The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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As pet owners, we need to know how to take care of our pets properly and what to look out for if we suspect something is up with our pets. I had to take my hamster to the vet recently because it was not drinking water.
I had no idea why he stopped, and because he was so small, I didn’t want to take any chances. I asked the vet why my hamster was not drinking water.
Because hamsters are small, they can get dehydrated quickly, leading to serious health concerns. Some reasons hamsters stop drinking water are; age, sickness, an aversion to the taste of the water, the food the hamster is eating, stress, hamster torpor, and environmental changes.
It took a while, but after a vet check-up, we found out he just didn’t like the taste of our tap water. I now give him distilled water, and he is doing just fine. There are so many other reasons and concerns when your hamster stops drinking water; I thought I would share what my vet and research revealed on this matter.
Why Is My Hamster Not Drinking Water
If you notice your hamster is not drinking any water, it can cause concern. You need to closely monitor it as the day and night progress. If a hamster stops drinking water, it might be a sign of a deeper issue, or it might be a temporary thing; either way, if it stops drinking water for more than a day, you need to find out why.
They are small rodents, so they dehydrate quickly, and dehydration is extremely dangerous for a hamster. Below are some of the reasons why hamsters might stop drinking water.
1 – Hamsters’ Ages Affects Their Eating and Drinking Habits
Hamsters don’t have a very long life span (3-6 years), and when hamsters get older, their nutrition needs and attitude towards food and water change. Older hamsters are less active than younger hamsters. It has a direct effect on the amount of food and water your hamster needs as time passes.
When hamsters are young, they are highly active and have fast metabolisms that require regular food to give them the energy they need to be so active. Hamsters typically need to eat and drink water every 2 hours. The less active they are, the slower their metabolism gets, and they don’t need to eat and drink as often as a young hamster does.
Older hamsters sleep or hide most of the time and might struggle to reach the water if you use a bottle for water. Try giving both water in the bottle and water in a ceramic dish, the way they have easier access to water when they wake up.
2 – A Stable Routine and Environment Matters
Hamsters can get stressed quickly if their environment keeps changing. We all want to keep our pets happy and busy, so they don’t get bored, but too much of a change too often can negatively impact your hamster’s health.
Keeping a routine will make your hamster feel safe, but if you keep changing the layout of your hamster’s cage or buy new toys too often, it will stress your hamster out. When hamsters get stressed out, it affects their eating and drinking.
They will drink and eat less or stop altogether until things are fixed, or they can better deal with the constant change in their routine.
You need to clean the cage as often as possible but remember to put the toys, fresh bedding, food and water, and hamster wheel in the same place where you found them. Your feeding routine should also be constant with the times and amounts, not changing too much.
3 – Your Hamster Is Stressed
When hamsters are new to an owner, and they get put in a cage with other pets, are in an inappropriate cage, have underlying medical issues, or get frightened often, it could stress the hamster, and it will stop eating and drinking water. Other signs of stress also include biting and hair-pulling.
You must determine what is causing your hamster to feel anxious and remedy the situation. Once your hamster feels safe and comfortable, its drinking and eating habits should return to normal. Hamsters need to be kept away from rooms with too much traffic, which is also a stress factor.
4 – Not Drinking Water Could Indicate a Medical Issue
Hamsters not drinking water could be a sign of an underlying medical problem. Some of the medical issues that will affect your hamsters’ eating and drinking habits are:
- Wet tail: a severe condition that causes diarrhea in hamsters due to bacterial issues and stress.
- Dental problems: If your hamster has a sore in its mouth or cheek pouch or ingrown tooth, the pain could be so bad they stop eating and drinking.
- Respiratory illness: If your hamster has difficulty breathing, it will stop eating drinking
- Hibernation or Torpor: When the temperature in your hamster’s enclosure falls below 60F, your hamster will go into a mini hibernation. It’s imperative when it wakes up to get your hamster hydrated as it won’t drink on its own.
- Pain: If your hamster is in pain due to an illness or underlying sickness, it won’t drink or eat. Depending on the problem, drinking water might make the pain worse, so the hamster avoids it.
- Intestinal problems: If your hamster has a problem digesting food and water, it might be unable to drink without feeling worse, and that might cause it to stop drinking water.
5 – Food Changes Can Affect How Much Water Your Hamster Drinks
If you have recently changed the food you give your hamster, it might drink less water. It happens because fresh fruits and veggies are packed full of water, and the hamster’s body is good at absorbing water through foods. So try to cut down on the fresh food for a day, and if your hamster drinks more water, that could be the cause.
If you are giving a different brand of hamster food, your hamster will have a loose stool for a few days and won’t drink water. Diarrhea will cause electrolytes to be lost, and your hamster will be lethargic and won’t want to eat or drink water.
You can put a few drops of a sports drink in the water to replenish the electrolytes your hamster loses when it gets diarrhea.
