Family · Opinion · Parenting

Euthanasia.

UPDATE

I just thought I’d update this post to let you all know that Happy passed away at some point last night. We think she passed in her sleep and seems to have gone peacefully. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this post and comment, she’ll be sadly missed but we feel happy that we were able to offer her a home and a part in our lives.

Rest in peace, my love.

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Husband and I have both been unlucky enough to see elderly relatives fall victim to so-called ‘age related’ illnesses, he more so than I with both of his maternal grandparents suffering a combination of the most common ones. It’s not so much that they developed these illnesses, but that they spent years living with them, proud people needing to be cared for in a way that their former selves would have hated. We had this saying – “you wouldn’t treat your animals like it”; an allusion to the dignity that animals are afforded when their eyes/legs/brains give up and we resort to euthanasia. Humans are left to wallow and suffer while animals are sent peacefully to their place of rest without having to go through it.

The past few weeks, however, we’ve realised that the decision that in the past we’ve insisted we’d make should the occasion arise, is in fact not all that easy to make.

Remember Happy?

Happy the Hamster – Aged about 20 months old

That was Happy about this time last year – young, healthy, vital. She was about 20 months old there. Syrian hamsters generally live no more than 2 to 3 years in captivity so even in that picture she’s probably at the tail-end of middle age. She was still really lively, we had to lash the doors of her cage together with wire as she had a penchant for escaping, we once searched the whole house for her, admonishing the dog along the way thinking he MUST have eaten her, only to find her diving in and out of a pile of washing in our bedroom!

But, I digress. This is Happy now:

Happy – Now aged around 32 months

If we thought she was getting on a bit before, she’s now the Methuselah of hamsters. It’s not a very good picture but as you can see, she’s about 50% bald, apparently a very common sign of ageing in hamsters. Her legs don’t work very well and she appears to be blind in one eye. Life is not, as they say, a bed of roses for Happy.

She once lived in a three story cage with tubes, toys, wheels and a variety of food bowls. She now lives in a one storey retirement bungalow and needs to have her food and water in very close proximity. She drinks a lot but eats little and only really awakes from her slumber to poke her head out once or twice a day. This is the hamster who once spent 8 hrs a day hanging on the side of the cage, rattling the door in an attempt to do yet another Steve McQueen on us.

She doesn’t appear to be in any pain and as you can see from the video below, she can still walk around, albeit in a very doddery fashion. But when do we say “enough is enough”. When do we get to a point where we can unequivocally say she’d be better off in Rainbow Bridge, than getting older and more frail?

I have to say, it’s all taken me by surprise. Because Hamsters only live a short life, I very much thought she’d never show signs of ageing, I thought I’d just find her fully-furred and as chunky as ever, toe-up in her cage one morning. I never imagined that we’d see baldness, loss of sight, lack of appetite and limited mobility, like you would in a human. How very naive of me, huh?

I guess I’m asking; what would you do? Leave her in the comfort of her cage to slip off of this mortal coil, or make the tough decision to end her life and prevent any suffering? I’m stuggling, dear readers, and I never thought I’d have such a hard time with this decision.

18 thoughts on “Euthanasia.

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  2. I know about old people, but nothing about hamsters.

    I am looking after a lady at the moment with severe rapid vascular dementia. She doesn’t remember where she lives, who she’s married to, who her kids are.

    She does however remember ever episode of Diagnosis Murder, can sing every music hall song known to humankind, and has a loving family and a beautiful home.

    So I don’t know. If Happy isn’t in pain, leave her be for now. She’ll tell you when she’s had enough.

    1. Thanks Kylie, I appreciate the input. Husband’s Grandad also had vascular dementia and it broke my MIL’s heart having to remind him every day that family members were dead and had been for 25 years, yet he could still regale us with stories from his army days and tales of scrumping for apples as a child. Such a sad disease, I don’t envy anyone who gets it, nor anyone who has to care for a dementia patient. xx

  3. Tough call to make, depends if you can bring yourself to do it. Alternatively, keep playing that disco music in the video clip, and Happy will find a way of topping herself.

  4. I recently (recently, as in a few months ago) had to euthanize my beloved hamster, Furnando, for the same reason. Old age was taking a toll on him. He had significant hair loss, wobbled when he walked, loss of appetite and sight, and he even started biting once a while, which wasn’t his personality. My deciding factor that pushed me over the top was that occasionally at nights, he’d make noises that let me know he was in pain. Then he began to have a crusty, blood like substance start coming out of his ear. Does your hamster make any noises? I apologize if this was already covered, I must have missed it.
    I had a moral dilemma with the euthanasia of Furnando. I’d never before had to euthanize a hamster, they’d all just gone on their own. I had to be sure that the fur loss and the ear gunk wasn’t a disease, so took him into a vet who did skin scrapings and found no sign of any disease or mites and encouraged me that it was probably time to euthanize him. Quality of life wasn’t too great for him any more, and I appreciate the vet for helping me make that tough decision for him.
    In the days following I still questioned my decision, but those around me assured me that it was probably his time and I did the right thing… it’s so hard to tell and it’s so hard to do.

    Whatever decision you choose to make, I do hope it’s the best for you and happy, and I know how hard it is, so I wish you the best and I’m so sorry this time has come or is nearing.

  5. If happy isn’t in distress, ending her life isn’t for her benefit really is it?

    As an adult I’ve had a few Syrian hamsters. One of them, Vader, was grey around the chops when we got him. He was a rescue hamster from an RSPCA shelter. hadn’t been well looked after, but was so friendly, the only time he escaped he came and found me for a cuddle. He died of proper old age and is still buried in the garden.

    My first one, Obi, died of wet tail and made me very very sad. And the last one got a tumour and had to be put down.

    Hamster death is never fun, they might be little and owners of bigger pets don’t appreciate how attached you can get to the little critters. Personally I’d only have Happy put down if she’s not happy anymore. I don’t envy you having to make the decision though 🙁

    1. Thanks for the reply, this is exactly our dilemma – we don’t want to have her PTS, nor does it seem necessary right now as she doesn’t show any signs of pain, ‘but I’m worried that my judgement is clouded because I don’t want to let her go. I just have to try and remain objective about it and hope her health doesn’t decline so she can spend the rest of her days in her little house, rather than on a sterile metal table.

  6. Oh no…this is so sad 🙁 Our hamster Spinky is over 18 months old now but still so frisky. I didn’t realise that they could end up like this!! Bless Happy, she surely can’t have long left, the poor old soul. What a decision to make!

    1. It’s mad isn’t it? I honestly has NO idea she’d end up like this with age. I just hope she slips away quietly in her sleep when she’s ready, but if she starts to show signs of illness, we’ll have to toughen up and do it. Thanks for commenting x

  7. I couldn’t call this one, we have a Happy called Me Me who belongs to our Theo, he will be devastated when she eventually dies. For the moment she is young and spends all night in her wheel and 3 story cage keeping us all awake!

  8. That video clip just nearly had me in tears, Happy looks so sad. Not sad in herself, it’s just so sad seeing a doddery little hamster wobbling along like it needs a zimmer frame.

    Bless. But if Happy isn’t in any noticeable pain I’d say let her end her days in peace and comfort.

    1. Thanks Caz, Husband was relieved when he read your comment too as that’s exactly what we’ve been thinking and it’s nice to know others agree. xx

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