As a responsible hamster owner you know you should provide your hamster fresh water every single day. Even if your hamster has a water bottle in his cage that holds enough water to last for several days, he can become dehydrated if the bottle leaks or malfunctions, which is common. Freshen your hamster's water supply every day. It's the best way to ensure he's hydrated.
Supplying Your Hamster With Water
Your hamster has to have water easily accessible to him within his living environment. Most owners supply their hamster with a vacuum-action inverted water bottle that releases water only when your hamster actively drinks from it. You can place water in a bowl within the cage, too; some hamster advocates recommend having both a bottle and a bowl. Water bottles and bowls both need to be checked and refilled every day, even if they are not completely empty. Checking your hamster's water every day will make it easier for you to notice when something goes wrong, like a leaking water bottle or a tipped or contaminated water bowl. If your hamster is not drinking you will need to take him to the veterinarian. The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals says hamsters should drink about 10 milliliters of water for every 100 grams of body weight.
Your hamster is quite vulnerable to dehydration and will not survive for more than a day or two without water. Hamsters can become significantly dehydrated after just a few hours of moderate to heavy activity if you do not provide an ample supply of easily accessible water in their living enclosure. The risk of dehydration is one of the primary reasons hamster owners are told not to leave hamsters in exercise balls for longer than 20 to 30 minutes.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration can turn fatal quickly if the situation is not remedied; often when a hamster becomes ill, he doesn't get enough fluids -- the dehydration, not the illness, kills him. Symptoms of dehydration in hamsters include sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes, lethargy, weakness, loose skin and labored breathing. If your hamster suffers from diarrhea he is likely to become dehydrated due to the loss of fluids. A quick way to get an idea whether your hamster is dehydrated is to lightly pinch the loose skin at the scruff of his neck. When you release the skin it should immediately go back to the way it was before you pinched it. If it takes the skin a moment to recover, staying in a tented position, your hamster is dehydrated.
Rehydrating Your Hamster
If your hamster is mildly dehydrated because he ran out of water for a couple of hours, you should be able to take care of the problem by refilling his water and allowing him to drink as much as he pleases. If you believe your hamster is seriously dehydrated or you do not know how long he has been without water, you need to take him to your veterinarian. Your vet can administer intravenous fluids to rehydrate him. Your veterinarian may provide your hamster with salt and mineral supplements along with fluids in order to help restore him to good condition.
Do Not Wash Your Hamster
Hamsters do not bathe in water; you should not attempt to wash your hamster with water. A wet hamster is at risk for catching a cold, and a hamster with a cold can be dead in short order. Hamsters groom themselves using their paws and saliva. Let them do their own cleaning. If your hamster gets something on himself he can't get off, consult your vet.
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