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Old 01-23-2021, 08:43 AM   #1
Newborn Pup
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: North Yorkshire, UK
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Default Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morning

Hi everyone,

We are heartbroken that our little Roborovski Bruce passed away this morning. We are still in shock. I regitered on HC a few days ago because we noticed change in his behaviour, but he seemed to be better and so I didn't ask right away.

We found him forever asleep this morning and I would like to still ask my questions to the community to try and understand what happened and at least learn something. It seems so sad, cruel and arbitrary otherwise.

Background is, we bought him at the charity section of the pet store on the 14th of March 2020. He probably was around 3 months old then. They had kept him separate from his litter because he had a littleinjury on the nose, so to heal him they kept him apart until he was able to be given up for adoption, and we had him.

This means he only lived for maybe a year and a month and that seems awfully short for a Roborovski - I had read they would live up to 3-4 years?

Please be gentle, as we are hurting very much. We considered going to the vet but he seemed to be better and we didn't realize there was a life or death situation. I don't know if we did anything wrong.

In the last year, Bruce was always very lively and did a lot of wheel, super fast, often. We normally didn't see him much during the day, but we did from time to time. His hair was very thin, so sometimes he seemed a bit "greasy" despite grooming himself normally. We tried introducing him to sand baths but he disliked those and never used them.

About a month and a half ago my partner researched how to make his home better and found online that the standard cage we had is maybe a little bt small. So we bought him a bigger plastic box with no lid, and put the beddign and all his usual belongings in there, and he seemed happy and normal.

His box was close to the heater, which we started to use a few weeks ago, on mild heat (only during the day, to break the cold). After a few days we realized that this was not clever at all so we moved him opposite, far away from the heater.

Throughout, he seemed happy, healthy and content, as usual.

Now, I want to say that I am nearly 6 months pregnant and, because there is a virus that hamster droppings can have that is very very dangerous for a foetus, we decided that I would not handle him (usually we alternated days with my partnere, or did it togther). So, In the last few months, I was less reactive and aware of changes in Bruce, but my partner was more.

Maybe 2 weeks ago? My partner told me he was worried about Bruce. All of a sudden, Bruce started making little squeaky noises, which he never did before. He did them often, also when we handled him. We intensely Googled, and found that it was probably like purring sound - that hamster is happy. We probably went wrong there? I have a short video but I cannot bring myself to looking at it right now.

His behaviour was still normal, eating food the same, fast running on the wheel the same... so we were surprised but not worried. Come to think of it, I think this is when he started to be more awake during the day.

At some point I noticed that and I Googled it too - I learned that it really depends on the hamster and that most probably we got more aware of that because it was the holidays, so we are less absorbed with work (we work from home throughout lockdown) and probably notice him more during the day. When we handled him, he seemed normal, fast, curious, as usual, so again, no cause for worry.

Then at some point we started noticing that on top of the squeaky noises there was also a lot of bruxing giong on. Lound teeth chattering noises. We looked at his teeth and they looked normal, the top ones not too short but not too long, the bottom ones longer than the top ones.

Online we saw mixed info on the bruxism - that it is normal, or it can be a sign of pain.

But Bruce was still curious, eating, running on his wheel, drinking, climbing on things... so why whorry?

Our previous hammy (and first together) had gotten very still and quiet in the last days before his death and this certainly didn't look like it.

In the last days though something changed, and my partner said, I think his back is a little bit hunched? And I agreed. Just a very round back, perhaps a bit high on his paws as well. At the same time, we noticed that he really wasn't pooing as much as before. It's hard to tell how much he does because the cage is larger now and he didn't usually poop always in the same place.

So, after looking up online, we thought that he porbably was constipated, as the signs added up. Bruce was still eating and wheeling, albeit slower. So, we started looking more closely at his food intake and we gave him just a little bit of carrot, yoghurt, veg so he had fiber and water for sure - but just a little bit! Not too much to not go too hard the other way. He massaged his tummy lightly too.

A day or two later, we saw that Bruce had started poopign again, so we thought, "that was it!". AGain throughout, he kept beign curious, active, and running on the wheel. I even felt he was less hunched... but maybe not.

I didn't mention that progressively he also started to grind his food to powder. We always give him the same hamster food from the pet store - the hamster mix - and in the last year he had his preferences but would never leave powder remains of the pellets. But now we saw that he was doing it.

