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Old 10-12-2019, 08:05 PM   #1
ProLoe
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Unhappy Two dead syrians :-(

This August, we finally gave in to our kids wishes and got them a hamster. We opted for a Syrian (panda colored).
We did our homework and made sure to get a large enough cage (Prevue Pets 528, 32*19 inches), give only safe foods, get a safe wheel (silent runner). We have multiple hamster books and read them all.
For a month, “Leo” was doing great, full of energy, the kids loved it.
Then he was suddenly hunched up and less active one day and passed away overnight before we could take him to the vet the next morning.
At the time we figured what had happened was that we used some hamster food that a friend of ours had given us after their hamster passed away of old age at 3 years. Even though it was brand-name food, we thought it could maybe have been a bad batch and their hamster did not die of old age after all. We were so sad. After Leo passed away we cleaned out the whole cage, wiped it down with bleach water, rinsed it thoroughly with water - twice, and left it to dry. Of course we threw away the food, toys, and other stuff that wasn’t plastic, glass or metal – just in case.
Three weeks later we were ready to get a new hamster and invited “Orion” into our home (also a Syrian panda). He was shy initially but soon turned out to be just as active and fun as Leo had been.
Yesterday night we noticed that he was less active, but he seemed to be eating. This morning he was unresponsive and seemed to fit the descriptions of hibernating hamsters we read about in our book. The temperature had dropped to 66 degrees in the room he was in, so we warmed up the room to 71 and covered all but his head with extra bedding to warm him up. He seemed to be breathing regularly, but when we checked on him a few hours later he was completely stiff and cold (no sign of life, even when holding a mirror to his mouth).
What is killing our hamsters?! Food is Oxbow hamster food, bedding is Carefresh small pet bedding, as treats (3-4 time a week) we give small (half inch square) pieces of peeled carrot or peeled apple or a single cheerio (plain).
Or could it be that they’re climbers … both used to climb upside down along the cage ceiling. They would have fallen a max of 16 inches – mostly onto 3 inch high bedding although with bad luck they might have hit the ramp after a 12 inch fall – or they could have fallen unto a raised plastic platform from a height of 9 inches. We gave them plenty of hamster safe toys to distract them but they just loved to climb. I looked up the cage online but nobody else reports issues with hamsters falling and injuring themselves in that cage.
Could it be an issue with buying them from PetSmart? We live in the middle of nowhere so there are no breeders around. When we looked for a new hamster after we lost Leo, we noticed that some of the hamsters they had looked sick. So we made sure to get Orion just after he had arrived at the store. As I said, both hamsters were doing great for several weeks before they suddenly passed away.
I feel I need to know what happened before I can justify getting another Syrian … please send ideas/suggestions.
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:08 AM   #2
LunaTheHamster1
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

So sorry to hear this and for your losses. I think you already know it could be just pure bad luck.

I'm not 100% sure that Oxbow hamster food is the best, (is it the one known as hamster & gerbil food?) someone else on here may be able to recommend something else for you in the states.

Just wanted to check that you don't have anything smelly/fragrant in the same room as your hamster cage ie. fragrant candles etc I'm not sure how high the base of the prevue is, but if possible you could try adding more bedding up to the top - i.e 4-6 inches would be better.

If you get another hamster you could also try giving them leafy greens/broccoli etc.

Also, if you are wanting to get another hamster is there a rescue anywhere near you? Just sometimes these little hamsters have been through so much and can be made of sturdier stuff especially if a bit older than a baby (young) hamster. It really is luck of the draw with hamsters though.
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Old 10-13-2019, 06:15 AM   #3
ProLoe
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

Thanks. Nothing smelly in our house whatsoever (we have two people with asthma in the family). The cage height is 17 inches. We were trying to look for rescues but there are none nearby. Just don't know how I can justify risking another hamster. Hoping someone else can weigh in.
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Old 10-13-2019, 06:41 AM   #4
AmityvilleHams
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

If you do want to get another hamster at any point the best food in the US is Higgins Vita Garden(not Sunburst). Whenever you're feeding that you can just add Pure Bites chicken, shrimp, or turkey and a pinch of flax seed to boost the nutritional value and make it an even better food.

I would not be using Carefresh as it really isn't that good of a bedding(it's known to be fairly dusty among other issues). The best options in the US are either Small Pet Select paper bedding or Oxbow Pure Comfort, both of which are virgin fiber non-recycled(no potential dyes, harmful contaminants, etc) sludge free and considered dust free. You could also add in some Small Pet Select aspen if you really wanted to, but there's not any need to do so.

