Hamster Illnesses and Health Information

By kleo

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Hamsters can become ill, and when they do, it’s best to take them to a vet. A veterinarian will be able to identify what is wrong and what the next steps are based on your individual hamster. The information on this page is to serve as a reference only so that you are aware of what may happen to  your hamster and so that you can speak intelligently to a vet about your hamster’s symptoms.

Below are common health problems that you might see in a hamster. They are listed in order of how common the health problem is.

Hamster Diabetes

Diabetes is quite common in some hamster species, although it is possible for any hamster species to have diabetes. The species that are prone to diabetes are the Russian Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters, Chinese Hamsters, and Winter White Hamsters. If you have one of these species, you will need to keep a very close eye on them for symptoms of diabetes. Syrian Hamsters and Roborovski Hamsters are not likely to get diabetes, but it is possible.

What is Hamster Diabetes?

Hamster diabetes is very similar to human diabetes. Diabetes means that there is a very high level of sugar in the blood for a long period of time. Insulin is the hormone that is meant to regulate the level of sugar in the blood. If a human or hamster has diabetes, it means that either not enough insulin is being produced, or the cells are not responding to the insulin.

What Causes Diabetes in Hamsters?

Just like in humans, diabetes in hamsters is genetic, but there are other risk factors that can contribute to a hamster developing diabetes.

We know that diabetes in heavily genetically influenced in hamsters because scientists have bred strains of hamsters that have no diabetes and strains of hamsters that have a very high incidence of diabetes (source). This is one of the many reasons it’s best to get a hamster from a breeder rather than a pet store. A responsible breeder will not breed hamsters that have diabetes, so their hamsters are less likely to develop diabetes in the future.

In order to prevent diabetes, it is important that you feed your hamster a healthy diet and that your hamster maintains a healthy weight. This does not mean that you should never feed your hamster sugary foods. It just means that sugary foods should be fed in moderation so that your hamster does not gain weight. If your hamster is diagnosed with diabetes, that is the time to make dietary changes to manage the diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes in Hamsters?

The symptoms of diabetes in hamsters are:

  • excessive drinking and urinating
  • lethargy
  • weight loss

To test to see if your hamster has diabetes, use a diabetes test strip. The test strip will show the level of glucose in the hamster’s urine.

How to Treat Hamster Diabetes

Diabetes in hamsters is managed through diet. Most hamster owners have good success managing diabetes through diet, and their hamsters live full and happy lives. If you have a hamster with diabetes, make the following changes to diet:

1. Feed your hamster a healthy main diet / commercial mix and pick out any foods that are high in sugar. It is highly recommended to use the Hazel Hamster food and pick out the corn, corn flakes, and peas.

2. Do not feed any supplementary food to your hamster that is high in sugar. This includes almost all fruits, as well as simple carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.

3. Take your hamster to a vet. A vet will be able to evaluate how serious the situation is and make good recommendations for your hamster’s health. A vet might prescribe an oral drug called glipizide to help with the diabetes.

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