As our little furry hammy friends get older they develop various ageing symptoms, just like humans. They can get toothache, arthritic jaw or arthritic back legs and various other issues. One of the most common things is noticing they are drinking and peeing more. This is very common as their kidneys start to be less efficient in old age. Also if they get toothache, or jaw ache, they may avoid chewing hard food and their front teeth get too long. Providing they have always had a hard chew stick this is less likely to happen in old age. One of the first signs of that is the hamster losing weight usually, but you may also notice them struggling to get a larger food item in their mouths. This needs to be kept an eye on as can be quite serious - if their bottom teeth get too long they can't even open their mouths and the teeth can actually start growing into the roof of their mouth - it's as if having their mouth clamped shut. A good way to observe if a hamster's teeth are looking ok is to wait for them to yawn. But if you see they are struggling to get food in their mouths then a vet check and tooth trim could be needed.


At one time vets used to just clip the teeth but protocol these days is, instead, to give the hamster a slight whiff of anaesthetic gas and use a burr to burr them down. This, I believe, is partly to avoid upset to the hamster, but also to protect the teeth themselves - clipping can have it's risks (eg a tooth splitting).

Throughout their lives they always need chew sticks and hard food via a hamster mix, to help keep their teeth in trim. Their bottom teeth constantly grow (because they are rodents) but gnawing hard food keeps their teeth down.

Hamsters do lose a bit of weight naturally when they get older and leaner anyway, so supplementing their diet can help them keep weight on and keep healthy. If you notice a sudden loss of weight though or them seeming particularly thin - check their teeth. If a hamster starts to have tooth problems, it's a time to introduce soft food so they are able to eat and still get the correct nutrition. But always put out their hard hamster mix as well. Even if they can't eat it properly any more, they still like to keep their normal habits of pouching and hoarding their hamster mix (and may chew a little bit of the odd thing in the privacy of their nest).

Even if a hamster has their teeth trimmed at the vets, they can still have toothache in their back teeth, or jaw pain, so fixing the over long front teeth doesn't necessarily mean they can still manage their hard food in old age. Old age is anything from 18 months, but with Syrians the old age symptoms tend to appear around the age 2 mark.

Soft foods

For softened food extras there are a number of things that are good and they can enjoy. The first thing is an all in one hamster mix like Science Selective pellets - three or four of these soaked with a bit of water and left for 10 minutes so they go soft and mushy (in addition to their usual hamster mix). Hamsters seem to really love Science selective - it must smell nice to hamsters - it has a kind of yeasty or gravy smell. It means they will get all their nutrients from this, even if they eat very little of their regular mix.

Also baby food - on a teaspoon maybe - or you can use the baby food jar lids as an extra little dish for the baby food and soaked science selective. With baby food you need to choose carefully that the ingredients are suitable for hamsters. Usually the 4 months age baby foods are the safest. Avoid things that contain tomato, spices, garlic or lemon juice. Pumpkin and chicken or sweet squash and chicken goes down well (Cow and Gate, and Hipp brands). There is a list on the forum HERE

They can also enjoy a bit of scrambled egg or porridge on a teaspoon. It all makes their old age more enjoyable as well. You make these without milk. Hamsters don't process dairy food well and it's not good for their digestive system. However, the odd tiny piece of hard cheese as a treat is ok.

For the scrambled egg you just whisk an egg in a mug with a bit of water, then cook it in the microwave. Check it every 10 seconds and scramble it with a fork as it doesn't take long to cook such a small amount. And let it cool obviously.

For porridge it's the same - some porridge oats (oatmeal) with a bit of water and microwave it, checking every 10 seconds. And leave to cool again. Don't have it too thick and sticky - runnier is better.

For a simple and easy porridge mix Ella's Kitchen do an instant raspberry and strawberry baby porridge. Hamsters go potty for it! It is more like readybrek to make up so easier to just use a teaspoonful and some water. A packet lasts for a very long time and keeps well. This may not be a good option for hybrid dwarf hamsters who are prone to diabetes. Plain porridge may be better for them.

For an older hamster needing softened food, a good daily routine is:

1) Usual hamster mix in their usual bowl
2) A bit of baby food on a separate little dish (eg jar lid or teaspoon)
3) A bit of science selective, soaked on a separate little dish or jar lid
4) Another little jar lid with a pinch of linseeds and a pinch of hemp seeds

The linseeds keep their skin and coat in amazing condition (and help their eyes too) - hamsters like them and just lick them up. The hemp seeds are generally healthy, helpful in keeping weight on and are supposed to contain all vitamins and minerals, so a healthy extra. Giving hemp seeds is a more natural option than adding vitamins. Adding vitamins to water is not recommended as it can put the hamster off drinking - and they need water daily. They don't need added vitamins when older if they have the Science Selective and hemp seeds.