For treats, the best possible treats are just whole fresh veggies. Storebought treats tend to be fairly unhealthy, and things you buy in human grocery stores like typical cereals aren't very good either. However, plain puffed rice or similar products where the only ingredient is just rice(or quinoa, wheat, etc) is not bad.

I can't really speak to the genetics and overall health of all pet store hamsters as there are some really big variations even within the same chain store, but I can say that pet store hamsters can absolutely be relatively healthy and aren't always riddled with endless health issues nor do they necessarily always die young. My own experience with a chain pet store hamster was wonderful in general but did end very shortly as she did die quite young, but since her death was due to unknown causes there's no guarantee of her early death specifically being due to coming from a chain pet store.
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Old 10-13-2019, 09:37 AM   #5
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

I am so sorry you have lost two hamsters. It sounds like you did all the right things and careful research. Sadly this kind of thing does happen with pet store hamsters as breeding practices of their suppliers is unknown. It does seem to happen quite a bit that people find a hamster dies for no real reason and it is very likely they have been born with some genetic abnormality - eg a weak heart. As Luna said, for this to happen twice is bad luck. But I would use a different pet store next time.

The other things you queried all sound fine. Cage is fine, bedding fine fall height ok. Hamsters do sometimes monkey bar across cafe roofs and can drop and injure themselves but doesn’t sound like hour cage set up was an issue. Generally a fall height of 30 Cm is maximum to avoid injury but you were within that. I tend to put any hard cage toys like bendy bridges under a shelf so they can’t be landed on. 3” of substrate would cushion a fall. Although ideally with that cage, 4 to 5” deep would be better as it is fairly tall.

For future use a different food would be better but that wouldn’t have caused a hamster to die. Oxbow isn’t good for hamsters really - a lot of roughage and not enough protein plus hay based which is more suitable for guinea pigs than hamsters.

It is possible they both died of coincidentally different causes- eg with the first on - infection from contaminated food but seems unlikely from what you describe.

Do hope you find another one. Put plenty of substrate in.
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Old 10-13-2019, 10:27 AM   #6
ProLoe
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

Thanks everyone - I'm learning so much and keeping notes on bedding, food etc.
Keep your suggestions coming, they're much appreciated.
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Old 10-14-2019, 11:55 PM   #7
Nancy's Hamsters
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

I would look on FB or another like source and see if you might locate a breeder. It seems the store you bought both Leo and Orion suggest a food which is totally indigestible for Syrian Hamsters so basically you feed and feed and the hamster slowly dies of starvation Also the Hamsters usually come from inbreeding so if one had something genetically wrong the other has a pretty good chance of having it too.

Pet stores get a small sellers fee to push Oxbow and is why they never tell you the truth on that food. Oxbow is fantastic for any other rodent. As AmittyvilleHams already suggested Higgins is a very good food as well as Teklad Lab Blocks which can be bought on E-bay usually with free shipping. Most Hamster owners in the state use both together for a very well balanced diet.

Be sure to keep the room at 68-70 degrees continually even if that means a small space heater has to be on around the clock. Sadly our little furry friends have the instinct to do what wild Hams do in cold months to survive when their natural food source is at a low, BUT the domestic Syrian has no clue how to prep their wee bodies to survive Torpor so unless found very quickly and rewarmed very very slowly most do die.

One last thing which could affect even you and your family. Have the room tested for Co2 contamination. Hamsters are like the Canary in the coal mine and what will cause larger animals and humans little to no ill effects will kill a Hamster rather quickly. Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be a sleeping Giant going unnoticed until you have small pocket pets who suddenly become ill and die.
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Old 10-15-2019, 01:21 AM   #8
Serendipity7000
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

That is a good point. You can get carbon monoxide alarms (look a bit like smoke alarms). We have always had one. The Honeywell one is good and reliable.

I wouldn't entirely blame the food - I know many people have used it for hamsters. It's not good but I don't think it would be the cause of death so quickly so don't blame yourself over anything.
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Old 10-15-2019, 07:03 AM   #9
ProLoe
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Default Re: Two dead syrians :-(

Thanks for the pointer on the CO2 - we know for sure that this is not the issue since we don't have any source in the house during the summer (no gas) and we have a detector installed at all times. Still, I agree it's critical to check.
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