But at the same time, he stopped squeaking and bruxing - so we thought he was back to normal.

At this point, yesterday, all I can say was he was still running on his wheel often, but slower, less hunched but still a bit, loved the yoghurt, didn't squeak or brux, was awake several times in the day to eat/run, and also at night, but had totally powdered his food. Yet in the last days, when holding him in our hands if we gave him a peanut (his favourite!) he would still, as usual, very skillfully peel it, discard the skin, and eat half of a half there and then - just as he has always done!

So, as you can see... we had quite a few changes, some worriying, others comforting. I don't know if we should have been more alarmed. I don't know if we should have brought him to the vet and if so, at what point?

Our previous hammy had had mites issues and we had brought him to the vet twice - we had learned our lesson. With Bruce we preventatively treated regularly with the store-bought drops, and he never had mite issues.

But this, this is totally unexpected.

I feel so much guilt for not seeing things sooner, beign more aware, knowing more.

This morning I gazed at the cage and Bruce was sleeping with his butt outside his house and his head inside; I found that odd but didn't disturb him. I checked, he was breathing.

Later I was cookign lunch, Bruce was in the same position... my partner said, "Darling... Bruce... died".

Just above a year old. What could he have had that killed him like this? I feel so guilty. But I'm not sure what I should have done and when.

Ahy thoughts on hammy health, please let us know. I know sometimes they die for unknown reasons. This is so hard.

Thank you for reading and for your sympathy.
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Old 01-23-2021, 11:30 AM   #2
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

I'm so sorry for your loss.
Like every little creature there must have been something going on inside that just gave out. It can happen in any species and often we just never know what caused an early passing.
Over a year is actually middle aged for a hamster. You gave him the best and he sounds to have had a lovely life with you.
Even if you had seen a vet it is really unlikely they would have been able to do anything as a robo has a very tiny system and any little problem has a huge impact on them.
You did everything you could considering his behaviour and he passed secure in his own bed warm and well loved. Run free at the bridge Bruce
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Old 01-24-2021, 11:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Thank you dear Souffle, I was unable to answer sooner but I read your words when you posted them and they helped. Grief comes and goes and it's been only over a day now and it's so hard.

Thank you, yes it's likely the vet couldn't have done anything.

Yet my partner and I keep beating ourselves up on the idea that we let Bruce down and that we "should" have brought him to the vet - but when exactly?

How could we have known it was so bad? I fear he suffered and we didn't realize. Remembering the events, there was not one day where it was clear we needed a vet and failed to do so.

May I share some videos of this last week to show what I mean.

This is him on Monday. My partner was cleaning his cage so we temporarily put him in this container with his toys. The chirping sound he made a lot the week before - but had mostly stopped this week - can be heard at around 10s, and 20s. Are these pain sounds? But his behaviour is totally normal as shows the rest of the video...
2021-01-18 Bruce Chirping - YouTube

This is him on Monday too eating his half peanut in my hand. Looks content and well to me
202101-18 Bruce Peanut - YouTube

This was Wednesday evening, it is the little massage we gave him gently in these last days. He doesn't make noise and doesn't really like it but he also is lively and well.
2021-01-20 Bruce tummy massage short - YouTube

And Thursday evening, giving him a bit of yoghurt. He's still running, not making noise. I think we had woken him up hence he looks a bit clumsy.
2021-01-21 Bruce Yoghurt short - YouTube

I have one last video of him where we try to examine his tummy on Thursday too and we saw he wasn't too clean/fur was a bit greasy underneath, but also he was going to pass stool so we thought onsitpation was getting better.

And Saturday morning, my partner saw him running on the wheel at 10h30, and two hours later he was gone.

And attached is how he had reduced his food to powder - which I am now thinking maybe it was a coping mechanism for pain? Or he had internal blockages?

I apologize for being lengthy and perhaps repeating myself. I wish I had found this forum sooner. It helps to talk about it to realize it has happened.

Thanks for any info. Next time this happens I want to know what to do.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg Food all powdered down.jpg (372.4 KB, 7 views)
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Old 01-24-2021, 01:32 PM   #4
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Hello. I am so sorry to hear about Bruce. Hamsters, as with humans, can die at any age. They can be born with congenital heart disease or other conditions. He may also have been a bit older than you thought when you adopted him.