In between this, the occasional bit of porridge or scrambled egg (perhaps at a different time of day or as a treat).

Linseeds and hemp seeds are inexpensive to buy and a bag will last a very long time. You can get them at health food shops or online. Porridge oats aren't expensive either. Baby food can start to get a bit expensive but it is usually only for a few months of a hamster's life. The jars only last a two or three days in the fridge once opened, so the rest goes to waste. Some people freeze the contents in smaller amounts in ice cube trays - but check the label as some of these baby foods are not suitable for freezing.

Weight loss

If an older hamster has had weight loss then a good way to build them up with high calorie foods is - the hemp seeds daily, mentioned above, plus half a shelled nut as a treat 2 or 3 times a week. Pecan nuts are high in calories and have high fats (but they are healthy fats so ok), brazil nuts also (and Brazil nuts also contain something that boosts the immune system). Half a shelled walnut is usually very popular. Or half a cashew nut (all plain nuts, no salt).

If the hamster has teeth problems and can't manage nuts then you can buy milled nuts by Linwoods at a health food shop (who also sell linseeds and hemp seeds) - a pinch of these on a separate dish can just be licked up too. Or you can just crush the nuts yourself (between two teaspoons - one nestled in the other) down to virtually a powder or tiny grains.

As you can tell - this sounds like a few little dishes in the cage! In addition to the usual food bowl. You may have one for baby food, one for the pinches of seeds - 3 tiny piles in separate areas of the lid - linseeds, hemp seeds and milled nuts and one for the softened Science Selective. The amount of baby food shouldn't be too much - about a rounded teaspoonful. If the hamster is on Metacam (pain relief) this can be dropped onto the baby food. Another reason to only give a small amount of baby food, so they eat it all (which they almost always do as it tastes really nice!) and get all of the medication. Although they like the taste of Metacam anyway, which is sweet, so will probably lick it off the top of the baby food first anyway.

Or you can just give the baby food just on a teaspoon - likewise the porridge or scrambled egg. They might eat some from the teaspoon, then if you leave it in the cage they come back for more later or during the night.

Warning! Hamsters can steal teaspoons! This has happened to me a few times. The teaspoon disappears! Maybe because it's associated with food but it can sometimes be found dragged into a house or buried at the bottom of the cage. It's no big deal - providing you have enough teaspoons - it gets found sooner or later. Even our tiny robo managed to drag a teaspoon and bury it at the bottom of his cage!


As hamsters get older, their nails can also get overgrown. Throughout their lives, they need their nails roughening, via activity (and having a stone or granite tile or a teraccotta plant pot base under the water bottle or food bowl can help keep their nails in trim throughout their lives), but as they get older and less active, there is less wear on their nails and they can get too long or even start to curl over. This needs keeping an eye on as if their nails are like this they can't grip on things properly to climb (so it's somewhat disabling) and they could also scratch their skin or injure an eye when grooming. Nail trimming is a topic all on its own (see tips on the forum), but if it's something you haven't done before it can be a good idea to have a vet do it the first time and show you how (it's important not to cut the quick of the nail which can be very painful and also cause bleeding) - so it is just the very very tip of the nail, even if it doesn't shorten the nail much. For long nails they may need a tiny bit snipping off regularly to get them down to a better size - the quick will be longer in a longer nail but will reduce with the size of the nail gradually.


Hamsters can get eye problems at any age but particularly in old age. Commonly they can get a sticky eye and wake up with one eye stuck closed. It's not very nice for them so you can just gently bathe it to free it up. When bathing it don't get the hamster all wet (or they could get a chill). Something like the corner of a soft microfibre cloth, or a cotton bud, dipped in tepid saline and wrung out (so it's only just damp) can gently dab the eye until it begins to unstick. The hamster may not like this much, but will usually tolerate it, and afterwards they always seem much happier that it's resolved. To make the saline, dissolve a teaspoonful of salt in a pint of boiled water. Wait until the water is cooled until only just slightly warmer than cold.

Other than sticky eyes - other eye conditions are almost always serious or an emergency. If an eye is protruding, it could be very painful for the hamster and there could be something pushing it out (either infection or a tumour). This will always need a vet visit. It's unlikely that surgery will be an option in an older hamster but the eye can be assessed and often Metacam/pain relief will be enough to help them live out their lives. If it becomes worse (eg if there's a tumour) Metacam may not be enough and then there is the difficult decision to possibly help them on their way - but this is a matter to be discussed with a vet and weigh things up. Some hamsters can get cataracts or go blind. There is usually no treatment for this and the hamster can manage perfectly well - but minimising clean outs so they can find their way round by scent trails can help them and it's best not to change things or move them in the cage so they know where things are.

