Can You Get Rabies from a Hamster?


can you get rabies from a hamster

Time to read: 10 minutes 

My hamster Biscuit just bit me. Her bites don’t usually bleed, but this time my finger is bleeding. While looking at the cut on my finger a thought occurred, “can you get rabies from a hamster?” I needed to find out. 

Can you get rabies from a hamster? Yes, you can. If a hamster has rabies and bites you, you can get rabies as well. However, finding a rabid infected hamster is practically impossible. So, while you can get rabies from your hamster, chances that you will are very small.

Can you get rabies from a hamster and what is rabies precisely? 

Rabies is a viral disease which can be passed on from a with rabies infected mammal to another mammal. This means humans can get infected with rabies as well. Rabies infects the central nervous system which then can cause disease in the brain and can ultimately kill you. 

Rabies is transferred via saliva. When your hamster gets bitten, the saliva would transfer to the bloodstream via the open wound. (The skin needs to be cut). Rabies can also be transferred when an infected animal licks the wound of another animal as this is direct contact of saliva with an open wound. 

How many pets get rabies in the United States? 

Luckily pets becoming infected with rabies in the United States is not very common. This is because most pet owners vaccinate their pets and with less animals having the virus, less animals will ultimately get it.  

However, because wild animals don’t get vaccinated, they are the culprit of many infections and will cause the highest risk in transferring rabies.  

Wild animals to be aware of are foxes, bats and raccoons. 

 Fetch by Web MD says: 

“Each year, about 400 to 500 cases of rabies are reported in domestic pets like cats, dogs, and ferrets. Rabies isn’t particularly common in dogs in the United States, because it is 100% preventable with vaccination.” 

Source

How many people get rabies? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that:  

“While rabies is rare in people in the United States, with only 1-3 cases reported annually, about 55,000 Americans get post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) each year to prevent rabies infection after being bitten or scratched by an infected or suspected infected animal” 

They also say that: 

“In the United States, more than 90% of reported cases of rabies in animals occur in wildlife”. 

Source

Based on this information, the chances that you will get rabies from your hamster is very small. 

However, it’s always good to know what rabies in your hamster would look like so you can recognise this.  

Can hamsters carry rabies? 

All mammals can be infected with the rabies virus which attacks the central nervous system in the body. This means that your hamster can get rabies too.  

However, it’s very unlikely that your hamster will get rabies. Larger pets which are mammals (like cats and dogs) are more likely to get rabies, mainly from wild animals or strays. 

What are symptoms of rabies in hamster 

Rabies symptoms in hamsters would be very similar to rabies in other animals.  

Most people would know the famous frothing at the mouth associated with rabies. This would be a symptom of rabies in hamsters as well.  

But before the frothing of the mouth appears, your hamster is likely to  

  • Be withdrawn and grumpy 
  • Be aggressive and start biting everything 
  • Have a nervous ticks or irregular movement 
  • Make strange sounds 
  • Be disorientated 
  • Have paralysis especially on the back legs 
  • Be anxious (though some are very timid) 
  • Have seizures 
  • Excessive salivation 

In some hamsters infected with rabies, the symptoms might be less obvious at first. If you know your hamster’s behaviour it will be easy to spot a change in this. Know your hamster and if you suspect it to have been bitten, take it to the vet as soon as you can. 

How does a hamster get rabies? 

The only way to pass on rabies is by bite. This means that your hamster needs to be bitten by another animal which has rabies. 

So, in theory this could be another hamster. Or Guinea pig, or a dog. But for the first hamster to pass rabies on, it will have need to be bitten by a larger animal. Even the smallest dog breed will be so much bigger than a hamster that the hamster is unlikely to survive the attack. Which means that while the hamster might have contracted rabies, it won’t be able to pass it on. Even when bitten by a Guinea pig, the size difference is simply too big. 

So even if in theory a hamster would pass it on to another hamster, the first hamster to contract the rabies would be death due to the bite and rabies would die with it.  

So yes, a hamster can pass on rabies but is unlikely to contract rabies in the first place. 

This means that it’s not really something you need to be concerned about with your hammy. However, rabies is not something to ignore, as we all cross paths with pets and wild animals like rodents often. 

So, knowing the symptoms and what to do if you come across an animal with rabies is very important, both for your pet and for you. 

Can my hamster get rabies from my other pets? 

This depends on what your other pets are. Snakes for example won’t be affected by rabies at all as it’s not a mammal. Your dog, cat or any other pet that’s a mammal could be infected and pass rabies on to your hamster.  

Luckily the virus can only get passed on once symptoms show as the virus is not in the saliva before that. This means that if an animal does not show symptoms, chances are that rabies has been passed on are small. 

When any of your pets does show symptoms of rabies, extreme care needs to be taken, not just for your hamster but for you and your family too. After all humans are mammals too! 

The suspected infected animal needs to be separated and a vet should be called to check your pet. 

When your pet is bitten by another animal, it’s important to clean the wound and to talk to your vet about rabies. Bigger pets can be vaccinated against rabies, however, small pets like hamsters are not.  

How can I prevent my hamster from getting rabies? 

The most likely way for your hamster to get infected with rabies, if at all, would be if your hamster got bitten by a wild animal outside of your home. 

Raccoons, bats, squirrels and other small rodents are more likely to carry the disease. In order to keep your hamster safe, you want to make sure, it can’t escape from its cage when you aren’t around. Also make sure it can’t escape from the room when your hamster is out of the cage. Holding your hammy next to an open window for example is not a good idea.  

