The Elderly Roborovski

Where did my hair go?

You have nurtured your pet Roborovski so well that it’s now nearly two years old and you’ve lived with it’s bald legs for a few months. That balding is now progressing up and over it’s rear end and you’ve gone to look everywhere on the internet only to be told it’s probably Cushings.

It isn’t.

It’s the same process your dad (and sometimes your mum) went through when their hair started falling out. It’s an unfortunate process of getting old.

Roborovski are furred all over, even their feet. Due mainly to wear and tear, the back legs go hairless first. This happens when your Robo ages to the point when it is just starting to feel a but stiff around the back end. Not stiff enough to be a condition, just old age stiff. Your bones get a bit creaky in your 40’s, and so your robo has reached his or her 40 year old equivalent. When this happens can vary from animal to animal.

You might start to notice they aren’t drinking or eating as much as they used to. This starts any time after 18 months and progressively worsens through aging. I haven’t found it to be a tooth issue, I believe it to be more of a slowing down of their metabolism and it normally accompanies a gradual slow down.

They are still quick when running! And any Robo, no matter their age, who doesn’t run away from you when you wake them in the nest may have other medical issues.

Old Man Zorin pictured aged 28 months is aging more gracefully than some!

Later, usually over two years old but sometimes later, you will notice the hair loss progressing up and over the rear end. At this point it’s probably related to a lessening of proteins in the diet that strengthen hair as they tend to eat less. However, don’t be tempted to kill the kidneys by substituting more palatable protein like wet dog food. This is all natural aging and sticking to the Robo’s normal food is fine, with more fresh greens than before. Always follow the rule that the dry food is the bulk of the diet.

About this time you might notice weight loss aswell. As long as this isn’t sudden, then it’s nothing to be concerned about. There’s probably some low grade kidney or liver functioning issues, perhaps some old age changes in thyroid function or heart function. Remember that every organ wears out in time. All you can do at this stage is keep your pet comfortable so it’s not stressed. Extra bedding for warmth is ideal.

Your Robo, between 2 years and 2 and a half, may develop a more shuffling gait at the back. Again, this is normal and although you can give meloxicam, it’s more harmful on the stomach and kidneys then it is helpful in an animal this small. You can give ready brek porridge, mixed with water and add a few drops of flax oil for joint mobility. Offer this twice a week. This is a good way to give multivitamin paste or powder too.

At this point taking out ramps, shelves, ladders etc is a good idea. Or make your ramps longer so the incline is more shallow.

Going on, your Roborovski will get more bald, more shuffly, and eat and drink so little you will wonder if they are eating and drinking at all. This is now very old age and can happen at any time from 2 years to 3 years of age, depending on the Roborovski. You now have two choices to make. You can continue what is now palliative or ,end of life’ care or you can choose to have them put to sleep. This choice is yours as long as the hamster is not suffering.

If you opt for palliative care:- You must keep a much closer eye on your Robo. Check for the development of sores or lumps. Check for any spinning activity, any signs of a stroke like leaning to one side. If they look at all like they are in pain, such as not being able to move or having to move very slowly, then it is your duty to have them put to sleep.

Grieving can be difficult and it can be isolating as some other people may not understand how you felt about your pet. If you feel alone, and you wish to talk about losing your hamster you might find it helpful to email me, join a forum such as Hamster Central, or put an obituary in the hamster journal.