How Much Water Does My Hamster Need?
It’s essential to know how much water a hamster needs in a day. The amount of water your hamster needs might differ depending on what type of hamster you have, your hamster’s age, and if it’s pregnant. The average amount of water most hamsters need to survive is 25 ml a day.
You will also notice the difference in the amount of water your hamster drinks per day when weather conditions change; hamsters will drink more water during the hot summer days than in winter. The level of activity is also a factor. If your hamster is young and very active, it will drink more than an older, less active hamster.
Using a bottle with level markings, you can check if your hamster gets the total amount of water it needs per day. If you don’t see the level dropping in a 24h period, your hamster might be dehydrated, and you need to keep a close eye on it.
How Long Can My Hamster Go Without Drinking Water?
Hamsters get dehydrated very quickly, and if you realize it too late, your hamster could become very sick. Hamsters start to dehydrate within 24 hours of not drinking water. After 48 hours without water, your hamster will become sick.
Hamsters can only last around three days without water before dehydration is deadly. So if you notice your hamster isn’t drinking water, you need to consult a vet as soon as you can.
What Can I Do to Ensure My Hamster Drinks Water?
If you have noticed your hamster is not drinking water, there are a few tips that will help you ensure your hamster drinks water:
- Cut back on the fresh fruit and veggies for a day and give more dry pellets. The pellets make your hamster thirsty, and it will encourage it to drink more water.
- You can put different bottles at different heights and one ceramic bowl in the cage; sometimes, the hamster has difficulty reaching the bottle to get a drink.
- You can put a drop of honey on the bottle tip to encourage your hamster to drink more water, not too much or too often; you don’t want your hamster to become a diabetic. Diabetes is a common health risk in hamsters, so it’s best to go easy on the honey.
- More exercise means your hamster will drink more; create more free floor space or give your hamster bigger toys to play with. It will get more active and make it more thirsty.
- Try changing the water bottle; sometimes, the water bottle has a strange taste or smell that might put the hamster off.
- Ensure the water bottle is cleaned every day with a mild detergent and that there is fresh water available to your hamster.
- Try giving your hamster bottled water instead of tap water; he might not like the taste of tap water.
- Use an eyedropper to give your hamster a few drops of water every 60 minutes; if it doesn’t help, you need to get your hamster to the vet.
My Hamster Is Not Drinking Water From Its Water Bottle
One of the main reasons a hamster stops drinking is water bottle issues. Below are some reasons why your hamster won’t drink from a water bottle:
There Is an Obstruction
If you notice your hamster is not drinking from its water bottle, open the water bottle and check for any obstruction. Sometimes it’s not that hamsters don’t want to drink but that something is stopping them from getting to the water in the bottle.
It might not be an obstruction but a malfunctioning water bottle. Test the bottle out before putting it back in the cage. Remember, hamsters don’t use a lot of pressure when drinking, so the little ball should easily push back, releasing the water without effort, or it might be a problem for them.
Smell and Taste
Some hamsters might smell something strange; the bottle spout or water tastes funny. When hamsters don’t drink from their bottle, you might want to clean the bottle with mild detergent and water; it might have a smell that irritates your hamster. If that doesn’t work, then try giving it distilled or bottled water; some hamsters don’t like the taste of tap water (or the chemicals in it).
Your hamster Can’t Reach
Your hamster might be too old to reach up to drink water from the bottle, and you might need to place a ceramic dish with water in the enclosure instead. Hamsters are less active when they get older, and they can’t do the same things they did when they were young; they are a lot like humans in that way.
What Are Signs of Dehydration in Hamsters?
If you have noticed your hamster is not drinking water, how will you know if it’s just an off day or if your hamster is dehydrating? Here are some of the signs you need to look for:
- If you have marked the bottle and the water level has not dropped below the watermark in 24h.
- You can check your hamster’s skin; you scruff back your hamster’s hair and gently lift the skin and let go; if the skin snaps back in place immediately, your hamster is fine, but if the skin stays up and tight, your hamster is dehydrated.
- Dehydration tires out the body, so your hamster will be huddled in a corner and sleeping too much. It may also look weak and lethargic.
- Your hamster will have a flaky nose or/and feet and feel too warm to the touch.
- Your hamster might have lost weight if it gets dehydrated, and it might start shedding some fur.
Any pet not drinking water becomes a concern, but it’s worse with hamsters being so tiny. Hamsters can only survive a few days without water, so you need to find out why your hamster has stopped drinking water. If you cannot get it to drink water within 24h, you must take it to the vet.
Vets will give it fluids intravenously to get it hydrated again. You can ensure your hamster drinks more water by giving it the right kind of bottle that has levels you can keep an eye on and decrease its fruit and veggie intake (feeding more dry pellets) to encourage it to drink more water.