How does hamster pass on rabies? 

If a hamster did get rabies, it would pass it on the same way as all mammals do, which would be through a bite. Where a hamster is small, it can easily bite larger creatures, including humans without killing it, but with the possibility of passing on disease, including rabies. 

The saliva of your hamster would be the culprit and direct care of the wound, however small is always urged.  

Wash your cut with soap and water at once and as with all cuts and wounds, you’ll need to keep an eye out for signs of infection. 

What are the health implications for a human? 

Can your hamster die of rabies? 

Yes, your hamster can die of rabies. However, the chances of your hamster dying from the bite which might cause your hamster to get rabies is much more likely.  

So, it’s very important to keep your hamster safe and away from larger animals. As your hamster is so small, it will be hurt by larger animals easily, even if that animal didn’t have the intention to hurt it. 

Wild animals are likely to see your hamster as prey and it’s likely your hamster will die there and then, rather than survive and die of rabies instead. 

Is rabies dangerous 

Rabies is a dangerous disease and does kill when untreated. Luckily most of us have access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which (in the United States) is one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. This should be given to you as soon as possible when a suspected rabies infected animal has scratched (drawn blood) or bitten you. 

There is an incubation period in which the virus travels from the bite location to the brain. This could be up to 2 weeks. Once the incubation period is over, you may experience delirium, abnormal behaviour, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and insomnia. 

Once this stage is over, the chances of survival are very small.  

Can you get rabies from a scratch by an animal? 

Yes, you can, however, you won’t get rabies from a scratch alone. If the scratch is deep enough to draw blood AND is exposed to saliva of an animal with rabies, then you could get rabies. But it is very rare for anyone to contract rabies via a scratch.  

Can you get rabies from a tiny scratch? 

Yes, you can get rabies from a tiny scratch, however this is very unlikely to happen as rabies is a virus which transmits via saliva. This means that the tiny scratch needs to draw blood and then needs to be in contact with the saliva of the animal carrying rabies. So yes, you could, but it’s very unlikely. The bite from bats is smaller than tiny scratches but if the bat carries rabies, you will get infected even though the cut is no bigger than a pin prick. 

What are the signs of rabies in humans? 

Rabies is a viral disease which attacks the central nervous system which can lay dormant in your body for 1-3 months. Once symptoms start to show, here are different stages of the disease. At first you will have flu like symptoms where you might feel weak, have a headache or a fever. As the virus spreads through your body, you might also get symptoms like  

  • Confusion 
  •  Vomiting 
  • Anxiety 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Hydrophobia (a fear of water) 
  • Insomnia 
  • Delirium 

Once these symptoms appear, rabies is nearly always fatal, but it’s good to remember that hardly anyone dies of rabies anymore as you can receive postexposure prophylaxis when you seek medical care after exposure to rabies. 

Can hamsters carry rabies? 

Yes, hamsters can carry rabies. Rabies is a virus which can be passed from mammal to mammal and as hamsters are mammals, they can carry rabies. The chances that hamsters catch rabies and live to tell the tale are very small as they will need to be bitten to get rabies and the bite itself is likely to kill them. 

Do hamsters carry diseases humans can catch? 

Yes, hamsters carry diseases we humans can catch. Hamsters can carry a bacteria called salmonella and a virus called Lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Both can be dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women as they can pass it on to their unborn child. 

Is it safe to have a hamster as a pet? 

Yes, overall, it’s safe to have a hamster as a pet. If you keep your hamsters living space clean and you avoid being bitten by being calm around your hamster, then chances of any issues are very small. They are lovely and cute creatures and make excellent pets. 

Can you get sick from a hamster? 

Yes, you can get sick from a hamster. They carry a bacteria called salmonella which can give you intense bouts of sickness and can be dangerous for people with heatlh conditions as well as pregnant women who can pass it on to their unborn child. They can also carry a virus called Lymphocytic choriomeningitis which can be dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and again for pregnant women as they can pass it on to their unborn child.  And while people have died after getting ill from their hamster, there are only a handful of accounts where this has happened.

Are hamster good to have as a pet? 

Hamsters are a great pet for many as they are small and cute. They don’t cost much or need lots of attention. They often like interaction with humans and being held and their cage is small enough to fit in most rooms. They are often the first pet for children as it can teach children responsibility for pets for example.

Why you should not get a hamster? 

You shouldn’t get a hamster if you are not very good at looking after pets. While hamsters are small and don’t need much attention, they still need interaction and care.  

They also need food and their cage needs cleaning out.  

Why are hamsters banned? 

In some states and come countries hamsters are banned. This means you can’t have a hamster as a pet in these areas. This is because hamsters are seen as a threat to the native animals in that area. Escaped hamsters could breed out of control and upset the eco system in that area. 

Where are hamsters banned? It’s illegal to own a pet hamster in Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. As these are islands, it’s easier to keep invasive animals at bay by environmental laws. As it’s illegal to bring hamsters into the country and to keep as a pet, hamsters can’t escape and become an invasive species (and pests) in those areas. 

We looked at the question ‘can you get rabies from a hamster’ and while the answer is yes, you technically can, in reality it’s such a minuscule chance that it can be ignored. After all there are many more (bigger) dangers which we don’t analyse in detail either (like crossing the road for example).

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