Infections, Digestion and giving medication

Hamsters can get infections at any age, but in older age they may not tolerate the baytril antibiotic so well and start to look a bit drawn or unkempt while on the antibiotic. Antibiotics can also cause digestive issues for hamsters - so if the course is more than a couple of weeks it can be a good idea to give them probiotics at the same time (but a different time of day) or after the course. This isn't usually necessary for a standard week's course. They usually start to look more themselves once the course is finished.

Baytril tastes very bad. It is rare the hamster will take it from a syringe and baby food (and most foods) won't disguise it. It's also important that the hamster gets the full dose each time to effectively fight the infection and avoid the infection worsening (as the bugs fight back against the antibiotic).

Older hamsters can also be quite frail and don't need the additional stress of being held still to try and give them meds (scruffing isn't advised and even vets don't do it any more usually) as it can damage their eyes if not done properly. So there are a number of ways to get baytril into a hamster without causing them a lot of stress or difficult handling when they are feeling frail.

One way is to draw up a bit of ribena or runny honey into the syringe with the baytril. A hamster will sometimes lick the medicine from the syringe if this is done as it makes it sweet tasting. Some hamsters won't take anything from a syringe at all and will push it away.

Some people just swaddle the hamster in a blanket to hold them, and squirt the medicine in the side of their mouth to make sure they get the dose. This partly depends on the hamster and their condition - again it may be too stressful for them if they're frail or in pain - and there is also the risk of them inhaling the medication doing it this way unless it's done carefully and more into the pouch area. Hamsters have also been known to spit the medication out again!

A simple option is to put the baytril in food again so it's actually a treat for the hamster rather than an ordeal, but only something very strong tasting (usually meaty) will disguise it. A tiny bit of beefy dog food (Country Hunter for small dogs is very good) or even chicken cat food. Just a very tiny PEA SIZED amount (a baby food lid is useful again!). It needs to be something fairly mushy for such a small amount - the Country Hunter dog food looks a bit like corned beef. Put half the pea sized amount on the dish, drop the medicine on top then put the other half of the meaty food on top. The hamsters go crazy for it, lick the plate clean and demand more!

Basically it needs to be something strong tasting, probably meaty and something you can mush into a tiny pea sized amount.

Just to add - dog food is not something that would be good for a hamster generally - it could give too much protein on a regular basis, and not have the right ingredients - but a tiny amount for a short period for an older hamster, to give them meds and make their life more comfortable and less stressful, is fine. In fact anything they enjoy when they're older is fine - if it's not poisonous obviously. Some people have even give a tiny bit of cake as a treat to a very old hamster - things to make their life happy and enjoyable in old age (not sugary things for a hybrid dwarf though).

When giving vet prescribed medication, always check the dose carefully - on the bottle and double check with the vet if you're not sure. They are tiny amounts for hamsters and sometimes as small as 0.02 of a ml - You need to find the correct tiny marking on the syringe and not mistake it for 0.2 of a ml (which is 10 times as much). The syringe is usually a 1ml syringe with 10 markings on it. Each of those markings is 1/10th of 1ml (ie 0.1ml). Within each of those markings are 10 smaller markings. Each of those is 0.01ml. If you're not confident about it when it's prescribed, ask the vet to show you the correct marking on the syringe before you leave.

Keeping them comfortable

With older hamsters the most important thing is keeping them comfortable, avoiding stress, letting them have a nice life with plenty of enrichment in a "retirement bungalow" set up and treating any condition quickly (if treatment is suitable - if it's not then the vet may advise the pet continue on pain medication to keep them comfortable or if they are suffering and pain relief isn't working, they may recommend the hamster is helped on their way).

A cage set up for an older hamster is another topic which is covered in a separate thread on the forum.

The pleasures of old age

Although your hamster may not be young and lively in the same way any more, one of the wonderful things about owning a hamster is that we see them throughout their whole lifespan - from being a baby, to a child, to a teenager, to being in the prime at middle age and then through to the gentleness and wisdom of old age. When a hamster is older - suddenly they are older than we are - they are more patient usually, and patient with us - they seem wise and give us knowing looks now and then. Although they may be older and may have stiff back legs, their spirit is still young and an older hamster will still happily zoom around on flat level surface, like the floor. or a one level hamster cage - it's climbing they struggle with when older and it's important they can't try to climb in the cage or they could fall and injure themselves. They may waddle a bit but they can still zoom around. They still enjoy being a hamster. They still enjoy their wheel although perhaps for only short periods.

We have the privilege of seeing their whole lifespan and knowing them and caring for them throughout that time. An older hamster may also be easier to handle and sit for cuddles longer as they slow down. They may sleep a bit longer but still enjoy time out of the cage. It can be a very special and close friendship in their later years.

Credit to Vectis Hamstery for the tips regarding disguising baytril in meaty dog food.

Photo 3736587 / Read Hamster © Jerry813 | (glasses added to photo later)