It doesn’t sound like anything you have done and I cannot see a vet visit was needed at any stage. They can also get internal tumours. Hunching can be a sign of pain but that then improved.

I think it is just very sad he didn’t live longer but it was his time. My only comment would be that it is not a good idea to pre treat hamsters for mites with store bought meds. The meds are quite strong and can be toxic to them. They are best avoided altogether unless prescribed by a vet and there should be a skin scraping done first to confirm it actually is mites, so unnecessary medication isn’t given. Unfortunately a lot of vets ascribe skin conditions etc to mites without testing first and prescribe Invermectin to them too much.

That is just for future reference- I don’t think it would have been the cause of death on this case - as it would have been near the time the meds were given.

I was also saddened to find a Robo we had developed a tumour at about 15 months and only lived to about 18 months. Some of it is genetic and breeding practices of sellers are not always the greatest which can add to genetic diseases.

It is just luck - as with humans- will we live till a ripe old age or will we get cancer in our thirties or have a heart attack in our fifties? The difference is human medicine these days does pre checks for disease so it can be spotted early.

Bruce was clearly much loved - he is pain free now, playing free over the rainbow bridge. You gave him a happy life.

But I know the shock and grief is hard at first. Feeling guilty and questioning what you did is a normal stage of grief- eventually you will just remember the happy memories.

I find I need to get another hamster to care for after one dies as it speeds up the grieving for me. It doesn’t replace the hamster but is a welcome distraction and a new baby hamster brings joy and laughter.

As you are pregnant the upset may be affecting you more - lots of emotions going on - so take care abd look after you and relax xxxx. Incidentally I have never heard of hamster poops being a problem in pregnancy. Cat or dog ones maybe. Hamster poops are bot that dirty - they’re more like seeds and sometimes they actually eat them (they have two stomachs and can redigest vitamins and nutrients from their poops). Although obviously best to wash foot hands after handling stuff in the cage

Last edited by Serendipity7000; 01-24-2021 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 01-24-2021, 01:46 PM   #5
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Assume it is lcmv you mean? I think it is very rare in hamsters who are only likely to contract it from other animals who have it (eg house mouse) but if you had concerns about that in future it might be possible to get a test on the hamster to see if they carry it. If a rodent does have it then it wouldn’t just be their poops that would be an issue - they can shed it all over. So I think you are pretty safe ftom that but understand the concern.

One option might be to get a hamster from a good breeder next time, where the breeding practices and genetics are known for health etc. Although even then there can be an unknown birth defect - a runt of the litter eg. It’s just sad.
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Old 01-25-2021, 06:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Thank you Seredipity.

Maybe he was older, after all. Looking back at images of when we had him, he did seem a bit thinner now in comparison, than I had realized.

Yes for the mite meds - we are very cautious with them and use less than the specified quantity especially on a Robo. We used them only once on Bruce many months ago (only when we he had some signs on one ear that looked like mites, and it had cured that in a few days so it probably was). We didn't use any recently so definitely no link here.

Breeding practices - I never really thought about that before. We got Bruce (and Myles) at Pets At Home - I have no clue which breeders they get their hammies from. Just searched, I don't seem to find any breeders online around York though.

Yes I was referring to LMCV but had forgotten the name. It was a difficult decision to make. Like listeriosis, it is very rare but dreadful for the baby, and so we decided to go for peace of mind and be better safe than sorry. I could research again but I remember reading that the only way to test a hammy for it was... to kill the hamster to find out. Which is why we had gone for the safest compromise.

We have been wondering about getting a new one. I think I fell in love with the cute faces of Robos and their tiny sizes. I can now measure the extent to which he was a much-needed companion throughout the lengthy lockdowns of 2020. I miss a little presence, but I know we shouldn't hurry and get a new pet out of grief, although I totally agree that the distraction, and new life, would help with coping with the death. The LMCV concern is still here, and how responsible is it really, to try and tame a new pet at the same time as having a baby and those early weeks? So we will take a bit of time to think about it.

We did go to the store out of curiosity though - they had very few animals and they explained that they were not getting any in at the moment because of all that's going on with Covid, which is probably a good thing for the animals. I wouldn't want them to sit for weeks alone in the store exhibit pens.

