Seeing your hamster looking lifeless can easily put you in panic mode. But before you overreact, first things first. Knowing how to check a hamsters heartbeat can make a big difference between letting your hamster continue to hibernate or burying him because you assume he is already dead.
Why Learn How to Check a Hamsters Heartbeat
When you have a hamster for a pet, you need to be knowledgeable and perceptive when it comes to the natural habits of these animals. This means you should be able to tell if your animal is about to hibernate.
You also need to be familiar with what the signs of their current or impending hibernation look like, especially because some hamster breeds are not suitable for the cold and might even die if they go into hibernation.
Take note that it is completely natural for a hamster to start hibernating once the season turns cold. However, the issue here is that there are people who have no idea how to tell if their small pet is sick, hibernating, or dead.
This is why you must know how to check the heartbeat of your hamster.
How Do You Check a Hamster’s Heartbeat?
The heartbeat is one of the signs of life that you need to check and watch out for if you suspect that your pet is hibernating. A beating heart is always the best way to know that your small pet is still alive and is only in a suspended state of hibernation.
However, the issue here is that telling if your hamster got a heartbeat might not be easy considering the small size of these furballs.
To help you check your hamster’s heartbeat, all you have to do is put your thumb and forefinger on the sides of the animal’s chest. Apply some pressure but make sure it is not too much. If you do this, your hamster’s heart will start to beat in about one minute after you apply slight pressure to the chest.
However, you have to be extra careful to avoid applying excessive pressure because it may cause internal injuries to your pet.
Symptoms of Hibernation in Hamsters
Extremely cold temperatures can affect domesticated hamsters which makes them fall into hibernation. When a hamster is hibernating, the animal experiences a dormant state wherein the normal functions of its body are suppressed.
To help you identify if you have a hibernating hamster in your care, you will need to keep a close eye on his overall appearance, body temperature, breathing, and responsiveness.
The body temperature of a hibernating hamster will plunge together with his breathing rate and heartbeat as he begins entering his deep sleep and also while maintaining it. Your hamster will also feel extremely cold to the touch.
The parts of his body with less fur such as the nose, ears, and paws will also feel particularly rigid while his body gets ready to preserve energy throughout the cold months of winter.
Right before hamsters prepare to go into hibernation, they will start consuming bigger amounts of food than they normally do. Hamsters do this for their body to be able to survive on their excess fat after they fall into their deep slumber. Since your little animal can start hibernating in just a matter of hours, going into a deep slumber after enjoying a hearty meal may mean that the cycle will start soon enough.
Probably one of the easiest ways to distinguish between a hamster that has already died and one that is only hibernating is to pick up the animal and keep a close eye on his limbs. When your hamster is hibernating, his body will look lifeless staying totally limp even if you try manipulating him.
On the other hand, the body of a hamster would become entirely stiff, specifically the limbs, if the animal already passed away and rigor mortis already set in.
When a hamster is hibernating, your pet will exhibit a notable decrease in all his vital signs. At a quick glance, your hamster will also look like he has died. The breathing will also be almost indiscernible.
But if you actually examine your pet closely, you will notice some evidence of quite slow breathing in your hibernating hamster. It might even include minor twitching of the whiskers, something which is a telltale sign that your pet is still well and alive.
How Long Do Hamsters Hibernate?
Hibernation in hamsters can last anywhere from several weeks up to a few months. This depends on where you live and how cold the outside temperatures get.
If you are living in a place that experiences very mild winters or if your house maintains a warm temperature throughout the cold time of the year, you can expect your hamster to just sleep for a maximum of two weeks.
Conversely, if you are living in a region that gets cold or below freezing temperatures, and your hamster is staying in a cold part of your house, such as an unheated basement, the hibernation of your small animal may last for up to 4 months.
It only goes to show that there are a lot of different factors that may affect how long or how short the period of hibernation of an individual hamster may be.
It is important to remember that deep sleep and hibernation are two completely different things. Hamsters that are in deep sleep might run around in their bedding, twitch, and make some noises because, at this point, the animals are dreaming.
On the other hand, a hamster in hibernation doesn’t make any sound or movement. The chest of the hamster will hardly rise up and down while he breathes. It will also be difficult to tell if the hamster is even breathing in the first place.
Make sure that your hamster doesn’t get too cold in winter since he will need his energy stores so that he can survive the chilly season and wake up from hibernation safely.