure to keep their food dish full of normal food. Bread soaked with milk is another thing they will eat, just put it on a small lid and remove it and wash the lid every couple of hours. You can also add small amounts of boiled egg, vegetables, apples, canned dog food and wheat germ. Eat day you will need to remove any uneaten soft foods. If you let the foods stay too long they will spoil and can cause death to the hamsters. When the hamsters are about 20 days old, they should be weaned enough that you can stop feeding them the formula.

Although you may have done everything right and taken the time to feed, love and care for the pups over days or even weeks, there is still a chance they may not make it. No matter what happens you should be proud of yourself for trying.