I think I'm starting to realize slowly that what is, is.

I really appreciate your answers and giving me a space to explore what I feel and giving us reassuring words like that. 2 people here telling us that you don't see a case to see a vet from what I've said or the videos, is helpful beyond what I can express, so thank you.

May I ask, if you saw the "chirping" video above, if you know why a hammy would make that kind of sound suddenly, while going about his life? I had searched Youtube and other forums last week, but didn't find a similar sound so I am still baffled at that.

A last thought, re what you explained about hammy's tiny systems able to fail anytime... is it to say that really when we get one we shoudl expect it to have an issue and be gone in a matter of days? Since they usually hide well that they are ill and they can't tell us what's wrong? It's kind of a grim prospect but, for sure, I shouldn't have had any expectations on life expectancy... so at least I learned that, I guess.

Again thank you. Have a nice day ^^
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Old 01-25-2021, 07:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

I have read your posts but am late in responding because i didn't quite find the right words.

First of all i want to express how sorry i am that you lost your beloved hamster.

The average life expectancy of a hamster is only 2 years and not 3-4 years. Their short life expectancy is the one and only drawback of keeping hamsters as pets.

Personally, i would never administer over the counter mite treatment to a hamster and would go to a vet who can do a skin scrape to diagnose mites before treatment. Something to keep in mind for future reference but not likely to be a contributing factor to Bruce's passing.

If you decide to get another Robo i'd definitely give him a sandbath and leave the sandbath in because they need it to clean their coats otherwise they become greasy and dishevelled looking. I put my late Robo's wheel in his large sandpit so he had a soft landing when he run so fast that he flew out of his wheel.

I have two dwarfs who i thought didn't like their sandbaths and one filled it up with substrate. I took the sandbath out, filled the area up with substrate and put in a platform with a sandbath on top which she now happily uses. She wanted one but not in the place where i had put it.
The other dwarf didn't use her sandbath for weeks, then one day she must have realized that it's great fun to chuck the sand about and send it flying in all directions. She loves it now.

If you are really worried about contracting something from a hamster while pregnant it may not be a good idea to get another one at this point in your life.

I've watched your video and must say that to me Bruce didn't look like a hamster who was ill or needed a vet. He was a lovely boy and so tame. I've never heard this particular sounds before but plenty of others ranging from angry screeching and squeaking to guttural sounds while dreaming to chuttering and hissing.
Hamsters can be surprisingly vocal.

It's impossible to predict how long a hamster is going to live regardless of where they come from, a pet shop or reputable breeder, from a rescue or Gumtree.

One of mine died at only 13 months old and it was hard to come to terms with. I knew that he was ill soon after i had adopted him at 5 months old, i knew he would be lucky to make it to a year but i still hoped against hope for that little bit of extra time.

Bruce will never leave your heart but as time goes on your grief will ease and the what ifs will fade. You loved him and you cared for him, you gave him a wonderful hamster life.
Housemate of Ozzy & Rory & Rodney & Clarissa & Betsy & Monty & lodgers Kevin & Gavin
always in my thoughts Percy and Henry and Gordon and Edwina
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Old 01-25-2021, 08:22 AM   #8
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Hamsters all have different personalities and some are more vocal than others. Some chatter and chirrup a lot - some are silent! He may have been trying to tell you something but who knows? Our Robo used to communicate with hard looks. Eg he would sit and look hard at you - then look at his shelf, then back at you then back at the shelf. Clever ! It alerted me that his ladder had fallen down and he couldn’t get up to the shelf.

Chirruping can also be if they are happy (or just had a nice treat) or angry even. They can do this kind of vibrating thing and no-one knows what that means. You just need to observe the circumstances at the time. Our Syrian did it once after I dropped him (not very far). Others havd said it’s when they’re happy. But it’s a kind of communication. Usually if something is right or wrong!

Can you remember the circumstances when he was chirruping.

Robos are supposed to live longer than other species though - 3 to 5 years. But any hamster can get sick for unknown reasons. I had also expected our Robo to live longer but he was an accidental litter from a sibling mating so maybe didn’t have the best genetic make up.

The National Hamster council lists all
The northern official breeders . There aren’t that many and it is probably quite quiet right now with Covid. In normal times the best way to get one from a breeder is to go to one of the many hamster shows around the country where breeders can sell hamsters they have bred but are not keeping for show stock or breeding. Yes there are hamster shows! Great isn’t it?

