My Hamster Has A Tumor – How Long Until She Dies?

hamster with a vet on the background

Spotting a suspicious-looking lump or bump on your beloved hamster pal can be frightening. All sorts of thoughts immediately start rushing through your mind as you begin to expect the worst. Hamster tumors are relatively common, and depending on the type of tumor, the prognosis may not be as dire as you imagine.

Some localized single mass tumors can be surgically removed, and a hamster may recover fully. Malignant tumors are more challenging as they spread around the body and may shorten the animal’s lifespan. Owners must work closely with their vet to determine the best way forward for the hamster.

Before we move ahead on this topic, it is important to know what a hamster tumor looks like. After all, your little hammie buddy may have any number of other skin issues which may not be very serious at all. Maybe the lump is a wart or a cyst? It could even be a little abscess that needs to be cleaned and drained, so don’t immediately expect the worst if you see a lump.

What Is Hamster Tumor?

A tumor is an abnormal growth of tissues or cells. It can occur in any part of a hamster’s body. Often, these growths are benign, meaning they only present and remain on one part of the body. Some types of benign tumors in hamsters can be successfully removed, particularly if they are on the skin.

Malignant growths, which are also considered cancerous, are tumors that start in one spot and then spread. These are more tricky to treat because, by the time you try to get one part off, the tumor may have already spread to other parts of the body.

How Will I Know If My Hamster Has A Tumor?

Unless a tumor is on your hamster’s skin, you may not be able to see it. Internal tumors can develop undetected.

Remember that a tumor is a growth that can develop anywhere inside the hamster’s body. Once it gets large enough, it will start pressing on nearby organs, affecting their function. Symptoms can vary and depend greatly on the location and size of the tumor.

There are a few symptoms to look out for that may be evidence that your hamster has a tumor:

  • Visible growths – Common hamster tumors that you will be able to see commonly occur on the skin and reproductive organs.
  • Pain and depression– Your previously lively hamster may hide or avoid interaction if it is in pain.
  • Hair loss
  • Eating less and weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained diarrhea – Many things may upset your tiny buddy’s digestive system, but if it has diarrhea, especially if there is any blood present, it warrants further investigation.
  • Weakness and trouble moving.

How Long Will My Hamster Live If It Has A Tumor?

Receiving confirmation from your veterinarian that your hamster has a tumor may be devastating, but it is not necessarily an immediate death sentence. Solitary tumors that are easy to reach, and some skin tumors, can be surgically removed. Your hammie may be back to its lively self sooner than you expect.

Internal tumors can be tricky to manage on such tiny animals. The best thing that a hammie parent can do is work closely with their veterinarian to keep the little patient comfortable and pain-free for as long as possible.

Keep in mind that hamsters have relatively short life spans. So as long as your hammie is kept comfortable and receiving treatment, it may live to its full life expectancy even if it has a tumor.

Aggressively treating a tumor on an elderly hamster patient may do little to extend its lifespan. Unfortunately, these little pets just don’t live as long as most other animals, no matter how much we want them to.

Can Hamster Tumors Be Treated?

Tumors are tricky because there are no one-size-fits-all treatments. The first step in any treatment plan is determining whether the tumor is benign or malignant and understanding its exact location and size. 

Solitary tumors that aren’t too big can sometimes be successfully removed.

Several treatment options for malignant tumors are available, including chemotherapy or radiation, but these treatments are costly, and recovery times are lengthy. There is also no guarantee that the tumor won’t grow back.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Hamster Survive A Tumor?

Benign tumors in easy-to-reach places can be surgically removed, and some hamsters make a full recovery. These contained growths may also be entirely survivable even if they are internal, so long as they do not interfere with any organ functions.

A 2021 study done in Germany showed that some hamsters that had skin tumors removed were still alive 672 days post-surgery when data was collected. While it depended greatly on the type of tumor, the data is encouraging and indicates that many tumors can be successfully removed.

A malignant tumor is more likely to shorten a hamster’s lifespan. These are generally difficult to remove entirely and continue to grow and spread. Treatment is often more about managing pain and making the best decision for your hamster based on its quality of life.

A determining factor when determining how successful tumor treatment is likely to be is how large it is and how early it was detected. It is essential that hamster owners have all suspicious lumps, bumps, and symptoms associated with tumors checked out as soon as they are spotted.

Are Tumors Common In Hamsters?

Unfortunately, there are some types of tumors that frequently affect hamsters. Commonly affected areas are adrenal glands, digestive tract, kidneys, reproductive organs, and skin. Dwarf hamsters are more predisposed to develop tumors than Syrian hamsters.

According to MSD Veterinary Manual, malignant tumors only occur in a relatively small percentage of hamsters. This is excellent news for hamster parents as benign tumors are far more survivable.

How Do I Know If My Hamster Has A Tumor?

You may not spot a tumor unless it is on your hamster’s skin or already very enlarged internally. External lumps could simply be fatty deposits or abscesses, so the animal must be taken to a veterinarian for examination as soon as any problem is suspected. Early diagnosis is key to successful treatment.

Signs of internal tumors include changes in diet, behavior, or ability to move about comfortably. You may notice hair loss, or the hamster may hide or squeak more than usual due to pain. Diarrhea in hamsters is always serious and must be checked out, especially if flecked with blood.

To confirm whether a hamster tumor is malignant or benign, a veterinarian needs to examine a sample of cells from the mass. This is done using a process called fine-needle aspiration, which involves inserting a tiny needle to collect cells from the tumor. The collected tumor cells are then examined under a microscope.

Biopsies are procedures done under anesthesia. It involves larger bits of the tumor being removed or even the entire thing. The sample is then sent away for laboratory analysis to determine if the growth is malignant. Even if the whole tumor is surgically removed, malignant tumors typically leave finger-like sections of the growth in other parts.

What Happens When Hamsters Have Tumors?

Once a veterinarian has confirmed the presence of a tumor and indicated what type of growth it is, a treatment plan will be formulated. If the tumor is indeed malignant or affecting the hamster’s quality of life, gentle euthanasia may be the kindest (even though it can be heartbreaking for you) option for the little animal.

It is possible to remove some localized benign tumors successfully. If a hamster has a benign tumor that is not causing too much trouble, treatment may also involve close monitoring, addressing the symptoms, and ensuring that your hamster stays comfortable.

Hamster owners need to be guided by their veterinarians regarding treatment options. While there are ways to treat even malignant tumors, keep the costs, hammie’s quality of life, and recovery time in mind.

Why Has My Hamster Got A Lump On His Bum?

If your hamster has a lump on its bum that shouldn’t be there (remember, male hamsters have testicles!), it must be checked out by a veterinarian immediately. Possible diagnoses may include infections, an abscess, a cyst, or a tumor.

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