We never want to think of our pets getting sick, especially if they become unwell from something we passed on to them. The best way to protect them is to find out if something that affects humans can also affect our furry friends. Not only is there evidence to suggest that hamsters can get COVID-19, but a study also suggests that hamsters can pass it on to humans.1
In this article, we’ll examine those claims and what to do if you suspect your hamster has contracted COVID-19.
The CDC defines coronaviruses as “a large family of viruses” with varying effects, such as cold-like symptoms in humans or illness in animals.2 Some infect only animals, but others can be spread from animals to humans and then spread further from person to person. Transmission from people to animals is considered to be rare but it unfortunately is what happened when animals became infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the strain of coronavirus responsible for COVID-19).
SARS-CoV-2 was documented worldwide, and many animal species were infected when they came into contact with someone with COVID-19. It isn’t known yet how many different animals can be infected with COVID-19, but so far, there have been reports that have included:
- Animals in sanctuaries, zoos, and farms, such as big cats like snow leopards, tigers, and lions. Otters, manatees, non-human primates, hippopotamuses, mink (on mink farms), and hyenas.
- Companion animals such as dogs, cats, ferrets, and hamsters.
- Wildlife like mule deer, giant anteaters, white-tailed deer, wild mink (found near to mink farms), and black-tailed marmosets.
It has been reported that hamsters were the likely source of the Delta variant in Hong Kong.3 Research at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) found that a COVID-19 outbreak in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong is likely to have originated from hamsters in a pet shop. In 2022, more than 2,000 hamsters were culled when a staff member and a customer contracted the disease. There was at least one human-human transmission of the virus after that, meaning the virus was still able to replicate and transmit between people even though it was contracted from a hamster.
Samples were taken from animals at the pet shop, including chinchillas and rabbits, but traces of COVID-19 were only found in the Syrian hamsters. While we aren’t certain of all the symptoms that hamsters present with, we know that they need a much smaller viral dose than humans to become infected, and that they show signs of pneumonia and weight loss. A study found that Roborobski dwarf hamsters are the most highly susceptible to the virus and show similar signs to humans with severe disease such as micro-blood clots and pneumonia.4
How to Keep You and Your Hamster Safe
If you suspect you have come into contact with COVID-19 or have tested positive, there are precautions you can take to ensure you keep your hamster safe. These precautions will also work if you suspect your hamster is unwell.
There isn’t any evidence to suggest washing your pet will control the spread of COVID-19 and bathing a hamster can be extremely stressful for them. If you and your veterinarian deem it absolutely necessary, use a hamster-friendly shampoo and be careful around their eyes and mouth.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Hamster Has Covid
If you’re concerned about your hamster, contact your vet, and they can decide if they need any treatment. If you have COVID-19, ensure you contact your vet by phone first and let them know the situation.
If you have other pets, ensure your hamster is isolated from them to avoid passing on the virus. Keep up with your hand-washing routines, keep their bedding clean, and keep their food and water fresh.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Your Hamster Need to Be Vaccinated Against Covid?
There have been reports of COVID-19 vaccines being developed for animals. Unfortunately, they aren’t readily available. It’s also unclear how effective they will be in stopping the spread of the virus. Instead, it’s recommended that you are thorough with your hygiene routine.
Which Signs Indicate Your Hamster Has Covid?
As mentioned, we aren’t certain about all the symptoms hamsters can get. However, some owners reported that their hamsters have displayed cold-like symptoms. If your hamster has ever had a cold, you might be familiar with some of these signs. Pets that are sick with COVID-19 may show signs that include:
What Should You Do if Your Hamster Isn’t Getting Better?
Keep track of your hamster’s signs while you’re isolating, and if you notice any new ones, contact your vet. They can provide the best course of action for caring for them.
Hamsters can get COVID-19, and they can also spread it to humans. If you are concerned about your hamster’s health, phone your vet for advice, and don’t show up in person. Follow your vet’s advice about how to care for your hamster, and if you notice additional worrying signs, contact your vet again.
If you suspect you have COVID-19, take precautions when caring for your hamster, and if someone else in the house can take care of them while you’re recovering, ask them to do so.
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