Another way is to adopt a hamster from a rescue - Austins Hamster Haven in Doncaster is a hamster rescue. They have a Facebook page. They often have litters of babies as well as adult hamsters. But with this pandemic nothing is working as it should.

I completely understand the concerns during pregnancy- Better safe than sorry. I think it is very low risk with a hamster but completely under the worry. I saw a similar concern from a pregnant guinea pig owner but she was overwhelmingly reassured that many guinea pig owners have had umpteen pregnancies and no issues. The real risk is from wild mice etc. If you don’t get mice then your hamster won’t get it. Good point that testing isn’t possible for hamsters - but from what I’ve read of a hamster gets it they would be very sick with multiple symptoms so you would know about it.

Syrians are generally very healthy throughout. There is the odd sad case of a young death but they to live into old age abd are resilient. Their only risk is wet tail either from excessive stress or from a diseased pet shop.

But although it is very low risk your concern is natural and technically it could be transmitted in a pet store. But I have never known of any hamster getting LCMV in the five years I have been on here x

When is the baby due? Yes a new pet at the same time could be a handful but then hamsters are fairly easy once they have the right cage set up.

I really struggled with the grief after our first Syrian died - abd I had a bad experience at the vets. But found some help. I’ll link it. The Blue cross do a Brilliant pet bereavement counselling service by email and the article in the link is very good too. Explains all your feelings right now x

Pet loss - where to find help, tips and comfort on the loss of a pet.
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Old 02-10-2021, 01:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Dear Ria P and Serendipity7000,

Thank you so much for your last messages. I read them several times when I needed it, but I needed some time away from it all to grieve. I feel better now.

We buried Bruce on Monday 2 weeks ago in a nice place, and we just put his cage away this week-end. We also sold his previous spare cage (which we were doing anyway) to someone who needs it for their new little hammy. I have stopped looking at the pictures from his last days, I am in a better place now where I try to choose and trust that he was a happy little hamster and that we cannot understand everything that happens, can we? And that it's not fair to laser-focus on just the last days when he spent many months with us, even if it wasn't a full year.

We also have decided not to take another hammy until after baby is here (baby is due early May!) because it would be more anxiety and stress and kind of unfair for the hammy, so since it happened this way, we'll go with the pause which seems simplest and more wise. We thought about it a lot. We went to the pet store and saw a few hammys there - one exactly like Bruce - and it warmed my heart to see them so happy and alive. We will definitely have another one when the time is right.

Yes - it was LMCV that I was referring to. In retrospect I think we were more worried about the anxiety of the risk itself, rather than any real belief that this was likely to happen. In pregnancy there are so many worries that come up, it was just one too many. I also reached out to my midwife about it then, who did some research for me when I was unable, and she read something somewhere about a study (they are very rare though) reporting something like only 46 cases in hamsters over 40 years in one country - I didn't have that number at the time, and it helped put things in perspective.

Ria P I appreciate your suggestions on the mite treatments and on the sandbaths which we will definitely try next time! And you calming words, thank you.

Serendipity, for the chirping it was really puzzling us, as he started suddenly to do it constantly for a few weeks, while running, walking, feeding, playing with us, and didn't seem unwell, so we thought this was just his new thing. It reduced in the last week so we ruled out pain, you know. In any case there was nothing we did that would change his chirping, again making us think he was not in pain. I guess we will never know what teh chirping meant.

I am really pleased that you have pointed out Austins Hamster Haven in Doncaster, I think in the meantime supporting them with donations through their wishlist would be a great idea!

And thank you for the link. If anything, it helped me put my pain in perspective - at least we didn't have to take responsibility to put him down, he left when he needed to.

For sure he will always stay in our hearts and put a smile on our face just thinking of him, just like our little Myles did before him.

I'll probably be back on the forum in a few months, or whenever we get a new hammy, for advice and plenty questions and sharing cute pics!

Take care and thanks again to all who commented on my threads about little Bruce <3
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Old 02-10-2021, 03:33 PM   #10
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Default Re: Can you help us understand what happened please - our little robo died this morni

Time helps x You have an exciting thing to come in May so focus on that and do keep coming on here now and then.
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