Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast And Heavily? – 5 Common Reasons

As a responsible pet owner, it is important to understand your hamster’s behavior. This includes recognizing changes in the creature’s demeanor and understanding why those changes are happening, such as breathing heavily either in the wake or in sleep. 

So why is my hamster breathing fast and heavily? The common causes of breathing fast and heavily include overheating, respiratory infections, allergies, tumors, and stress. It’s important to take your hamster to the vet if you notice any signs of rapid or heavy breathing.

Ensuring that your hamster is healthy should be a priority. Read on to learn more about the five common reasons your hamster may be breathing fast and heavily.

Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast And Heavily? 

If your hamster is breathing fast and heavily, it could be a sign of illness or overheating. Here are 5 common reasons why your hamster may be breathing rapidly.

Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast

1. Overheating

When your hamster’s cage temperature is too high, it can cause rapid breathing and panting. This can be a sign of dehydration and overheating. So it’s important to ensure your pet has plenty of fresh water available at all times.

Be mindful of outside heat sources, such as direct sun or hot surfaces, that could be causing your hamster to overheat. 

2. Respiratory Infections

Hamsters can get respiratory infections, leading to pneumonia if left untreated. Runny eyes, sneezing, wheezing, and heavy breathing are all common signs of respiratory infection in hamsters and should be taken seriously if you notice these symptoms in your pet.

Hamster Respiratory Infections

It’s best to take your hamster to the vet for diagnosis and treatment if you suspect it may have an infection so it doesn’t become more severe.

3. Tumors

Rapid breathing in hamsters can signify illness, such as tumors or other medical conditions like cardiac disease or anemia. 

If you notice any changes in behavior from your pet, such as lethargy or difficulty breathing, take it to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment options so they can get better soon.

4. Allergies

Allergies and environmental irritants like dust mites can cause inflammation of hamsters’ airways, leading to rapid breathing due to difficulty getting enough oxygen into their bodies.

Common signs include coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and difficulty moving around due to lack of oxygen absorption. 

If allergies are suspected, contact your vet for advice on antihistamines or steroids.

5. Stress

Stressful situations such as loud noises or sudden environmental changes can cause rapid breathing due to fear and anxiety in hamsters. 

Hamster Stress

Ensure the environment is quiet with no potential stressors. Stressors can include loud music or other pets nearby that could be causing distress for them.

Does The Breathing Of Hamsters Become Heavier When They Sleep?

Yes, hamsters breathe more deeply when they’re asleep. This is because the breathing rate tends to be slower as more air is taken in each breath. It’s common for hamsters to breathe fast while sleeping, which can be normal depending on their position and conditions.

However, if your hamster is breathing rapidly or gasping for air in sleep, these could be signs of a more severe respiratory illness such as pneumonia.

Does The Breathing Of Hamsters Become Heavier

If you notice that your hamster is making weird breathing noises or snoring, it could mean he had a hard day on the wheel and is exhausted. 

So, if you’re concerned about your hamster’s health, it’s best to take him to a vet for an examination.

It’s important to ensure that your hamster has plenty of fresh water and food available. Additionally, please provide them with a comfortable environment with plenty of space to move around and play to keep them healthy and happy.

What Are The Other Symptoms Of A Sick Hamster Apart From Heavy Breathing?

You may notice other symptoms besides heavy breathing if your hamster is sick. These include:

Sick Hamster Apart From Heavy Breathing
  • Loss of appetite: If your hamster is not eating its usual food, it may signify sickness.
  • Inactivity: A sick hamster may be lethargic and slow to move around.
  • Huddling in a corner: A sick hamster may huddle up in a corner as a sign of distress.
  • Ruffled or unkempt coat: Sick hamsters may have ruffled fur or an unkempt coat due to lack of grooming or underlying health issues.
  • Sneezing, wheezing and discharge from the nose or eyes: This indicates that your hamster has contracted an infection or respiratory illness.
  • Hair loss and scaly or dry skin: This can be caused by poor nutrition, allergies, hormone imbalances, parasites, or illnesses.
  • Wet tail: Wet tail is a common but serious bacterial disease in young hamsters that causes diarrhea, dehydration, and depression.
  • Abscesses such as lumps and bumps with possible redness or matted hair: Abscesses are usually caused by an infection and, if left untreated, can cause more severe health problems for your hamster.

First Aid For A Hamster With Heavy Breathing

If you notice your hamster breathing heavily and quickly, it is important to take action immediately. Here are some first-aid measures to take when your hamster is breathing fast and heavily:

First Aid For A Hamster With Heavy Breathing

Check The Temperature Of The Room Or Cage

If it is too hot, move your hamster to a cooler area and provide extra ventilation if necessary. You can also place ice packs around the hamster to help cool it down.

Offer Your Hamster Food And Water

Dehydration can worsen respiratory illnesses. Use a water dropper if necessary to ensure that your hamster stays hydrated.

Monitor Your Hamster’s Behavior Closely

Watch for other signs of illness, such as sneezing or discharge from the eyes or nose. If these symptoms persist or worsen, contact your veterinarian immediately for further care and treatment options.

When To See A Doctor If Hamster Is Breathing Heavy And Fast?

Generally, a normal and healthy hamster’s breathing rate is between 34 to 114 bpm. But if you observe that your furry friend’s respiration surpasses this range, it might be time to make an appointment with their doctor. Don’t wait until it gets worse.

Other signs that may indicate your hamster needs medical attention include rapid breathing accompanied by squinting eyes or other signs of discomfort such as hunched posture or labored breathing.

When To See A Doctor If Hamster Is Breathing Heavy And Fast

Additionally, if your hamster has been exposed to other animals that have been ill or have recently experienced trauma, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

If you’re interested in learning more about hamster care, you may want to read our articles on whether hamsters eat their bedding and how to bathe your hamster. Our article on whether hamsters eat their bedding explores the reasons why hamsters might do this and the potential health implications. Meanwhile, our article on how to bathe your hamster provides step-by-step instructions on how to keep your hamster clean and healthy.


Below are some common questions related to hamsters and heavy breathing.

Q: Do Hamsters Need To Go To The Vet?

Yes, it is important for all pets, including hamsters, to visit the vet regularly for check-ups and vaccinations. This will help make sure they stay healthy and happy.

Q: What Should I Do If My Hamster Has Respiratory Symptoms?

If your hamster shows respiratory illness, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet can provide the best course of action and treatment plan. In the meantime, keep your hamster in a warm and clean environment and provide plenty of water.

Q: How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Sick?

Signs of illness in hamsters can include loss of appetite, lethargy, labored breathing, changes in behavior, and changes in appearance. If you notice any of these signs in your pet, it is important to take them to the vet for an examination right away. They can provide the best diagnosis and treatment plan for your pet.


Understanding your hamster’s behavior is essential to provide it with proper care. If your pet is breathing fast and heavily, it could indicate a serious underlying health issue. Common causes include overheating, respiratory infections, allergies, tumors, and stress.

It’s important to take your hamster to the vet if you notice any signs of rapid or heavy breathing. This can help diagnose the underlying problem and provide your pet with the best treatment. Monitor your hamster’s behavior closely, and be sure to provide plenty of fresh water and food. 

Lisa G

Meet Lisa G, the founder and author of RodentsFact.com. With over 3 years of experience studying and observing various species of rodents. Lisa has established herself as a credible expert in the field. Her passion for these often-overlooked animals shines through in her in-depth articles and engaging writing style. Follow her blog to learn fascinating facts and gain a new appreciation for the furry creatures that share our world.

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